Frederick A. Douglass High School recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of a $3,668,000 renovation of its school auditorium. The historic building was restored to its original Art-Deco inspired design while also providing modern amenities and accessibility features.
The auditorium's 1,493 seats were refurbished back to their original condition, while all plaster walls and decorative trim were restored and painted. Each decorative ceiling tile was meticulously restored by hand to resemble details of the original pattern. Existing light fixtures were refurbished, and stage flooring and stairs were repaired and refinished. New stage lighting and audiovisual components were added, and a new wheelchair lift was connected to the stage for increased accessibility.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Dr. Avis Williams, Superintendent of NOLA Public Schools, welcomed students, alumni, and guests, saying, "The Frederick A. Douglass Auditorium was one of the facilities that was identified as needing to be returned to use, and I am so grateful that it has been."
Students, including Douglass senior G'Iree Martin, praised the restoration work, saying, "Today we stand in a beautiful space that should be honored. The building stands as a symbol of resilience and a legacy of adaptability not only for the 9th Ward, but the entire city of New Orleans."
The ceremony also featured performances by the Frederick A. Douglass High School Band and its choir under the direction of Jordan Harper and Jamarcus Welch, respectively. Remarks were also given by Olin Parker, President of the Orleans Parish School Board, District 3; Troy Carter Sr., Congressman, District C; Towana Pierre-Floyd, School Leader; and Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise, KIPP New Orleans School CEO.
Carter expressed his gratitude for the restoration work. "Today we celebrate yet another coming back - coming back to this auditorium with its beautiful art decor and its wooden seats and its luster and its 1940s vintage,” he said. “This is a history that is ours, a community that is ours...I am so grateful to be here today, as we celebrate this ribbon cutting."
Despite the challenge of coexisting with construction for more than a year, Pierre-Floyd praised the students for their resilience and academic achievements. “Despite the reality that our building was a construction zone to make this happen - to give you the space you deserve,” she said. “Through that challenge, you became the top-performing open enrollment school in the city of New Orleans."
The Frederick A. Douglass High School auditorium restoration project is a testament to the power of community and the dedication to preserving the history and legacy of this iconic institution.