The Saint Anna complex is composed of an original masonry and plaster building constructed by builders Robert Little and Peter Middlemiss in 1853—the period of significance used for the restoration of defining architectural elements. An infirmary was added in 1960. First built by women as the St. Anna’s Asylum for the Relief of Destitute Females and Their Helpless Children of All Religious Denominations, the structure was designed as housing for widows and orphans following a yellow fever epidemic. The asylum rescued many destitutes over the decades until its conversion into senior living in 2007.
The original asylum is a fine example of the extensive talents
that builders during the nineteenth century displayed by consulting pattern
books; in this case, probably one of seven of Asher Benjamin’s builder’s
guides. There was no architect found on record for the asylum. The name
Anna came from one of their benefactors, a Dr. Mercer, in memory of his late daughter.
Classic elements abound on the structure; triglyphs, gutta, dentils, and crenellation on and above the frieze, two story columns, and a fanlight. Building techniques include fine examples of exterior plaster scoring and penciling which were sensitively restored by hand. Extensive damage by water infiltration required portions of the front façade to be rebuilt with (in-kind) brick and mortar. Significant elements were preserved whenever possible.
The rehabilitation adapts the buildings into twenty-three modern multi-family residential units while maintaining the important historic elements of the interior, exterior, and site. The building has served as a landmark for New Orleanians for generations.