NEW ORLEANS — After a decade and a half of non-use, on Friday the City of New Orleans is releasing an “invitation to bid” to residents and businesses for the opportunity to renovate and lease the historic Touro-Shakspeare Home in Algiers. The property is restricted in use and must remain as something that would qualify as a modern-day alms house. Please check nola.gov/purchasing for further information and “open house” dates.
From 1994 through 2005, the Touro-Shakspeare Home was operated as a nursing home facility, prior to being substantially damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Since 2005, the facility has been vacant and unused.
“The Touro-Shakspeare building is an architecturally significant property on the West Bank with a rich history,” said Ramsey Green, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Infrastructure. “This is a wonderful opportunity to restore the property to its original grandeur so that it can once again serve the community in its primary purpose.”
“Touro-Shakspeare is a beautiful, historic building that I believe has always been prime for redevelopment. I worked to re-zone the property in 2019, removing barriers for developers, and helped put this building back into commerce, serving our senior population. It’s exciting that Algiers will soon have a newly redeveloped property that the community can be proud of,” said Kristin Gisleson Palmer, City Councilmember, District C.
The Touro-Shakspeare Home is the legacy of the philanthropist Judah Touro, who sought care for the aged and indigent. Upon his death, Mr. Touro bequeathed funds for the purchase of immovable property for the construction of an “alms house.” An alms house was a term used in the 19th century for a form of housing for people (typically but not necessarily elderly) who could not earn enough money to pay rent.
Upon his death, the Touro Trust began construction of a 9th Ward alms house in keeping with the testament of Mr. Touro. At some point in the mid 1800s, the partially constructed alms house was commandeered by the Federal government for military use, and, while in possession by the U.S. military, the facility was destroyed by fire.
Act 100 of the 1867 Louisiana Legislature authorized the Board of Directors of the Touro Trust to transfer any funds and real estate owned by the trust to the City of New Orleans. The Act contained a restriction that required funds and property only be used for the purpose listed in the will of Mr. Touro — an alms house in the City of New Orleans.
In 1895, the funds were utilized to construct a second alms house in the Uptown area of New Orleans. In 1927, during the administration of Mayor Joseph Shakspeare, the City purchased immovable property in Orleans Parish on the west bank of the Mississippi River for the current Touro-Shakspeare Home. Construction of the William Burke-designed alms house began in 1932. The impressive structure is marked by diamond-pattern brickwork, stepped parapets, and a grand columned front entrance. It features a 20-foot domed ceiling in its chapel and two enclosed courtyards with decorative columns.
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