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Emergency repairs to begin at Cabildo, Presbytere

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — About $3.4 million in emergency repairs are needed to save New Orleans’ historic Cabildo and Presbytère buildings that flank St. Louis Cathedral from crumbling.

The Louisiana State Museum says moisture intrusion at the 200-year-old French Quarter buildings has put the plaster and stucco at risk of breaking off, potentially falling onto pedestrians outside or damaging museum artifacts inside the buildings.

The Louisiana Division of Administration’s interim emergency board approved more than $945,000 in state funds for the repairs; the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism will dedicate $2.46 million from its annual budget.

In a news release, officials said the problems came to light during recent exterior renovations, which included removal of an elastomeric coating applied in the 1990s. Officials said Thursday that the coating removal exposed cracks and other problems that, if left exposed to the elements, could lead to more serious damage.

“Millions of tourists will come to New Orleans for the tri-centennial in 2018,” said Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. “We need to protect the ‘front door of Louisiana’ for locals and our visitors to enjoy.”

The Cabildo and Presbytère will remain open to the public while the repairs are being made. Both buildings are listed as National Historic Landmarks with the National Park Service.

The Cabildo, which served as the center of New Orleans government, was built between 1795 and 1799, following the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 that completely destroyed the structure that stood on the property. It was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803, which finalized the United States’ acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and doubled the size of the fledgling nation.

The Presbytère was designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo. It was built on the site of the residence of the Capuchin monks and was used for commercial purposes until 1834 when it became a courthouse. In 1911, it became part of the Louisiana State Museum.

The matching Spanish colonial-style buildings were designed by Gilberto Guillemard, who also designed St. Louis Cathedral.

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