A few months ago while traveling through Louisiana, Marrero, Louisiana to be exact, we came upon a beautiful building complex. Sprawling across several acres with a Spanish colonial revival style, the stark white buildings were impossible to miss. After quite a bit of research I was finally able to identify the interesting complex as Hope Haven and Madonna Manor. Unfortunately the beauty of the buildings does nothing to hide its dark past.
Madonna Manor, Hope Haven was founded in the early 1930’s by Father Peter Wynhoven and the New Orleans Catholic Charities. It started as an orphanage and school for area boys and quickly grew to accept girls. At its height the complex contained dormitories, a church, pool, gym, and a school. It became a place of hope not only for orphans, but also for families that could not financially support their children. A worthy charity indeed and a lot of good for the neighborhood. In the 1950’s and 1960’s troubled times came to Madonna Manor in the form of sexual and physical abuse led by the priests and nuns running the school.
I could find very little information about the school and I’m not sure as to when it was shut down. Some of the building are still in use, or were until recently, as homeless shelters and a food bank according to some signs. These buildings were all locked up tight, and security cameras everywhere. I would have loved to take a peek inside some of the structures, many looked to be in great condition, other than the gym. During some of my research it looked like hurricane Katrina may have done some damage to the complex. I hope within the coming years, the Church or even the city will be able to reuse these beautiful white buildings instead of letting them waste away.
What’s coming up next week? An essay on why I explore.