Friday, August 22, 2008

The House That Jack Built: North Prieur Street

Left: North Prieur Street House before Renovation; Right: During
[02.2008-08.2008 by K. Rylance]

This is the Seventh Ward house that Jack built that once was a Greek Revival three-bay three-room-deep galleried house that was elevated to provide for a garage that was sheathed in siding to become a rental property that grew to fill the lot that became a six-plex that flooded during Katrina that was gutted after Katrina that is being renovated today.

It was built in the late nineteenth century on lands referred to as the Morand Concession, named after the French settler Charles Antoine de Morand, who was a surveyor's assistant to both Adrien de Pauger and LeBlond de la Tour. He established a brickyard on Bayou Road on behalf of the Company of the Indies, and after its financial demise in 1731, he purchased the property and moved his family from Chartres Street to a plantation near the yard and clay pits. After his death in 1756, the property passed hands many times until it was developed by investor Louis Bringier in the 1860s.

The Seventh Ward is especially known for its craftsmanship. The Slidell construction crew working on the site today expressed they had never seen anything built like this. . . with all the framing joints hand-cut, flexible, and strong. They said they could kick out the siding, but that the frame could withstand an earthquake, move with it and remain structurally sound. They conveyed that the only right angles were the ones they put there.

In 2002, the New Orleans Museum of Art published its catalog Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans, in conjunction with its similarly-themed exhibition. Many of the craftsmen featured in both exhibit and publication were natives of the Seventh Ward, where knowledge of carpentry, lathe-work and plastering passed from generation to generation. Structures were raised in a communal spirit, as carpenter Sal Doucette expressed for the project's oral history:

"My mother and daddy, my grandfather, Peter Mercadel, everyone practically, was raised in the Seventh Ward. . . through my father and grandfather and my uncles. Everybody in the family was a carpenter. . When I was eight years old, my grandfather, every weekend used to have about thirty carpenters parked out in front of the door. During those days you could have your house built within maybe three weekends just for gumbo and beer! The wife would cook the gumbo and her husband would have the beer on the job site and you had your house built for practically nothing. . . The majority of the Seventh Ward was built in that manner." (p.140)

Want to read more?

New Orleans Museum of Art. Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA, 2002).

Toledano, Roulhac and Mary Louise Christovich. New Orleans Architecture, Vol. VI, Faubourg Tremé and the Bayou Road (Gretna: Pelican Publishing, 1980).

1 comment:

Charles Rosenberg said...

Thanks for posting this. I am a descendant of Charles Antoine de Morand. Next time I am in New Orleans I will visit to see how the renovation of this house has progressed.