Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Looking Forward/Looking Backward II

19 September 1932

"The recent serious falling of one of the large canopies of one of our important buildings impresses one with an unfortunate tendency in the design of more modern buildings in which the galleries and balconies are being abandoned and substitutes are adopted which have neither the art nor the security of those old features which are typical of our city and which have been admired more by the visitor than ourselves.

The cause is no doubt the competiveness of our merchants who in their natural contest for business, and in which the logic of the situation is not sound, attempt to attract when in fact they retard business. . .

Rainy or hot days are certainly not good days on Canal Street. Since the old style galleries have been removed the heating area of the sidewalk has been increased at least two fifths due to the sun upon sidewalks which formerly were in the shade. The movement of the people during rain is practically stopped, which would not be the situation were a proper covering over the sidewalks and across the cross street in arch form.

The need for some protection is admitted in the motly [sic] canopies and awnings both of which have little to commend them and are a hazard in the first instance and a source of continual expense in the latter case. Gradually neither of these are being used in imitation of cities in which there is a snow climate which few realize is the main reason for the non-use of galleries and canopies, and with it all business naturally suffers many hours during year in our city which would not be so much the case were it possible to go from one store to another or block to block.

Our predecessors had sounder ideas on this question than we have today.

Edward Bellamy in his book "Looking Backward" written in 1887 and picturing Boston in the coming year 2000 A.D. describes automatic covering over the city sidewalks making it possible to go from place to place irrespective of the weather, and which permits business accessibility to be maintained at all times.

So much for analysis.

For suggestion:--Havana has its arcades or colonades, so has Genoa, Florence, Paris on Rue Rivoli and other business streets, Houston in some instances and other cities where sound thinking has been done.

Why not along Canal Street have a colonade, with the light metal columns which were so prevalent in the past and above it have a gallery with iron railing such as that of the Pontalba Buildings, and under the gallery, from column to column cast iron or wrought iron grilles of such artistic nature as we still have in few instances in our down town section. Maintain the height uniform and provide an innovation in arching over the cross streets to a heighth to clear the trolley wires of the street cards. Modern steel constrution [sic] and metal works provide greater facilities than in the past and such galleries would also serve 'practically' for the Carnival or other days of celebration. . . "

Rathbone DeBuys, Architect.

Typescript with manuscript edits, Rathbone DeBuys Office Records, Box 1, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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