By coordinating the knowledge and skills of many specialists to develop and implement a conservation plan for St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, this multi-faceted project provides an alternative approach to the long-term preservation and care of these very significant cultural landscapes.

The multi-phased Dead Space Project focused on developing a model conservation plan beginning with the documentation, recording, and analysis of the cemetery and its urban context over time. This was done through comprehensive surveying and mapping of the site and its urban context, measured drawings of selected tombs, and the development of practical guidelines and standards for the conservation and maintenance of the tombs and tombscapes. The project used digital technologies, with an extensive GIS database providing descriptive, analytical, and communication tools to better map, analyze, and ultimately manage this and similar sites throughout the city and state. This represents the first large-scale application of such powerful tools to the conservation and management of historic burial grounds and cemeteries.

With information synthesized from the condition survey, treatments were developed through laboratory and field testing and executed in three model projects to address the types of materials and characteristic problems most typically encountered. The results from these pilot projects were incorporated into the guidelines written for the site and have been more fully utilized in the Save America's Treasures project to restore the Alley 9-L Tombscape.

Project Map

Project Tools

Like all heritage sites, the conservation of historic burial grounds and cemeteries is a multi-step process. The following tools define the basic conservation program. The Pilot Tombs Esteve, Bergamini and Perrault were used to develop the full scale plan.

  • Documentation of the site through archival and field research.
  • Condition survey and material characterization.
  • Development of an emergency program including fragment collection, inventory and storage, and temporary protection and stabilization of monuments.
  • Decisions and development of a phased treatment program based on historical and cultural significance, condition, and integrity.
  • Testing and execution of pilot treatments, and the development of standards and guidelines for conservation. See the Bergamini, Esteve and Perrault Pilots representing a range of tomb type and condition and representative of a cross-section of New Orleans' early Creole society.
  • Preparation of a site conservation plan, including strategies for intervention and maintenance, as well as social and economic development and public outreach.

Esteve Tomb #13

Pilot Approach: Conservation and Partial Restoration. Base, niche and tablet conserved, top two steps were partially rebuilt and new stucco applied in a manner to match the surface texture of the original stucco. Photomicrographs of the layers of finish documented an original dark gray limewash.

The Esteve Tomb was in very poor condition, and was the worst of the three tombs included in the Conservation Pilot Program. The tomb is believed to date from 1830, the date of the earliest inscription on its closure tablet. It is a good example of a simple, early step-top platform tomb, one that lacks any additional ornamentation such as metalwork or statuary. It is interesting to note that there are two inscription tablets on the tomb; one on the front elevation facing the path and one on the back. The tablet on the back of the tomb is the earlier of the two, containing only the 1830 inscription, and is made of white marble. The larger tablet, on the front of the tomb, is made of black limestone and has an additional inscription from 1846. The inscriptions on both tablets are in French. It is possible that this tomb was built in 1846 to accomodate an additional interment, replacing an earlier structure, a theory which is supported by the finishes evidence found on the tomb. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the Esteve family.

Prior to the Conservation Pilot Program, the tomb was in a total state of disrepair. The upper two tiers of the structure were severely cracked and the top was partially collapsed; its closure tablet was broken and removed from the face of the tomb. Because of the tomb's poor condition, the general approach taken for its preservation was one of restoration and partial reconstruction.

Above text adapted from Dorothy Krotzer and Frank G. Matero, Pilot Tomb Project Report, 2002.

Comparison of images before and after conservation.

Side view

Esteve Tomb before restoration, side viewEsteve Tomb after restoration, side view


Front view

Esteve Tomb before restoration, front viewEsteve Tomb after restoration, front view


Above text adapted from Dorothy Krotzer and Frank G. Matero, Pilot Tomb Project Report, 2002.

Perrault Tomb #351

Pilot Approach - Conservation and Partial Restoration. Tablet structure and portions of the original stucco were conserved, while much of the missing stucco was replicated. The pilaster moldings were replicated based on the original evidence. The tomb was finished with an oyster-shell based limewash.

The Perrault Tomb is another example of classically inspired design. This tall, three-vault structure has a shallow hipped roof, corner pilasters and a pronounced cornice. A derivative of the pediment or temple type, this Classical tomb design can be seen throughout the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The earliest date on the Perrault Tomb's closure tablet is 1863, the last date, 1892. Interred within is the family of Appolinare Perrault, a free man of color and prominent brick mason who built many of the tombs in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, including his own. Fortunately, one of Perrault descendants, Gregory Osborn, was actively involved in the Conservation Program and contributed much valuable information. A descendant of the family and a brick mason, Raoul Perrault, was actively involved in the SAT tomb restorations on Alley 9-L.

The Perrault Tomb was in a moderate state of disrepair; it was structurally sound, but portions of its stucco were very deteriorated and there were extensive areas of loss. Its marble closure tablet was in good condition, but bowed from years of exposure. Because of the superficial nature of the deterioration present on this tomb, the plan for its restoration included restoration and conservation; meaning conservation and stabilization of much of the tomb's original features could be performed, but some restoration was planned where the materials were irreparable or completely missing.

Above text adapted from Dorothy Krotzer and Frank G. Matero, Pilot Tomb Project Report, 2002.

Comparison of images before and after conservation.

Front view

Perrault Tomb before restoration, side viewPerrault Tomb after restoration, side view


Rear view

Perrault Tomb before restoration, read viewPerrault Tomb after restoration, rear view


Above text adapted from Dorothy Krotzer and Frank G. Matero, Pilot Tomb Project Report, 2002.

Bergamini Tomb #12

Pilot Approach: Preservation. The deterioration has been stabilized, yet the tomb appears much as it did before treatment. The hard cement patches from earlier repairs were replaced with a softer hydraulic lime-based mortar and the entire tomb was finished in a buff-colored limewash to blend in the repairs.

The Bergamini Tomb is of the Classical pediment or temple tomb type and is believed to date from 1865, the first date on the closure tablet. It has an ornate transitional metalwork gate comprised of wrought iron grillwork fastened with cast zinc rosettes at all intersections. Above the front pediment, a marble statue of a weeping child in mourning sits on a stuccoed brick base. According to archival research performed by Tulane University students, the statue was carved by the principal member of the Bergamini family, Alexander, who was a stone carver from Trieste, Italy. The statue may have been installed at a later date, after the tomb was complete.

The Bergamini Tomb was in fairly good condition prior to the Conservation Pilot Program, with only minimal areas of stucco loss and soiled, weathered marble closure table and statue. The approach for the preservation of this tomb was, therefore, a conservation one involving merely the stabilization and conservation of the masonry and associated stone and metalwork. The goal of the work was to stabilize the tomb and prevent further decay without significantly affecting its general appearance. It was felt that the tomb's gently weathered appearance reflects its age value and contributes to the overall historical integrity of the site.

Above text adapted from Dorothy Krotzer and Frank G. Matero, Pilot Tomb Project Report, 2002.

Comparison of images before and after conservation.

Side view

Bergamini Tomb before restoration, side viewBergamini Tomb before restoration, side view


Front View

Bergamini Tomb before restoration, front viewBergamini Tomb after restoration, front view


Above text adapted from Dorothy Krotzer and Frank G. Matero, Pilot Tomb Project Report, 2002.

Measured Drawings

… the survey shall cover structures of all types from the smallest utilitarian structures to the largest and most monumental. Buildings of every description …— Excerpt from the original HABS mission statement, 1933

The School of Architecture at Tulane offers professional and post-professional degree programs in architecture, as well as a graduate degree in preservation studies. In addition to the measure ddrawings project, several students participated as conservation interns and assistants throughout the project. As part of the project, students in the Preservation Studies program in the College of Architecture at Tulane University prepared measured drawings of selected tombs according to HABS standards. Participants first collected available archival information on the tombs and those interred. Measurements were made and conditions of deterioration were documented.

Roll over names to see examples of the details


Tombscapes & Open Spaces

The architecture of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is a rich palate of forms and details, jumbled together in a miniaturized city of tombs, tombscapes, and open spaces.

The tombscape is defined as a combination of related views, spatial configurations, material juxtapositions, and cultural associations among a group of tombs and their associated spaces and is one of the defining features of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The tombscape is in many ways akin to the historic district, pulling from a variety of sources to create a context that is both self-defined and often part of a greater context, in this case, a cultural landscape.

One of the most distinctive spatial features of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the interplay between the dense configuration of tombs and the open spaces that are shaped by the absence of tombs. The density of tombs in this cemetery is such that these open spaces take on qualities—in volume and character, directly related to the scale and qualities of the tombs that surround them. The spaces are energized by the physical processes of accretion and removal of surrounding tombs and often have a distinct pattern creating a local or neighborhood organization specific to their placement in the cemetery.

Save America's Treasures (SAT) program

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, along with St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, are rare cultural landscapes of combined European, African, and Native American traditions containing an important collection of family and society tombs. In 2001, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was nominated to the Save America's Treasures (SAT) program and received unprecedented funding for preservation work.

Project Profiles

The field work was completed in November, 2002. 20 emergency tombs were stabilized and 25 tombs along Alley 9-L were restored.

Click through to view different images of the SAT project in progress.

Plans for More Research

Research concerning cemetery landscapes, conservation and planning, and management issues continues at the Architectural Conservation Research Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dead Space Symposium: Conservation & Management of the Historic American Burial Ground and Cemetery

A symposium of invited speakers was held October 24-25, 2003 at the University of Pennsylvania.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2

This fragile site requires the same mapping, condition survey and assessment, and conservation plan that has been implemented at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

The Cemeteries of Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, PA contains numerous historical burial grounds, significant for their age, as cultural landscapes and for the famous people interred within.

The Above Ground Cemeteries of the Caribbean

As Spain colonized throughout the Caribbean, they built many cemeteries that share the building and burial traditions found in the above ground cemeteries of New Orleans. There is a critical need to document and stabilize these remnants of early settlement in the Caribbean.