Jan 8, 2011 by

Who by fire and who by water? could just as easily be What by fire and what by water? We’ve seen a lot of water damage in these parts.  But it seems that the ones that stick in my head the most are the conflagrations, perhaps because there have been a great number of them in my neighborhood these past few years.

It reads as a yahrtzeit list for the dead would: the fires on St Andrew Street a week after the levees breached, the Coliseum Theater, the Coliseum Baptist Church, 1233-1231 St Mary Street, last night’s Fellowship Baptist Church fire

…and this is just within a 5-6 block radius of where I live.

What is even worse, however, is when the flames do consume the living, as the warehouse fire in the Ninth Ward did a few weeks ago.  Whatever one thinks of the people who died in that fire, many of them were loved despite their choices.  With many of these buildings ’round me that have gone up in smoke, however, the choices made left these places empty.  And they were built to last.  Especially the places of worship.

One has to wonder about what happens to these remnants of the old world when they are abandoned for the new.  Most folks I know have been in agreement that the architectural gems of churches in the Lower Garden District are in a sad state that is largely unwarranted…but who has the money to keep up these structures?  When not even a simple warehouse can be secured so that people are prevented from squatting in it, what is there to prevent these properties from slowly moldering and disintegrating, or going up in a fiery blaze?  The current real estate market makes things even worse.  How was Fellowship Baptist going to get its price for the church and the glorious house beside it without some sort of miracle?

Anybody got nearly $2 million they can spare?*

It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.  It’s been a few years since the property was put on the market.  Too many of my friends thought “arson” when they heard about this one, but the dangers to the surrounding neighborhood are pretty immense.  I am grateful for the Fire Department putting in the manpower and the time to successfully contain this thing, as it was shooting up sparks and smoke that covered everything with ash for blocks.  As of this writing, the stretch of Prytania between Josephine and Jackson Streets is blocked off, as is Josephine between Prytania and St. Charles Avenue.  The shells that were the church and the house beside it are awaiting demolition and the hauling away of their remains.  Zara’s diagonally across from the site is now where the neighbors convene and confer about the place, about their memories of it, about how sad they were that it stood so empty for so long.

I’m glad no one was hurt in there.

What I can’t help but wonder, though, is which abandoned property will be next?

And, when will it be who by fire?



*The real estate listing was taken from these pictures on jtknola’s Flickr.

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