Up with peopleWhat’s up in New Orleans? Houses!
Just across the infamous London Avenue Canal from my current house is the neighborhood of Burbank Gardens. That’s where my Darling Wife and I bought our first house while I was still a student at the University of New Orleans.
The houses there are older and smaller than those of my home in Vista Park, but the people are just as nice. The major difference is that Vista Park is pretty much all slab on grade construction, whereas most houses in Burbank Gardens are on raised piers.
My little wood framed house was on piers about 2-1/2 feet off the ground.
We were living there on May 8, 1995, when an unprecedented 20 inches of rain came pouring down on New Orleans. The water in Burbank Gardens came up several porch steps, but did not get into the houses on our street, thanks to that raised construction.
This time was different.
This time, 30 inches was nowhere near high enough to escape the flooding. My former house and every other house in the neighborhood were substantially damaged by rising water.
I visited some of my former neighbors to see how they are getting along. What I saw is nothing short of amazing. Several of them are hard at work fixing up their houses, houses that are now 10 to 12 feet off the ground.
Having a raised pier house turns out to be useful in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina anyway. Raising a house that’s already on piers is as simple as 1, 2, 3:
1. Slide beams under the house and jack it up to the sky.
2. Construct columns.
3. Lower the house onto the columns.
Oh, and one more thing: build a big-ass staircase.
The photos here are of houses still being worked on. Most people are planning to at least partially close in the lower parts of their houses so that they won’t look like fishing camps when they’re done. Several said they are going to put a garage door and monumental steps leading to a porch at the front door.
I like to think of New Orleans as rising out of the current crisis and adversity we now face. And rise we shall, just like my friends in Burbank Gardens.