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GSA Celebrates Rededication, Modernization of New Orleans Custom House

One of the most historically significant buildings in the federal portfolio will benefit from protection effected by restoration work and upgrades.

GSA# 10811

Aug. 8, 2011
Deborah K. Ruiz, 202-208-0861

WASHINGTON – Federal and local officials today celebrated the rededication and modernization of the U.S. Custom House, bringing it to its former grandeur after it was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The only structure designated as a National Historic Landmark within the U.S. General Services Administration’s Greater Southwest Region, the customhouse underwent a two-phase effort to protect the historic nature of the building as well as to ensure its longevity for future generations.

“Protecting the wealth of history in and around the U.S. Custom House – one of the government’s most historically significant buildings – and ensuring its presence for future generations demonstrates GSA’s commitment to support its sister agencies and, through them, the taxpayer,” said J.D. Salinas, regional administrator for GSA’s Greater Southwest Region. “Our expertise finds that preservation and innovation work together very well as we keep energy-efficiency in mind and sustainability out front.”

Tenants, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, are back in the restored building, after they were relocated to other spaces when the building was declared unsuitable for occupancy following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The building sustained substantial damage from roof drain blockage stemming from hurricane debris. Interior damage was primarily confined to the second and third floors, and affected building finishes, and mechanical and fire protection systems. In addition, water damage sustained from the storm was significant, requiring complete remodeling and mold remediation for many areas.

“The Customs House is an important cultural and architectural landmark, and remains a symbol of the resilience of this community and this city,” said Secretary Janet Napolitano. “The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection share in the commitment to support the revitalization and rebuilding of New Orleans and our entire Gulf Coast.”

"Louisiana is home to a large presence of national assets, from military readiness and maritime commerce to energy production and chemical plants, that warrant the attention and resources of the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Mary Landrieu said. "I am pleased to showcase Louisiana’s unique homeland security capabilities and its considerable economic and military value to Secretary Napolitano during the course of this trip. Our visits to the Customs House, Port of New Orleans and Cyber Innovation Center will demonstrate Louisiana's ability to protect the homeland from international and domestic threats, whether they come by land, air, sea, or cyberspace."

The modernization and renovation includes significant improvements to the building’s fire and life safety systems, as well as replacements to much of its electrical and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to enhance energy-efficiency and sustainability. These are expected to help it qualify for gold certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. GSA’s restoration efforts have also successfully recaptured the historic appearance of the building, exposing the customhouse’s original components, such as vaulted ceilings, and replicating missing or deteriorated interior elements and finishes.

The U.S. Custom House in New Orleans is one of the oldest and most important federal buildings in the Southern United States and one of the major works of architecture commissioned by the federal government in the 19th century. Construction of the four-story building, which occupies the full trapezoidal downtown city block bounded by Canal, North Peters, Iberville, and Decatur streets, was begun in 1848 and built over 33 years. The grand marble hall in the center of the building is one of the finest Greek Revival interiors in the United States.

For more information about GSA’s Historic Preservation Program, please visit

View two video clips from the rededication>>

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As the federal government's workplace solutions provider, the U.S. General Services Administration works to foster an effective, sustainable and transparent government for the American people. GSA’s expertise in government workplace solutions include:
• Effective management of government assets including more than 9,600 government-owned or leased
buildings and 215,000 vehicles in the federal fleet, and preservation of historic federal properties;
• Leveraging the government’s buying power through responsible acquisition of products and services
making up approximately 14 percent of the government’s total procurement dollars;
• Providing innovative technology solutions to enhance government efficiency and increase citizen
engagement; and,
• Promoting responsible use of federal resources through development of government-wide policies
ranging from federal travel to property and management practices.

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