New Orleans' Israel Augustine Meyer Middle School Waits to Be Saved
In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here's one from Fall 2017.
This New Orleans public school opened in 1913 and was originally named after Samuel J. Peters, one of the founders of the city’s education system. In the early 1990s, it was christened Israel Meyer Augustine Middle School, after the first African-American elected as a judge in Louisiana’s Criminal District Court. In 1931, the Works Progress Administration commissioned a series of murals in the building’s auditorium, designed by Tulane University watercolor instructor Leslie Powell and completed by artist Claire Silber.
The building’s Spanish Colonial Revival entryway welcomed students until 2005, when the structure was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. It was stabilized and mothballed using FEMA funds, and a 2017 assessment appraised the structure’s value at approximately $5.4 million. Despite the storm and the humid climate, the WPA murals are in good condition. The school is currently threatened by neglect, and its unaddressed mildew and rot from water damage and structural issues continue to worsen. The Louisiana Landmarks Society placed the school on its 2017 New Orleans’ Nine list of endangered sites.