Backstory and Context
During World War I, the Barracks was used as a muster station where General John J. Pershing reviewed the troops leaving for war. Following World War I, the property was declared “excess” by the Federal Government and gave it to the State of Louisiana. The Louisiana Adjutant General, Major General Raymond Fleming, made Jackson Barracks the home of the Louisiana National Guard.
General Fleming transformed the post from an infantry post to a cavalry and artillery post where it housed the 108th Cavalry Regiment and the Washington Artillery. Construction of a new horse stable for the many horses posted at the barracks, and a polo field was fabricated to exercise the horses in exhibition games on the weekends.
Over the years, the Mississippi River slowly moved closer to the Barracks. Finally, in 1912, the River breached the levee that protected the post destroying the road, railroad, and a trolly-car tracks. The executive office building and the front two guard towers were dismantled to make room for a new levee. There was not enough remaining space to allow for the construction of a new road or rail system.
During the Great Depression, Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, Jr. used his political connections in Washington, D.C. to get federal monies for Louisiana State constructions. Governor Long enlisted the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, to carry out public works projects in Louisiana. Using WPA personnel, Jackson Barracks was extensively renovated including the construction of a new executive office building named “Fleming Hall” after Major General Raymond H. Fleming, the first Adjutant General commanding at Jackson Barracks.
When the United States entered World War II, the Federal Government took control of the barracks to use it as a port of embarkation. Temporary billeting for men preparing to ship overseas in support of the war replaced the polo field.
During the war, the current Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 required that all men aged 18 to 45 were liable for military service for a term of one year. By the early summer of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the U.S. Congress to extend the term of duty for the draftees beyond twelve months. Many of the drafted soldiers threatened to desert at the conclusion of their initial twelve months of service. A plan submitted by Louisiana Adjutant General Raymond Fleming was to organize a conference and study the best way to procure manpower in the event of an emergency and develop a new Selective Service Act. Jackson Barracks was the location chosen to host the Conference. The finalized Report #2438 was submitted to the 80th Congress - 2d Session and became the Selective Service Act of 1948; it required all men aged 19 to 26 to register and were liable for 21 months' service, followed by five years of reserve duty. At the conclusion of World War II, the barracks reverted to the State of Louisiana for use as the Louisiana National Guard Headquarters, with a proviso that the Federal Government can, at any time of crisis, take control of the property.
In 1960, the Louisiana Department of Corrections acquired a portion of Jackson Barracks to build and operate a work release prison. Later that year construction of two Armories began. The National Register of Historic Places registered Jackson Barracks in 1976. In 1977, the transformation of the renovated Old Powder Magazine into the official Louisiana National Guard Museum began. Officially named, Ansel M. Stroud, Jr. Military History and Weapons Museum it contains artifacts from each of the nine major United States conflicts. The museum is a member of the Army Museum System.
In 1991, Warren Carmouche the founder of Thugs United started the Jackson Barracks Prison project. With the help of Loyola University, the prison gained a library, law school classes, literacy classes, creative writing, and conflict resolution classes. In 1993, the prison closed as a consequence of a three-man escape and a subsequent murder by the escapees. In 1995, there was an extensive renovation of the armories, construction of an Organizational Maintenance Shop, and the now-inactive prison compound transformed into a police training facility. In 2005, the entire Jackson Barracks Complex was virtually destroyed by floodwater from Hurricane Katrina. On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made its landfall in southeast Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. As the storm moved inland, the storm surge caused a breach in the Industrial Canal levee and submerged parts of Jackson Barracks with more than 20-feet of water. Residents and troops were caught in the floodwater and evacuated via boats to the Mississippi River levee, where National Guard helicopter pilots evacuated them to the Louisiana Superdome.
Congress authorized 100 percent of the funding for reconstruction. The rebuilding of the majority of the Barracks was from scratch, except the 1837 Old Powder Magazine and 14 antebellum homes in the Original Garrison that received a $35 million restoration fund from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The entire complex was redesigned, so all office and executive complexes were in proximity, and all new structures would have their operational infrastructures above the first floor.
The Jackson Barracks Historical Renovation was created to ensure the preservation of the mostly intact historical area. ENR Texas & Louisiana was chosen to head the project. Yeates & Yeates Architects, New Orleans was selected to design structures matching the original Greek Revival theme. Most of the historical buildings were fully renovated, including structure replacement. The team fully restored over 17,500 square feet of wood-framed buildings to original designs and used original materials when possible.
The total cost of reconstruction due to Hurricane Katrina was $325 million. Construction included 91 new housing cottages at the north end of the barracks and new armories with state-of-the-art features, including a bomb-proof facade, advanced fire retardant systems, dedicated water and electricity utilities, and stand-alone command and control facilities. In 2013 the Ansel M. Stroud, Jr. Military History and Weapons Museum reopened, however, most of the collections did not survive the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina. The museum is one of two focusing on the Louisiana National Guard; the other is the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum in Pineville, Louisiana.
Lecture by COL John Pugh - Nunez History Lecture Series 2004
Breerwood, Rhett. "Jackson Barracks: The Museum Complex". New Orleans Historical.
Louisiana Division/City Archives, New Orleans Public Library, “Jackson Barracks,” New Orleans Historical, accessed February 7, 2017,http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/267.