NANO Completes Historic Renovation of High School Auditorium

NEW ORLEANS – Frederick A. Douglass High School, located at 3820 St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans, has completed a historic renovation of its main auditorium, which serves as a performance arena for students as well as a civic center for Bywater neighborhood residents. Local architecture and interiors firm NANO LLC is responsible for restoring the auditorium to its original Art Deco-inspired design and creating a more accessible facility with modern amenities. Damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the space remained unused for nearly 18 years until capital improvement and school facility preservation funds enabled the restoration project. 

In response to a request for proposal from NOLA Public Schools in 2019, NANO developed a plan to address capital improvements, facilitate access for those with physical disabilities and restore the authentic character of the historic 1940s building. The auditorium and restrooms are now ADA compliant with more accessible entryways including a new exterior ramp outside the building, wider aisles and a wheelchair lift for disabled students to perform on stage, an option that was nonexistent prior to renovation. Back of house enhancements include relocation of a control booth from the upper-level balcony to the first floor, allowing ADA students to have direct access to stage controls and the sound board.

“We believe that a budding student’s ability to thrive largely depends on their physical environment,” said Sam LeBlanc, NANO’s lead designer on the project. “NANO is proud to play a part in the revitalization of this historic building that will provide a better learning space for Frederick A. Douglass High School students, and a safe and welcoming place for Bywater residents to gather.”

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NANO consulted with local artisans and restoration specialists to clean and repaint the auditorium’s original deco-patterned acoustic tile ceiling and restore original light fixtures, doors, marble and wooden chairs. A new air conditioning system has also been installed for a more comfortable theater experience. Looking forward, NANO has equipped the school with an alternate theater package that will allow for a complete revamp of the lighting and sound system once additional funding becomes available.

“The goal of the renovation was to preserve the features and historical significance of the auditorium and provide a creative space for the Frederick A. Douglass High School students,” said Dr. Avis Williams, superintendent of NOLA Public Schools. “The Frederick A. Douglass High School auditorium renovation will help the New Orleans charter school system continue its mission to build students’ character and prepare them for the future of their choice. We can’t wait for the students to experience this beautifully updated facility.”  

NOLA Public Schools held a ribbon cutting on April 5, 2023, to celebrate the reopening of the high school auditorium.  

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