Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Detroit Public Library - NEW Digital Resource

Last night, the Detroit Public Library [DPL] completed a mass digitization project pertaining to its Special Collections holdings, including over 33,000 images from its National Automotive History Collection [NAHC].  For those of us in the Gulf South, this is an incredible resource because it includes digital reproductions of early twentieth-century levees, roadways, cities, towns, automobile parades and "tin-can" camps. The digital collection is especially strong for Florida, where early automobile enthusiasts ventured in great numbers.

The image clipped above relates to Captain Walter Wanderwell and a drive he took through a flooded road in Mississippi.  According to historian Dan Treace, in 1919 the former POW purchased a used Ford chassis in Detroit, Michigan and had it shipped to New Orleans, where it was modified. The Times-Picayune reported that it was retrofitted with a water tank and fifty-four-gallon gasoline tank. Wanderwell headed out from Atlanta on September 22, 1919 in order to retrieve his new car.

Asked to comment on Louisiana's roads when he arrived in New Orleans in March 1920, Wanderwell remarked, "'Louisiana has some of the best roads and some of the worst. When we were a little way out of Bogalusa it took us six days to make sixty-five miles, which we make in an hour on a good road.'"(1)

From New Orleans, Wanderwell, his wife, mechanic, photographer and correspondent headed West on the Old Spanish Trail.

Read more here.

Access the collection here.

(1)"Peiczyniki [sic], Touring World, Is In Orleans." The Times-Picayune 15 March 1920.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shell Roads & Edgelake Lands

We had posted William E. Boesch's 1926 Map of Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes Showing Lake Shore Developments & Etc. (detail top image) some time ago, and recently came across contemporary photographs of the Edgelake Subdivision in an advertising brochure.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive's Guy Seghers Office Records contain significant documentation of the Edgelake land holdings, as the Seghers family platted many of the associated neighborhoods. The developers chose reef shell for the subdivision's primary roads, including its park entrance (second image) and Curran Boulevard (bottom image). The Gulf Crushing Company, Inc. of New Orleans supplied the oyster shells.  During the 1920s, Louisiana's road builders had difficulty forming and maintaining roadways using local clay-sand. It often failed to bond with gravel. The Old Spanish Trail was particularly susceptible to such road failures, and much of it had to be resurfaced with reef shell.

The shell was less expensive, and could also be used in emergencies to provide a safe path on flooded roadbeds. The shells required no binding agent, were durable, water resistant and provided traction.

Images above:

Map: Wm. E. Boesch, Map of Orleans & St. Bernard Parishes Showing Lake Shore Developments & Etc. Copyrighted November 1926 by Wm. E. Boesch.  Guy Seghers Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Photographs from:  Shell Roads in Louisiana. New Orleans: Gulf Crushing Company, 1927. Louisiana Research Collection, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, September 26, 2014

NOLA at the Crossroads

In 1924, Highways 1, 2, 12 and 54 were starting to converge on New Orleans. The Mississippi River Scenic Highway, Jefferson Highway, the Old Spanish Trail  and the Jefferson Davis Highway represented the significant efforts of automobile boosters, government leaders and civic organizations to bring good roads into the Crescent City. Frequent rainfall and flooding often impeded visitors' abilities to enter the city by automobile.

In the early 1920s, photographer Mary Crehore Bedell and her physicist-husband Frederick took an arduous 12,000-mile road camping trip to encircle the United States. She documented the adventure in her book, Modern Gypsies (Brentano's, 1924).  Hoping to visit friends in New Orleans, the Bedells learned that the road from coastal Mississippi to New Orleans was mired in mud, as were roads along the Mississippi River to  the North. They opted to store their Hupmobile and took a train into New Orleans.

Images above:  Top:  Details. Rand McNally Junior Auto Trails Map: Louisiana. F-23 from Rand McNally Commercial Atlas of America (1924).

Bottom:  J.P. Troy, photographer. Mary Crehore and Frederick Bedell in Their Hupmobile. From Mary Crehore Bedell. Modern Gypsies. New York: Brentano's, 1924.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

At Large in the Library: Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week kicked off a few days ago, and it seemed a good time to mention Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.  Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript -- first titled Second-Hand Lives -- before Bobbs-Merrill finally released 7,500 copies on 6 May 1943.  The company's New York business manager felt that sales would never surpass more than 10,000 copies. Overall Bobbs-Merrill spent about $250,000 on promotions and within a few months Warner Brothers acquired the film rights.

The idea for the book stemmed from Rand's 1926 arrival to Manhattan; she later recalled that "there was one skyscraper that stood out ablaze like the finger of God, and it seemed to me that [it was] the greatest symbol of free man.... I made a mental note that someday I would write a novel with the skyscraper as a theme."

The novel's visionary architect-protagonist, Howard Roark, was widely believed to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. There has been some recent speculation that Raymond Hood may have been the basis for the novel's other architect character Peter Keating.

The Fountainhead frequently appears on Top 100 lists of banned and challenged books.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

NEW! N.C. Curtis Finding Aid

The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently finalized the processing of the Nathaniel C. Curtis, Sr. Illustrations. The collection includes drawings, maps, publications and educational records linked to New Orleans architect, preservationist and educator N.C. Curtis (1881-1953). Many of the drawings were selected as illustrations for Curtis’ book New Orleans, Its Old Houses, Shops, and Public Buildings (Philadelphia, 1933). Two drawings reflect Curtis’ work in association with architect Moise H. Goldstein.

Learn more about the collection and N.C. Curtis here.

Image above:  Nathaniel C. Curtis, Sr. Dauphine Street from St. Louis Street. Gouache on heavy paper. 1925. Nathaniel C. Curtis, Sr. Illustrations, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Planning New Orleans

As the New Orleans City Planning Commission and City Council consider revising the municipal zoning ordinance for the first time in 44 years, it reminded us to post these images from the mid-twentieth century. There was definitely a code book for representing urban planning; typically planners appear standing in front of a large municipal wall map while they gesticulate down towards a table map.  While the wall map usually represents the city at the macro level, the table map represents the specific area(s) undergoing transformation.

In the top image, which was published by the American Institute of Architects-New Orleans Chapter in January 1954, planners J.B. Rouzie (left) and Louis G. Bisso (right), point towards the Lakefront Airport area, located in the Third Municipal District. Bisso, then the director-secretary of the City Planning and Zoning Commission, advocated for "comprehensive rehabilitation" of neighborhoods and the discontinuation of "checkerboard" planning:

"In these days when the word 'planner' seems to be associated in some quarters with oppressive control and general loss of freedom, I believe we should never forego an opportunity to assert a rational point of view. Design must precede construction. A general design for the city must precede specific designs for improvements. I am not alone in believing that a general design for the future can be achieved in American cities, that such a design will be followed with relatively few deviations, and that its substantive effect will be a vast improvement in the conditions of life for our future population."(1)

After 22 years with the Commission, Bisso resigned in the late 1950s. Charles F. O'Doniel, Jr. (bottom image, center) filled the vacancy. Mayor "Chep" Morrison's 1958-59 report featured this picture above the caption, "THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME." O'Doniel stands with his chief assistants, Jack Different (left) and Stuart H. Brehm, Jr. (right) , directing his attention towards the Second Municipal District. In 1958, the Commission processed nearly 40 zoning petitions for changes in zoning classification and reviewed or acted upon nearly 300 subdivision proposals. It adopted a street plan for the area of the city bounded by Paris Road, Lake Pontchartrain and the Intercoastal Canal, and it began to consider the proposal to build a $40 million elevated expressway through the French Quarter.

Images above:

Top:  "Planners at Work." The American Institute of Architects - New Orleans Chapter Bulletin I:1 (January 1954): p. 1.

Bottom:  "THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME." Annual Report of the Mayor. City of New Orleans. 1958-1959: n.p.

(1) "City Planning Philosophy Outlined by Official." The American Institute of Architects - New Orleans Chapter Bulletin I:1 (January 1954): pp. 1, 4, 7.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NEW! Grace Dunn Finding Aid

The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently finalized the processing of the Grace Dunn collection.

The collection consists of Dunn's drawings, some of which were considered as illustrations for the Works Project Administration’s (WPA) New Orleans City Guide (1938) and Louisiana: A Guide to the State (1941).  Related studies are rendered in pen and ink, with strong contour lines and restrained shading effects.  The largest number of  drawings are softly toned graphite sketches representing historic structures located in the city of New Orleans.  None are dated, but terminus post quem is assumed to be 1940, when the Louisiana guide went to press. Many of the buildings she illustrated are no longer standing, razed during various twentieth-century urban planning initiatives.

The drawings once formed a part of Howard-Tilton Library’s Reference Department picture files, but were transferred to the Southeastern Architectural Archive when it was founded in 1980.

Learn more about Grace Dunn here.

Image above:  Grace Dunn, illustrator. Head piece for "New Orleans -- Old and New."  Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration.  New Orleans City Guide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1938. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.