Chunk of Gallier Hall’s facade tumbles

A chunk of stone cornice on the façade of Gallier Hall — just below where a statue of a blindfolded Lady Justice stands holding her scales three stories above the street — broke off sometime Tuesday morning and came crashing onto the steps below.

No one was injured, but the steps, which extend along St. Charles Avenue across from Lafayette Square, took some serious damage, and city officials are now assessing the condition of the building’s exterior.

“Historic Gallier Hall has stood as a symbol of our great city for over 160 years,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a prepared statement. “But today, this grand hall began to show her age.”

Landrieu said the city would perform the needed repairs as soon as possible, adding, “As we approach our city’s 300th birthday (in 2018), we are committed to preserving our historic buildings.”

Tuesday’s incident recalled a similar case of conspicuous deterioration at a city-owned property. In 2011, a section of concrete peeled off the former World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street and tumbled almost 400 feet to the ground.

That case prompted the city to dispatch a building inspector from the Department of Safety and Permits, and the New Orleans Building Corp. called in a forensic engineer to assess the danger of more accidents.

Gallier Hall, built in the 1840s and 1850s to house City Hall, falls under the city’s Department of Property Management. Though it no longer houses government offices, it is still used as an event space and often serves as the backdrop for high-profile city announcements.

The piece of cornice that tumbled from the façade on Tuesday forms part of the building’s distinctive Greek Revival architecture, designed by the noted architect James Gallier Sr.

Landrieu’s office did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday about the city’s protocols for keeping up public buildings or to say whether Gallier Hall had been inspected recently.