Sunday, October 16

Historical homes get national attention

By BRETT DOWNER
AMERICAN PRESS

Lake Charles’ distinctive architecture of yesteryear, steeped in history but slammed by Hurricane Rita, will get personal attention this week from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A Damage Assessment Team will be sent by the National Trust to look at the aftermath and help property owners find some help.

The team will assess historical commercial properties Monday, then speak at a public meeting that night. On Tuesday, it will inspect the damage to old homes in the city’s historical areas.

Monday’s public meeting will be at 6 p.m. at The Brick House, 110 Pine St. It is being arranged by the Calcasieu Preservation Society and the Downtown Development Corporation. The guest speaker will be Daniel Carey, director of the National Trust’s Southwest Office. Carey and others will discuss historic preservation relief grants and bills backed by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and David Vitter, R-La., one of which would provide a 30 percent tax credit for owners of historic homes in the disaster area who now have repair bills.

Owners of older homes don’t qualify for such free programs as Operation Blue Roof. That’s because the blue-tarp program is for damaged asphalt shingles overhead. Roofing in the Charpentier Historical District is almost entirely slate or tile — a throwback to a city decree after the Great Fire of 1910 that a home’s roof be made of non-flammable material.
Tremont said about 250 tarps are needed to cover damaged structures.

The National Trust is being asked to look at turn-of-the-century brick masonry buildings, wood structures, gables and collapsed porches.

FEMA has given the green light for the National Trust assessment, Tremont said.

The National Trust was first alerted of the issue by Ada B. Vincent and Stacy Shearman, mother-and-daughter local preservationists, who talked about Hurricane Rita at the organization’s recent conference in Portland, Ore.

Older residences and structures double as tourist attractions in Lake Charles. Restored homes, re-purposed businesses and even entire neighborhoods enjoy historical designations at the parish, state and national level.

The historical significance of some downtown homes is a matter of record, not just nostalgia. Carpenters and craftsmen of early Lake Charles drew up certain house plans that featured paneled, slightly flared porch supports which fit no design class of the day. Such columns earned an official designation as “Lake Charles columns,” and many whitewashed examples of them still stand today.

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Richard Boles said...

It's sad to see hurricanes simply ravaging homes and buildings across the country. Programs like these are a good idea, even if they just refit for certain types of buildings. Hopefully, another program will be set up to help people deal with the damages to their homes.