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What's going on with McDonogh 16? 

Blake Pontchartrain: The N.O. It All

click to enlarge The former McDonogh No. 16 is 
being converted into residences 
for the elderly.

Photo by Kandace Power Graves

The former McDonogh No. 16 is being converted into residences for the elderly.

Hey Blake,

What's going on at McDonogh 16 on St. Claude Avenue? There's construction stuff there. Are they reopening the school?

Taneisha Johnson

Dear Taneisha,

  The McDonogh No. 16 building, located at 1815 St. Claude Ave. in the New Marigny Historical District, is being transformed. It was designed in 1909 by Paul Andry, then-architect for the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). It replaced a smaller school that was built in 1848. The original school was renamed McDonogh No. 16 in 1884 and demolished in 1908 due to deterioration. The city and OPSB helped finance construction of a new, larger building, which entailed buying surrounding properties. The result was the structure that stands today.

  John McDonogh (1779-1850) was a wealthy entrepreneur and landowner in New Orleans. When he died, he left the bulk of his estate to finance free education for poor children of all races in New Orleans and his hometown of Baltimore. Because of this donation, more than 30 schools in New Orleans were named for him. Many of the original buildings have had name and number changes since then. In the 1980s and early '90s, some schools changed their names because students and faculty did not want to honor former slave owners. McDonogh was a slave owner who allowed possibly the largest number of slaves in Louisiana to buy their own freedom, according to J.K. Schafer's Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, 1846-1862.

  When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the McDonogh No. 16 building was home to the New Orleans Center for the Education of Adults. It remained vacant for years after the storm until the OPSB slated the building for demolition. But in 2009, the Louisiana Landmarks Society placed the old McDonogh No. 16 on its New Orleans' Nine, a list of the most endangered buildings in the city. Instead of demolition, the OPSB auctioned the building in 2011.

  According to CCNO Development, the new owners are renovating the building and will open a "home for the aged," an income- and age-restricted rental development. Construction started in 2013 and is expected to be completed later this year.

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