In New Orleans, the multidisciplinary design firm Cushing Terrell is helping preserve Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church with support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and the Preserving Black Churches initiative, a $20 million program generously supported by the Lilly Endowment to revive Black churches and congregations. Cushing Terrell has provided pro bono schematic design work on the project.
“The Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church has been through so much,” said architect and lead designer, Mia Kaplan. “As designers, we thrive on opportunities to use our experience to transform the world in a thoughtful way. Reverend Lewis is a dream client who knows the impact that preserving and reopening this church will have on the community — we are honored to roll up our sleeves on this one to preserve a cultural treasure.”
Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church, located in New Orleans’s Seventh Ward, was badly damaged by natural disasters during Hurricane Ida in 2021. As such, Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church is currently on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Top 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.
Cushing Terrell, the structural engineering firm Marais Consultants, the New Orleans Preservation Resource Center, and Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church owner, Reverend Harold Lewis, are working together to make the structure habitable for its historic congregation.
The architects have devised a design that seeks to retain the Spanish Mission Revival–style church’s historic features such as its street-facing facade, windows, wooden lap siding, and interior details. The restoration will maintain the building’s natural ventilation, and use native plantings. Schematic drawings by Cushing Terrell also show a new community center on a lot adjacent to the church. The community center will include a kitchen, meeting room, and outdoor gathering space.
Earlier this year in January, the New Orleans building was listed as one of 35 historic Black churches to receive funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Others included the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the site of the horrific 1963 church bombing by the Ku Klux Klan; and Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in New York by African American architect George Washington Foster, Jr.
Previously, AN covered Cushing Terrell’s restoration work at Willie Nelson’s headquarters outside Austin. Work at Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church will be complete in the coming years.