THE PYTHIAN APARTMENTS, DOWNTOWN NEW ORLEANS

YKK AP America Inc. as Manufacturers

The Pythian Apartments building in downtown New Orleans was a $44 million renovation completed in June 2017. The historic nine-story building was originally built in 1908 by S.W.Green, the leader of the Grand Lodge Colored Knights, an African American fraternal organization.


According to an article in NOLA.com, the building served as “a center for African American commercial life, including Green’s Liberty Independent Life Insurance Co., a bank, the Negro Board of Trade and the Louisiana Weekly newspaper. A popular theater and rooftop garden hosted performances that included an appearance from a young Louis Armstrong.” The building is now home to 69 apartments that target middle-income workers to provide affordable housing in a desirable downtown neighborhood.


When renovating this historic building into the Pythian Apartments, the goal was to recreate the original look of the building. Over the course of its long history, the building was renovated multiple times. In the 1940s an additional floor was added. In the 1960s, the then-building owner doubled the size of the building and covered it with a new facade, hiding the intricate brickwork and historic windows. This meant that each of these looks had to be taken into consideration and replicated during the renovation of the building.  Historical evaluations for original product dimensions were evaluated during design development in consultation with the architect Studio WTA in order to set historical design parameters for the new impact tested assemblies.


Glazing contractor DeGeorge Glass worked with YKK AP as the designated storefront and unitized curtain wall manufacturer, and Winco Windows as the window supplier to make this happen. YKK AP’s YUW 750 XTH unitized window wall system was used to match the 1960’s part of the building, while Winco Windows recreated the historic windows in the oldest part of the building.


The result is a stunning mix of historic and modern architecture, with a proper nod to the building’s history and neighborhood.

The Pythian

studioWTA as Architects

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.

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