Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Exhibit Highlights Historic New Orleans Neighborhood

TREMÉ: People and Places
10 December 2010 -- 4 November 2011

Tulane University’s Southeastern Architectural Archive has announced a new exhibition.

TREMÉ: People and Places celebrates the bicentennial of New Orleans’ historic neighborhood. Often considered the birthplace of jazz, Faubourg Tremé was the city’s first municipally-founded subdivision. Developed in 1810, when Claude Tremé sold his Bayou Road plantation holdings to the city for $40,000, the district rapidly changed from French long-lot habitations to urban squares filled with Creole cottages and shotgun houses.

Stretching from Canal Street to St. Bernard Avenue and from Rampart to Broad Street, Tremé was populated by a diverse mixture of people. With cultural ties to the Caribbean, Africa, Spain, France, China and England, the district featured vibrant public spaces that included boulevards, churches, shrines, squares, parks and markets. It served as a primary port of entry for railroad travelers, who frequently lodged in its rooming houses and inns.

Significantly altered by nearly one hundred years of urban renewal programs, Tremé retains much of its historic vitality. This exhibition highlights Faubourg Tremé using the rich holdings of Tulane University’s Special Collections Divisions -- its Louisiana Research Collection, the William Hogan Jazz Archive, and the Southeastern Architectural Archive.

Co-curated by Keli Rylance and Kevin Williams, TREMÉ: People and Places opens 10 December 2010 in the Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA) and runs through 4 November 2011. 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: William Toye, Jr. & Al Rose. Scale Models of Lulu White’s Mahogany Hall and Mahogany Hall Annex, 235, 239-41 Basin Street, circa 1965. Courtesy William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, December 6, 2010

North Claiborne Avenue 1972

In 1972, Tulane School of Architecture faculty member John Rock (1923-2009) took his camera on the road, recording the sites along North Claiborne Avenue underneath the elevated I-10 and the construction of the newer I-10 sections near the Orleans Parish Prison. Taken from a moving vehicle, some of his slides are quite blurred, yet they provide strong documentation of North Claiborne and the shaded artery provided by the expressway.

Images above: John Rock, photographer. I-10 Expressway, New Orleans. February 1972. John Rock Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Proto-ATMs: the Curbside Teller

In 1955, Duplex Electric Company patented a Curb Teller designed by inventor Clarence D. Ellithorpe. The company marketed the product to urban banks that did not have adequate space to accommodate a drive-up window. Ellithorpe's CT required a bank employee be lodged in a subterranean chamber (diagram above).

The customer, described in company brochures as the "autoist," would push a button to signal the teller, who could see the customer above via a bullet-proof glass protected periscope. The teller would then send a miniature elevator up the shaft to collect transaction documents, which could then be sent down to the teller.

Images above: Duplex Electric Company. "Curb Tellers" Brochure. New York: n.d. Architectural Trade Catalogs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collection Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Visiting Scholar Opportunity

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) Study Centre has announced its 2011-2012 Visiting Scholars Program. The Program welcomes applications from scholars and architects conducting research at post-doctoral or more advanced academic levels. The Study Centre also offers a limited number of Associate Scholars positions to non-stipendiary residential fellows. To find out more, consult the CCA's website: http://www.cca.qc.ca/en/study-centre/visiting-scholars-application

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Digital Resource Available

The Association for Preservation Technology (APT) special project -- the Building Heritage Research Library -- is up and running and will continue to expand via the non-profit Internet Archive. Presently there are 100 documents available online, but the expectation is that over the course of time, this collection will expand to some 20,000 titles. The Canadian Centre for Architecture has partnered on the project, and will add some 4,000 of its documents to the public access web site.

For those interested in historic building trade catalogs, the Southeastern Architectural Archive retains a large collection that predominantly came directly from architects practicing in the New Orleans metropolitan area who received them in the course of doing business.

Image above: Cover design, J.G. Braun Company. Architectural Shapes in "Alcoa" Aluminum. Chicago, 1935. Available through the Building Heritage Research Library.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shannon Lee Dawdy MacArthur Recipient

University of Chicago anthropologist Shannon Lee Dawdy has received a 2010 MacArthur Grant in recognition of her scholarship. In recent years, her work has largely focused on New Orleans. Read more/watch a video here.

Building the Devil's Empire: French Colonial New Orleans is available through Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fifth Wheel of the Wagon

As reported by The Daily Picayune 2 September 1889:

"Architects say their business is constantly increasing and that people are beginning to learn more readily that money is saved and other profit gained by employment of the architect. People used to believe an architect constituted the fifth wheel of the wagon. Nowadays, however, that opinion is giving way in the face of returning prosperity and the development of architectural tastes. Style in residences and stores, as stated before, is changing along St. Charles avenue, Prytania and other residence streets there is a greater prevalence of European and modern American architecture and a constant broadening of lines.

Another matter of note is the fact that stone is coming into more general use than ever before. Many of the lately constructed residences up town are COMBINATIONS OF BRICK AND STONE, and in the selection of the granite there is the utmost catholicity of taste. The Morris building, the Howard Library, and the Whitney National Bank, are all for the most part part built of red granite."

Excerpt from "Brick and Mortar: The Past Year's Building Operations," p. 2.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Field Trip: Cloquet, Minnesota

Frank Lloyd Wright designed only one automobile service station (1956-1957), a commission for a Phillips 66 station. The structure is located at the intersection of Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue in Cloquet, Minnesota. The cantilevered roof shelters a glass-enclosed visitors' waiting/observation room that overlooks the Cloquet River bridge, railroad tracks, and busy intersection. As with many of Wright's buildings, it employs the use of Louisiana cypress. In 1984, the building was listed on the National Register; in 2008, it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Image above: Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. R.W. Lindholm Service Station (1956-1957; opened October 1958), Cloquet, MN. Fujifilm. K. Rylance 1992.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lexicon: Brunspile

As reported in Engineering News-Record 6 August 1964:

A 45-story, steel-framed skyscraper under construction in downtown New Orleans will set several structural records. The tallest building in the Old South, Plaza Tower will sit on pre-stressed concrete piles designed for bearing values of 180 tons, the greatest pile load ever approved in that city.

The $10-million tower will rise from one corner of an 18-story base building devoted largely to parking 500 cars. Duranodic aluminum will sheath closely spaced exterior columns. Between the columns, white marble spandrels will alternate vertically with bronze-tinted windows.

Before approving the 180-ton pile value, city building officials required load tests held for at least two days at more than double the allowable design load. Driven successively through strata of compressible clay again into a hard Pleistocene stratum (glacial till consisting mainly of hard clay) about 155 ft below grade, a 168-ft pile passed the test with ease. It held 400 tons for two days with only 3/8 in. residual settlement. At 462 tons, the test pile failed in compression (5,600 psi); the foundation soil still held.

Known as Brunspile, the piles are pre-stressed, precast units up to 70 ft long, octagonal in cross section. The splice detail comprises a cast-steel, cylindrical wedge connector into which fits the ferrule end of the top unit. The pile units are separated by a steel impact plate, and pile hammer blows wedge the two sections together in a moment-resisting joint...

To read more, consult ENR in Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. Architect for the Plaza Tower was Leonard Spangenberg, Jr. & Assoc. Tulane University's William J. Mouton was consulting engineer, George A. Fuller of Dallas was general contractor, and Stephen K. Whitty of New Orleans was pile subcontractor.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New SEAA Website

The Southeastern Architectural Archive has launched its new website this month! The url has changed to http://seaa.tulane.edu. Click here to access information about collections, donations, and outreach programming.

Architectural Photography Symposium

Documenting History, Charting Progress and Exploring the World: Architecture in Nineteenth-Century Photographs.
Indiana University South Bend and Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame
October 3 - 4, 2010

Held during the The Snite Museum exhibition Documenting History, Charting Progress and Exploring the World: Architecture in Photographs from the Janos Scholz Collection of Nineteenth-Century European Photographs (September 5 - October 31, 2010), this symposium is a collaboration between the Snite Museum at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, and Indiana University South Bend. It will bring together scholars who approach the study of 19-century photographs of architecture from a thematic point of view. The cultural role of architectural photography will be examined in 12 papers and two lectures by established and junior scholars. Participants from Canada, Ireland, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States will provide varied perspectives and insights on the cultural, social, and professional significance of 19-century architectural photography.

The symposium is free and open to the public.

Indiana University South Bend is located at 1700 Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend, Indiana and the Snite Museum of Art is located on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, near South Bend, Indiana. Directions to the two conference venues are available at www.iusb.edu and www.nd.edu/~sniteart/. For Symposium program, itineraries, and additional information, please contact Micheline Nilsen, (mnilsen@iusb.edu or 574-520-4277).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Architecture Database Available

Columbia University Libraries have announced the launch of their New York Real Estate Brochure Collection, an online database representing some 3,000 buildings described in advertising brochures. Researchers can search by address, architect, property owner/agent, building name, and neighborhood. Most structures are illustrated by interior and exterior views and floor plans, and have been geo-referenced using Google Maps. To access the database, click here.

The printing company that produced the advertisements retained samples of all its brochures, and a successor firm inherited the comprehensive archive. Yale Robbins, Henry Robbins and David Magier were able to acquire the complete printing archive and donated it to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library in 1986.

Image above: 53rd at Third. Architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Promotional advertisement. New York Real Estate Brochure Collection, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library Online.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wright's Building Blocks

Jori Finkel of the Los Angeles Times has recently reported on the uncertain future of Frank Lloyd Wright's textile-block homes. The 1923 Millard House (AKA La Miniatura, shown left) has been on the market for years, and its listing price has dropped from $7.7 M to $4.99 M. The 1924 Ennis House (lower two images) went on the market last year at $15 M but is now being offered for $7.49 M, not including the $6 M the buyer must keep on reserve for future preservation efforts. The Millard House may be sold only to be dismantled and reassembled in Japan.

Wright designed his four textile block system homes in southern California after returning from Japan, where he had used cast brick on the Imperial Hotel (1912-1923). Although the latter was razed in 1968, its entrance lobby was preserved, reconstructed at the Meiji Mura Architecture Museum in Nagoya.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains a drawing of a full-sized detail of the Imperial Hotel's cast brick, which was once exhibited in the Max Protech Gallery in New York, and was the gift of New Orleans architect James Lamantia.

A number of New Orleans architects visited Frank Lloyd Wright structures in their youth, and brought back photographs and kodachrome slides of their destinations. Tulane School of Architecture graduate Philip H. Roach, Jr. documented La Miniatura and the Ennis House during a long architectural road trip that he took during the 1950s.

Images: Philip H. Roach, Jr., photographer. Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. Circa 1950s. Philip H. Roach, Jr. Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ex Votos

Ex Votos. St. Roch Cemetery, New Orleans. Spring 2010. K. Rylance.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Field Trip: Helsinki, Finland

The Suomen Rakennustaiteen Museo (Museum of Finnish Architecture) is Finland's national architectural archive, library and museum. Located in an 1899 neoclassical structure designed by Magnus Schjerfbeck (1860-1933), the museum hosts rotating exhibitions and serves as a contact for scheduling local architectural tours.

"Finnish Architecture 0809" (shown above) is an exhibition designed by architect Roy Mänttäri, a juried biennial survey of award-winning and innovative structures. It includes the work of Heikkinen-Komonen Architects, their Hämeenlinna Provincial Archive (2009), with its grey street facade that incorporates graphic design elements extracted from archival documents (image below); and a portable solid timber sauna (Kyly Sauna, Roseborg) by Avanti Architects Ltd. Jurors for the exhibition were Heikki Aitoaho, Selina Anttinen, and Johan Celsing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Architectural Archive for Sale

As reported by Robin Pogrebin in The New York Times 8 August 2010:

A huge and previously unknown trove of archival material from Philip Johnson’s architectural practice — including his hand-drawn sketches for towers that helped define postmodern architecture — is to be put up for sale by one of Johnson’s former partners, who has had them in storage for years.

The cache contains more than 25,000 design sketches, working drawings, renderings and photographs from the second half of Johnson’s architectural career, covering more than 120 projects from 1968 to 1992. While there are collections of his early work at the Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Museum and the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, documentation from this later period, in which he became known for his tall buildings, is much rarer. Included in the archive is material on the AT&T Building in Manhattan (now Sony’s American headquarters); the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.; PPG Place in Pittsburgh; Pennzoil Place in Houston; and smaller-scale structures that Johnson built around his celebrated Glass House of 1949 on his property in New Canaan, Conn., now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

That period was “the pinnacle of Johnson’s career” as an architect, said Willis Van Devanter, an appraiser of architectural materials hired to examine the archive by lawyers for the archive’s owner, Raj Ahuja. Mr. Van Devanter described the archive as “absolutely essential to the study of modern architecture,” given Johnson’s stature as “the major influence in world architecture of the latter 20th century.”

Still, that stature was arguably based more on his role as a leading advocate for Modernism and subsequent architectural movements — beginning with the International Style show he helped organize at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932 — than on his own design work. Aside from a few of his almost universally praised projects, Johnson has been regarded by some critics and fellow architects as dilettantish, more slave to fashion than serious practitioner.

He was criticized in particular for focusing on aesthetics at the expense of more fundamental issues of function. But Michael Robinson, an expert on 20th-century documents and another appraiser of the archive, said its drawings would do much to help counter that notion.

Mr. Robinson was especially struck, he said, by the degree to which the drawings concern themselves with the surrounding context.

“Nobody thinks of Johnson as a planner,” Mr. Robinson said. “They think of him as an antiurbanist. He really was concerned with how life interacted with these buildings. You get elaborate plans for walkways, roads, the works.”

Calling the archive “extraordinarily complete,” he added, “You literally see him thinking on paper all the way through to the final drawings necessary to actually build a building.”

The archive also offers insight into aesthetic matters, like the evolution of Johnson’s approach to shaping buildings, said Christy MacLear, who until recently was executive director of the Philip Johnson Glass House. For example, she said, the drawings demonstrated similarities in the massing of several notable but modest buildings on the Glass House property and of the vast Crystal Cathedral that Johnson worked on around the same time.

And there are also working drawings for at least 50 unbuilt projects, including London Bridge City, an office complex on the Thames; four Times Square office towers; and a house for Johnson’s companion, David Whitney. The archive “has a lot of things Johnson thought about but never got off the drawing board,” said Wilbert R. Hasbrouck, who was also consulted on the collection and was an owner of the Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago, which has gone out of business. “This archive is going to open up a whole new field of study about his work, particularly on the unbuilt buildings. It fills out a lot of gaps that we didn’t even know existed.”

Mr. Ahuja, the archive’s owner, was a former design partner of Johnson’s. An Indian-born architect, he joined the firm as a young man in 1971 and ran its Iranian office before becoming a partner with Johnson and John Burgee in 1984. During his tenure Mr. Ahuja developed a strong affinity for Johnson, who left the partnership for a consulting role in 1986 and left the practice entirely five years later.

Mr. Ahuja and Mr. Burgee clashed over Johnson’s level of involvement. “I was more for keeping Johnson in the firm as a consultant and as a designer, and Burgee was more determined to get Philip out,” Mr. Ahuja said in an interview. “I thought, without Philip Johnson, we would not be getting the assignments we were getting. He was the man.” (Speaking by telephone from California, where he has retired, Mr. Burgee said he had not forced Johnson out, adding, “He voluntarily withdrew.”)

Mr. Ahuja, now 69, said he ended up with the archival material in 1995 as part of a Chapter 11 proceeding in which Mr. Burgee sought bankruptcy protection for the firm and for himself. The bankruptcy followed an arbitration between Mr. Ahuja and Mr. Burgee in 1988, when Mr. Ahuja left the firm.

Since then, Mr. Ahuja said, he has kept the archive in a warehouse: “The court awarded me the drawings, which I have safeguarded because they are our legacy.” But having paid for its maintenance for years, he added, “it is time to transfer it to respectful hands, and I have my family’s security to think of as well.”

Mr. Ahuja said that he did not know when or how the rest of the collection would be sold. (It has received two separate appraisals, but lawyers for Mr. Ahuja, James Frankel and Andrew Ross of Arent Fox in Manhattan, declined to disclose the valuations.)

Mr. Burgee played down the importance of the archive. “It’s mostly working drawings and drafting drawings,” he said. “We purposely didn’t keep design sketches because they weren’t good enough. Philip was sensitive that he didn’t want his hand drawings shown anywhere.”

Ms. MacLear said that Johnson was known for weak drawing skills. He had a “high-concept” sketching style, she said.

But Mr. Ahuja said standard office procedure had been to roll and store all drawings, and that there had been no policy of destroying Johnson’s.

So far one significant piece of the collection has been sold, in what Mr. Ahuja’s lawyers described as a kind of market test: a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall presentation drawing of the AT&T skyscraper’s facade at 550 Madison Avenue, which the Victoria and Albert Museum of London acquired at auction for $70,000 in April.

However the rest of the archive is sold, Mr. Ahuja said, he hopes it will be bought en masse by a single institution so that it will be available to scholars and students. The architect Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, said he was sorry that even the single rendering had been sold separately. Although he has not seen the materials, he said, it was clear to him that “the worst thing would be breaking the archive up.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Treeless Plain

One of my drawing professors claimed that he could never teach perspectival drawing techniques to children of the northern Great Plains, stating that because they grew up without any spatial referents, they had no inherent sense of perspective. Tulane University School of Architecture faculty member Milton Scheuermann has developed a concise guide to perspectival drawing, titled "Perspective Drawing: A Practical Approach for Architects." For those who wish to consult his summary of one- and two-point perspective drawing, go to Tulane University's Architecture Research Guide (http://libguides.tulane.edu/architecture) and scroll down the left-hand column to download the pdf files.

The photograph above depicts my great-grandfather's ranch, the Lazy SS, which was located in Triumph Township, Ramsey County, North Dakota, c. 1930s.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Brookings Institute New Orleans Study

The Brookings Institute has published a new study focused on the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Index at Five summatively assesses the community's resilience and prosperity over the five-year period since the levee breach disaster. Tulane faculty contributed to the related essay series: Karen DeSalvo (Tulane School of Medicine); Mark Davis (Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy); and Richard Campanella (Tulane Center for Bioenvironmental Research).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Field Trip: Biloxi, Mississippi

Tulane School of Architecture faculty member Milton Scheuermann organized a driving tour of Mississippi's Gulf Coast architecture. The tour included a stop at Frank Gehry's Biloxi Ohr-O'Keefe Museum, scheduled to open 8 November 2010. This is the second grand opening scheduled for the museum: the multiple pavilions that comprise the new arts campus were assaulted by Hurricane Katrina fifteen months prior to its initial opening date. As the structures near completion today, visitors may walk along its connective brick pathway and ascend to the "Shoo-Fly" lookout tower perched amidst the branches of ancient live oaks (trussing above).

It should be mentioned that Frank Gehry participated in another Gulf Coast project over twenty-six years ago. Drawings for his Louisiana World Exposition Amphitheater reside in the Southeastern Architectural Archive's 1984 Louisiana World Exposition Collection (Number 86).

Image above: Trussing in "Shoo-Fly" Lookout Tower, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum, Biloxi, Mississippi. Frank Gehry, Architect. As photographed by K. Rylance 31 July 2010.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Architectural Photography

New Orleans architectural photographer Frank Lotz Miller (1923-1993) maintained a prolific career photographing the city's architecture, food and festivals. Although born in Shreveport, his family moved to the Crescent City when he was a child. By the late 1950s, he was a regular contributor to Architectural Forum, Architectural Record and Progressive Architecture, frequently drawing comparisons to modernist architecture photographers Julius Shulman (1910-2009) and Ezra Stoller (1915-2004).

In the mid-1960s, Frank Lotz Miller wrote essays for The Louisiana Architect magazine. He used this forum to articulate the aims and principles of architectural photography, and to establish guidelines for architects hiring photographers:

"To truly appreciate architecture one must experience it first hand; be present in the space it encompasses, walk through and around it. The ideal is not always possible, but the best substitute, and I will be the first to admit its limitations, is photography."

"The photographer should not be asked to work on speculation. This is another reason why whenever possible the architect and the photographer should visit the site together."

To read more, see: "Photography and the Architect." The Louisiana Architect (May 1965): p. 10. Louisiana Research Collection, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains Frank Lotz Miller photographs and negatives for the following architects/firms: James Lamantia, George Saunders, John Lawrence, and Curtis & Davis. To view a selection of digital reproductions, click here.

Image above: Frank Lotz Miller Advertisement. The Louisiana Architect (October 1964): p. 15.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Field Trip: Colorado Springs, Colorado

The subject of Googie architecture has been addressed on this blog a number of times, and Colorado's state highways feature many well maintained mid-century motels. Along Colorado Avenue between Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs, there is an especially high density of interesting Googie signage.

Image above: Mecca Motel, Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photograph by K. Rylance 24 July 2010.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Urban Environment: Communication Patterns

The subject of New Orleans as a conference destination has come up in a previous post. The Urban Communication Foundation will award its annual Jane Jacobs Urban Communication Book Award at the 2011 Annual Conference of the National Communication Association. The award recognizes an outstanding book that exhibits excellence in addressing issues of urban communication. It is named in honor of the late social activist and author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). The book award brings with it a $500 prize.

On 12 March 2010 the Urban Communication Foundation also announced a new prize co-sponsored with the Center for Environmental Design Research. Named after architect Michael Brill, this grant encourages innovative research projects that provide a bridge between the fields of communication and environmental design. The grant supports new research or research in progress. Read more here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

House Eater

Macfadyena unguis-cati (Cat's Claw Vine) is an invasive woody vine that can rapidly envelop a house. The plant can grow to 120' lengths, with 1/2" diameters. As the plant grows and becomes heavier, it can cause building collapse. There is a native counterpart called Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine), which may be distinguished by its reddish-orange flowers rather than the yellowish flowers of Cat's Claw Vine.

Image above: Unidentifed photographer. Unidentified House, New Orleans, c. 1980. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Modern Age: Waiting Room 1954

The New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, located at 1001 Loyola Avenue, and designed by the collaborative team of Wogan and Bernard, Jules K. de la Vergne, and August Perez & Associates, opened to public acclaim in 1954. Noted Louisiana muralist Conrad Albrizio (1894-1973), who studied fresco techniques in Rome and Fontainebleau, designed the murals to depict the history of Louisiana. Divided into four chronological panels spanning an aggregate of four hundred years, the panels represented four distinctive "ages": that of Exploration, Colonization, Struggle and Modernity. Albrizio, in a self-published pamphlet explaining the murals, defined Louisiana's Modern Age as that which followed the Civil War, when:

"secret groups oppose the dishonest political practices of the Carpetbagger Government, which not only exploited the chaotic conditions caused by the passing of 'plantation days' but also rendered helpless the impoverished landowners. A new State Constitution was adopted in 1879; the Capital is moved to Baton Rouge; the negroes, uncertain of their future, return to the fields. Paul Tulane's gift makes possible the founding of Tulane University. This leads to the center motif of the panel which represents Western Civilization contrasting the past Indian Civilization. Symbolized are three aspects of Man; the Material, the Spiritual and the Creative. The idead of resurrection, basic to the Christian doctrine, is expressed by the center figure soaring upward, transcending the material world. There follows the advancement of education wherein all races have equal opportunities, and New Orleans becomes a medical center. Emphasis is placed upon the development of the sciences: Physics, Medicine, Sociology and Anthropology. Reference is made to the importance of New Orleans as a port through the exchange of goods with other countries. The panel ends with symbols of industry and atomic power with an allusion to the conquest of outer space and the unknown"

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains forty cartoon drawings by Conrad Albrizio related to his murals for the Waterman Steamship Company Building located in Mobile, Alabama, as well as Albrizio's small brochure, Mural Paintings in the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (New Orleans: Conrad Albrizio, 1955). Additionally, the SEAA houses architectural records associated with the New Orleans firm Toledano, Wogan and Bernard.

Image above: Leon Trice, photographer. Waiting Room of the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, 1954. Toledano, Wogan and Bernard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Venice Sojourn 1927

In 1927, Shreveport architects Samuel G. Wiener (1896-1977) and William B. Wiener (1907-1981) traveled to Venice, Italy and recorded their journey in photographs and drawings. Guido Pellizarri, then Superintendent of Fine Arts of Venetia, introduced the brothers to buildings throughout the city, many located in what Samuel described as "obscure places." Drawing on the tradition of architectural pattern books, the elder Wiener designed his resultant book's baroque title page (image above) and included his delicate sketches of ornamental ironwork, stone cartouches and balusters. Affirming his modernity, he wrote in the Foreward:

"The illustrations contained in this book give some idea of what may have been the Venetians' attitude toward their building. The value of their architecture to the modern designer is not the offering of a wealth of curiously beautiful details to be copied that they may grace our modern buildings. Venetian architecture can teach us that buildings can be beautiful without being grave, and they can delight us with their delicate charm and flaunting disregard of established principles without becoming trivial."

Samuel Wiener returned to Europe in 1931, focusing his energies in Germany and the Netherlands, and visiting Walter Gropius' Dessau Bauhaus and Erich Mendelsohn's Einstein Tower.1

Image above: Samuel G. Wiener. Venetian Houses and Details. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Company, 1929. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

1 Karen Kingsley. Modernism in Louisiana: A Decade of Progress 1930-1940. New Orleans: Tulane School of Architecture, 1984.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Firon & Oil

In the late 1950s, the New Orleans-based Industrial Electric, Incorporated was the local dealer of a porcelain enamel product called Firon. Utilizing a base of 16-18 gauge vitreous enameling steel coated with acid-resistant enamel frits and oxides, Firon boasted durability, weather resistance, and easy maintenance. Its popularity was in part due to an increasing demand for color in modern buildings, and it came in a wide array of colors, with varied textures and finishes.

Curtis and Davis utilized stippled cream, blue-gray and blue semi-matte Firon for their Pan-American Motor Hotel (1957), August Perez, Jr. incorporated Blue No. 53 Firon for his Blue Plate Foods Plant (1941), and Katz & Besthoff commissioned a purple color theme for one of its drug store/soda fountains. Firon proved quite popular amongst oil companies; American, Esso, Gulf, Phillips, Shell, Standard and Texaco all used the architectural porcelain.

Images above: Industrial Electric, Inc. Brochures, Box 60, Freret & Wolf Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hurricanes, Oil & Architecture

In February 1967, Morgan City architect Lloyd J. Guillory (born 1925) addressed the coastal region's new modernist architecture that was increasingly made possible by oil wealth:

"Architecture has always been affected by various external forces beyond the control of the architect, and here in the region of the newly formed Coastal Section of the A.I.A. there are two such forces -- oil and hurricanes. They present a challenge, either singularly or together, to test the imagination and mettle of any practicing architect. Although the oil industry has had no direct influence on architecture, as far as this writer can determine, the affluence which accompanied this remarkable industry has indeed affected our profession in this area. It has enabled us to design and erect structures which never could have been built without such wealth, as is evidenced by the Morgan City Auditorium, the largest in the country for a community of its size.

The building boom which accompanied the oil industry has also produced an unbelievable number of bad buildings, as usually occurs in any booming area. Here 'pre-fab steel' is by far the largest culprit. The lack of adequate zoning restrictions and inadequate master planning is also profusely in evidence. But, these factors make the role of the architect more necessary and definitely more challenging.

The other major force, hurricanes, had a rather negligible influence on architecture prior to hurricanes Hilda and Besty. But, after these two 150 mile per hour monsters slammed into the coast in a period of eleven months, the results dictated the future of this area in a dramatic way. The fear which accompanied these great natural disasters caused a mass exodus unequalled in modern history. We found, to our dismay, that the dangers and discomfort of these evacuations were almost as bad as staying behind to face the winds. The inadequacies of the highway system to evacuate such a large mass and the uncertainties of lodging accommodations in other cities presented great discomforts and dangers themselves. It became dramatically apparent during Betsy that with only one highway running east and west, as it does in Morgan City, there is no right way to run and be assured you are going away from the storm. If you wait long enough to make sure, you have waited too long. I mention this only to emphasize that here the architect enters into a strange and unusual role as the man responsible for the answer to this monumental problem. "

To read more, see his article "The New Architecture of Coastal Louisiana" in Louisiana Architect 6 (February 1967): pp. 9-11. The journal is available in the Louisiana Research Collection, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rice & Tulane: Sociable Dalliance

In the autumn of 1912, William Woodward (1859-1939) -- Tulane University Professor & founder of its Architecture School -- was delegated to attend the opening of the Rice Institute. With an estimated endowment of $10 million, the fledgling institution had contracted with Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson to design the campus plan and its buildings.

When Woodward returned to New Orleans, he reported on the buildings and their architect:

"The buildings of the Rice Institute of Houston Texas are genuine marks of Architectural Art, as I found on my recent visit there to participate in the formal opening as representative of the American Federation of Arts of Washington, D.C.

Three buildings of the large number provided for on the spacious campus are completed, or nearly so, and are widely separated -- The Administration building, the Power plant with mechanical laboratories and one group for men's residence composed of dormitories and commons.

As to what style no attempt at description would be adequate without many illustrations of details, but it can be said that one feels at once that the whole has been studied and erected under the eye of an architect who could realize his conceptions in sound construction.

I had the good fortune to be taken to the Institute by Mr. Cram of the firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, the architects, and his resident assistant Mr. Watkin, and thus can say first hand that Mr. Cram has aimed to construct in the best materials for each purpose and he is best pleased, perhaps, in the placing of the bricks, which are of a mellow color, brightened by inlays of marble and glazed tiles of varying and unique shapes. The cement courses are often wide enough to give the idea of banded work.

Mr. Cram was pleased when I jestingly spoke of the 'elocution' of the facade of the men's residence before which we stood. The sociable dalliance of the banded columns of the arcade on the ground, the serene wall rising above, accented with convenient balconies and crowned with sheltering eaves appeals at once. As might be expected the hardware and fixtures are all unique and pleasingly hand wrought in many cases. To a professor, one of the points of interest is the seating of the faculty chamber which has benches facing each other across the central aisle, as in a choir. Mr. Cram's sensitive eye was disturbed by the flare of crudely colored 'near' banners, which overwhelmed his color scheme in this chamber, and which had evidently been put up before his arrival. The only address or paper on Art was Mr. Cram's paper read one night at 2:30 A.M. when his audience had been reduced to almost a state of stupor by the events of the day and night."

William Woodward. [untitled article]. Architectural Art and Its Allies 8:3 (September 1912), p. 8 . The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Emphasis my own.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Birdfoot: Southwest Pass

In 1970, New Orleans architect Edward B. Silverstein (1909-1989) was commissioned to design a new pilot's station on the Mississippi River's Southwest Pass. The river pilots lodged here in order to board ships and assist them in navigating the channel that serves as the main shipping path from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi River. Punctuated by jetties, the Southwest Pass is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which monitors channel conditions and dredging requirements. Silverstein's Southwest Pass Pilot's Station, completed in 1973 and shown in the photograph above, is no longer extant, replaced by a new structure that more closely resembles an oil rig.

Read more about Louisiana's Birdfoot at the Center for Land Use Interpretation here.

Image: Unidentified photographer. Edward B. Silverstein, architect. Aerial View of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River, c. 1973. Edward B. Silverstein Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rising Waters

20 June 2010. An unidentified photographer recently took these images of the Devils Lake, North Dakota area. During the 1930s & 1940s (when my grandmother was a child), Devils Lake was a barren salt flat. Since 1993, the water level has risen some 25 feet, more than doubling the lake's parameters, as can discerned from a succession of Landsat images. Geologists have projected that this pattern will continue for a century, and federal, state, and local leaders are attempting to develop a series of solutions for the affected communities (1). The smoke one sees in the center image is a property being burnt by its owners; the submerged trees reflect placement of other rural properties prior to inundation. The Spirit Lake Casino, owned by the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux bands and shown in the bottom photograph, once boasted a shoreline location; now it has become an island.

(1)F. Larry Leistritz et al. "Regional Impacts of Water Management Alternatives: The Case of Devils Lake, North Dakota, USA." The Journal of Environmental Management 66 (2002): 465-473.

Images: Top: Old U.S. Highway 281; Center: Eagle Bend; Bottom: Spirit Lake Casino.

Friday, June 18, 2010


New Orleans City Planning Commission
Master Plan Public Hearing

Tuesday, 22 June 2010 - City Council Chambers

On June 22, 2010, the New Orleans City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider the City Council's recommended revisions to the Master Plan (Motion M-10-186). The public hearing will take place in the City Council Chambers, 1300 Perdido Street, 15 minutes following the City Planning Commission's regular public meeting, which begins at 1:30pm.

Requests for further information on the agenda should be directed to the City Planning Commission Office at 504-658-7033.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paper Engineering

The Smithsonian Libraries have launched a new exhibition featuring the art of paper engineering, exemplified in books with moving parts, including peep shows, volvelles, concertinas and pop-up books. Since the fifteenth century, books with moving parts have been used as pedagogical and documentary tools. At the Smithsonian, viewers may examine the structural components of over 50 pop-up and movable books that demonstrate the diverse methods designers and paper engineers use to transform two-dimensional imagery into multi-dimensional forms.

This exhibition also features two interactive videos, a series of lectures by paper engineers and collectors and an online blog:http://smithsonianlibraries.si.edu/foldpullpopturn/

Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa Manso (b. 1967) designs panoramic pop-up books of cities, reconceiving modern architecture to address contemporary politics and ideologies. His work was featured in the 2007 University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum exhibition Homing Devices and can be viewed online via: http://www.usfcam.usf.edu/media.html#Homing. On 23 August 2010, USF CAM will open a new Garaicoa exhibition, Carlos Garaicoa: La enmienda que hay en mí (Making Amends). Watch for updates on USF CAM's home page.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Modernizing New Orleans Schools 1951

Orleans Parish School Board Office of Planning and Construction. "Modernizing Another School for New Orleans' Children: Your Investment in the Future," Construction signage blueline, February 1952. Edward Silverstein Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Phrenology: Step In

Urbanologist Max Grinnell tipped me off to a fantastic new photography exhibition at Atlanta's High Museum. The U.S. Rural Electrification Administration and the U.S. Housing Authority commissioned Danish-born photographer Peter Sekaer (1901-1950) to document rural locales and workers during the Great Depression. 87 of his silver-gelatin prints, including the one reproduced above, are on display in the High's "Signs of Life: The Photographs of Peter Sekaer" through 9 January 2011.

The New Orleans phrenologist's sign boasts that she "reads your head like an open book" and "speks servel langues."

Image above: Peter Sekaer, Phrenologist's Office Window, New Orleans, 1936. © Peter Sekaer Estate

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Restoration Leads to Conservation

The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NDCC) recently reported on its conservation of a cache of vintage circus posters that had been wheat-pasted to a Colchester, Vermont residence. Over time, previous homeowners had covered the posters with new siding, thus sandwiching the 1883 circus advertisements. When the current homeowners began a restoration in 1991, they discovered the posters and gave them to the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. NDCC specialists recommended removing the boards from the house with the posters attached and the Shelburne Museum stored the boards until funding was available for the extensive conservation treatment. To read more about the project/watch slideshow, click here.

Image above: Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont, 2010.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Outrage Revisited

In 1955, British architecture critic Ian Nairn (1930-1983; BBC photograph above) voiced his disdain for what he called subtopia, the increasing homogenization of landscape and townscape, a quest for the ideal suburbia. He proclaimed his "Outrage" as a special issue of Architectural Review. Disparaging the "death by slow decay" of post-War planning, Nairn was a modernist who admired distinctive places that were redolent with spirit.

The Guardian
's current architecture critic Jonathan Glancey has been creating a series of films (begun 19 May 2010) that follow Nairn's footsteps across the British countryside. Watch the installments here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fourscore and Three Years Ago. . .

New Orleans architect Allison Owen (1869-1951) wrote for The Southern Architect and Building News:

New Orleans A City of Architectural Inspiration
Note: spelling from original article maintained...

There has been a great deal written on the subject that is delightfully done, much painstaking research work accomplished, but there has also been a good deal of carelessness. Inaccuracies have here and there crept in and have been quoted from one to another until it is now hard to run the facts to earth particularly as they have been glossed over with the charm of romance until many of us feel that we prefer the traditional tale to the cold reality.

We are told that the event of laying off the infant capital of the province of Louisiana La Nouvelle Orleans occurred shortly after the ninth day of February, 1718. Bienville who received his commission on that day proceeded from Biloxi, the former capital, with fifty men to make a clearing on the banks of the Mississippi, for his prospective city, also to make arrangements for carrying on his colonial government. "New Orleans was designed in imitation of Rochefort, a fortified port near the mouth of the river Charente on the western coast of France, historical as the embarking point of Napoleon on his exile in 1815."

The earliest houses were built of hewn cypress timber, one story high with possibly palmetto thatch or split cypress slate roofs. There are a few of these cottages still to be seen outside of the swath of the great fire which swept diagonally across the town in 1788, so we can now know that nothing we find in the area from Chartres and Conti and a line from the Cathedral to Dauphine and St. Philip can be older than 1788 or 1794, due to a second fire six years later.

The one story houses that were built after the fire are described by Latrobe as follows: "These one story houses are very simple in their plan. The two front rooms open into the street with glass French doors. Those on one side are the dining room and drawing room, the others the chambers. The offices, kitchens, etc., are in the back of the buildings. The roofs are high, covered with tiles or shingles and project five feet over the footway, which is also five feet wide."

Speaking of what we call the plantation houses, we have that delightful group at the head of navigation on Bayou St. John, the Lake Port before construction of the Carondelet Canal or the Pontchartrain Rail, road, the Blanc House, the so called Spanish Custom House, and the others, old St. Simeon's School, Thomas Saulet's plantation House of 1763, the Delord Sarpy House. All with no European original that I have been able to discover. A type which I suspect developed in many of the island colonies of the gulf and the Caribbean. They breath the generous days of comfort and open handed hospitality, which must have been indeed a golden age. Lieutenant F. Wilkinson was fortunate indeed in selecting this style when he planned that splendid group at Jackson Barracks in 1833 to 1845. One of the queer characteristics of all these houses was the external stair and no internal stair.

In 1769 the colony passed under Spanish rule and from that period we find Spanish influence in the work that followed particularly in the wrought iron work of the lovely balconies. I have been unable in France to find anything so good as some that we have here. The nearest prototype that I have thus far discovered is at Palma on the Island of Majorka.

It is quite different from the spindle type of Seville and the usual conception that we have of Spanish iron.

There is this to be said of the Spanish influence: That while during the period of the Spanish domination, as it is called, the large number of officials, soldiers, clergy, etc., were Spanish, the population as a whole remained French. There was some intermarrying but it was not general and when Spain relinquished control in 1803, some remained and gave us a few great names that have survived. But the language and customs of the French did not yield. While we have the gifts of Almonaster, the old Cathedral, the Principal, which we now call the Cabildo, and the Presbytere with their heavy arches and terraced roofs are strongly Spanish, we have no Plateresco, or Chirugurisque, or what we know as the Mission style of Mexico, Texas and California. True we have our old French Market, and the old Parish Prison, now gone, with its hall for imprisoned debtors, the arches of both suggestive of the cloisters of the padres of the West, but they were done by Joseph Pilie in 1822. The chapel of the Ursulines below the city was the nearest approach we had. Arches and balconies and patios of course are Spanish, but they are also Southern French and here we have a merging of the feeling of the architecture of both in our houses along Chartres, Royal, and Bourbon, St. Louis, Toulouse, Orleans and Dumaine Streets, all quite devoid of ornament except for the iron work. In fact, I know of no architecture which depends so completely for its effect on its mass and proportion and so little upon ornament for its charm.

From 1810 on, New Orleans was favored with the services of trained architects and there still exists many lovely examples done by the talented architect Henry S. Latrobe.

Owen, Allison. "New Orleans a City of Architectural Inspiration." The Southern Architect and Building News Vol. 53 No. 6 (June 1927), pp. 31-34. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Architect Cites Automotive Grip

As written by Glenn Fowler for The New York Times 24 June 1959, p. 48:

New Orleans, June 23 -- Automobile makers and the motor oil producers were challenged today to help the nation's cities fight their way out of an automotive stranglehold.

Edward D. Stone, a New York architect whose designs in recent years have earned him a world reputation, depicted the plight of major urban centers in the United States as the result of failure to realize that "the automobile and the pedestrian cannot be mixed."

"Since the horseless carriage is largely responsible for our troubles, and we are a country that eulogizes free enterprise," he said, "why hasn't it occurred to the great oil and automotive industries to try to resolve some of the problems they have created? Why can't they be shamed into financing studies on the planning of our towns and cities?"

Mr. Stone made his plea at the convention of the American Institute of Architects at the Roosevelt Hotel.

The designer of the United States pavilion at last year's Brussels World Fair and of many other well known buildings in this country and abroad also came out strongly for establishment of a Cabinet post in the Federal Government to deal with urban problems.

In his endorsement of his proposal, which has been made by several groups of planners, city officials and private citizens in the last few years, Mr. Stone stressed what he referred to as the imbalance in our present governmental arrangement between rural and urban interests.

"We need a Cabinet official corresponding to the Secretary of Agriculture," he said, "with outposts in every state, and with architects and planners whose task it would be to guide communities, just as the Agriculture Department's state and county agents have educated the farmer."

Mr. Stone urged architects to take the lead in promoting greater official use of planning tools. He chided them for wasting energy on intramural matters while they might better, in his view, be doing missionary work among the public at large and the country's officialdom.

If architects followed the course, he said, "we would not be wasting our effort on creating precious prototypes for our own personal satisfaction, in the midst of chaos, but rather adding individual and brilliant buildings in a well-ordered plan for our country as a whole."

He said architects themselves were to blame for what he termed a loss of status of their profession.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Documenting the Gulf Coast

As reported by John Leland for The New York Times 2 June 2010:

MOBILE, Ala. — The beaches were still open; the restaurants were still serving shrimp. Fishermen were still casting for whiting off the white sandy shores. And ads on television still proclaimed the region open for business.

But as the oil slick made its way inexorably here toward the barrier islands at the mouth of Mobile Bay, with forecasts for a swath from Mississippi to the beaches of Pensacola, Fla., sometime this week, the mood was of the last days.

“You guys are our first line of defense,” Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper , a preservation group, told about 50 volunteers gathered in a room filled to capacity. “Your job is to document what we have here that’s beautiful. BP will have to make it right.”

They had come to train as volunteer field observers, taking photographs and notes on the conditions of the shoreline before the oil arrived. Now, suddenly there was an urgency to their preparations. Over the weekend, isolated tar balls had washed ashore on nearby Dauphin Island, interrupting a busy beach holiday. “It’s starting,” Ms. Callaway said. “The first groups today took beautiful pictures of the western shore of Mobile Bay. But there are fish kills everywhere. One of our friends was on Dauphin Island when the tar ball washed up. Her 12-year-old daughter just started crying.”

Until a few days ago, some people here had hoped, perhaps unrealistically, that the winds and currents would move the oil away from Alabama’s coastal islands, where fishing and tourism dominate the local economy.

“I had townspeople calling me and saying it’s not coming here,” said Grace Tyson, who runs Tyson Realty on Dauphin Island, shaking her head. “It’s like with the hurricanes. They’re predicted but then they don’t arrive. People said, ‘Take my condo off the market.’ ”

Business is down by more than 75 percent, she said. And with the latest forecast, she added, “I’d say closer to one hundred.”

The area had gotten a few tar balls in early May but no steady flow. Beaches filled for the Memorial Day weekend.

On the coastal island of Gulf Shores, some residents who had seen tar balls near their property said that their neighbors had told them not to talk about it. Ms. Callaway said that after she had appeared on television to talk about the tar balls on Dauphin Island, she, too, had received angry responses from locals. “I had people telling me, thanks a lot, you killed our tourist season.”

Then, on the eve of the opening of red snapper season, a major event here, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expanded the boundaries of federal waters closed to fishing and the state department of public health closed the oyster beds.

“We have teams in place to clean up all that’s coming in,” said Jeff Collier, the mayor of Dauphin Island. “But this is foreign to us. I worry about our ability to keep on keeping on. I like to think that we will get less than New Orleans, but who knows? It could get that bad.”

Fishermen and businesses have already put in claims with BP and the state for lost revenue, though the big losses are still to come, said Jeanine Stewart, an owner of Burris’ Farmers Market in Loxley, where sales “bottomed out” almost immediately after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, but had crept back up since.

“The big thing businesses want to talk about is government supplements or BP claims,” Ms. Stewart said. “They’ve advised all of us to file claims.”

At the market, the television is turned to news, and Ms. Stewart calls people in to watch whenever there is an update on the spill. “It’s that much on our minds,” she said. “We’re still lying in wait. We still have that hope.”

But for Betty Edwards, that hope was dwindling. Mrs. Edwards and her husband have owned homes on Dauphin Island since 1978, and returned even after two were destroyed by Hurricane Frederick and Hurricane Katrina. She said she was still eating local seafood five days a week. “Everyone’s really scared,” she said.

“My mother is sick and I should be with her,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m going to stay here until it’s all closed.’ It could a couple days. But it’s when, not if.”

At the training session for volunteer field observers, Jon DeJean said she felt helpless, in part because she felt BP and government agencies were not telling the whole truth about the spill. “I was angry from the start,” Ms. DeJean said, “but the frustration is growing. For weeks I’ve been feeling powerless and helpless. I feel coming here is at least a step in the right direction. It gives me the feeling of doing something.”

But Tim Helland, a kayak fisherman, acknowledged that there was not much the observers — or anyone — could do.

“We’re going to patrol the beaches, and we’ll know exactly when it comes,” he said. “But it’s still coming. I’m 62. I may not be fishing where I fish ever again.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beautifying New Orleans

Article by General Allison Owen (1869-1951), as it appeared in the Official 1935 Flower Show Book:

"In 1903, an attempt was made to co-ordinate the care of Parks and Boulevards of New Orleans, through the formation of a federation of Parks and Avenue Commissions, which was known as the Central Commission of Parks and Avenues. This was followed in 1909, by a call to form a Tree Society and out of these grew the Parking Commission ordinance and the setting up by Mayor Martin Behrman of the first Board composed of Dr. Joseph Holt, President; Allison Owen, Vice-President and Secretary; J.C. Matthews, Treasurer; and Wil. H. Douglas, and Gus Oertling, Members.

The question of procuring a nursery site was brought up and a tact of land was secured on December 6, 1909, on Broad Street, bounded by White, Melpomene and Clio Streets, a total of eight acres. A professional superintendent and several laborers were employed in clearing all undergrowth and trees and by February 14, 1910, the ground were ready for planting.

In March 1912, the newly organized Parking Commission's first planting was begun. One hundred and seventy elm trees being planted on Orleans Street. From 1912 to 1918 the Parking Commission had under its jurisdiction a number of parks and avenues and thousands of trees. The work of this Commission grew so rapidly and the everlasting demands for trees by the public, was so insistent that it necessitated a larger nursery site than the present one.

On November 12, 1919, a 68 acre tract of land was purchased for $40,000.00, located on Gentilly Road near St. Anthony Street, which is the present nursery site of the Parkway Commission.

During the past four years a total of 19,997 trees of unusual types and beauty were planted on the streets and parks, which brings the total in all to 90,000 trees planted since its organization, not counting the thousands of ornamental and decorative plants and shrubs that were planted.

Palm gardens were planted on South Claiborne Avenue, also on Jefferson Davis Parkway, which were admired and praised by hundreds of New Orleans plant lovers and this planting also makes our City look tropical in every respect.

Melpomene Street, from Dryades to South Claiborne Avenue has been planted with large Magnolia trees, which in itself forms a beautiful scene.

On West End Boulevard, from Florida Avenue to Robert E. Lee Boulevard, a stretch of two miles, has been planted to Crepe Myrtles much to the delight of the residents of that section, also, the lawn is well kept throughout the year.

The planting of Weeping Willow trees with Oleanders alternating has been accomplished on the banks of the New Basin Canal, from the Black Bridge to West End.

South Claiborne Avenue, from Canal to the New Basin Canal, has been planted to a double Avenue of Magnolia trees, to be known as the only planting of its kind in the country.

Large oak trees that were dug up in St. Bernard Parish are planted on Canal Boulevard, from Florida Avenue to Robert E. Lee Boulevard, also Nashville Avenue has been planted with these large oak trees, from Loyola to South Claiborne Avenue, alternating with Parkinsonia trees.

In addition to the replanting of shrubbery at West End Park, there is also the beautiful rose garden with its 5,700 rose bushes in different varieties and its artistically arranged rose arbors. This garden is visited by a great majority of tourists that enter New Orleans. The Center Avenue of the park has been planted to large Magnolia trees. An Azalea garden has been started in the park, which is the admiration of many, and which will be enlarged from time to time until it becomes one of the most attractive features of our parks. Two large lily ponds were built near the entrance of the park, with fountains throwing their spray upon different varieties of water lilies. In the summer the electric fountain is in operation, three times a week, and is a great source of pleasure to those that frequent this park, especially the visitors.

Lafayette Square and Elks Place, which parks are located in the commercial section of the City, are being planted with thousands of azalea bushes of different types."

Greater New Orleans Spring Flower Show. New Orleans: New Orleans Horticultural Society, Inc., 1935, p. 9. From the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Plough's New Orleans Necropolis Plan

In the summer of 1837, New Orleans surgeon and dentist A.L. Plough developed a necropolis plan, which he placed on display in his Canal Street office. He hoped that the city's recent cholera epidemic would prompt the citizenry to adopt his new "sepulture" system:

"I call upon every individual, from the Executive of the State to the most humble citizen -- for this concerns every one, the poor as well as the rich -- and in fact all who possess the slightest glow of humanity, every citizen who has the pride and spirit of a man, and who regards the future prosperity of our beloved and growing city, its moral and physical condition, its reputation at home or abroad, should lend its countenance or support to the accomplishment of an object so desirable. I therefore sincerely hope that this call will not be in vain."

Although Plough had the support of New Orleans' leading architects (advertisement above), his plan failed to garner the support of the city's leading newspaper, The Picayune. An unidentified editorialist dismissed the surgeon's plan as altogether "too grand and expensive."

Image above from The Picayune (22 September 1837), p. 1.