Built in the 1870's by Cuban developer Jules LeBlanc, the future Jazz & Heritage Center was once two separate townhomes that stood in the suburbs of New Orleans. A lot has changed since then. The Tremé is no longer considered the suburbs and the townhomes were combined into one single Italianate-style building in the early part of the 20th century. For decades -- until just a few years ago, actually -- the building was a neighborhood funeral home that catered to black and white residents of New Orleans. New Orleans funerals are cultural events in themselves, and the building was the starting point for numerous jazz funeral processions. Paraders and musicians would gather in the front rooms before marching out onto Rampart Street, then off into the Tremé or French Quarter depending on the route.
With such a long and vivid history, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation was careful to plan renovations that would preserve as much of the original architecture of the building as possible. With the help of architecture firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, we were able to plan a project that balances historic preservation with modernization. The façade will stay relatively untouched, and the front classrooms will keep their shape and details while being updated for optimal acoustics and energy saving modifications. The back half of the building, which lacks the historic resonance of the front, will be rebuilt from the group up into a modern performance space. Through a blend of old and new, we will bring out the best in the Jazz & Heritage Center while preserving its impressive roots.