Episode Descriptions

New Orleans Rebuilds 2007

Season 29: New Orleans Project

This project premieres on PBS Saturdays at 1:30pm ET (check local listings)

Also in prime time exclusively on PBS Thursdays in the first half of The This Old House Hour at 8pm ET (check local listings).

Program #2717
New Orleans Project, Part 1 of 10
Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).


For the second project of the season, This Old House travels to New Orleans, Louisiana, to help a fourth-generation resident of the Lower 9th ward return home, while following stories of rebuilding and recovery throughout the city. Host Kevin O'Connor visits Musicians' Village with founder Harry Connick, Jr. to see how he, along with childhood friend Branford Marsalis, are providing new housing for the city's musicians through Habitat for Humanity. In historic Holy Cross, along the banks of the Mississippi River, homeowner Rashida Ferdinand shows Kevin why she loves her c. 1892 flood-damaged shotgun single and artist's studio, and how she plans to restore and expand them after a two-year vacancy. Master carpenter Norm Abram meets up with her builder to assess the challenges of building in post-Katrina New Orleans, while homeowner Marna David shows Kevin how she managed to renovate her own shotgun single in Holy Cross, twice – once before the storm, and once after.

Program #2718
New Orleans Project, Part 2 of 10
Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).


Back in New Orleans, Kevin meets homeowner Rashida Ferdinand and her architect Rick Fifield for a look at the plans and model of the proposed work to her shotgun single. The plan calls for a "camelback" addition that will house a master suite, and also a new family room with back and side porches to take advantage of the cool river breezes. As demolition begins inside, builder Carl Hithe shows master carpenter Norm Abram how the house was originally constructed from dismantled bargeboards taken from vessels that once traveled down the Mississippi. At Musicians' Village, Kevin meets Executive Director Jim Pate to see how Habitat for Humanity's houses are constructed post-Katrina, starting with an extensive foundation system that includes 35-foot deep pilings tied into a robust footing system. As work progresses at Rashida's house, the discovery of toxic mold is a setback, until mold remediation expert Dr. Eric Griggs arrives to begin a whole-house remediation and prevention program for the old part of the house.

Program #2719
New Orleans Project, Part 3 of 10
Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).


Host Kevin O'Connor visits the French Quarter with Vieux Carré Commission Director Lary Hesdorffer to see how one of the most important neighborhoods in America faired during the storm. At the project house in Holy Cross, master carpenter Norm Abram finds work on the side porch underway, with homeowner Rashida Ferdinand at work stripping paint from the historic windows that will be reused on her project. Paint color consultant Louis Aubert shows Kevin how he's bringing color back to our house, along with other houses in the neighborhood, by providing bright color schemes applied in a historically accurate manner. At Musicians' Village, Norm and Kevin lend a hand to some of the volunteers who are rebuilding New Orleans — by raising walls, laying decking, and installing windows, one house at a time.

Program #2720
New Orleans Project, Part 4 of 10
Saturday, February 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).


Master carpenter Norm Abram takes host Kevin O'Connor across the Mississippi River by ferry to Algiers Point, home of the first This Old House project back in 1990, to see how it faired during Hurricane Katrina. Back at the 2008 project in Holy Cross, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows Norm the plumbing layout, and how HVAC contractor Raul Mena is planning on heating and cooling the house. Across town in Broadmoor, Norm and Kevin lend a hand installing windows with the non-profit group Rebuilding Together, who are renovating a house for wheelchair-bound homeowner, Sonia St. Cyr, at no cost to her. At Musicians' Village, Branford Marsalis shows Kevin around and introduces him to the youngest resident in the village, saxophonist Calvin Johnson, who joins Branford in a duet of "When The Saints Go Marching In." Despite the wreckage at our jobsite, landscape architect Brian Sublette starts working with Rashida to draw up a plan for her yard and gardens.

Program #2721
New Orleans Project, Part 5 of 10
Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).


Host Kevin O'Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram open the show with a quick visit to the local's alternative to Bourbon Street — the neighborhood jazz clubs of Frenchmen Street, where the New Orleans music scene is still alive and well. At the project in Holy Cross, homeowner Rashida Ferdinand has some surprising news — her old contractor couldn't complete the job, so she's hiring someone new, while filling in herself to bridge the gap between builders. On her brief watch, she's managed to obtain her rough inspections, so spray foam insulation gets underway in the new addition. For progress on the French doors, Norm visits carpenter Matt Thompson to see his renovated house and shop in Bywater, and also how he's milling our historically accurate doors out of Spanish cedar. At Musicians' Village, founder Branford Marsalis gives Norm a look at the plans for the music education and performance center that will be built in honor of his father, Ellis Marsalis.

Program #2722
New Orleans Project, Part 6 of 10
Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).


Host Kevin O’Connor and master carpenter Norm Abram take a ride through the city of New Orleans with streetcar driver Sue Daniel, who is known locally as “Streetcar Sue.” At the project house in Holy Cross, Norm catches up with homeowner Rashida Ferdinand’s new general contractor Larry Schneider to see the amazing progress he has made in just two short weeks on the job. At Musicians’ Village, saxophonist Calvin Johnson shows Norm how he is investing sweat equity toward the 350 hours required to become a homeowner in the neighborhood. Back at the project house, lead carpenter Mike Gettle shows Kevin how he is trimming the side porch. In Central City, Kevin meets Mercy Corps program director Rick Denhart to learn how the non-profit organization helps homeowners in New Orleans desconstruct their ruined properties at no cost. The salvaged materials are given to local depots where they are sold at a reduced price. The last stop in the process is the Green Project in St. Roch where the goods are bought and sold by members of the community.

Program #2723
New Orleans Project, Part 7 of 10
Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).


Host Kevin O’Connor visits the architectural marvel next door, the Dollut Steamboat house, with its owner, Don Gagnon. Back at our house, master carpenter Norm Abram meets homeowner Rashida Ferdinand and general contractor Larry Schneider for a progress tour. In addition to painting and flooring, the cabinets are mostly up in the new kitchen. Installer Oliver Earl shows Norm both the architectural details and the finish details of the cabinetry. Right behind him is countertop contractor John Finney, who’s making templates for the new quartz countertops using laser technology. At the Musicians’ Village, general contractor Tom Silva is on hand for the morning meeting and then gives construction assistant Danielle Draper a lesson in making a window stool and apron . In Central City, Kevin meets Craig Cuccia to see how his non-profit group rebuilds the lives of at-risk youth through a unique hospitality and construction program. Back in Holy Cross, Norm and Tom help lead carpenter Mike Gettle put down the reclaimed pine engineered flooring in the future family room.

Program #2724
New Orleans Project, Part 8 of 10
Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).
Host Kevin O'Connor and landscape contractor Roger Cook visit a 70-year old tradition on Poydras Street, Mother's Restaurant, to sample some of the local cuisine. In Holy Cross, Roger meets landscape architect Brian Sublette to see how he's creating both public and private space on our sizable lot. Fencing specialist Mark Bushway is on hand to install the green privacy fence, arbor, and gates going up in the side yard, while Deryl Boudreau is installs a standby generator on the other side of the house. Two blocks away, master carpenter Norm Abram meets executive director Beth Galante to see how her non-profit, Global Green, is building a sustainable and affordable housing development in the neighborhood with the participation of actor Brad Pitt. Back at our house, countertop contractor John Finney arrives with the countertops for the kitchen, while upstairs in the master bath, tile contractor Fred Foltmer shows Kevin the travertine floor and the glass tile going up in the shower area. Over at Musicians' Village, under the watchful eye of pianist Ellis Marsalis, Kevin finds NBA Legends Willis Reed and Robert Parish lending a hand along with local hero Tyson Chandler from the New Orleans Hornets. All of the players have local ties and are committed to keeping the national spotlight focused on the ongoing housing crisis in New Orleans.

Program #2725
New Orleans Project, Part 9 of 10
Saturday, March 22, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).
Host Kevin O'Connor meets District Fire Chief Tim McConnell to see how his own firemen are rebuilding 22 damaged firehouse on their own time, with the help of volunteers and the Denis Leary Foundation in NYC. In Holy Cross, master carpenter Norm Abram drives up to find plants arriving, and master mason Teddy Pierre, Jr. laying local St. Joe brick at the front walk. Lead carpenter Mike Gettle installs new custom composite shutters, which are functional for privacy and security, while also meeting Historic District guidelines. The mechanicals, including a new continuous flow tankless water heater, are also in place. In the French Quarter, Kevin stops into Bevolo Lighting to see how Drew Bevolo, a third generation lighting fixture manufacturer, is carrying on the family tradition, while also building lights for our project. Over at Musicians' Village, Roger helps the volunteers establish grade and plant some screening shrubs and grasses in homeowner Calvin Johnson's front yard.

Program #2726
New Orleans Project, Part 10 of 10
Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 1:30 pm ET (check local listings).
Host Kevin O'Connor opens the show as the Krewe of Zulu prepares for Mardi Gras. In Holy Cross, landscape contractor Roger Cook arrives to find metal worker Joe Strain finishing the installation of the “hoop and scroll” iron fence in the front yard. General contractor Tom Silva meets pest control contractor Wayne Zimmerman to see the work going on under (and around) the house to protect it from termites. Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey looks at the final paint color scheme with colorist Louis Aubert, then checks inside, on the new laundry area and first floor bath. Master carpenter Norm Abram reviews the punch list with lead carpenter Mike Gettle, as furniture maker Bill Taber arrives with two custom tables that he made out of the old bargeboard walls that came down in the renovation. Over at Musicians' Village, we wrap up our five months of following the progress with the dedication ceremony at Calvin Johnson's house. Back Uptown, the party continues as Kevin “rolls” with the Zulus down St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras day. The next day in Holy Cross, landscape architect Brian Sublette gives a final tour of the front garden and side yard, while inside, homeowner Rashida Ferdinand and her interior designer, Nancy Robbins, show Kevin the choices they made to blend the old house with the new addition, while using Rashida's artwork to personalize the spaces. Knowing that many folks in New Orleans are still struggling, the whole crew celebrates the completion of Rashida's house, and the rebirth of one small corner of the city.