Hope Haven

Hope Haven was first envisioned by Father Peter Wynhoven, a transplant from Holland to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In 1911, he founded St. Vincent’s Hotel to help jobless and homeless men. With its success, he turned his attention to what he thought was the root cause – orphaned and abandoned boys. Wynhoven’s “school farm” as he called it, was simply a dream, but after wide community support it became a reality. Early on, the Times-Picayune newspaper covers a litany of benefits and fundraisers that include movies, dances, vaudeville shows, parades, even auto and air shows. Once the seed money was secured, Wynhoven found a “stretch of overgrown wilderness” just outside of New Orleans. He summoned a number of dairy farmers and craftsmen from Holland to offer their expertise. By 1921, nearly 250-acres had been cleared for cultivation of crops, as well as for the raising of pigs, sheep, and dairy cows. A handful of humble, utilitarian buildings went up to house its young farmers. In 1924, when the Catholic Orphan Asylums in New Orleans announced plans to close all of their sites, Wynhoven knew his mission would soon grow.

Hope Haven was established in 1925 as a residential youth facility to provide vocational training and moral guidance for boys. The complex included a self-sustaining dairy farm. The first buildings included the Mrs. John Dibert Administration Building, the Weinberger Cottage, and the Industrial School. The Saenger Gymnasium was added in 1930, and a year later, the Murnan Agricultural Unit and the Marcus Feingold Mechanical and Arts Building, where 12 trades were taught, were completed. The complex of chapels, dormitories, and classrooms were built in a Baroque version of the then-fashionable Spanish Colonial Revival style with Churrigueresque ornaments surrounding the major entries. On the east side of Barataria Boulevard, Madonna Manor was established in 1932 for boys and girls under the age of 12 including students from the Chinchuba Institute for the Deaf. Madonna Manor was overseen by the Sisters of Notre Dame. It is the largest ensemble of Spanish Colonial Revival buildings in Louisiana. Hope Haven was owned and operated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and staffed by nuns, priests, and volunteers from the Catholic church.

Madonna Manor was built to the highest standards of construction and in the same architectural style as the other buildings on campus. The grand building included dorms, an infirmary, a swimming pool, dining and recreation halls, and more. The Saint John Bosco Chapel was built next to it in 1940 and completed the campus. The exterior was designed by Jack Kessels to match the Spanish look of the other buildings on campus, but much of the interior woodwork, including the pews and confessional, were crafted by Hope Haven boys in their own shop. The stained glass windows depict the life of Saint John Bosco and were created by Dutch craftsman Joep Nicholas, who fled to New Orleans to escape the Nazis. Many of the children were sent to live at the orphanage by court order as wards of the state. Some children were placed there because their parents were unable to raise them for reasons including mental and emotional instability.

Behind its beautiful facade, Hope Haven holds a much darker past. In the early 2000s, the institution was tarnished by revelations of abuse. Beginning in the spring of 2005, adults who lived at Hope Haven and Madonna Manor in the 1950s and 1960s began to surface with accounts of mistreatment and sexual abuse at the hands of staff members. Collectively, the lawsuits described a harsh psychological and physical environment in which disobidient children as young as 4 were sometimes told they were worthless and unloved. They alleged the environment included harsh beatings at the hands of nuns, including one who favored a collapsible military shovel. Some plaintiffs said they were sexually humiliated or abused by priests, nuns, or staff members at the two Marrero institutions.

In 2009, the Archdiocese of New Orleans announced it was settling 20 lawsuits for $5 million filed against it by an unknown number of adults who alleged they had been beaten, berated, and sexually molested in the 1950s and 1960s at Hope Haven and Madonna Manor. At the time of the settlement, none of the priests were named. In 2018, The Archdiocese of New Orleans released a list of 57 accused priests and deacons who served in its jurisdiction. Eight Roman Catholic priests who were members of the Salesians of Don Bosco order who were assigned to Hope Haven were on the list as being credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The Archdiocese learned of the allegations against the eight between 2006 and 2011. Six of the accused are now deceased.

The residential portion of Hope Haven closed in the 1980s, but the institution continued offering services for at-risk youth and housing other ministries well into the 21st century. The last ministry left in 2014, and the Jefferson Parish Council decided in 2017 to lease the property. Jefferson Parish entered into a 99-year lease agreement with the Archdiocese of New Orleans that cleared the way for the parish to occupy and preserve the site for a $1 a year. In 2020, crews finished $1.2 million of work on the roughly 30,000-square-foot Feingold Center building by gutting it down to the studs, removing asbestos, and securing the windows. The next project is the $2.4 million Dibert Administration Building expected to begin in July 2021. The administration building will get the same treatment as the Feingold Center building. Also planned is the parish-funded $1.3 million walking trail, which will include an adult exercise area, a playground, restrooms, and a 30-vehicle parking lot. The work is expected to be complete by early 2022. Later phases, which have yet to be funded, could see an extention of the walking path around the property and conversion of area to the rear of the property into an outdoor event venue for concerts or weddings.

Hope Haven
In the center of the structures on the west side of Barataria Boulevard sits the Dibert Administration Building. The three-story building was dedicated in 1927 and has a projecting single-story round-arched arcade that wraps around the front and sides.
Hope Haven
The Mrs. John Dibert Administration Building housed classrooms, a refectory, and dormitories. In 1929, two large wings were added, each with dorms, dining areas, and study and recreation halls.
Hope Haven
An overgrown tile fountain in the interior courtyard of the former administration building.

Hope Haven

Orphanage
Hope Haven housed children until the 1980s. Since then, many of the buildings have fallen into disrepair.
Hope Haven
Distinguished local architect William K. Burk, whose collection of work includes many notable churches and rectories, designed the Dibert Administration Building as well as several others on campus. His designs are housed in Tulane’s Southeastern Architectural Archive.
Orphanage
The painted figures along the hallways are reminiscent of its original use as a trade school. Once the children completed grammar school, they were allowed to learn a trade.
Orphanage
The orphanage became so revered for its vocational training that many parents attempted to board their children. However, their efforts were in vain since only those in absolute need were accepted.
Orphanage
A former classroom inside the shuttered administration building.

Hope Haven

Hope Haven

Orphanage
The Julian Saenger Gymnasium, built in 1930, is located at the rear of the campus.
Hope Haven
The Marcus Feingold Mechanical and Arts Building is where a dozen trades were taught to the boys of Hope Haven including woodworking, bookbinding, sheet metal work, and farming.
Hope Haven
The two-story School Building constructed in 1932 completes the row of buildings on the east side of the boulevard. It lacks applied ornamentation but has a squat round tower and a projecting single-story round-arched arcade across the front.

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11 comments

  1. What will it be re-purposed for? Or is that confidential? Perhaps offices of some sort? Anyway, I am glad this property will be restored.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not at all surprised by the horrific backstory of the abuse that took place.

    Nice job with the posting.

    Like

  3. Your photos are amazing. It is as if we are walking back in time. The stories behind the walls reminds us all that what is in the dark, eventually comes to light.

    Like

  4. I lived in Madonna Manor through most of the 1970’s beginning in 1971. I first lived in the circus dorm also known as the Infant Jesus dorm which was overseen by a very brutal and harsh nun, Sister Gertrude Marie. Not all things were bad, we had many things that most children didn’t like the swimming pool, horses, a well funded school with one of the first reading labs to help teach speed reading and retention. We celebrated Christmas by being adopted for parties held by places like Avondale Shipyards and Kaiser Aluminum, among others. One family in each company adopted a certain child for each party held and would buy that child a gift by the end of Christmas we had received many gifts. Sister Micholette was our cook and was very old and crippled with arthritis but every Sunday we had fried chicken, mashed potatoes and there was no deep fryer or instant potatoes and it was the only soda pop we had each week with Sundays big lunch after church. My fondest memory by far was our Fourth of July bbq where Madonna Manor and Hope Haven were joined as one for the day which was full of games and fun. I remember the greased watermelon in the pool and 2 teams where 1 team won by getting that melon out of the pool on their side. The reward was all members of that team stood around the pool waiting to dive in when one of the sisters would stand on the breezeway above and toss tons of change (coins) into the pool for us to dive into and retrieve to be added to our 25 cent allowance. There were dark times and horrific beatings and yes some sexual abuse, and yes I endured some myself and chose not to partake in lawsuits because the money won’t change things. Life has been hard to say the least and I’m now almost 60 years old and still alone with no children no spouse and am only now letting go of so much of the pain I felt later. But know this in order to know if something is bad one needs to have better times to compare them to and in my case that didn’t happen until after I was gone. I wish the Archdiocese had chosen to restore and repurpose the campuses as a repository and educational facility that dealt with only one topic, “Child Abuse of all sorts and Child Exploitation” . In all as in most peoples lives there is good and bad times and same holds true to these two landmark institutions.

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