After Katrina, A Log Cabin In An Unlikely Place

Dec 12, 2011
Originally published on December 13, 2011 3:48 pm

Gerald Brady's neighborhood in Arabi, La., was devastated by Katrina. It's still mostly empty lots and the few homes around are made of brick.

Brady's house — a log cabin built on eight-foot-high concrete piers — stands out so much that tourists come around to take pictures. He fought hard to build the unlikely house of his dreams in a most unusual place.

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Years after Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans continues with sometimes surprising results. NPR's Richard Gonzales recently visited the city and sent us this postcard about a man who built the house of his dreams.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Driving through Arabi, Louisiana, on the outskirts of New Orleans, empty lots easily outnumber the homes that survived Katrina. But nothing prepares a visitor for the sight of Gerald Brady's house.


GERALD BRADY: Man, I've got people all over the world come here and take pictures.

GONZALES: I believe it.


GONZALES: I believe it.

BRADY: You'd be….


BRADY: You'd be surprised, you know.

GONZALES: Brady, a former shipyard welder, has built a two-story log cabin sitting on top of 8-foot-high, concrete piers.

BRADY: The house is - from the bottom to the top is 30 feet, and underneath is 8 foot. Let's go inside and then - I'll show you inside.

GONZALES: Brady says he bought the lot a few years ago for $5,000, and then sat on it for another year and a half. All the other houses nearby are made of brick.

BRADY: I said I got tired of looking at the houses. I said, man, I got to build me a log cabin.

GONZALES: Why a log cabin?

BRADY: Well, since I was a kid, I've been wanting a log cabin. I seen them years ago, you know, in the olden days. You know, the good times; you know, the cowboys and all that, they had log cabins and all that. So I said, well, let me build me one.

GONZALES: It took Brady another year and about $90,000 to build the cabin. He says the building was the easy part. The hard part was getting the permits from out-of-town inspectors.

BRADY: The last appointment, guy who come out here, he from Oregon. He come out here and then he said, nobody don't know what they doing. I said, I think I can build anything I want. And I said, it look like you don't know what you're doing. You know? ‘Cause I used to build ships and everything. If I can't build anything, I might as well hang it up.

GONZALES: The inspectors forced him to hire an engineer, says Brady, but that was all right with him.

BRADY: And that's how I got the log cabin built, you know, after three and a half years. Let's go upstairs. I'm going to show you upstairs.

GONZALES: From upstairs, you can see down on the rest of a neighborhood that Brady says was submerged in more than 20 feet of water after Katrina.

BRADY: Really, all the swamp, mud and everything came in here. They had fish, shrimp, everything - snakes and all in here. I tell you, it was unreal. You know, you had to see it to believe it. But nature takes its course.

GONZALES: And Brady is convinced that something like Katrina will happen again. And when it does, he says he hopes to be standing tall in what he calls his log cabin watchtower, here in Arabi, Louisiana.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.