The design work for the renovation began as a collaboration between the City of New Orleans and Concordia Architects in 2008, this collaboration continued through several phases and construction was completed in September of 2016. The Milton H. Latter library has now been fully restored, preserving its original historic splendor while simultaneously modernizing its systems to be more energy efficient. Many architectural details were restored, and new design elements are seamlessly integrated to adapting to the evolving program functions to meet the needs of the digital age. Accessibility has been improved to meet the needs of the community, with elevators, bicycle parking, and universal design elements to allow the library to function as a multi-use community center, serving a multitude of activities and programs in addition to the traditional reading rooms and stacks of the original library. The scope of the project included replacing the existing, wind-damaged, Spanish tile roof, creating a more energy efficient envelope for the entire structure, remodeling of the children’s reading room and main lobby areas, creation of a digital media lab, upgrading the landscape with native plants, and restoration of the damaged carriage house, which is used by the Friends of The New Orleans Public Library for weekend book fairs.
Concordia was hired by the City of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to produce a Comprehensive Facility Assessment and Master Plan for improvements. The Master Plan recommended breaking the project in two phases, linked to available funding sources from FEMA, CDBG, and the City of New Orleans. Phase I included a full roof replacement and porch rebuilding (construction begun in 2010, completed in 2013). Phase II included full system upgrades, enhancements for energy efficiency, and the remainder of interior and exterior renovation (begun in 2015, completed in 2016).
What is now the Milton H. Memorial Library Branch of the New Orleans Public Library began its life as grand home for prominent Canal Street merchant Mark Isaacs and his family. This limestone mansion was designed by architects Favrot and Livaudais at the beginning of the 20th century and built by George Clover in 1907. The house changed ownership in 1912, 1937, and 1948 when it was purchased by the Latter Family. They donated the building to the City of New Orleans in 1948 along with the funds necessary to transform the house into a public library. This donation served as a public memorial to the Latter’s son, Milton, who died in World War II. The building was dedicated as a Public Library on October 31st, 1948 and at the time was the only mansion to be used as Public Library in the United States. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and underwent a meticulous renovation in the early 1980’s under the supervision of Allen House of Kentucky and Koch and Wilson Architects of New Orleans. The 1980’s renovation lasted over three decades, but after hurricane Katrina and beyond the building was again showing significant signs of aging which would require a full renovation and restoration.