Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chartres Street Ghost 1915

As reported by The Washington Post 12 March 1915:

"Legends like the fragrance of lavender hang about the old buildings in Chartres street, eight blocks below Canal. Tenement houses now, in the old days they were the abodes of cavaliers and fair ladies.

Even now when the lights are out and the neighborhood is dark swords and silks swirl in ghostly sarabands as the dwellers of other days come back and take possession for the night of their former abode. At least that is one of the legends, and the imaginative of the neighborhood will vouch for its authenticity.

Miss Lucille Lacoste ever since she was a little girl has lived in one of these 'haunted' tenements. She and her mother have a dingy little room and oftentimes the girl would wake her mother and bid her listen to the gallants and their ladies as they danced the olden dances on the vacant floors below.

Lately she had become imbued with the idea that one of the cavaliers nightly sought her for a partner in a minuet. . . "

To read more, consult the database ProQuest Historical Newspapers, available from Tulane University (and other) libraries.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Publication: A Pattern Book of New Orleans Architecture

Noted artist and architectural historian Roulhac Toledano has just published A Pattern Book of New Orleans Architecture. She will be reading excerpts from the text and answering questions this coming Thursday evening, February 25th at Garden District Books (2727 Prytania Street, 5:30 pm).

From the publisher's announcement:

A stunning presentation of nineteenth-century color gouache and watercolor archival drawings and paintings of New Orleans neighborhoods from the New Orleans Notarial Archives, this volume pays tribute to the tremendous architectural richness of the Crescent City in its presentation of what old, renovated, restored, and new buildings not only might look like, but how they should look. An educational tool, home-builder’s resource, architectural pattern book, city planner’s handbook, and visual treasure, this beautiful volume invites its readers to walk down the avenues of New Orleans past to examine the footprints of the city’s original edifices in preparation for rebuilding and restoring the city to its authentic self. Photographs of examples of house types, historic plans for each house, and contemporary adaptive use floor plans to fit the original blueprints developed by architects are among the highlights of this volume.

Organized by type of house, this handsome book also includes separate sections covering the history of the archival drawings, neighborhood plans, and information about the surveyors and engineers who designed the city. The types of New Orleans residences included range from the French colonial plantation home to the Creole cottage, the American townhouse, and a variety of shotgun styles. In a conversational yet erudite tone, award-winning author and architectural historian Roulhac B. Toledano examines the characteristic elements of each architectural style and discusses the authentic materials and techniques used for original construction. [As posted at]

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wright in the Bayou?

As the Southeastern Architectural Archive begins its advance planning for a new exhibition, The Wright Stuff: Frank Lloyd Wright's Influence in New Orleans, we came across Saunders Architecture's Guggenheim fantasia (image above). Since the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, on February 12th it launched its own self-focused exhibition, Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum. You can read Roberta Smith's NY Times review here.

Image above: Saunders Architecture (Bergen, Norway), FLW in His Element, digital print (2009) as it appears in the NY Times 18 February 2010 and in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's online exhibition. BTW, I've mentioned Wright's preference for Louisiana cypress in an earlier post. And for redwoods too?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Degrees of Endangerment

TOP: The former Whitney National Bank Building (1964-66), designed by the New Orleans firm Parham & Labouisse (1962-71), is slated for demolition. Portions of the exterior have been removed in the last week, as current owner Family Dollar plans to build a new store on the $1.32 million site.

BOTTOM: The Phillis Wheatley Elementary School (1954) designed by Charles Colbert (1921-2007) after his stint as Supervising Architect and Director of the Office of Planning and Construction for the Orleans Parish School Board. Recently nominated for the World Monuments Fund Watch List, the structure is threatened by neglect and the Recovery School District's plans to build a new school on the site.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fabulous Ruins

Howard-Tilton Memorial Library's Cataloger Bruce Smith recently directed me to this fantastic website, devoted to documenting the Architectural Ruins of Detroit, Michigan. Above, an old theater-cum-parking garage.

Image above: Sean Hemmerle, photographer. Michigan Theatre, Detroit, MI. Built 1926. Converted to parking garage, 1976. As seen in "The Remains of Detroit" Time On-Line. URL:,29307,1864272_1810106,00.html

Preservation of Architectural Drawings

The Fabrica
The New York Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers presents:

The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings
An afternoon lecture with Lois Olcott Price
March 16th, 2010, 1-5 pm
Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, Columbia University

Co-Sponsored by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University

Because architectural drawings are not created as an end in themselves, but as graphic documents to construct a building, sell a project or explore a design concept, the materials and techniques chosen by the drafter are particular to the function of the drawing as well as the period in which it was created. The interpretation and preservation of architectural drawings depends upon an understanding of their functions in architectural practice and on a working knowledge of drafting materials and techniques. This lecture will include tracing the use of supports, media and photo-reproductive processes used to create architectural drawings in the 18th to 20th centuries, accompanied by examples. The emphasis will be on identification and understanding of materials and processes, and participants will have the opportunity to examine samples and ask questions. Building from this understanding of materials and using the available examples, we will also discuss housing and treatment options for these collections.

Lois Olcott Price is Director of Conservation at the Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library near Wilmington, DE and assistant Winterthur Professor of Art Conservation in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. In 1994, she was senior conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, PA. As increasing numbers of architectural drawings arrived at CCAHA for treatment, unanswered questions about the materials and techniques used to fabricate them piqued her interest and resulted in research that has now spanned almost two decades. Lois has published, lectured and consulted widely about architectural drawings. She has received several grants to support her research resulting in a monograph, “Line Shade and Shadow, The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings,” to be published by Oak Knoll in the spring of 2010.

To register for the lecture or for more information, please contact Clare Manias at The fee for the lecture is $20 for Guild of Book Workers members, $30 for non-members. Special admission for Columbia students, faculty and staff with ID.

Wood Auditorium is located on the lower level of Avery Hall at Columbia University. Columbia University is located at 116th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. For directions to Avery Hall, please see

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mardi Gras Architect Charles Briton (1841-1884)

On 3 July 1884, The New York Times and The Daily Picayune both reported the death of a noted New Orleans architect, artist and civil engineer:

"The remains of Charles Briton, the artist, were laid away in Greenwood Cemetery on Wednesday morning. The deceased was forty-three years of age, a native of Gothenberg Sweden, and a resident of this city for twenty years. No person of his kindred was nigh, but neither in life nor death was he neglected."

* * *

"There was a strange history connected with Briton's life, and as he was very reticent few fathomed his secret. Among his effects was a uniform which he wore in Mexico as one of Prince Salm-Salm's regiment, under the ill-fated Maximilian. After the death of his chief he came to New York and then to New Orleans. His genius was immediately recognized. Ever since the various mystic organizations have been in existence Mr. Briton has drawn the designs from which the wagons were decorated and the designs ordered. Not alone to New Orleans was his work confined, but Cincinnati, Baltimore and other cities owe the success of their Carnival representations to Briton. . . By his death a master pencil is lost."

The Daily Picayune 03.07.1884. Via America's Historical Newspapers, an electronic database available through Tulane University Libraries. Henri Schindler has surveyed Briton's pageant designs as the first chapter in his Mardi Gras Treasures: Costume Designs of the Golden Age. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2002 and his Mardi Gras Treasures: Float Designs of the Golden Age. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reconciling the Old & New Orleans

As reported by Harry V. Forgeron for the New York Times 18 February 1968:

"When the tourists come marching in for Mardi Gras this month, they will see a city that has jazzed up its 250th anniversary year with gleaming new buildings and meticulous restorations of its old French Quarter.

The melding of new and old would seem incongruous, but each type of architecture has its place and need in an expanding port city on the Mississippi that is rich in historical background.

In the downtown area, the sweeping, airy lines of the $13.5 million Rivergate exhibition facility nearing completion bear the unmistakable stamp of Curtis & Davis, architects who are spokesmen for modernity in the Crescent City.

But not far away at 1132 Rue Royal in the Vieux Carre (old square), is the home of Richard W. Freeman, Jr., secretary of the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Its wrought-iron "lace," tall black columns and classic white door frame speak just as eloquently for the restoration work of Koch & Wilson.

The 33-story International Trade Mart, designed by Edward Durell Stone, stands at the foot of Canal Street. Its president, Lloyd J. Cobb, a lawyer and breeder of Angus cattle and race horses, will happily admit that the building is 99 per cent occupied."

To read more of this article, consult the New York Times (1851-2005), the electronic database available through Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Orleans Architect, Dorothy Hebert

Dorothy Hebert (later Mrs. George W. Pigman) was the inaugural Tulane architectural engineering graduate (1917). As the first woman to be enrolled in drafting courses, she spent her initial year relegated to a drafting table sequestered at the back of the classroom.

Hebert's mother was the granddaughter of John Andrews, who owned Belle Grove Plantation, which the family sold after the Civil War (1868). The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains historic photographs of the structure in a number of its collections: the Boatner Collection, the Hertzberg Collection, and the Walter Cook Keenan Collection.

Image above: "Dorothy Hebert" Yearbook 1917. New Orleans: 1917. Courtesy Tulane University Archives, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Geography & Building Types

In 1908, Tulane University School of Technology Professor William Woodward (1859-1939) articulated his fervent belief that New Orleans was especially suited to provide the ideal environment for a School of Architecture:

"The geographical location of the city of New Orleans, its cosmopolitan character, and the age and variety of its types of buildings, make it a fitting place in which to develop a school of architecture which shall be suited to its environment, and shall maintain a reasonableness of planning and construction as appropriate to climatic conditions."

The university offered its first architecture courses as early as 1894, but it was not until 1907 that Woodward's dream of a Department of Architecture was realized. Five years later, Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis, Sr. (1881-1953) was hired as the first full-time architecture faculty. By 1916, he was also serving as the department's librarian.

Tulane University Bulletins and other institutional publications are available through the Tulane University Archives, 202 Jones Hall.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Place over Action

Film stills with EUR Tower from Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse (1962).

This weekend I watched Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse, which is largely set in Rome's EUR District, named for the thwarted Exposicione Universale di Roma. The mushroom-shaped water tower shown above still stands, but now that it has been crowned with advertising signage, it doesn't seem quite so menacing. Film credits include a nod to EUR/Rome Master Plan Architect Marcello Piacentini.

If you are interested to read related articles in JSTOR, one of Tulane University Library's electronic databases:

Paul Baxa, "Piacentini's Window: the Modernism of the Fascist Master Plan of Rome." Contemporary European History 13:1 (February 2004): 1-20.

Clara Orban, "Antonioni's Women, Lost in the City." Modern Language Studies 31:2 (Autumn 2001): 11-27.

Gilberto Perez, "The Point of View of a Stranger: An Essay on Antonioni's Eclipse." The Hudson Review 44:2 (Summer 1991): 234-262.