NEW ORLEANS — Long an abandoned eyesore on the Gentilly landscape, the Milne Boys’ Home is one step closer to finding new life.
The future use for the forlorn property remains to be determined, but a recent vote by the New Orleans City Council cleared the way for the city to enter into an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Louisiana Historic Preservation officer that will allow demolition of several buildings and ensure remediation work continues on others.
The Franklin Avenue facility housed orphans and wayward youth from 1933 until the 1980s, at which point it offered summer, after-school and other community programs for young people. It is named for Alexander Milne, a Scottish philanthropist and businessman who arrived in the city in 1776 and made his fortune in brick manufacturing. He willed money to the city to care for troubled children upon his death in 1838.
The property is owned by the Milne Trust and is leased by the city.
Crews have worked in recent weeks to remove asbestos, lead and mold from the administration building, north and south cottages and the gymnasium.
That work is scheduled to be completed this month. Eventually, the city plans to demolish a caretaker’s cottage and the chapel.
The city will have the option to raze or restore the gym and laundry building since the campus master plan is not complete and those buildings’ future uses remain unknown.
Bid packages for re-roofing, demotion, building stabilization and mechanical and electrical repairs will be advertised in coming weeks, according to C. Hayne Rainey, a City Hall spokesman.
Work is expected to be complete in the summer and cost $7.1 million, with $1.5 million coming from FEMA public assistance funds, while the remainder will come from state capital outlay funds and city bond funds. A decision by the Jindal administration Monday to cut $50,000 from the Gentilly Development District will not affect the project’s progress, Rainey said.
The laundry building will be allowed to be demolished because of the likelihood that it will be subject to repeated flooding if it is fixed, according to the city ordinance that allows for the work to happen. In the meantime, however, the city will be allowed to secure the building until the master plan is completed and a future use is determined.
The caretaker’s cottage is blanketed by weeds and will be demolished because it is not structurally sound, according to the ordinance. There are no plans to salvage any materials from that structure.
While the chapel will be demolished, the city must salvage its granite steps and two wooden columns. The city must install a commemorative marker near the chapel site to describe its history.
The Milne facility was a successor of the Colored Waifs’ Home, where Louis Armstrong was sent after he fired a gun into the air on New Year’s Day in 1913. It was at Milne’s predecessor where Armstrong learned to play music.
Because of the historic nature of the property, FEMA will photograph all of the buildings before any demolition work is done and will compile a history of the home and its connection to Armstrong.
Additionally, the city will be required after work is done to reinstall several historic dedication plaques that are in the possession of the Milne Trust.