On October 22nd, 2014, an over-200-year-old building at 810 Royal Street collapsed, presumably a victim of unrepaired termite and moisture damage. The collapse sparked conversations in New Orleans about the importance of historic preservation. The complex of buildings at the corner of Royal and St. Ann was constructed by Don Francisco Balthazar Languille sometime soon after his purchase of the lots in 1801.
The group of buildings, including the one that collapsed at 808-810 Royal, and the extant ones at 800-806 Royal and 635-637 St. Ann Street, are reputed to have been among the first 3-story residential structures in the Vieux Carré. The loss of such an important part of the built landscape in the heart of the Quarter through what many saw as ‘demolition by neglect’ highlighted the fragile nature of the city’s architectural heritage, even in its most tightly-regulated district.
The collapse also offered a rare opportunity to access the layers of soil beneath the building, ground that had been essentially undisturbed since 1801. The new owners offered University of New Orleans Anthropology professor Ryan Gray and his students access to the site while awaiting permits for new construction. The artifacts found during two seasons of excavations conducted by UNO’s summer field school in archaeology have given important insights into life in the Colonial era city.
For more information about archeaology at 810 Royal Street, please visit the Archaeology of 810 Royal Street tour.