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ROBERT E. LEE
The Confederate Museum
 
Those who would deny their place in history begin by denying the history of their place.
 

The description below is taken from the Web site of the Confederate Museum and summarizes the attempts of powerful interests to evict it from its historic New Orleans location at 929 Camp Street.  See http://www.confederatemuseum.com.

Memorial Hall's Five Year Legal Report Summary

On January 8, 1891, Frank T. Howard, a wealthy New Orleans philanthropist, donated Memorial Hall to the newly created Louisiana Historical Association, composed of Confederate veterans and their families, for their use as a museum and meeting hall in memory of his father, Charles T. Howard, a Confederate veteran. However, in so doing, Frank Howard would set off a century long debate over ownership of the great hall.

To Confederate veterans and those in attendance at the dedication of Memorial Hall, Mr. Howard's intent was without question.
“It is with deep satisfaction that I perform the act of formally putting into your possession the Building, which, while it is an Adjunct of the Howard Memorial Library Association, is to be set apart forever for the use of your organization. … May this building consecrated to these high purposes and you and those who should succeed you in the custody of it and its treasures proclaim to the ages as they come in their far extending procession, how a brave people and their descendants hold the name and fame of their heroes and martyrs with admiration undimmed by disaster or defeat and with a love unquenched by time.”
--Frank T. Howard, 1891
Confederate Museum
929 Camp Street, New Orleans
THE CONFEDERATE MUSEUM
 

Mr. Howard's handwritten and signed donation expressly made his donation in perpetuity. In 1891 that is all that was needed to transfer ownership of property, a fact proven by the Louisiana Supreme Court decision in a similar case of that time entitled "In the matter of the Mechanics' Society, 31 La. Ann. 627 (La. 1879)." But Frank Howard failed to transfer the recorded title of the land upon which the donated hall resided to the LHA at the time of his donation, thus opening the door for the UNO Foundation to later claim the property.

In order to understand the current legal battle over ownership of Memorial Hall, one must digress a bit in history to the predecessors to the current feuding parties of Memorial Hall, Inc. & the UNO Foundation, that is, the Louisiana Historical Association (LHA) and the Howard Memorial Library Association (HMLA). The LHA was formed in 1889 as a benevolent society of Confederate veterans and became the recipient of the Memorial Hall donation in 1891. Annie Howard established the HMLA in 1880s to oversee the Howard Library, also built in honor of her father Charles T. Howard, which housed a collection of books and manuscripts. It was built prior to and located next to Memorial Hall. The two organizations shared some of its officers and lived in harmony throughout Frank Howard's lifetime.

However, when the book collection within the Howard Library became too voluminous for that building, the HMLA attempted to regain possession and ownership of Memorial Hall following Frank Howard's death in 1911 to use for additional storage space. In 1928 the HMLA asked the LHA to consider moving its artifacts out of Memorial Hall into New Orleans' historic Pontalba building in the French Quarter. The LHA refused. The HMLA persisted until 1931 when LHA member Captain Dinkins adopted a resolution expressly denying any HMLA claim of ownership to the museum. The Confederate veterans of the LHA went as far as asking then-governor Huey Long to intervene in their behalf. Long sent his most distinguished lawyer of the time, Richard Leche, to work out a compromise between the two feuding groups. On May 14, 1931, a compromise was reached and recorded in public records. The LHA granted the HMLA a perpetual servitude for the "use of that part of the Confederate Memorial Hall" basement to store their growing collection of books. This recorded servitude, given "in appreciation of the generous action of Frank T. Howard in donating the Confederate Memorial Hall to this association" (LHA), served as a further claim of ownership of the building by the LHA. But again, the recorded title of the land was not transferred to the LHA.

The Howard Library eventually closed in the 1940's when it outgrew both the Howard Library and the basement of Memorial Hall. It was moved to Tulane University, where it still remains today. Later, the Howard Library building was sold to and renovated by the Times-Picayune as a radio station. Oilman Patrick F. Taylor later purchased the building in the 1980's. He in turn donated the building to the UNO Foundation in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the LHA donated Confederate Memorial Hall's land, buildings, improvements, artifacts, and existing working library to the 929 Camp Street Museum, Inc., now called the Memorial Hall Museum, Inc., in October of 1998.

In the early 1990's, art collector Roger Ogden brokered a deal to donate his collection of Southern art to the UNO Foundation, if, in turn, that institution would display the art. The UNO Foundation convinced Patrick Taylor, a longtime friend, supporter, and major benefactor of Memorial Hall, to donate his land around Memorial Hall for use as the newly proposed site of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. At the time of the acquisition of Mr. Taylor's property in 1995, the UNO Foundation understood Mr. Taylor's desire that Memorial Hall be an integral part of the museum complex. The two building art complex would consist of the Howard Library, renamed the Patrick F. Taylor Library, and Goldring Hall, a new 5 story building built at 925 Camp Street. The Taylor Library would house the collection's 18th and 19th century works, while Goldring Hall would house those of the 20th and 21st centuries. There was just one problem with this floor plan. UNO's buildings are not adjacent to one another. In order to view the entire art collection, the Ogden museum's patrons would have to exit one building, walk around the corner, and enter the other building, a logistical nightmare and inconvenience. Thus, Confederate Memorial Hall stood in the way of UNO's proposed project.

In early 1997, the UNO Foundation officials suggested to Memorial Hall officials that a passageway be constructed through the back of Memorial Hall's basement to allow the Ogden Museum's patrons to travel from one building to the other without having to go outside. The passageway idea originally seemed to be a win-win situation. The Ogden Museum would obtain a passageway between its buildings, and in return Memorial Hall would receive some repairs and a much-needed second fire escape. Both sides agreed orally to the terms, and a passageway/fire escape legal agreement was drawn up between Memorial Hall and the UNO Foundation in April 1998. However, nothing happened. Memorial Hall was ready to sign the agreement, but nothing further was heard from UNO.

Months passed when oddly enough in the fall of 2000, Tulane University, having absorbed the function of the HMLA over past years but never previously maintaining nor claiming Memorial Hall, announced its claim to the Memorial Hall property. As the recorded title owner, Tulane wanted to sell whatever interest it had in Memorial Hall, an action directly conflicting with the original wishes of the Howard family HMLA board members when they transferred their rights to that institution in 1982. The UNO Foundation offered Tulane $425,000 for the recorded title. Memorial Hall, convinced it owned the museum, offered nothing. On December 4, 2000, the HMLA of Tulane University, the recorded title owner of the land upon which Memorial Hall stands, sold to the UNO Foundation a "quitclaim" deed to Memorial Hall for $425,000. This "quitclaim" deed is much different from a standard "warranty" deed, normally seen with the sale of property. Under a standard warranty deed, a seller is pledging that he legally owns the property; under the weaker "quitclaim" deed, a seller is merely selling whatever right he might have in a property whose title is under dispute.

Having obtained the recorded title from Tulane by quitclaim, the UNO Foundation lost no time in declaring that it now owned Memorial Hall and announced plans to change the Confederate Museum. The Foundation was adamant that the word "Confederate" would be removed from the museum's name. They also declared that the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy would, under no circumstances, be allowed to hold meetings in the museum; and that, while they might allow some of the historic artwork to remain on display there, all of the military artifacts would have to go. This action went strictly against the wishes of Mr. Taylor, the donor of their project's land. Not surprisingly, Memorial Hall stood by its claim that it owned the property and had no intention of vacating the building.

Memorial Hall and the UNO Foundation remained at a verbal stalemate until March 2001, when UNO contacted Memorial Hall once again seeking permission to run the passageway through the Hall's basement, while the title of the property was argued. After considerable negotiations and cost, a new agreement was drawn up in May 2001. Under the terms of the new agreement, the UNO Foundation would be allowed to build its passageway through the hall's basement. In exchange, UNO would help replace the museum's slate roof, replace and repair several trusses in the museum which had been badly damaged by termites from their adjoining building, repair the damage to the museum caused by pile driving for the Goldring building, and install a second fire escape. Memorial Hall promptly signed the agreement, but the UNO Foundation didn't sign until August 2001.The agreement included several provisions that the UNO Foundation had to fulfill in order for the agreement to be enforceable by both parties. Two of these conditions were the procurement of insurance to protect the museum's collection against damage during the repair work, and permission from the land owners surrounding Memorial Hall to use portions of their properties for access to the proposed second fire escape. Again, months passed without UNO living up to its pledged obligations.

Finally, on December 4, 2001 Memorial Hall was forced to file a "Petition To Be Maintained In Possession And For Damages" against the UNO Foundation. Memorial Hall asserted that it had acquired possession of the property through Frank Howard's 1891 donation and had openly and continuously possessed the property for more than 100 years. It asserted that the UNO Foundation had disturbed Memorial Hall's peaceful possession of the property by filing a quitclaim deed and asked: 1) that Memorial Hall be maintained in the peaceable possession of the property; 2) that the offending quitclaim deed be removed from the public conveyance records, and; 3) that the UNO Foundation be ordered to pay reasonable damages, as well as Memorial Hall's attorney's fees and costs.

On December 13, 2001, the UNO Foundation filed its "Answer To Petition To Be Maintained In Possession And For Damages And Reconventional Demand For Judgment Recognizing Ownership." In brief, UNO claimed that they and not Memorial Hall owned the Confederate Museum, asked for Memorial Hall's suit to be dismissed with prejudice, and asked that the UNO Foundation be found to be the owner of the property. (In a particularly coy bit of race baiting to the predominantly African-American civil district court judicial system, the UNO Foundation attorneys, throughout their pleading, continually referred to Memorial Hall as the "Confederates.")

Memorial Hall quickly filed its "Answer To Reconventional Demand" in which it responded to the UNO Foundation's claims and reasserted its claim to the property. Additionally, feeling that the UNO Foundation was not acting in good faith, the Memorial Hall's Board of Directors voted to cancel the passageway agreement with UNO at its January 14, 2002 meeting. The Board also voted to sue the UNO Foundation and its construction contractor, Gibbs Construction, for causing damage to Memorial Hall. These suits were filed in February 2002.

The case over the title dispute was finally heard in Orleans Parish Civil District Court by Judge Hunter King on July 19, 2002. Eades Hogue, attorney for Memorial Hall, argued that Frank Howard made it clear in an 1891 speech that he intended the LHA to have permanent control of the site, in effect making it the legal owner. If there were any doubt as to the original donation, Hogue also argued that the LHA would have again gained title in 1961 under the legal doctrine of "acquisitive prescription." Acquisitive prescription is a sort of squatter's rights rule providing that someone who continuously occupies and maintains a building gains title to it 30 years after he gives notice of his intention to take possession from the original owner (i.e., Captain Dinkins' resolution and the LHA/HMLA compromise of 1931).

James Garner, attorney for the UNO Foundation, argued that the HMLA had the only recorded title to the property, and that it was passed in succession to Tulane University and then the UNO Foundation.

After listening to more than 90 minutes of arguments Judge King sided with the UNO Foundations lawyers' claim of ownership by having the only recorded title of said property. Judge King's decision was appealed to the 4th District Court of Appeals. Memorial Hall vowed not to voluntarily vacate the building.

On August 29, 2002 Louisiana Governor Mike Foster commented in his weekly radio show that he didn't "see any reason in the world why that museum needs to move." Foster then assigned aides to see if a compromise could be reached between the feuding parties so that the Confederate Museum could remain intact.

Meanwhile, Memorial Hall attorneys had filed for a security bond, which would allow the museum to remain in the building until its appeal was heard in the 4th District. Judge DiRosa issued a $5,000 bond in Judge King's absence. Upon hearing of that bond amount, UNO attorneys quickly appealed the decision in front of Judge King, and requested a bond of nearly $1.7 million, an amount that Confederate museum officials said was far beyond their means and would have subjected the museum to immediate eviction. "We're not going to let that happen," Judge King replied, and he set a new bond at $50,000. This allows the museum to stay within the Memorial Hall building until the appellate court rules.

On October 15, 2002 the museum's plight attained national recognition when the Fox News Network aired a news special report on the battle over the building's title. Memorial Hall followed this up with the airing of a thirty-second public service announcement ("PSA") for three weeks on three local channels. The message aired during the well-watched Saints/Falcons football game and baseball's World's Series. The PSA showed images of the museum from 1891 fading to the present, along with some of its most important artifacts and images. Its message stated: "A memorial created by veterans - A window on how they saw themselves - Commemorating the soldier's experience. The building is an irreplaceable exhibit where veterans met to remember the horror and comradeship of Civil War. Here soldiers live again; their personal items echo their history. If this memorial is closed, is any memorial safe? We need your help today. Find out how you can and why you should. Confederate Memorial Hall / 504-523-4522 / www.confederatemuseum.com." The airing of the PSA helped the museum's visitation and financial support. (Several Civil War artifacts have been pledged or donated. Membership to the Foundation has doubled since last year.)

On October 18, 2002 Governor Mike Foster and oilman Patrick F. Taylor visited the museum. It was the first time that a Louisiana governor had visited the museum since 1893 when Governor Murphy Foster, the current governor's great-grandfather, gave the eulogy for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The governor viewed the condition of the facility with museum supporter Patrick Taylor. Both vowed to help the museum stay at its current location. Mr. Taylor stated that the museum would move "over [his] dead body." The Governor stated that, if the museum were forced to move because of someone under his authority, a "head would roll."

Memorial Hall officials also placed their call for help in several national magazines, including Civil War Times, America's Civil War, and the Confederate Veteran. The full-page ad stated: "In 1861 Confederate citizens fought for their independence; In 1891 Confederate veterans fought for their recognition in history by founding Memorial Hall; In 2002 Confederate Memorial Hall, Louisiana's oldest museum, is fighting for its very existence. Memorial Hall is America's Heritage. Make history by preserving history. Help fight eviction from this historic and hallowed building."

A special meeting was held during the first week of November, 2002 under the direction of Governor Foster's legal counsel, Bernie Boudreaux, to try and reach a compromise over the title dispute. During this meeting a proposal was made by Mr. Taylor to save Memorial Hall. (Since Memorial Hall Board members were not invited to these discussions, details of Mr. Taylor's offer are not yet available.) The Governor advised the UNO Foundation to either accept Mr. Taylor's proposal or make a counter offer within 48 hours. However, four weeks passed after this meeting with no communication from the University of New Orleans Foundation to either Memorial Hall, Patrick Taylor, or the State of Louisiana.

Memorial Hall's appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was heard on December 4, 2002. The three-judge panel consisted of Judges Gorbaty, Armstrong, and Murray. The courtroom was filled to capacity with spectators as the legal debate seemed to center around the issue of acquisitive prescription (squatter's rights). Memorial Hall attorney Eades Hogue elegantly argued Memorial Hall's objections to the lower court's decision, as reporters waited outside of the courtroom to hear the opposing lawyers' post-trial comments. Portions of these comments were aired on local television channels as well as in print with the associated press.

In the meantime, a concerned citizen, having read about the controversy in a local newspaper, asked his state representatives to investigate the legality of some of the UNO Foundation's actions in regard to the anticipated Ogden Museum of Southern Art. His state legislators asked Louisiana's Attorney General Richard Ieyoub for his office's opinion about the constitutionality of agreements formed between the UNO Foundation and the Roger Ogden Museum of Southern Art. In a lengthy 20-page March 17, 2003 response, Ieyoub answered some pertinent legal questions, a few of which are outlined here.

  • "Will the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement among UNO Foundation, LSU/UNO, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Inc. violate Article VII, Section 14 of the Louisiana Constitution?"

    Answer: "YES-THERE ARE TERMS AND CONDITIONS WITH REGARDS TO THE AGREEMENT WHICH MAY VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION." He explained, "First, any expenditures of funds for the purpose of salaries to the private corporation known as Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Inc, or the UNO Foundation is prohibited. … In addition, the facts are clear that Roger Ogden has donated his vast collection of artwork for some significant promises and obligations, by UNO and therefore the State of Louisiana, to hire persons of his choice, at salaries where he dictates the minimum compensation. In addition he is given authority to direct and control all construction, plans and property development of public property in the complex. These terms are not "terms most favorable to the college" as required under R.S. 17;3353, therefore any agreement containing them would not be valid. … Therefore, any public funds which may be distributed to the UNO Foundation for the purpose of paying these kinds of obligations would also be prohibited. … Our greatest concern under the facts known is that the donation of artwork can be restricted at any time unless all of the conditions discussed herein are met. It is our opinion that the value of such a tenuous donation should be determined in advance of the confection of any cooperative agreement to determine the proportionate value. … Because this is ultimately a fact-sensitive inquiry, we make no formal opinion as to the proportionate value of what the state is providing as opposed to the contributions of UNO Foundation and the Roger Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Inc. to the proposed cooperative endeavor agreement."

  • "Can the State donate the use of Goldring Hall to a private entity?"

    Answer: "No." "The donation of this building to a private entity is specifically prohibited under VII Section 14…There is no question that the UNO Foundation is such an organization with private status under R.S. 17:3390. However, the Roger Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Inc. does not qualify as one of those organizations to which this would be allowed."

  • "Can the State pay UNO Foundation's debt service and/or to renovate the privately-owned Patrick F. Taylor Library and to construct a privately-owned parking garage?"

    Answer: "No."… "Direct loans or donations are prohibited."

  • "Can the State pay to operate a private museum displaying a privately-owned art collection?"

    Answer: "Yes-but only with those expenses which may be allowed under VII Section 14. It is certainly reasonable, logical and proper for the state to pay for any expenses towards the construction, maintenance, and expansion of its own building, known as Goldring Hall. HOWEVER, … any funds attributable to the salaries and benefits of the private employees of the museum are prohibited."

  • "Did the naming of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in honor of a living person violate Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:316?"

    Answer: "Yes" … "Naming the complex or any complete building as the "Roger Ogden Museum of Southern Art" would be a violation of the spirit, if not the letter of R.S. 14:316."

To date, Memorial Hall's legal fees in these matters have cost over $400,000. The Memorial Hall Foundation and special donations from loyal museum supporters have covered these expenses to date, but additional donations will be needed to cover the future costly litigation against the UNO Foundation.

Despite the recent financial hardships and hassles with neighboring construction, Memorial Hall remains open. On the other hand, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, now five years overdue and millions of dollars over budget, remains incomplete and vacant.

Arguments during the proceedings were taken under consideration by the three judges of the Appellate Court in December 2002.

No matter who wins, the loser has the option to ask the Appellate Court to rehear the case or appeal the Appellate Court's decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

April 16, 2003 — Memorial Hall loses fight for ownership in court!

According to an AP article dated April 16, 2003, Memorial Hall, the Confederate Museum, has lost its appeal to the state's appeals court for ownership of its 929 Camp Street home. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that gave ownership of the Confederate Memorial Hall to the University of New Orleans Foundation. The appellate court said Frank Howard never donated the ownership of the building to the museum's original operators, the Louisiana Historical Association (LHA). "He spoke only of putting the LHA into 'possession' of the building and of the building being for the 'use' of the LHA," Judge Joan Bernard Armstrong wrote in the opinion.

Although Memorial Hall has had the support of the general public, including that of Louisiana's Governor Mike Foster, the future of the museum at that site is now in question. Court documents previously filed by the UNO Foundation state that it intends to integrate the building into their Ogden Museum of Southern Art complex being built on either side of the Confederate Museum, despite that organization's past claims that it would not evict the Civil War museum.

August 21, 2003 — A Compromise is Reached!

An agreement has finally been reached over the 5-year fight for Memorial Hall!

On August 21, 2003 Memorial Hall and UNO Foundation officials reached a tentative agreement over the title to Memorial Hall.

Governor Mike Foster was instrumental in overseeing an amicable compromise suitable to both parties over the last several weeks, but it took the strong efforts of Memorial Hall benefactor Patrick Taylor to put the final touches to the deal.

The specifics of the settlement were not reached, but in general, the Confederate Museum will obtain ownership of the Memorial Hall building. However, it will not obtain that title until a passageway is completed through the rear of the Memorial Hall building to connect the fragmented Ogden Museum complex. In the interim the Confederate Museum will lease the Memorial Hall building from the UNO Foundation for a nominal fee. If the passageway is not completed within ten years, the title would still be given to Memorial Hall, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that runs the Confederate Museum.

It was encouraging to hear the UNO Foundation President Patrick Gibbs state, "We intend to be good neighbors and to contribute to the historical flavor and cultural richness of the Lee Circle area." Memorial Hall attorney Eades Hogue concurred, "We're pleased with the resolution of the problem, and we're looking forward to a successful and long, long co-existence."

This agreement canceled an assembly of hundreds of Confederate Museum supporters in front of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art that was scheduled for August 23, 2003, the day of its grand opening, to draw attention to the previous dispute. Instead, Memorial Hall celebrated the event by waiving its admission fees and serving coffee and donuts.

During the opening day ceremonies of his new art museum, Roger Ogden commented on his hopes for the new art museum saying that the new museum sits near two other museums that honor American soldiers who fought in the Civil War and in World War II, and that he sees war as the expression of the worst of human nature, and its opposite is art. (August 24, 2003 Times Picayune article by Gordon Russell.)

October 22, 2003

In the days following the above announcement, Memorial Hall Foundation members anxiously awaited the signed document confirming the compromise's terms. However, days turned into weeks with delays and postponements, much the same as what has been experienced over the past five years.

Phyllis Taylor, wife of Patrick Taylor, has stepped up and taken the role of serving as a mediator/negotiator. Under her direction both sides hammered out the details of the compromise.

Despite the convoluted five-year history outlined above, Foundation members can agree on one thing. The final result will be well worth the wait.

A New Beginning — The Final Legal Report!

The eight-year dispute that has threatened to evict Memorial Hall Museum from its 113 year-old home is finally over!

"Finally it [the official document] is filed in the Clerk of Court's office in Orleans Parish, and it's a done deal," said Keith Cangelosi, President of Memorial Hall's Board of Directors, in an interview with Judy Bergeron of the Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate. "This is not a 12-page document; this thing is over 200 pages."

The compromise, reached through the recent efforts of Governor Mike Foster and Patrick and Phyllis Taylor, states that the UNO Foundation will turn over ownership of the building after a passageway is built through the back of Memorial Hall, or after 10 years, whichever comes first. In the interim, the UNO Foundation will lease the premises to the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum for $1 a year. Memorial Hall Museum, Inc. is required to repair and maintain the building as a museum. Memorial Hall also agreed to drop its lawsuit against the UNO Foundation, previously pending before the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Legal fees reached a staggering $650,000 for the museum. Fortunately, about 1,250 new Memorial Hall members joined already loyal supporters in the successful effort to help the museum in its legal fight. "Finally this ordeal is over and we can improve the museum for our visitors," Keith Cangelosi said. The museum now will concentrate on raising the money required to fix the termite-damaged and time-worn facility. Conservative repair estimates approach $1 million. The museum also plans to create a new $100,000 audiovisual exhibit focusing on Louisiana's role in the Civil War.

To thank museum supporters and start its capital improvement fund, Memorial Hall held a fund-raising gala on Jan. 24, 2004. Governor Foster and oilman Patrick Taylor and his wife Phyllis were the guests of honor. Keith Cangelosi said that the Taylors and Foster were instrumental in getting the deal signed. "They have the political clout to make things happen, and they both thought we should have remained."

Copyright © 2001 Memorial Hall Foundation
Updated November 10, 2004
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