It is with a great sense of sorrow and loss that Louisiana Landmarks Society mourns the passing of one of the preservation greats, Mary Louise Christovich.
Mrs. Christovich was the embodiment of a life filled with achievements that have and will continue to benefit all of Louisiana. She was a prolific author, teacher, historian, advocate, fundraiser, preservationist, innovator and role model. Mary Louise Christovich was the quintessential Grande Dame of preservation – hearkening back to the heroic likes of Elizabeth Werlein and later Martha Robinson – but, of course, with her own unique spin.
Mrs. Christovich served on countless boards, volunteering her talent and energy for decades for the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Louisiana State Museum, Friends of the Cabildo, the Louisiana Council for the Vieux Carre, the Central Business District Improvement Association, and the Preservation Resource Center. As a supporter of Louisiana Landmarks Society, she continued to support and strengthen historic preservation and land use practices for the City of New Orleans. Most recently, Mrs. Christovich had been working with Louisiana Landmarks Society on a new book scheduled for a June release on the architectural and cultural significance of the Bayou St. John area.
Arguably, one of her most notable contributions to Louisiana began in 1971 when she co-authored and edited the first of a series of books in the New Orleans Architecture series. These books were not only influential, but instrumental in educating the community on the unique character and important history of our historic neighborhoods. They represented a game changer that helped coalesce preservation outside of the French Quarter. The series served as an impetus to form neighborhood associations as well as to ultimately create Historic Districts beyond the Vieux Carre – resulting in the Historic District Landmarks Commission being established in 1976.
Mrs. Christovich’s interest in cemeteries became a passion in 1974 when the Archdiocese of New Orleans concluded that the wall vaults in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 could not be saved. She then founded the organization Save Our Cemeteries to rally support to save the wall vaults and to increase awareness of and interest in the preservation of all of the city’s historic cemeteries. Her inspired advocacy and relentless fundraising led to the restoration of scores of historic tombs in these cemeteries, and served to permanently elevate the consciousness of the citizenry of the need to protect and preserve these priceless historic cities of the dead.
There are far too many accomplishments to list. “Mary Lou’s love for and achievements in preserving Louisiana’s culture and architecture remain evident in her extensive writings as well as her examples of intense volunteerism and leadership. Her accomplishments are etched as her legacy – and have and will continue to become the standard for the work of the generations to come,” said Sandra Stokes, President of Louisiana Landmarks Society.
Her impacts have been profound. Her passing is an enormous loss for all of Louisiana.
*Photo courtesy the New Orleans Advocate, J.T. Blatty, Dec. 9, 2016