Bywater News
July 2005



Clusters of conversational groups, cooled air, gallery surroundings, erudites, finger foods, desserts, cold beverages and wines: the ambiance was one of cocktail party sophistication but it was us. the Bywater Hood and friends. The new home of The New Orleans Conservation Guild, once a large, barren warehouse, provided the backdrop for our annual Summer Social. By all accounts, the event was a smashing success, and the turnout was exceptional.

There was President Paul Cramer greeting neighbors at the door, "Gerry" Roth in his black leather cowboy hat, David Peltier smiling genially, Anthony Eschmann pouring wine, Ceres Sevin giving out door prize tickets. John Andrews and his handsome son, our beloved Sister Joyce, our dynamic hostess Biake Vender Haar, president of the Conservation Guild, and Ed Reams, straight from Channel 6 (and the only one wearing a tie).

There is a five syllable word that in the past has angered some Bywaterians, not because of its length, but because of its perceived threat to the status quo. That word is "gen-tri-fi-ca-tion." and it is not coming—it is already here. and The New Orleans Conservation Guild at 3620 Royal Street is one of its addresses. The building has been transformed, its exterior color underplaying its size and harmonizing unobtrusively with the houses surrounding it.

Before I sampled the tempting foods, I asked Wesley Codor for a tour. Wesley works in the art supply store and also handles picture frame sales and frame restoration. The art supply store reminds one of an English library in a country mansion. A wall of cubbies of various sizes, stretching up to the high ceiling, is a masterpiece of open display. The look of centuries old polished mahogany was achieved on ordinary wood and scrap wood through the use of paint coloring. coats of varnish and plenty of elbow grease.

As I sailed conversations with neighbors, visitors, and friends I realized there is a swelling pride in the Sywater community. Practical, hardworking idealists are combining sweat, common sense, business, artistic ability and devotion to clean up old, exterior building shells and transform interiors to conform to the ancient Greek ideal of beauty with usefulness.

Listening and chatting at the social made for a delightful evening. Stuart Anthony, new co-owner of Elizabeth's (with Floyd McLamb), spoke animatedly in an Oxfordshire accent of the good name bequeathed by Elizabeth's. He absolutely loves Bywater because it is friendly, welcoming. and accommodating. Stuart warmly invites all to come in and sample Chef Bryon Peck's preparations, and guarantees you will not be disappointed.

Mike Morris and Gila Rayberg spoke glowingly of life in our area. "We love the Bywater community that is so rich with artists and musicians," said Gila, an artist and model.

Ron and Joyce Bcrmingham commented that they thought there might be a little finger food served at the social, "but this is a feast." They went on to compliment the graciousness of the occasion.

David Berman, visiting from Marigny, said of the Conservation Guild, "What a great use for one of your old, commercial buildings. It's simply gorgeous." Gerard Roth picked up on that statement and said, "I ride the bus and pass this building all the time, and this is the first time I've actually been inside. As they say, 'You can't judge a book by its cover.' It's real nice."

Sibil Joseph just bought a home here and was new to the neighborhood. Ceres Sevin signed her up for the BNA on the spot.

"Dr, Bob." Robert Shatter, indicated that he will be working on a signage project. Personally- I'd like to sec metal signs with the distinctive Dr. Bob Styling representing Bywater. I like the "Be Nice or Leave" signs, and 1 like Dr. Bob's thought of using horseshoes to frame a hurricane-proof Bywater sign.

Ed Reams came up with a strong quote for the evening. "Winners make it happen. Losers let it happen," he said. He also went on to say that we are all winners here because the people who live here "endured so much for so long that they obviously have a love for their community and their neighbors."

Helen Krieger sparkled as she looked around and commented. "What an amazing restoration and a great, new art store!"