Monday, July 27, 2015

Architect & Calligrapher

New Orleans architect-educator Milton G. Scheuermann, Jr. retired from the Tulane School of Architecture (TSA) this spring after 56 years. This month, the Southeastern Architectural Archive opened a new exhibit in his honor. Titled Medieval Louisiana, the exhibit highlights Scheuermann's polyphonic associations.

For many years, Scheuermann taught TSA calligraphy classes, and provided his lettering skills to non-profit and carnival organizations. In 1987, Save Our Cemeteries asked him to create the lettering for John Geiser's "Certificate of Appreciation" (shown above).

Scheuermann's work can also be found at the corner of Canal and Broad Streets, in the iron ornamentation of the former Whitney Bank building (now Family Dollar).

Images above:  Milton Scheuermann, Jr. "Certificate of Appreciation." New Orleans: Save Our Cemeteries, 1987. John Geiser III Papers, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Milton Scheuermann, Jr. Ornamental Iron for Whitney National Bank. Parham & Labouisse, architects. 1964-66. 2650 Canal Street, corner South Broad. Broad Street detail from Google Street view. 2015.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

1925 Shreveport Fire

In early September 1925, a devastating fire swept through Shreveport's historic Allendale neighborhood (detail above). Ironically, it originated at the Garden Street rental property owned by retired fire chief Chris O'Brien.

Strong winds carried the fire northeast, bounded by the Texas & Pacific Railroad. Firemen responding to the alarm -- from the engine house across the street -- arrived only to discover they had no access to water. In the map detail below, the fire station is marked in red, O'Brien's property is marked in white.

Contemporary accounts cite a water main failure several hours earlier as the primary cause of the fire's destructive growth. Rumors of criminal negligence circulated and racist reporting claimed a jazz dirge on a player piano accompanied the neighborhood's destruction.(1)

When the fire was contained at the T & P's main line, there had been at least two fatalities, nearly 200 homes were destroyed, and some 1200 residents displaced. African-Americans and recent immigrants comprised the majority of the victims. Insurance adjusters reported that only 60% of the losses were covered by policies.(2)

The Southeastern Architectural Archive's Map of the Area Involved in Conflagration at Shreveport, LA (shown above) was issued by the Louisiana Fire Prevention Bureau in New Orleans. We recently discovered it accordion-folded and hidden away inside the binding of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas. The cartographer mapped out the fire's source, the wind direction and all of the "risks" (i.e. structures) that were destroyed.

A recent Washington Post blog addressing racial divides across American cities highlighted Shreveport and it reminded us of our "Conflagration" discovery.

Utilizing Dustin Cable's Racial Dot Map, WP blog authors Emily Badger and Darla Cameron discussed historic transportation arteries in the context of racial segregation.
From Cable's map, we cropped the Allendale fire and surrounding neighborhood in the detail above. Note that Texas Avenue largely follows the perimeter of the old T & P line.

(1)"Negro Apes Nero, Playing Piano as Shreveport Burns." The Times-Picayune 7 September 1925.

(2)"Losers in $700,000 Fire Paid $358,885."  The Times-Picayune 7 October 1925.

Images above:  Two Details, Louisiana Fire Prevention Bureau. Map of the Area Involved in Conflagration at Shreveport, LA. New Orleans, LA:  1925. Fire Insurance Atlases, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Detail. Dustin Cable. Racial Dot Map. Demographics Research Group, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, University of Virginia, 2013.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Conversational Spaces

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains a large and growing collection of building trade catalogs. We add new titles monthly, and so it is always a good idea to check with us to see if we might have the one(s) you are seeking. 

Many of these were digitized last year through our contacts with the Association for Preservation Technology International, with generous financial support from the Heritage Preservation Education Foundation. Digitized catalogs may be located in the Internet Archive's Building Technology Heritage Library. Please note that although many are available online, there is a larger number that are not digitized and must be consulted in the archive.

The Morgan Woodworking Organization produced a very ambitious catalog in 1923. Titled Building with Assurance, the catalog primarily illustrated mill work that the Morgan Company produced in its Oshkosh, Wisconsin factory. With sawmill operations in Arkansas, Michigan and Washington, Morgan could supply its products nationwide. It also sold art glass windows and residential building plans.

Breakfast Nooks became prominent in 1920's mill work catalogs. Morgan copywriters attributed their popularity to "servantless" and informal domesticity. Rose Angell, the former department editor of Woman's World touted their benefits:

In the morning, a few steps from the range take
you into the delightful little alcove--just wide 
enough to hold a long, narrow table and two seats.
What a saving of time and labor not to have to set
the dining room table for the quick breakfast or
cup of tea when the cheery neighbor steps in around
four o'clock.(1)

Nooks could accommodate early and late risers, and sheltered intimate conversations. The Morgan Company's copywriters stressed that tablecloths were optional: the only thing required was a sunny spot!

(1)Rose Angell. "A Woman's Thoughts About A Home." Building with Assurance. Chicago: The Morgan Woodworking Organization, 1923, p. 16. Architectural Trade Catalogs, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Images above:  Building with Assurance. Chicago: The Morgan Woodworking Organization, 1923. Architectural Trade Catalogs, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Global Celotex

By 1928, the New Orleans-founded Celotex Company had expanded its international operations to include much of the European continent. As a sugar cane industry, Celotex boasted a $12 million production out of New Orleans.(1) The bagasse building material shipped directly from its Mississippi River plant to these foreign markets.

Dependence on European exports began to detrimentally  impact the company in 1938, when apprehensions regarding political stability caused stock market fluctuations. Celotex posted quarterly losses and began to reconfigure its business for domestic and wartime production.

(1)"Sugar Cane Industries." The Times-Picayune 4 February 1931.

Image above:  From Verwendung von Celotex in Gebäuden. Chicago: The Celotex Company, 1928. This copy bears the stamp of the Hungarian Celotex representative, Magyar Celotex-Árusito Vállalat, which was located in Budapest on Harmincad Street. Architectural Trade Catalogs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, July 10, 2015


From Tulane University’s Southeastern Architectural Archive:

The Southeastern Architectural Archive’s Medieval Louisiana exhibit focuses on the region’s adoption of Byzantine, Romanesque, Hispano-Moresque and Gothic architectural forms and motifs. From the antebellum period through the early twentieth century, a wide range of religious, commercial, civic and domestic structures were built and decorated in various historic revival styles. Architects as diverse as James Gallier, William Freret, James Freret, Benjamin Morgan Harrod, Thomas Sully and Moise Goldstein referenced medieval material culture for their Louisiana clients.

In honor of Milton Scheuermann, Jr.’s retirement from the Tulane School of Architecture, this exhibit draws on the holdings of the Southeastern Architectural Archive and the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners.  It includes gifts from the Christ Church Cathedral, John Geiser III, Sylvester Labrot, Genevieve Munson Trimble, the New Orleans Town Gardeners and the Tulane School of Architecture.   

Co-curated by Keli Rylance and Kevin Williams, MEDIEVAL LOUISIANA opens 13 July in the Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA) and runs through 20 May 2016.  The SEAA is located at 6801 Freret Street/300 Jones Hall, on Tulane University’s campus.  Hours are 9-12 and 1-5 Mondays-Fridays.  Admission is free.  

Image above:  James Freret, architect. A Design for the New Masonic Hall, New Orleans, LA. 1867. James Freret Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Steel Cells

In 1891, the E.T. Barnum Iron & Wire Works Company of Detroit, Michigan published its new general catalogue. Barnum specialized in fire escapes, jail cages, canopies, and elevator enclosures. Its headquarters was capped by an enormous railing and weather vane (above).
Over the company's long history, Eugene Barnum steered his enterprise from a small ornamental iron works to become one of the world's largest operations. His steel lattice jail cages were especially popular. One is still extant, on display in East Central Cowley County (Kansas). Another was enigmatically repurposed in Middletown, New York.
These were available in many different configurations, stacked or single-tiered. The cells were generally 4.5-5 feet wide, 6.5 feet deep, and 6.5 feet high. Each had its own iron corner commode, usually located below a retractable bunk.
Barnum utilized direct mail catalogs and magazine advertisements as promotional tools. By 1924, his company could boast jail shipments to 45 states. His cages were especially popular in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. For a complete listing of municipal clients by state, click here. Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Images above:

Top: Detroit in History and Commerce. Detroit, MI: Rogers & Thorpe, 1891. This image was also utilized in the company's 1891 trade catalog, now available via the Internet Archive's Building Technology Heritage Library.

Remaining:  E.T. Barnum Iron and Wire Works. Catalogue No. 650: General Catalogue. Detroit, MI: The Company, 1924. Courtesy Architectural Trade Catalogs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. A digitized copy is available via the Internet Archive's Building Technology Heritage Library.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Louisiana Penal Labor (1930)

In 1930, Transmissions, a New Orleans journal devoted to "the interests of motor transportation" honed in on the use of prison laborers to make highway signage. With the photograph shown above, its editors championed Governor Huey Long's efforts to expand the state's infrastructure without increasing taxes. They captioned the image "Convicts Making Road Signs Reduces Costs." A small guard station and two fencing perimeters can be seen in the distance of the signage yard.

Image above: "Convicts Making Road Signs Reduces Costs." Transmission: A Journal Devoted to the Interests of Motor Transportation and Police Jury Affairs 3:2-3 (February-March 1930). Courtesy Louisiana Research Collection, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Current call number is 976.3 (388.105) L891