Monday, March 30, 2009

2009 New Orleans 9

The Louisiana Landmarks Society's announcement of the city's nine most endangered properties, neighborhoods, districts, building styles, sites will be coming soon!  

If you wish to nominate an endangered place, download the nomination form from LLS's website, complete, and submit materials either via email to, by FAX to 504.482.0363 or snail mail to: 

Louisiana Landmarks Society/1440 Moss Street/New Orleans LA 70119.

Please note:  DEADLINE IS APRIL 1 (Wednesday).

Above:  BANKSY.  Graffiti for New Orleans.  Listen Drop In Center, Rampart Street, New Orleans.  As photographed September 2008.  K. Rylance.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Louisiana Highways of the Future: 1950

Pan American Petroleum Corporation. Louisiana Highway Map. 1934. Box 142, Guy Seghers Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

In 1934, designers for the Pan American Petroleum Corporation sought to represent America's future transportation; for them, 1950 looked very Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) . . . replete with speedy three-wheeled, teardrop-shaped vehicles. Fuller first rendered the ill-fated Dymaxion in 1927, naming the aircraft/automotive hybrid "4D transport." He later asked friend and sculptor Isamu Noguchi to develop a series of sketches and a wooden model of the vehicle (shown below). The National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada has the only known surviving Dymaxion Car, a Dymaxion 2 (1934). Norman Foster, the British Pritzker Prize-winning architect is planning to build a replica Dymaxion. To read more, click here.

Left: Isamu Noguchi (sculpture) & Buckminster Fuller (painting). Model of Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car, circa 1932. 3 1/8 x 10 1/2 x 3 1/4 in. (7.9 x 26.7 x 8.3 cm). Sold December 2008 as "the property of a New Englad lady" at Sotheby's for $92,500. Read more here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Birds of a Feather: Architects Row

New Orleans architect Thomas Sully (1855-1939) designed the Hennen Building located at 203-11 Carondelet/800 Common Street in 1893. The eleven-story structure is frequently cited as the Crescent City's earliest skyscraper. Sully had his offices on the top floor, in Number 1103. Other architects whose offices were located in the building included the Williams Brothers, Burton & Fraenkel, Emile Frederic, F.P. Graveley & Co., Edwin Oliver, and Robert Soule. Sully also designed the building across the street at 200-204 Carondelet; the Liverpool, London and Globe Insurance Company Building; which housed the offices of James Dinwiddie and Charles Charlton. During the mid-twentieth century, local architects flocked to Canal Street; Curtis & Davis, August Perez, and Sol Rosenthal all having offices along the mercantile artery.

Images above from the Thomas Sully Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Upper left: Thomas Sully, Hennen Building (800 Common Street), undated photograph. Upper right: Thomas Sully's Office, 1103 Hennen Building (800 Common Street), circa 1896.

Red River Rising

Richard Tsong-taatarii, photographer. Volunteers help place sandbags outside the home of Jeremy Kuipers in Moorhead, MN.   AP Photo from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  24 March 2009.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Architectural Salvage Then: Part II

J. Bayan was offering antique and reproduction marble mantels for sale to the United States in 1928. During that year, the firm was celebratings its centennial, advertising shipment to New York with the mantels insured, divided into five sections and accompanied by a Consular invoice. Bayan's antique mantels showroom was located on the Rue de la Roquette, in the 11th arrondissement. Cousolre -- a commune in the Nord department of France, known for its iron works and marble quarries -- was home to Bayan's stone carvers.

The advertisement above also included a lexicon of European and American marble nomenclature. The transatlantic trade for such architectural salvage (also discussed in an earlier post) bottomed out with the 29 October 1929 Wall Street Crash.

Image above: Loichemolle-Ballagny-Bayan Firm. Marble Mantels. Paris: Les Ateliers d'Art, 1 July 1928, p. 1. Architectural Trade Catalogs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gender & The City: Call for Papers

The editors of the inter- and multidisciplinary journal Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies have recently announced a call for papers/poetry/fiction/artwork pertaining to a special issue devoted to exploring reciprocal relationships between gender and the city:

"For many decades feminist scholars in numerous and diverse fields have studied the importance of gender in constituting cities and the role of urban places in constructing gender. We want to develop a vigorous cross and inter-disciplinary conversation about these relationships of gender and the city. We therefore call for papers and creative works that analyze urban political, social, economic, and cultural experiences, institutions, and representations; the urban environment, including interior and exterior spatial arrangements and architecture; and the role of women in this dynamic relationship of gender and the urban."

Frontiers accepts submissions of creative works such as artwork, fiction, and poetry, as well as scholarly papers. To read more, click here.

Image above: Film still from Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse (1962).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Today in New Orleans History

The Daily Picayune reported on this day in 1894 about the sale of the Louisiana Lottery Building, located at the corner of St. Charles and Union Streets. Frank T. and Harry Howard, acting as the New Orleans Improvement Company, Ltd. purchased the property for $32,500. Mr. Joseph H. De Grange, the company president, spoke of the purchase as a sound investment:

'[The company] believes that the progress of the city will be such, particularly in that locality, that it will prove a very beneficial purchase. St. Charles street, and its immediate surroundings, will, no doubt, increase in value, as the various trades and professions will take possession of it. Firmly believing in the advance, we have deemed proper to acquire the property. We propose to repair the building and to put it in good shape for occupancy, although I must say that the Messrs, Howard are noted for the excellent care they always take of their various interests.'

'We will add to the modern improvements already in use, such as elevators, electric lights, etc. and will fit up every floor in perfect shape for offices.'

The building had originally been designed as the New Orleans Bank (not long after the bank reforms fostered by the Louisiana Bank Act) in 1856 by Gallier, Turpin & Co. As built, the three-story Italianate bank cost $35,000 and included skylights that brought daylight to the ground floor. The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains James Gallier's (1798-1866) elevation and plans in its Sylvester Labrot Collection.

The Daily Picayune 23 March 1894 (Issue 58), p. 3 col. A.

To read more, consult 19th-Century U.S. Newspapers Online, a subscription database that includes The Daily Picayune (later The Times Picayune) from 1861-1899. For all databases available at Tulane, click here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Modern New Orleans Seventy Years Ago

Left: Modern New Orleans, film still with view of Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth's Shushan Airport, c. late 1930s. Full film from the Prelinger Archive available online via the Internet Archive

[enter "modern new orleans" in the search box at url:].

The film also shows Canal Street, the Huey Long Bridge (1935), Municipal Auditorium (1930), United Fruit Company operations at the Port of New Orleans, steamboats on the Mississippi, and the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC).

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains architectural drawings related to Shushan Airport and the Municipal Auditorium, as well as photographs of the Port of New Orleans, the Huey Long Bridge, and some of the canals.

Mapping Historic Preservation: Proto-HABS in New Orleans

N.C. Curtis. Map of the Garden District. Graphite, pen and ink on paper. 1932. Nathaniel C. Curtis, Sr. Collection. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

I've mentioned Louisiana's admirable contributions to the HABS program in earlier posts, and recently came across an early twentieth-century attempt to map and record the city's noteworthy structures.

Tulane University architecture professor Nathaniel C. Curtis wrote for the Journal of the American Institute of Architects in 1916:

"The Chapter is at work on a map of the city of sufficient extent to include all the old noteworthy buildings and those with interesting ornamental detail. It is understood that such a map would serve a basis of foundation on which might be built a later series of measured architectural drawings of all the buildings of the city which are worthy of record. In addition to such accurate measured drawings, including plans, elevations, sections, and large-scale details of moldings, iron work and modeled ornament, it is also proposed to acquire a large number of photographs from which half-tones might be made to accompany the line drawings and to prepare a descriptive monograph which would serve to further explain the origin and architectural character of each example. This is a serious undertaking, but one not quite so colossal as would seem to be indicated on its face. As a matter of fact, a number of local architects, several artists and a few historians have, with as much zeal as was at their command, occupied themselves with doing in an occasional sort of way just what the Chapter proposes to do with system and cooperation. All that has been accomplished heretofore in the way of record may be placed at the disposal of the committee for incorporation in the proposed work, and so a considerable saving of time and effort will be effected."

Excerpt from Nathaniel C. Curtis, "The Work of the Louisiana Chapter in Urging the Preservation of the Historic Architecture of New Orleans, and in Seeking to Restore Its Influence in Modern Building," p. 219. Biographical Files, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Orleans Business Archive: A.S. Aloe & Co.

Exterior, A.S. Aloe & Company, Tulane Avenue at LaSalle Street. Undated. Freret & Wolf, architects.  Photographer unknown. Freret & Wolf Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Seasteading Design Competition

The Seasteading Institute (TSI) has recently announced an open competition to construct a 3-D model of a seastead, a floating platform allowing for habitation on the ocean's surface.  The award-winning designer will receive $1000 and free admission to the Seasteading '09 Conference in San Francisco, California.  

For rules and guidelines, click here.

Image above:  William Vandivert, photographer. American 9th Army Engineers Connect a New Section of a Treadway Pontoon Bridge across the Rhine River.  24 March 1945. © Time Inc.  Time Life hosted by Google.  URL:

Friday, March 6, 2009

Invincible Cities

Since the 1970s, sociologist Camilo José Vergara has been photographing the built environment of America's post-industrial cities, especially places associated with economically disadvantaged minority communities.  Drawing on disciplines such as anthropology, architectural history, history, photography, and urban planning, Vergara has discovered seven distinctive characteristics of ghetto neighborhoods:  fortification; ruins; empty lots; social containers; a visual language of art and advertisements; public service billboards; and bringing suburbanization to inner cities.  To read more about these features, visit the MacArthur Fellow's Visual Encyclopedia of the American Ghetto, sponsored by Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers University here.

Image above:  Camilo José Vergara, from the Visual Encyclopedia of the American Ghetto.  url:  Viewed 06 March 2009.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cleveland's Building Woes

Today's New York Times reported on the growing number of home foreclosures in Cleveland, Ohio. Alex Koslowitz's piece "All Boarded Up" provides a preview of this Sunday's NYT Magazine feature story. Cleveland estimates that 1 in 13 houses is vacant, some 10,000 foreclosures in the last two years. The Cuyahoga County treasurer claims the real numbers are actually higher. Conceiving of Cleveland as a bellweather, cities are turning to it for guidance. To read the piece, click here.

Above: Reuben Cox, photographer. Scavengers frequently descend on abandoned houses, removing appliances, plumbing fixtures and, as in this kitchen, copper pipes. NY Times 05.03.2009.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Acoustics and Asbestos

During the late 1920s, the Bell Asbestos Mines operating in Québec, Canada were supplying asbestos for the building trade. Dixie Asbestos Company of Birmingham, Alabama served as the southeastern distributor for Ambler Sound Absorbing Plaster, which had been developed in 1924 by the Bell Asbestos Mine's Pennsylvania owner Keasbey & Mattison. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology tested the new plaster product and claimed that as applied by a Boston contractor, it could absorb up to 35% of the sound that struck it, depending on the pitch.

Keasbey & Mattison recommended applying the plaster as a finishing coat (over gypsum plaster, lime and sand plaster or over concrete) 1/4" thick. The company also recommended cutting off all air circulation during the drying process so that it would dry uniformly. Advertising to architects, the company advised: "Send plans, including data on interior surfaces and furnishing, to our nearest branch office and prompt analyses and recommendations for your requirements will be given without obligation to you. In this way, correct acoustics may be predetermined before final working drawings are completed."

If you want to read a portion of Manfred Schroeder's Distinguished Lecture on "Reverberation: Theory and Measurement" that was delivered during the Wallace Clement Sabine Symposium (1994) at MIT, click here.

Image: Bell Asbestos Mines, Inc. Thetford Mines, P.Q., Canada. [p. 12] A.I.A. File 39--A and B. "Ambler Sound Absorbing Plaster." Ambler, PA: Keasbey & Mattison, c. 1928. Architectural Trade Catalogs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.