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Monday, March 23, 2009

Cornerstones Project - New Orleans

The Cornerstones Project in New Orleans is another innovative, civic-boosting, history and heritage honoring pioneering project of the citizens of New Orleans.

It's essentially a "National Register of Historic Places" with a couple major differences. One, this Registry covers sites of cultural importance--community cornerstones--that are uniquely meaningful to life in New Orleans. And two, any citizen can nominate a site with relative ease.

Here is a short description from the site:

Generally in New Orleans, places have been designated as important landmarks based on their architectural significance or their role in official histories. We hope our featured cornerstones help you consider other ways spaces are meaningful to our communities, such as adding playful design and color to our streets, grounding cultural traditions, storing local histories, or offering a sense of neighborhood belonging.

Once someone nominates a site, if it's accepted, it appears on this sleek-looking city map:

From Miscellaneous Items

And here is a capture of what a particular feature of the Registry looks like. It's the Sound Cafe, where I discovered this project. Outside of the registered place, there is a cardboard sign standing to honor the place and tell of the project's intent.

From Miscellaneous Items

New Orleans' Tulane University assists in maintaining the site and adding nominated places to the Registry.

To me, this sounds like an excellent project for any willing St. Louis University urban affairs undergrads or any Urban Planning and Real Estate Development Master's Students.

Why? It celebrates the history and culture of a place that only a local would know and allows that place to be recognized for its contribution to the local scene. It bolsters small business, is potentially good for tourism and general civic image, and can foster the idea of a connected, holistic St. Louis.

I can think of several sites that would deserve recognition in St. Louis:

Crown Candy Kitchen - An Old North St. Louis mainstay that has remained open despite radical (and ongoing) neighborhood transformation throughout its nearly 100 year life span. Lots of other businesses deserve recognition for their dedication to their respective neighborhoods considering the turbulent change that St. Louis has undergone: Dad's Cookies in Dutchtown; the Carondelet Bakery in the Ivory Triangle; the South Public Market in the Patch; Hanneke Hardware on the Hill; and so many others.

Mokabe's - A gay community advocate and landmark.

The Royale - An unabashed St. Louis booster opens a bar that's a practical 3-D love letter to the city and is also the quintessential South Side hipster hangout.

Courtesy Diner - Right across the street, Courtesy is a place where everyone has a story. Staring across the street to the Royale, it is almost a statement on St. Louis's growth patterns. Itself an autocentric mid-century diner, and the Royale a turn of the century corner bar, their incongruity is a strange and somewhat uniquely St. Louis delight. Ditto for Uncle Bill's, by the way.

Plus there are those ineffable landmarks like the Bevo Mill and the Water Towers that probably need some registering as well.

And on, and on, and on. Anyone wanting to get this program started in St. Louis?


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