The Pythian

234 Loyola St.

New Orleans, Louisiana

2017
Restoration and adaptive reuse of a significant downtown building for mixed use
ERG Enterprises; Green Coast Enterprises; Crescent City Community Land Trust , client
120,000 sf
$22,250,000/$185 per sf
Collaborators:

Wayne Troyer, FAIA
Julie A. Babin, AIA
Scott Crane
Amy Garrett
Ray Croft
Alyce Deshotels

2017 AIA Louisiana Merit Award

2017 Downtown Development District Downtown NOLA Award

Photography:

George Long

Project Type: Commercial, Housing, Mixed Use

The Pythian has a storied place in the history of New Orleans. The Grand Lodge Colored Knights of Pythias of Louisiana was formed in 1880 after the Knights of Pythias was chartered by Congress at the request of President Lincoln in 1868. In 1908, former slave and self-made millionaire Samuel W. Green began work on the Pythian Temple, completed the following year by the prestigious New Orleans architectural firm Diboll, Owen, and Goldstein at a cost of $200,000 ($4.8 million today.) The structure, the first highrise in New Orleans constructed by an African-American, was a hub for the African-American community, with offices, meeting rooms, an opera house, and a theatre. Shortly after the Pythian Temple opened, a group of Carnival enthusiasts calling themselves The Tramps attended a show at the theatre by a vaudeville group called The Smart Set. The Smart Set performed a song called “There Never Was and Never Will Be a King Like Me” based around the newly world-famous Zulu tribe. The Tramps left the Pythian for a barroom a few blocks away, along with members of a benevolent aid society and created the Krewe of Zulu, which marched for the first time that Mardi Gras.

During the Second World War, the building was leased to Andrew Higgins, creator of the Higgins Boat which President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed as the invention that won the war for the United States. In the 1950s, the building was owned by Col. deMontluzin, a real estate tycoon. During that time, the building became one of the first skyscrapers to be lit by floodlights at night.

Designed to meet LEED Silver standards for New Construction, the latest chapter in the life of the Pythian Temple is an adaptive reuse of the existing historic building for mixed use, including commercial space, 69 mixed-income residential units, and roof deck.

The existing building was originally constructed as (2) separate structures: The corner building was first constructed in 1909 and subsequently renovated in 1923, 1943 and 1957; the back building was constructed circa 1925 and renovated in 1961 and 1971. During the 1961 renovation, the (2) buildings were joined together and unified with a modern-era slipcover overcladding. Through conversations with the State Historic Preservation Officer and the National Park Service, it was determined that the corner building should be restored to it’s original 1909 design, while the rear building should be restored to it’s 1950s design. Where the slipcover was removed, the historic façade, which was significantly damaged during the installation of the slipcover, was repaired and included restoration or replacement of the masonry, ornamental terra cotta, and cast stone.