NEW ORLEANS -- Madame John's Legacy, the historic French Quarter museum, was partly built in 1789 from river boats.
"All of the materials that are utilized in this building, some of them are old ships, and rafts and things that were deconstructed here, because they couldn't go back up the river," said Louisiana State Museums Executive Director Mark Tullos.
But in a shocking sight, thick dust covers the ground floor as 200-year-old bricks crumble.
"You can run your finger along the brick, and it comes off in your hand," said Ryan Jackson.
Ryan Jackson is part of the Tulane University Architecture Preservation program that found moisture from heavy rains and bad drainage have been attacking the walls for decades.
"The white stuff that you see here is all salt, different kinds of salt that is coming up from the ground below," described Jackson. "It's corroding the brick."
The study showed the interior bricks in the thick walls are in good shape, but that repair work needs to be done to keep the damage from spreading.
"It's very scary, and it's not just this wall," said Jackson. "There's over 100 wall surfaces in this basement and every one looks more or less like this."
Leaders of the Louisiana State Museum system are starting a major project to save Madame John's Legacy, starting with fixing the drainage problems on the ground floor.
"The courtyard, the drainage and things like that would probably be about $4 million," said Louisiana State Museums Assistant Director Robert Wheat. "The building itself is going to be another $4 million."
"It's going to take a tremendous partnership, both public and private," said Tullos. "We're going to need support from the legislature, and from citizens of Louisiana."
"If more people in New Orleans or the world came down and saw what is happening here, I think they would be more apt to act on it," Jackson said.
For more information about donating to the Madame John's Legacy restoration project, contact the State Museum Foundation here.