Historic Holy Cross landmark heads to auction again

School on Holy Cross neighborhood up for auction

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - People who live in the historic Holy Cross neighborhood are hoping that an upcoming auction breathes new life into the old Semmes school.

The prominent structure is listed by the Louisiana Landmark society as one of the city's top 10 most endangered historic sites.

For 117 years, it has stood watch over Holy Cross.

"You can see how it's still struggling to stay beautiful," said Caroline Parker, who lives across the street.

The old T.J. Semmes School, built in 1900 and named after a Confederate senator, has sat idle for 12 years.

"I actually went there years ago," said alumnus and Lower 9 activist Warenetta Banks, who says it's been hard to watch the building crumble.

"It should have been back in commerce years ago. I know there have been homeless people in there and hopefully, it will come back," said Banks.

The building was at one time controlled by former state senator Jon Johnson who was sentenced to six months in jail for conspiring to divert redevelopment funds into his campaign account.

"I think it's awful because now parts that were okay before are starting to fall apart," said Richard Earls, a developer who owns property across from the old school which goes up for auction next month.

"You might have been looking at a million before, now you have to redo everything," said Earls.

The building was set for auction twice before but was removed from the auction list because of efforts to try and work out a deal with the former owner.

"Now it's a safety hazard," said Earls.

Though the old Semmes school is deteriorating, its bones are still good and developers say there are plenty of viable options here for a structure, which could be a signature structure for the neighborhood.

"I would convert the bottom into a recreational area. And the top two floors, make it into condos," said Earls.

Would- be developers would likely use historic tax credits for much of the project.

"I would hate to see it torn down. I would like to see something done with it," said Parker.

And that work could begin within the year.

The auction date for the property at 1008 Jourdan St. is set for April 27th. The city says at this time additional delays aren't anticipated.

Copyright 2017. WVUE All rights reserved.