February 16, 2008
My house is an aesthetic paradise, inside and out. I just love looking at it from inside, and from the outside as I drive to and from it on the street. I love it love it love it!
There has been a passionate discussion taking place on another blog post and on one of the message boards, which seems to be sort of centered around whether I should have raised my house and rebuilt in a flood prone area. Well, I actually did think about raising my house…and still do for the future―maybe. It of course would have been better to do this before the addition was built, and I do still wonder if I will flood again. And of course, I will never know until it happens.
But I have other things to worry about in life. Trust me, I have my worry priorities. And one of the reasons why this worry is not at the top of my list anymore is that the likelihood that my house will flood again in the area it is in is pretty slim, unless MRGO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet) remains open and we do not actively work to restore our wetlands.
FYI, the Katrina flooding was a result of breached levees by the Industrial Canal and an unnatural (not act of nature) flow of water from MRGO, a human-made drench by commercial entities and the US Army Corps of Engineers to provide a so-called shortcut for cargo ships to travel to and from the Gulf of Mexico. However, one of these problems of possible flood culprits has been tackled: Community activists and workers who have been strongly fighting to close MRGO have been successful in their advocacy―MRGO will be closed!
During Hurricane Betsy of 1965, both of my parents, who grew up in the Lower 9th Ward a few blocks from one another, survived flooding of their entire houses. My mother's family had a boat and were able to escape. However, my father's family were on the roof for three days.
They didn't have a boat. The house I purchased, which is much closer to the Mississippi River than my parents' family homes (literally across the street from the Mississippi River levee), didn't get a drop of water during Hurricane Betsy and got signifcantly less than other homes in the Lower 9th Ward during Hurricane Katrina. I'm not in a government and FEMA declared flood zone and I am not required to have federal flood insurance for my house―although of course I do now―my house is located in some of the highest ground in New Orleans. If New Orleans is like a bowl, then my house is at the rim. My parents' family homes (about 20 blocks north of mine) were in the "bottom part" of the bowl, but still in the Lower 9th Ward and in a flood zone. (This may seem a little fuzzy if you don't have a map or familiarity with the area.)
On another note, I exhale at the distinction between home and a house. We now often say here in New Orleans, "We are back; we are home"…not "We are house" The house is the $$$$ investment that I made to refurbish the physical material. The home is the community, the memory, the longevity, the people.
I must admit that I spent way more money than I planned to rebuild my house―I went over budget―and was very concerned about this. But I must say that I have had so much encouragement from my neighbors and family. And I also understand this to be an investment, the strong role in helping my community to come back, and the work I've done to my house as an inspiration to other people to rebuild. My house has become a landmark in my neighborhood― as one of my neighbors has put it, "a beacon of hope." The investment I have made is a guarantee for my house, property value, and neighborhood―and definitely not a risk.
I am home and settled, flood, rain, hail, or wind. All I can say is if you were from New Orleans, you would definitely understand.
(19) CommentsComment on this Blog
Granted Rashida, "The home is the community, the memory, the longevity, the people," I so much wish to empathize with you. Unfortunately, in the real world, being at a "rim" of a bowl of water below sea level makes life no better. So the "bottom of the bowl" got 10 feet and you, only 5'. So what. You both are flooded. The land in NOLA is sinking. The river bed is rising. Weather happens. The inevitability of inundation is omnipresent. And you are protected from flooding by a government which has proven its indifference and utter incompetence. So, TOH facilitates a rebuild built upon the "lies" of many before and assures security? Habitability?
The essence of the dispute lies in whether to rebuild a "neighborhood" above water. Location should not matter if the "neighborhood" is strong and cohesive. Another "lie?" Yet among the residents of NOLA there seems to be a desire to require the rest of the country to pay for and protect their house on the edge of the dormant volcano. Your personal outlay for your "home" is minuscule to the amount appropriated from the overall gov't largess in this country provided for homes built such as this. (Yes, I did hear you say that you'd gotten a government grant to "historically repair" your windows. WTF?)
Sorry, I find that "requirement" idiotic.
No, I am not from NOLA. I am from Virginia. We have places in which I could build and sustain a home -for a while- that has an even greater risk than your home. Yet I do not build there. Why? A big old DUH! And you, you just keep pushing for "neighborhood" and hinting at some sort of obligation and necessity that most of the rest of the country doesn't understand. Yet we are obligated (supposedly) to indeed understand. We don't. Sorry. You reside below sea level in a country with ample, affordable land placed by nature, above sea level.
With that being said, I see that the design got better with implementation and the place turned out pretty well. Many memories to you and yours.
Your home may not be in a flood area, but what about tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, blizzards, and random acts of God? I grew up in Virginia and choose to make my home in New Orleans. My house didn't flood. If everyone in America had to move because their home was in an area that may be the site of a disaster, I suppose we would all live on the moon. And as a former resident of an area forever listed as the place the Soviets would drop the bomb and a number one favorite site for a potential terrorist threat, I think you should rethink some of your comments. Would you like it if I told you where you should make your home? And as for the federal government paying to repair this City, they helped destroy it. America needs New Orleans for our access to the Gulf of Mexico. The entire country depends on our oil pipelines. Don't you think that New Orleans and the rest of America have a symbiotic relationship? I give great respect to Rashida and the other people of my city who have had the courage and the wherewithall to rebuild and try to preserve the great place that is New Orleans. And as for the historic windows, unlike the rest of the country we value our history here. Maybe if you visited and learned to appreciate the uniqueness of this city then you too would understand.
Girl, your home looks so sweet and cozy. I wish you many years of happiness and creativity there. Your love and commitment to the life and longevity of your community and New Orleans is totally understandable to me and I'm not from there. I realize how unique and culturally rich the city is. There is no other place like it in the world and that's priceless. Rashida, thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us. Your grace and passion have been an inspiration to me on many levels.
As for Pops,
I grew up smack dab in the middle of "tornado alley" and my family never once contemplated relocation. For some folks, home is home. As for the government's largess, I couldn't think of any location in the US more worthy of preservation and rehabilitation. There are billions of taxpayers
dollars that go towards far less deserving causes.
Peace to you too Pops
Rashida, thank you so much for writing about the true nature of the flooding during Katrina. It is amazing how many people outside of Louisiana do not realize that the failure of the Army Corps of Engineers to build functional levees and the issues with the MRGO led to this destruction. This tragedy was primarily manmade and preventable. I am a native New Orleanian and work as a historian. Historic preservation is my passion. I applaud you for returning to your wonderful Holy Cross neighborhood. My boyfriend and I watch "This Old House" religiously and were thrilled to see yours featured on the program. Yesterday, we drove to Holy Cross, walked through your neighborhood, and admired the beautiful architecture and all the progress that has been made. Your home is so beautiful! I was so happy to see the Preservation Resource Center's projects in the surrounding blocks. I am certain that your neighborhood is coming back and will thrive.
And one further comment---
Whoever "Pops" is seems to harbor a great deal of resentment and anger. Rather than attacking hardworking and courageous people who choose to work toward positive change, he should spend his time doing actual research on topics he clearly (and erroneously) deems himself an expert. Perhaps if he consulted the numerous studies published on New Orleans geography, he would become enlightened enough to possibly admit his ignorance, or at least cease contributing to a forum that serves as a venue for education and encouragement, not as a means of propagating lies and spewing ill will. Anyone with even a modicum of sense knows that the land closest to the river is the highest and that once the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet is closed it will remain high and dry. I would continue to explain these basic geographic principles, but I am certain that my efforts are completely wasted. People like "Pop" are hellbent on proclaiming their intellectual superiority and refuse to listen to reason. I suggest that everyone ignore his future posts and choose to contribute positive feedback to Rashida and others like her who are working to rebuild the architectural gems of our city.
Wow Katy, because I disagree with the idea of building below the water line and in an area "prone" to flooding, you, as a "historian" perceive me as harboring "a great deal of resentment and anger." I suppose that in addition to your "historian" degree you also have a "psychologist" degree. Kudos to you.
Unfortunately the thought of you being a "historian" scares me. Your whole diatribe rests on seeing things as they should be or will be as opposed to the WAY THEY ARE. I suppose that is the way you approach your "historian" duties. I have never exerted any "expert" opinion. I am a PBS/TOH viewer and a taxpayer. That is all.
The canal is NOT closed. Rashida's home is still under threat from inundation and will remain so, probably until the reconstitution of the wetlands. TOH could have raised the house. TOH did not. Under CURRENT conditions, it was ill conceived to invest time and money on a rebuild.
But since I've so much "anger" and "resentment" obviously my reality at seeing a PBS show delude themselves into thinking parts of NOLA are salvageable as they are, is obviously incorrect. Please, carry on in your dream world. TOH has found their niche.
I've been to N.O. twice in the last five years. Once pre-Katrina, and again last year about this time. The second visit was... can't even describe it. So much already done, but so much left to do. (To anyone who's never been, GO! It is a world class "nothin' else like it in the universe" city.)
Both visits, I'd pass a "needs work" shotgun for sale and fantasize about bringing it back to life. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the rest of us.(It sure takes guts to open your home remodeling project for the entire country to see.) I've always wondered how one would get more space in that style of house and yet maintain the feeling of what it once was. Now I know! What a wonderful location. Right next to the river with a huge yard to share with family and friends. And all that rich delta soil for your garden! God bless you for having the courage to stay and rebuild.
I don't think you understand the TOH production very well. They don't "decide" to raise houses. That's the homeowners decision. They simply produce a show about home renovations that they deem might have an interest to viewers. And they try to change it from production to production. Also, the renovation is paid in full by the homeowner, not the show. Granted there are some gifts that the homeowner receives, but the homeowner has to pay the taxes on those gifts. If you want to know more about how the production works, go to this website's FAQs.
And to Katy's point about the land elevations near the river, she's right. The land there is actually well ABOVE sea level. Not 5' below the rim as you stated.
Also, you obviously don't understand the complex dynamics of community and culture and how they relate to the concept of home. I will not waste my time trying to explain. As you stated, you just don't get it and you think it's idiotic to place home over risk. Okay, fine. But what I don't understand is why you feel "obligated" to get it. Nobody is forcing you to try to understand. It's just a TV show about home renovations for crying out loud.
However, I do think you have a point to make about proper building decisions in the city of NO. But in this case, I think your criticism of Rashida and the TOH production team are entirely misdirected and grossly misinformed on many points.
You know, there's probably a homeowner in NO that is building along the banks of Lake Ponchatrain without raising his/her home. Find his or her blog and go troll on there. You'll probably have better luck making your point stick with them.
I can't leave this discussion board without giving my best wishes to Rashida. Rashida, your house is an absolute GEM!! What a renovation! Congratulations on all the hard work. I get the sense in the first three shows so far that we'll learn how much of a hand you had in the entire renovation.
Peace to all!
Rashida, your home looks absolutely amazing and I'm sure, despite the pessimism of some trolls, that it will continue to be so for many years to come.
Hi Rashida, I noticed on the more recent living room picture you have not finished the fire box and floor around it. I have not seen what kind of ceramics work you do. Are you planning to make some tiles for the floor and covering some of the brick?.
I also was wondering about the not raising the house issue and how much more of a cost would it have been? It was interesting to see the Habitat homes being raised I hope TOH goes into the info on those foundations. They are not enclosed and I wondered about the upkeep under there open construction. Congratulation on your hard work and have many happy years and memories in your home! Ed.
Hi Miss Rashida
Your house looks just wonderful. It is good that you are moved back in. May your home be truely blessed.
Looking GOOOOD, and with the TOH crew and the rest of the voulenteers in NOLA, that place should be SHIPSHAPE (oooppppps!) in no time. Never could figure out why the feds reacted soo slow tot he aids and needs of the people there, and the destruction of the city was criminal. Which leads me to say how mad we were when the VANDALS and looters came and stripped the artifacts off exisitng homes for profit.....how sad. ANYWAY, enjoyed your radio comments too and wish you and your family good luck in your NEW-OLD House!
The story is nice and the lady is deserving which makes for good TV. Rebuilding in a flood zone, one hurricane away from another disaster, well that's questionable. What irks me is the practice that the writers of this old house seem to make over and over when dealing with "Historical" issues related to their projects. They apply the term liberally to almost every situation glossing over a tiny tiny little fact. Europeans and their African surrogates are NO more indigenous to this country particularly New Orleans. Their usage of words and terms like "Fourth Generation" and Traditional in describing the culture of New Orleans omitts the true history of the area which thrived long before the arrival of the Europeans and their African captives.The French Acadians knew nothing of hot and spicy seasonings when they arrived but were taught by Native groups from the area and other native groups stretching from Texas and other Spanish held colonies who used chiles in their cooking, as and example the chiles from the Mexican State of Tabasco, get the connection? Acadians and Africans adopted the cooking techniques and incorporated them. People would be shocked to learn how much of what they mistake for European and African culture in the South have their orgin in Native American Culture and practices.
African surrogates of Europeans? Not clear about what that means- my ancestors were not and are not anyone's surrogates. I agree, Native American peoples were living in the land around what is known as New Orleans before European and African peoples' cultural lineages began here. I also agree that the term "historical" is really relative and contextual. We do need to be much more informed and inclusive about Native American histories in our education. My identity as a native New Orlenian is about the cultural location of New Orleans moreso than its geography. New Orleans is a rich mixture of influences that tap into my African heritage through ways of "be"ing- including music, food, socio-political movements, revolutionary movements, cultural transformations,and language.... I'm a native of New Orleans within that context and am proud of the generations of lives in my family who have contributed to its being as a very unique and special place in the world. I've never used the term indigneous for myself- and belive that most- if not all human beings are actually indigneous to the geographic area of Tanzania, Africa, where the earliest human remains were found. I agree with you about the complexities of cultural influences and histories and understand that the presence and contributions of many Native cultures indigenous to Louisiana (and throughout the world have consistently been disregarded,stolen, and overlooked- and still go unrecognized even today). I was recently taught by a Houma Indian man that even tomatoes which are now commonly "known" for spaghetti sauce, an Italian food, originally came from Native peoples (not sure which geographic location or ethnic group)- and he informed me of the many contributions made by Native peoples in America. It is fascinating to see how cultural influences are so prevalent in our foods today. For example, okra gumbo, shrimp creole, court bouillon (New orleans style) are almost identical to West African cuisines. If you have ever eaten West African food (especially from the Sene-gambian region), Carribean food, and New Orleans food, you will experience the many similiarities between the cuisines of these cultures (giving testament to the transcultural exchanges and influences of African people between these regions). Gumbo, the word comes from the Angolan word kingombo, meaning okra is a spicy stew that has the same name and way of cooking in West and Central Africa and the Gulla peoples in the Carolinas, which includes the okra plant. Court Bouillon- a dish with a French name (but in France it is a thin, watery fish broth) in New Orleans it is a thick spicy red sauce with red snapper fish - a dish cooked, once again in West and Central African cultures. So while enslaved Africans may not have been able to bring many of their foods, architecture, and other physical representations of their culture to New Orleans (and other places to where they were kidnapped- although research has proven that some physical objects were brought with them- including musical instruments- one of which evolved into the banjo), Africans continued their traditional musical rhythms, which evolved into New Orleans brass band music and funk (as well as blues, jazz, rock & roll, and hip hop) they brought their technology, awareness, and culture with them, which was implemented in many of the architectural structures, foods, music, and languages- The shotgun house,also built by African people in Haiti and homes with similiar architectural styles found in West Africa (google in "shogun"). Many of the old ironworks in the French Quarter and Treme made by African people carry the Sankofa sign, a West African symbol (it is also on the front gate of my house) and means you need to go back from where you came in order to move forward. I agree that we should recognize and affirm the contributions of Native American peoples to our lives and continue to learn more information about who they are and how they have impacted our culture. It is a powerful thing to see culture prevail, despite horrific oprression that changed many of our ancestor's lives, and to still recognize the beauty of our uniqueness and influences from one other to make us who we are.
Ms. R. Ferdinand,
Nice to hear from you again on your blog!
Please don't let the annoying trolls and hate mongers detract a moments joy or satisfaction from you.
Your struggle has been noteworthy. Your accomplishments great.
Be proud, you've earned it! Settle in, nest, and enjoy. Let your creativity flow.
Thank you for sharing.
I have watched TOH since the very beginning 20 something years ago and for the first time ever will have a chance to see one of the projects. I will be in New Orleans next week-end visiting my son who attends Xavier University of Louisiana. I am looking forward to seeing your home, the Musicians Village , The Make It Right 9 Project and grab something to eat at Cafe Reconcile. Along with going to the Zoo and cool stuff my son wants to do.
You have done a beautiful job with your home.I am an interior designer and have always loved the shotgun design and large windows. I can just imagine you sitting on any one of your porches on a hot evening and listening to the sounds of the river and the life of the neighborhood.
As to the naysayers about rebuilding in New Orleans we can learn from our Dutch friends on how to get it right. It is also important to understand the age and historic importance of New Orleans to this country.
And as for weather and disasters and proximity,here I sit looking out my living room window at over a foot of snow on March 22 here in Wisconsin,with Missouri flooding and a tornado that hit downtown Atlanta last week-end knowing nature is a powerful entity to reckon with.
For those who have never been to New Orleans, my first visit was in January 2007 to look at colleges for my son. I fell in love. If you take the time to go to New Orleans you will be in a place like no other. What happened to the people of New Orleans was not their fault. That you Rashida want to come home again and make it a better place I thank you for that. That there are young and old alike who are willing to go down to New Orleans and work for a week or a month or a year speaks to the good in human kind.
My daughter had
an amazing observation during the 3 days we were down there this summer. She said "Mom, you don't feel like your judged here."
One visit to New Orleans and your hooked. After my first visit I came back to Milwaukee and said New Orleans says hi and everyone's invited.
Rashida I wish you much happiness and joy for you in your home. Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us. You are a beautiful example of the New Orleans spirit and hospitality.
Glad to see you are still posting on your blog. The last show of your house on TOH was on here this week. I will be sad not to see more as you make it your home. Your last blog was right on the point, great info.
I also see by the time/date of your blog that you rise early. Hope you are content with the house and things are well with you.