Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This research analyses the social construction of a neighborhood’s history through the architectural narrative visible in its housing stock, critically engaging with modern practices of evaluation and interpretation of historic significance espoused by preservationists. Physical manifestations of the application of the National Historic Preservation Act and local regulations, in conjunction with efforts of preservationists as agents of recovery targeting the Holy Cross Historic District in New Orleans after the hazard events of 2005 reveal new and altered perceptions of the neighborhood through changes in space and structure. Methods include quantitative analysis of property values and demographics, (economic capital), and documenting of qualitative expressions of value, through sociopolitical characteristics such as historic significance, age, and access to resources through social networks including expertise and sweat equity (cultural and social capital). Physical evidence of change within the built environment, gathered through aerial and ground-level photography, as well as data from archival sources including tax rolls, local commission files, and property surveys, provided information on construction, demolition, and valuation of structures in relation to their age and assigned level of historic significance. The spatial nature of recovery is evident from the infusion of economic capital as related to the location of cultural and social capital, and the role of the district in enhancing this recovery is seen in not only return rates but also property values, decreased demolitions, and increased investment from organizations within and outside of the Holy Cross neighborhood. Results suggest that property values within the historic district rose on average 15 percent higher than properties outside its bounds within fifteen years of designation; additionally, higher ratings of significance correlated with lower demolition rates for blocks within the district. Historic designation can be an effective tool in the construction of a cohesive community identity through the preservation and interpretation of a shared social memory; however, without the embodied cultural capital to support the claim of historic significance, the benefits of preservation are limited to the institutionalized and objectified material culture acting as repositories of capital and thus reproducers of social stratification.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Colten, Craig E