Historic Green

I recently had the privilege of working with Historic Green for a week at their Spring Greening volunteer event in the Holy Cross neighborhood of the ninth ward.  Historic Green a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to assist and lead in the transformation and restoration of under-resourced communities through education and service focused on heritage conservation and sustainable design.  They descend upon New Orleans every year with over a hundred volunteers and get things done.  Here is a description from their own website that explains what “Spring Greening” is:


” Helping to rebuild one New Orleans neighborhood as the nation’s first ZERO CARBON community.

Spring Greening is the event through which Historic Green realizes its vision. For two weeks each March since 2008, hundreds of students and professionals converge on New Orleans, bringing their energy, ideas, skills, and compassion, working hand-in-hand with residents to help revitalize the Lower 9th Ward. We restore homes, parks, businesses, and community centers using strategies that are sensitive to history and sustainably sound.

New Orleans’ Holy Cross Neighborhood and the Lower Ninth Ward offer one path to what we’re calling “sustainable preservation.” Nowhere else could it happen on such a scale as here: an entire community struggling to recover and rebuild (yes, STILL struggling) in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As we plan our fourth annual Spring Greening event in New Orleans for March 16-24, 2011, we are strategizing on how to spread our impact to other places around the country.

Green homes. Green spaces. Green community. Historic Green is an unprecedented opportunity to integrate sustainable practices with preservation of a place.”

My primary objective for the week was building a loft with salvaged flooring at 5200 Dauphine, which is a PRC property that will become a community center for the Holy Cross neighborhood Association.  So far, I have helped mill all of the sash, the flooring, and the trusses for the building from salvaged material, but still have much more on my list to do for the structure.  I worked all week with John Hanson, who has come down with Historic Green for several years and owns a construction company in Philadelphia that specializes in historic preservation, so definitely a great fellow to work with on this sort of project.  With the help of several other hard-working volunteers and John’s daughters, we were able to frame the loft, process all the salvaged material, and finish the install in three days.

I also was asked to teach a window restoration workshop, so I taught about twenty people the terminology associated with historic windows, the importance of existing windows in the identity of a structure, and how to do simple repairs like re-attaching weights and glazing.  Everybody’s favorite part of the workshop, however, was cutting glass.  There is something very pleasing about the sound of a cutting wheel scoring the glass and then breaking it cleanly.  Try it sometime – a cutter is about $5 at the Lowe’s.

To top off an already busy week, Historic Green asked me to help fabricate a counter-top to replace a badly damaged one in the lower ninth ward village.  The village was the center of operations for Historic Green, and the counter I was to help fix was about 15 feet long and was badly water damaged.  I found some 1 1/4″ pine flooring scraps from the flooring I made for 5200 Dauphine for the top, but with all the other stuff I was working on, I had very little time to spend on the installation.  Still, with the help of Luke and Sarah from Historic Green, we managed to install the counter top in about an hour.

My jam-packed week of work is par for the course with the way Historic Green does things. They had over a dozen sites that they worked on during Spring Greening, all of which showed substantial improvements at week’s end.  Go to the Historic Green website to find out more and get involved.

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*Special Thanks to John Hanson, Sarah Myers, Michelle Stanard, and all the folks at Historic Green for letting me use their photos for this post.

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