Borders on St. Charles

I rode my bike down to a new coffee shop in the Marigny this afternoon.  On my way I passed this construction site on St. Charles and, I think, Louisiana.  This is where the new Borders store will be.  It is easy, by the way, to be critical of these sorts of big box stores when you’ve got them in easy reach for those “emergencies,” as in, “I need a Scrabble dictionary and it’s after nine!”  In this town, though, a big box store, especially a bookstore, would come in handy on occasion.  There is much more to say about this debate (particularly given that the terrible Walmart was the saving grace for tons of folks during Katrina–sometimes Things Are Complicated), but what interests me about this particular building is its construction–which it has been under for at least the year I’ve been here.  The building itself is a beautiful old mansion, or courthouse, or similarly regal place.  But all that was left of it was the facade.  I used to pass the building, confused that it was nothing but a front.  They are preserving it, building up around it, though when finished they will certainly try to hide this origin.  And why shouldn’t it?  Historical preservation, especially of architecture in a place like this, is vital.  But it is funny, too, to think about how much of this city might be built around facades like this one, how much this place is hiding.  Best to take notes.

5 thoughts on “Borders on St. Charles

  1. Ah – facades vs hiding…much has been written on this. I will leave it to smarter folks to add more.

    But, as to Big Box vs small and local…the pendulum has swung to big box, for reasons of distribution homogenization. The good news is it will continue to swing from side to side.

    that’s all the business news you get today!

  2. Funny:
    What I’ve heard from good sources is that the Borders was actually an old funeral home and that the reason the facade is still up isn’t because of a love of historicism, but rather because it is obligated to comply with building codes about historical preservation which oftentimes means that we rip out everything substantial about the building and pretend that we care by quite literally keeping the facade that we care up.

  3. That’s a great point, Jen. I think those building codes are imagined as being precisely about historical preservation, but they are perhaps a facade themselves…Nicely put.

  4. Pingback: Borders on St. Charles, Redux « What I Saw Riding My Bike Around Today

  5. “heard from good sources . . . . . ” that it was a funeral home??

    Come on folks, Bultman funeral home has only been closed for about 2 years! I was very sad to see that Borders only kept the facade; the interior was very unique, especially the main viewing room on the bottom floor. but, I guess it just wouldn’t have been environmentally suited to storing books, not to mention that many would have been creeped out if it looked too funeral parol-ish.

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