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The Tomb of the Widow Paris is in Dire Need of Restoration

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For the first time since her burial at 5:00 p.m., June 17th, 1881, the tomb of the infamous Voodoo Queen of New Orleans was painted a color other than white. It was described as a "Pepto Bismal pink" and a lot of Marie Laveaux devotees were none too happy about the event. It was believed to be an act of vandalism in a long series of acts of vandalism that have occurred to the tomb. Local reports indicate it occurred on approximately December 6, 2013.

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Despite the fact that the tomb of the Widow Paris is a huge tourist attraction, it wasn't until Dorothy Morrison posted a photo of it on Facebook and the story broke here that it finally got the local attention it deserved.

After much conjecture about who painted it and how they got into the cemetery to do it, the focus of the event shifted to one of most importance; that is, what to do about it.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans owns and operates the St. Louis Cemetery #1 where the tomb is located, but they do not routinely maintain the tomb. The majority of the tombs in the cemetery are individually owned by families who are ultimately responsible for their maintenance and upkeep. According to Archdiocesan records, the last known family member was buried in 1957 and there has not been anyone officially responsible for taking care of it since. Other than periodically cleaning up around the tomb and painting over the X marks by the cemeteries office, the tomb has been allowed to steadily deteriorated.

Since the tomb was painted pink, the Cemeteries Archdiocesan office decided to pressure wash the paint off of the tomb, apparently a standard method of upkeep for cemetery tombs. But after Angie Green, the Executive Director of Save Our Cemeteries (SOC), witnessed the damage that was occurring as a result of the pressure washing, she reportedly offered to hire a restoration expert to assess the situation and advise on how to proceed with minimal damage to the tomb. This was offered at no cost to the Archdiocese, who apparently believed there would be minimal damage to the tomb using the pressure wash. So, the offer was subsequently declined.

There is a major difference in historic tomb restoration methods between the Archdiocese and Save Our Cemeteries. Apparently, the Archdiocese typically repairs deteriorating tombs using multiple coats of Portland cement, a restoration method that makes the tombs look brand new, as opposed to restoring their true historic aesthetic. When a large portion of the back wall in the cemetery collapsed last October, the Archdiocese repaired the damage by replacing the historic red bricks with a floodwall constructed of reinforced concrete. Historic restorations are more appropriately accomplished using a lime based mortar, according to SOC.

The tomb remains in dire need of repair. The cost for its restoration is estimated in excess of $10,000.00, so Save Our Cemeteries, The Archdiocese of New Orleans, and the local preservation company Bayou Preservation, LLC have formed a partnership to restore the tomb. Given the cost of repairs, however, it cannot be completed without fundraising efforts. Therefore they have started a restoration fund that the general public can donate to help fray the expenses. If you would like to donate to the restoration fund, please visit the website where there are details on the Marie Laveau Tomb Restoration.

The entire story from the beginning can be found in the latest issue of Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans.

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