Constructed in New Orleans’ 7th Ward around 1880 for the Perseverance Benevolent and Mutual Aid Society, this humble wooden building has a long and storied history. As one of the first places where jazz was heard, it hosted performances by early jazz pioneers such as Sidney Bechet, Isidore Barbarin, Joe “King” Oliver, and Buddy Bolden. And for members of the Black benevolent society, it was the hub for an essential network of mutual aid that provided everything from entertainment to life insurance, as well as a safe space during the era of segregation.
The Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church of Eternal Life purchased the building in 1949 and used it for nearly 70 years to host worship services. But it was heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina, and as restoration work was still underway in 2021, Hurricane Ida’s high winds collapsed the rear section of the building. The failure of temporary wall bracing and scavengers' theft of building materials caused further damage. Though the building is listed on the National Register and protected as a local landmark, without intervention, its remaining parts are likely to collapse as well. The situation exemplifies many of the challenges that lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color can face when rebuilding after disasters strike.
Rev. Harold Lewis, pastor of Holy Aid and Comfort, has been partnering with the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans to seek funding and support for preserving the building. A recent capital grant from the National Trust African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Preserving Black Churches project provides some of the necessary funding for rebuilding, but the site needs additional resources to fully reconstruct the building so that the congregation and broader community may use it once again.
Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church was placed on America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List for 2023.