Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Exhibit Highlights Wright's Influence

Tulane University’s Southeastern Architectural Archive has announced a new exhibit:

Following Wright
Co-curated by Keli Rylance and Kevin Williams
17 January  -- 7 December 2012

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s earliest appearances in American and German architectural publications to his mid-century speaking engagement at the New Orleans International House,  this exhibit traces his influence on architects working in southeastern Louisiana.

Wright’s relationship with the state was dualistic: he disparaged its “decadent” architectural traditions and regaled its native red cypress. While there are no definitive Wright buildings in Louisiana, his impact was nonetheless significant.   Younger generations of New Orleans architects passionately adopted his design principles.  Some absorbed Wright-ian elements from popular magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal and The House Beautiful; others studied Wright directly, by entering the Taliesin Fellowship and traveling coast to coast documenting his buildings. 

This exhibit acknowledges Frank Lloyd Wright’s regional impact using the rich holdings of the Southeastern Architectural Archive, and includes architectural drawings by local architects Edward Sporl, Albert C. Ledner, Philip Roach, Jr., and Leonard Reese Spangenberg.

Image above:  Leonard Reese Spangenberg and Albert C. Ledner at Florida Southern University.  Lakeland, FL. Undated color transparency.  Albert C. Ledner Collection, Southastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lazy Susan Tanning Beds

Portable, revolving tanning beds constructed of sugar cane bagasse? Indeed, there were such things . . . invented by a snowbird newspaperman who became a sun-cure proponent.

"Sun-bathing de luxe in the privacy of your own little solarium is the latest fad among the winter residents of St. Petersburg, Florida, the winter resort famous the world over for its sunshine.

Obtaining a coat of tan on the beaches is no longer sufficient for those who believe in the health-giving qualities of the sun's rays.  It remained for A.D. Brewer, former Indiana and Vermont newspaperman, to devise a method of taking an 'all-over' sun bath, hardly possible even in the skimpiest of modern bathing suits.

Mr. Brewer, having been cured of a serious ailment through the application of ultra-violet sun rays, some years ago became a sun-bath enthusiast and perfected the solaria now being used in St. Petersburg.

The tiny individual houses which compose the solaria are constructed entirely of Celotex -- excepting the floors -- with adjustable roofs and windows of Celloglass, a glass which admits ultra-violet rays that do not penetrate ordinary window glass.

Mounted on a sort of pivotal arrangement, the little houses revolve with a slight pressure of the hand on a corner, thus assuring the occupant the full rays of the sun at all times.

All openings are screened to exclude annoying insects, and small windows, placed low down on the sides, admit cross-currents of air. The inside of the houses are painted white with the finishing strips in green.  A spotless white cot and stool, a mirror and a rug are the furnishings.

The units are portable and are shipped to all parts of the United States."

As reported in "Sun Bath Houses of Celotex New Fad in Florida."  The Celotex News 3:10 (April 1930):  pp. 1, 4.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Surveyors' Records

While primarily known for its architectural holdings, the Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA), a private research archive located at Tulane University, houses cartographic materials associated with four generations of surveyors/engineers that document over 150 years of mapping endeavors.  The records chronicle the region’s division into long lots, the creation and expansion of canals and sewerage systems, and the development of faubourgs and later subdivisions.  The collection includes survey sketches, field notebooks, chain of title research, historic maps, auction announcements and correspondence.

In 1972, surveyor Guy Seghers, Sr. sold his tracings to Lawyers Title Company.  In 1978 – two years before the SEAA was established --  his son Guy Seghers, Jr. – known as “Buddy” -- attempted to sell the family’s remaining records to the Louisiana Land Surveyors’ Association (LLSA).  The  LLSA refused the offer, but expressed their concern that the family’s records be available to local surveyors.  When Buddy died the following year at the age of 49, his father decided to donate the records to Tulane University in memory of his son.  The LLSA was grateful for this donation, as it ensured that the records of what its President referred to as the “vanishing American” would be accessible permanently.

Dominick E. (né Dominique Édouard)  Seghers (1849-1911) had established the family’s entry into the surveying business in 1868, initially clerking in his father Julien’s law firm, later working in the office of surveyor Charles Arthur de Armas (d. 1905), and establishing his own business by 1879. Records associated with his patrimony reflect the Louisiana profession’s early domination by arpenteurs, men trained in French civil engineering and civic ordinances.  His son, grandson, and great-grandson continued in a profession marked by significant changes, in a region increasingly impacted by water management and petrochemical concerns.  Over 100 years of operation, their clients would come to include municipal, parish, state, and federal governments, the Dock Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, plantation owners and major oil companies.

To consult the Guy Seghers Collection preliminary inventory, click here.

Images above from the Guy Seghers Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries:

D.E. Seghers & Son Business Card.  c. 1903-1911.

Louis Bringier, Arpenteur General.  Plan de la propriété de Mr. Harvey Elkins Levé le 20 Juin 1830.  [Detail].

Unknown Surveyor.  Second District/Square 110.  From Properties A B C D E F G H I J + K/Plan of [illegible] + d H 19 April 1879.  [Detail].

Friday, December 9, 2011

Louisiana Pecans

A recent acquisition in the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, located at Tulane University's Southeastern Architectural Archive, is Gary Paul Nabhan's Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods (2008).

Among his endangered foods, Nabhan includes the Centennial Pecan, a hardy propagation with a delicate flavor developed by a plantation slave known only as "Antoine," who grafted scionwood from a native tree found on the Anita Plantation onto rootstocks growing at Oak Alley Plantation (St. James Parish). Antoine's pecan became famous when it was named "Best of Show" at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1876).

In the late nineteenth century, New Orleans seedsman Richard Frotscher was selling the pecan under the name "Centennial," and also propagated his own pecan, known as "Frotscher" or "Frotscher's Egg Shell Pecan." Other Louisiana pecans were developed by William B. Schmidt of New Orleans (the "Pabst"), Duminie Mire of Union (the "Van Deman"), and Sebastian Rome of Convent (the "Rome"). The so-called Jewett pecan, named in honor of Colonel Stephen Jewett, originated from a nut purchased in New Orleans that was planted in Scranton, Mississippi by the young son of Charles M. Cruzat. The original Jewett pecan tree was still standing in 1904.

Read more about the history of pecan agriculture in The Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture 1904 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1905), pp. 405-416. Images above by B. Heiges for this publication, which is available via Google Books.

Additional resources related to Louisiana pecans may be found in the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners and the Louisiana Research Collection, both part of Tulane University's Special Collections Division. Notable among these holdings are nurseryman William Nelson's Price List of Trees and a Practical Treatise on Pecan Growing and Richard Frotscher's Almanac and Garden Manual for the Southern States, both printed by New Orleans printer George Müller. These and other titles may be searched through Tulane's online public access catalog here.

Civil War Maps Online - NEW!

9 December 2011. The Wisconsin Historical Society announced today its digitization of over 350 Civil War maps, including a unique copy of Appleton's General War Map of the United States (Fisk & Russell, engravers; New York, 1860), which features colored annotations indicating strategic points of interest (detail above).

The digitized maps -- illustrating major campaigns and battlefields -- are but a small part of an enormous digital collection devoted to the Civil War. Highlights for the Gulf South include an 1862 plan of Fort Jackson and various maps of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

To search Wisconsin in the Civil War, click here.

Image above: Detail. Fisk & Russell, engravers. Appleton's General War Map of the United States (New York: D. Appleton, 1860). © Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, WI 2011.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CFP: Fashioning the Global City

Special Issue of Streetnotes

As posted on Humanities-Net:

“Fashioning the Global City” turns the focus of Streetnotes on the relationship between cities and fashion to explore how the cultural and material production of style informs and performs urban lives and places.

The fashion industry has historically drawn on the metropolis and its association with modernity to stir fascination and desire for novelty and change. Cities spatialize, ground, and give meaning to fashion by providing both its imagery and its physical and social context. Today cities are even more central to an increasingly global fashion system, serving as both sites of legitimation and concrete places from which to construct representations of urbanity.

Editors invite scholarly essays, photography, descriptive poetry, and documentary analysis that explores the powerful relationships between fashion, cities, and urban culture as well those which address the role of fashion in shaping ideas of global urbanity and citizenship.

Deadline 1 February 2012

For more information, see:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Orleans 1834

In 1833, New Orleans appointed Charles Zimpel as deputy city surveyor. By that time, he had already surveyed the city for the construction of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad, and with financial backing and revenues from subscriptions, he took his map design to Prussia for printing. Each engraved map was printed from six copperplates on paper manufactured in Berlin. In 1836, The New Orleans Bee advertised that five hundred copies were available to subscribers and other purchasers, and explained that the copies had been delayed by a previous shipment’s loss at sea. A reporter for the Washington Daily National Intelligencer who saw the map for sale in the New Orleans Stationer’s Hall in 1840 proclaimed it “the most accurate and beautifully executed map in the United States.” There are only six known surviving copies.

Picture credits: Upper: Detail of the Compass Rose from Lower image: Charles Zimpel. Map of New Orleans and its Vicinity embracing a distance of twelve miles up, and eight and three quarter miles down the Mississippi River, and Part of Lake Pontchartrain representing all Public Improvements existing and projected and important Establishments, accompanied by a Statistical table, containing the most accurate Illustrations; prefaced by a Splendid View of New Orleans, & Compiled from actual surveys and the best authorities. 1834. Digital Scan of 50% Scale Photostat, Guy Seghers Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rippley's Whitewash Machine

In the early twentieth century, Rippley Manufacturing Company of Grafton, Illinois, was selling a whitewash & painting machine, a 24-gauge galvanized steel drum fitted with a ball valve brass cylinder pump, a hose and a spray nozzle.

The company provided recipes and specific instructions for operating the machine and applying various washes.

Images above: Upper: "Rippley's Whitewash & Painting Machine." Sanitary and Heating Age (1 March 1902): p. 35 available via Google Books.

Lower: "Rippley's Three Whitewash Recipes, and Directions for Applying Washes and Operating Whitewash Machines." (Grafton, IL: Rippley Mfg. Co., n.d.). Trade Catalogs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wright's New Orleans Mission

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) visited Tulane University in 1950. He had been invited to address New Orleans business leaders by Buford L. Pickens, then director of the School of Architecture.

Years later, Pickens recounted the event:

"Well, about Frank Lloyd Wright's visit--Ken Landry drove Wright from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. During this two hour ride down, Wright had 'confessed' to him that he had done the design of the old Illinois Central railroad station, that Sullivan was busy doing something more important at the time and Wright had actually done that building. I think Wright was the chief draftsman. At the time it would have been difficult to satisfy the needs of the railway people and to keep that building. What could have been done, however, would have been to have Wright design the building to replace it. That was the whole purpose of this visit, to come down and have him present his pitch to the Chamber of Commerce or its equivalent with its big wheelers and dealers, prime movers in New Orleans. People coming down from Chicago would get off the train and walk through a palm tree garden and have a very botanical kind of setting. Prominent alumni architects in this school helped to sponsor that meeting because they were influential in agreeing with me that if we got Wright personally to confront these people, that maybe he could pull it off and get the job."

Buford L. Pickens, interview with Bernard Lemann, recorded April 1988. As transcribed in Bernard Lemann, et al. Talk about Architecture: A Century of Architectural Education at Tulane. New Orleans: Tulane University School of Architecture, 1993, p. 112.

Image above: Unknown photographer. Frank Lloyd Wright at Tulane University. 1950. Color diapositive. Frank Lloyd Wright Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Following Wright

As the Southeastern Architectural Archive prepares to install its new exhibit that focuses on Frank Lloyd Wright's influence in the southeastern Gulf Region, we have pulled out some travel slides.

During the 1950s, New Orleans architect Philip Roach, Jr. visited many of Wright's then-newly constructed buildings, taking photographs along the way. Roach's admiration for Wright took him to Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida, California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Slides above, from top to bottom:

Welbie L. Fuller Residence, Pass Christian, MS (1951; destroyed by Hurricane Camille, 1969)

Auldbrass Plantation [C. Leigh Stevens Residence], Yemassee, SC (1940-51)

Anderton Court Shops, Beverly Hills, CA (1952)

All images taken by Philip Roach, Jr. Courtesy of Philip Roach, Jr. Office Records, Southeastern Architetural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lexicon: Stair-Travelor

A previous post introduced Otis Company's Autrotronic Elevator of 1950. Over a decade earlier, New York- based Sedgwick Machine Works advertised elevators and "stair-travelors" for residential architecture. The company emphasized its products' health benefits, posting product claims in The New Yorker as well as House and Garden. These stair-travelors may still be found in some old New Orleans homes.

Image above: Sedgwick Advertisement. House and Garden (July 1938): p. 2.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Heated City of Abundant Life

This blog has previously addressed utopian views of future cities, and recently we came across a scheme designed by M. Mark Feldman and Olindo Grossi for the Exhibition Salon of various subsidiaries of the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation. Feldman and Grossi envisioned a future Sixth Avenue, New York City as a glass skyscraper-lined, terraced and heated artery:

"Buildings, built of glass that admits light without images, are set well back from the street and well apart to permit maximum light, and terraces, thus created, are utilized, according to district, for sports, restaurants, etc. All terraces are heated by individual reflectors.

"Street traffic is warmed by radiant heat plates that are worked into the architecture of the buildings just above the ground floor. The plates are flared at the corners to cover the space between buildings.

"Winter and summer sports are available simultaneously in all seasons since the reflectors, which are broadcasters of radiation in winter, become absorbers of heat in summer, or vice versa. Thus skating rinks are installed at the tops of the tallest buildings and other sports, such as swimming, tennis and bowling, below.


"In summer, heat from the sun is turned back from the glass buildings by metallic insulating reflectors that can be rolled in and out at each floor. In restaurants, theatres, etc., special metal backs for chairs and seats are used as an added means of transmitting and reflecting the radiant heat."

As reported in Pencil Points August 1937, pp. 49-50. Many issues of Pencil Points can be made available at Howard-Tilton Memorial Library through the Center for Research Libraries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Field Trip: Oscar-Zero

North of Cooperstown, North Dakota on Highway 45 in Griggs County there sits the Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility that was once manned by members of the United States Air Force's 321st Missile Wing. Prescribing to George Washington's words that "to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace," the missileers trained daily for a job they hoped they would never perform. . . releasing the country's arsenal of Minuteman missiles.

Decommissioned in 1997, Oscar-Zero is now a State Historic Site. Largely constructed of #18 rebars, concrete and steel plating, Oscar-Zero took two years to complete, from 1964-1966. Southern miners were transported to North Dakota to handle digging operations for this and other such launch facilities and missile silos. Both the silos and the launch control facilities had subterranean chambers with floating floors linked to enormous shock absorbers developed by Boeing. The steel was supplied by the United States Steel Company (aka The Corporation).

Oscar-Zero's two subterranean pods were protected by thick sheathing described in a previous post, as well as by enormous blast doors, one weighing 6,000 tons, the other 13,000 tons. The missileers stationed command posts in one underground chamber (shown above), while the second chamber housed equipment. Suggestive of the many hours spent underground, the pods are adorned with murals, graffiti, and wall paper depicting more idyllic tourist destinations.

Image above: Oscar-Zero Command Station, Griggs County, North Dakota, as photographed 21.10.2011 by K. Rylance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

$50 House 1945

I was recently at the Midwestern Region Friends of Dard Hunter Conference at the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton, Wisconsin. The Discovery Center's permanent exhibition references a paper house designed for emergency shelter (fires, flooding, or other disasters) by the Institute of Paper Chemistry. With the exception of plastic windows and metal hardware, the house (shown above) was built entirely of recycled paper products.

The structure was erected in less than one hour by two men, using chipboard that was made from waste paper (newspapers, etcetera). A fortifying agent strengthened the chipboard against water and humidity, and the house was coated with a fireproof paint. The 8 x 16' structure was intended to safely house a family of four.

Paper houses were not completely new. In 1924, a Massachusetts mechanical engineer named Elis F. Senman designed a timber-framed paper house and its furnishings. It remains a popular tourist attraction. Read more here.

Read more: "Paper House Costs $50." Popular Science (March 1945): p. 85 available from Free E-Journals. [Image above from article]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Baptist Church & School

The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently received a donation of historic photographs associated with Swan Lake Plantation (aka Doss Plantation) located in Morehouse Parish, LA at Doss. They provide documentation of the tenant properties, Baptist Church and school. Handwritten notes accompany the mounted photographs, identifying each structure, its function, and the disposition of rooms . There are no descriptions or name identifications of the people who populate the images, and we are hoping that readers may be able to provide some of this information. Note in the image above the interrupted baseball game, as the fellow on the left sports a catcher's glove and the fellow on the right sports a pitcher's glove and a baseball.

The property was apparently purchased by David Washington Pipes (1845-1939), a Civil War Veteran who owned two cotton plantations, the Doss Plantation and Avondale. His son Windsor Pipes eventually took over operations at Doss.

Any additional information would be much appreciated!

Image above: Unidentified photographer. Swan Lake Baptist Church and School. Undated. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

19th-Century Obsequies

As the city of New Orleans observes funerary obsequies for former Archbishop Philip M. Hannan, it seemed timely to pull together images from earlier celebrations.

In December 1852, the city commemorated three deceased statesmen: John C. Calhoun (1782-1850); Henry Clay (1777-1852); and Daniel Webster (1782-1952). A temporary mausoleum was designed by A. Mondelli and erected in Lafayette Square (in the background of top image, shown above). M. Catoir devised the illumination for the square, so that the cenotaph could be bathed in light until 10:00 pm. Mr. Dubuque designed the funerary cart (top image above), which was some 11' long and 16' tall. Both the cart and the cenotaph were surmounted by an eagle.

In February 1878, the city observed commemorative funeral celebrations for Pope Pius IX -- fondly referred to in New Orleans as "Pio Nono" (1792-1878) -- and New Orleans architects James Freret and J.A. d'Hemecourt were commissioned to design the catafalque (middle image, shown above) and the funerary cart (bottom image, shown above). The Daily Picayune covered the events as well as the decorations and the music performed (21 February 1878).

Images above:

Top: Dubuque, designer. Funerary Cart for John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay. 1852. Wood engraving by Stevens. From: A History of the Proceedings in the City of New Orleans on the Occasion of the Funeral Ceremonies in Honor of Calhoun, Clay and Webster…. New Orleans: Office of the Picayune, 1853. Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC), Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Bottom: James Freret & J.A. d’Hemecourt, architects. Catafalque & Funerary Cart for Pope Pius IX. February 1878. Graphite. James Freret Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

$1500 Tangipahoa House

In the late 1950s, New Orleans architects Mary and John Mykolyk designed a family retreat on the Tangipahoa River, north of Lake Pontchartrain. LIFE photographer Nina Leen (1909-1995) visited the young family in 1959, producing a series of playful and contemplative images, some of which were incorporated into a feature article titled "Second Homes for Family Vacations" (3 August 1959).*

The raised structure -- accessible via collapsible stairs -- was roofed with corrugated plastic panels and protected from flood-time driftwood by tension wires at the gable ends. The expansive roof was designed to shield the walls from heavy rains, and was surrounded by a deck which could be used as a fishing perch.

See some of Leen's photographs at GettyImages.

*Available in the Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Orleans Architect, Mary Mykolyk

Ismay Mary Mykolyk († 1985) was a New Orleans modernist architect. Born a British citizen in East Africa, Mykolyk obtained her architecture degree at the University of Manitoba, Canada in the 1940s.

In the 1950s, she began working for Curtis & Davis & Associated Architects & Engineers. She served as chief architect on the firm's Tulane University Student Center, the Guste Housing Project, the Algiers Louisiana Power & Light Building, & the US Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam.

By 1965, Mykolyk established her own firm, collaborating with other New Orleans modernists on such projects as Loyola University's Law School and Science Complex, as well as independently designing private residences, including the Bert Levey Residence on the Tchefuncta River.

To learn more, see the Beverly Willis Dynamic National Archive or read "Ismay Mary Mykolyk dies; crafted New Orleans architecture." The Times-Picayune 20 September 1985, A-26.

Image above: Frank Lotz Miller. Mary Mykolyk. [Detail of photographer's proof]. 1961. © Curtis & Davis Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, September 12, 2011

War of the Trees

This blog has previously addressed New Orleans' growing parking concerns and the development of private motor stations after the invention of the automobile.

In the winter of 1920, the city's Parking Commission provoked public outcry when it began to fell live oak, sycamore and elm trees along Esplanade Avenue between Liberty (now Treme) Street and North Claiborne Avenue. With the support of architect and Commissioner of Public Property Sam Stone, Jr. (1869-1933) and under the authority of Parking Commission President W.H. Douglas, Superintendent E.A. Farley coordinated the tree removal. Esplanade Avenue residents voiced their outrage, especially when Douglas admitted that the railway company was financing the activity. Dentist George Bernard Crozat, who lived at 1222, expressed to The Times-Picayune:

'It would appear as if some commission or other is constantly trying to wipe out every vestige of historic interest in the Vieux Carre* . . . It is an inexcusable outrage to cut down the beautiful trees of our avenue. Look at them! They tell us they are dead. Their hearts are as sturdy as our own. See the splendid foliage which will never wave again. We must save what remains at all costs.'

Residents claimed that some of the avenue's trees had been planted by Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville (1680-1767), and "threatened to shoot if certain trees were destroyed."

Read more in The Times-Picayune 6 February 1902, p. 2.

*Another earlier post addressed changing notions of the Vieux Carre. See "The Heart of the French Quarter." Architecture Research 23 June 2009.

Image above: Copy print from glass plate negative. George F. Mugnier (1855-1936). Esplanade Avenue from St. Claude Street. n.d. [Detail]. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

NEW: The Autotronic Elevator

New Orleans was one of the first cities to boast an Otis Autotronic Elevator.(1) When Benson & Riehl's California Company Building (1111 Tulane Avenue) opened in October 1950, it featured four of the new attendant-less elevators. Not only were they designed to save staffing costs, but the elevators were choreographed so that when one ascended from the first floor, an elevator on the top floor would simultaneously descend to replace it.

The California Company Building inaugurated a post-war commercial office building boom that had followed a two-decade dormancy. Owned by General Enterprises, Inc., the building also included air conditioning, glare-resistant glass, automatic telephone systems, and a two-story-high mechanical plant "penthouse."

(1)The first new office to feature the self-service elevators was the Atlantic Refining Company in Dallas, TX, which opened a few months before the NOLA California Company Building.

Image above: Otis Autotronic--Without Attendant--Elevator, 1950. In The First One Hundred Years: Otis Elevator Company. New York: Otis Elevator Company, 1953. Available in the Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

CFP: Nationalism & The City

CRASSH Conference, Cambridge, United Kingdom - February 2012

Applicants are encouraged to engage with the existing theoretical literature on nations, nationalism and the city. Suggested focal points include: urbanization/modernization and the conditions of nationalism’s emergence; Urban intellectual networks and the global diffusion of nationalism; Cities as battle-space and/or as sites for mobilization; National unity and the urban/rural ‘divide’; the city as metaphor for nation; Globalizing cities, ‘post-nationalism’, and notions of urban reclamation; Cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and layers of belonging; Multiculturalism, heterogeneity and the urban; and disintegration, dystopia and ‘spaces of alterity’.

A special emphasis will be placed on integrating the insights of those focused on dynamics in the city and those addressing the broader phenomenon of nationalism, to enliven debates on space, identity, and politics and to illuminate important convergences and contradictions, conjunctures and disjunctures.

The task for researchers is as follows: how are we to conceptualize the role of cities/urban environments in the origins/spread/perpetuation/undermining of nations and nationalism?

For guidelines & additional information, see:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Field Trip: Chicago, IL

The Chicago Architecture Foundation's exhibit Chicago Model City features an extraordinary 320-square-foot model of the downtown area. Using data sets from different sources -- including the Skidmore Owings & Merrill archive -- Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd. designers used Google SketchUp to develop the forms of individual structures. After grooming the data, designers employed a stereolithography machine to fabricate the resinous building models, which were then cured, embellished, and assembled.

Image above: Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd. Downtown Chicago Model. Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Santa Fe Building, Chicago, IL. 2009. As viewed 24.8.2011 by K. Rylance.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Burnham in NOLA

In the summer of 1902, Chicago architect and urban planner Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912) visited New Orleans, along with his mechanical engineer, Charles Wilkes. The two registered at the St. Charles Hotel while they met with representatives of the Hibernia Trust & Banking Company to discuss plans for a new skyscraper to be located on the corner of Carondelet and Gravier Streets. The structure was intended to rise in tandem with a 12-story addition to the St. Charles Hotel so that a common wall could be created.

The Hibernia Bank utilized Burnham's steel and masonry building for nearly two decades, when the company moved to a new skyscraper designed by the New Orleans firm Favrot & Livaudais. The Burnham structure was renamed the Carondelet Building, and more recently renovated as the Hampton Inn (226 Carondelet Street).


"Buildings to Go Up Fast: The Hibernia Trust Company and the St. Charles Hotel to Construct Their Skyscrapers Simultaneously." The Times-Picayune 27 June 1902, p. 3; "Hibernia Trust." The Times-Picayune 10 July 1902, p. 3; "News and Notables at the New Orleans Hotels." The Times-Picayune 8 July 1902, p. 13;

The Chicago History Museum's Research Center maintains D.H. Burnham & Company plans for Bank & Offices, Hibernia Bank, New Orleans. [DHB-NC11]. The Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson & Burnham Library maintains office correspondence for Burnham & Wilkes in its Daniel H. Burnham Collection (Series I, Business Correspondence).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Neutra in NOLA

On Monday, 17 November 1952, Austrian-born architect Richard Neutra (1892-1970) gave an evening address at Newcomb College's Dixon Hall. Co-sponsored by the Tulane University School of Architecture and the New Orleans Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the public lecture focused on contemporary architecture.

The Newcomb College Art Gallery had displayed photographs of Neutra's projects ten years earlier, in conjunction with an educational exhibit on the theme of surfaces, textures and colors of structural materials. Local merchants loaned samples of brick, wood, metal, glass and stone.

Read more in "Architect Neutra to Deliver Address." The Times-Picayune 17 November 1952, p. 7. "Exhibit at College Art Gallery Nears." The Times-Picayune 15 April 1941, p. 12. W.M. Darling, "Pen, Chisel and Brush." The Times-Picayune 20 April 1941, p. 40.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beekman's Haberdashery

We recently came across a wonderful sketch in one of the Benson & Riehl Office sketchbooks, circa 1950. It represents the facade of Beekman's Men's Clothing Store, which was located at St. Charles Avenue & Commercial Place, municipal numbers 328-330 (top image). The Beekman haberdashery operated from this location for nearly fifty years, from 1901-1951.

In January 1926, the newly-founded firm of Andry & Feitel (1925-1966) collaborated with interiors specialist Harry Moses (1877-1935) to design a new Beekman's marquee (bottom image), display windows and a musicians' balcony. By the spring of 1951, the building was sold to an unknown investor, and the Petroleum Club of New Orleans entered into a ten-year lease agreement for the second floor.(1) The 1951 sale inaugurated a series of dramatic alterations to the building.

Businessman Henry Lewis renovated the storefront and first-floor interior for his men's and boy's clothing store in 1953. (2) Within four years, the Greater New Orleans Federation of Churches acquired the property and transformed the building into its Church House. (3) The Federation announced its intent to sell the structure in 1974. Within months the building was extensively damaged by "a hammer-wielding vandal intent on destruction." (4) The Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant chain then acquired the property, and converted it into a pasta parlor.(5) Four years later, Mayor Ernest Morial announced plans to demolish the structure and replace it with a 2,000-room hotel that would cater to Pan-American travelers.(6) The site is now a parking lot.

(1)"Sale of Beekman Building is Largest Reported Transaction of the Week." The Times-Picayune 15 April 1951, Section 5, p. 1.

(2)"Clothing Store to Open Today." The Times-Picayune 25 March 1953, p. 6.

(3)"Dr. Grey Named President of New Orleans Federation of Churches." The Times-Picayune 23 February 1957, p. 20.

(4)"Church House Sale Planned." The Times-Picayune 9 March 1974, Sect. 2, p. 4; Wesley Jackson, "Vandalism & Theft." The Times-Picayune 25 January 1975, Section 1, p. 12.

(5)"Spaghetti is Speciality of New Restaurant." The Times-Picayune 28 July 1976 (Morning Edition), Sect. 4, p. 16.

(6)Joe Massa, "Hotel Catering to Foreign Travelers Planned." The Times-Picayune 27 April 1980, Sect. 1, p. 33.

Images above: Beekman's, 328-330 St. Charles Avenue. Graphite on ledger paper. Circa 1950. Benson & Riehl Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive; Andry & Feitel, architects. Half of Elevation of Marquise, for Bob Beekman. Blueprint. January 1926. Harry F. Moses Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Otis Elevator Company of Chicago

In 1909, Otis Elevator Company of Chicago's President Baldwin journeyed to New Orleans to secure a land deal. He negotiated with businessman Peter O'Brien to acquire the latter's elevator manufacturing plant located at the corner of Carondelet and St. Joseph Streets.(1) The Otis Company wanted to establish a showroom for its elevators, and the O'Brien property provided a good location.

The Otis Elevator Company secured the architectural services of Favrot & Livaudais to design a two-story showroom/office structure that would prominently display the company's mainstay (1910-1912). The architects selected an Italianate form that nodded to the company's Chicago home and its emergent Prairie School style. Built at a cost of $25K, the Otis Elevator Company maintained its New Orleans office for decades.(2) George J. Glover was the general contractor on the project, and the Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Company was one of the sub-contractors.(3)

The short-lived trade magazine Building Review of the South -- published in New Orleans -- featured the structure in a 1919 article devoted to the "elevator pent house":

"In most cases elevator pent houses are made obnoxious by careless treatment. In large cities where the roofs of the business section are in constant view of thousands of people from the taller buildings it seems that some attention should be devoted to roof appearances, or to that most prominent feature of the roof, the pent house. The designers of the two examples published this month realized the advantages of emphasizing the pent house. Anyone who views the two buildings will concede that the tower treatment is the single thing that gives especial distinction to the buildings,--that is, sets them apart from other commercial structures by adding a feature of interest that ordinarily would be absent."(4)

(1)"More Good Realty Sales Involve New Buildings." The Daily Picayune 16 January 1909, p. 5.

(2)"Real Estate the Real Thing Here." The Daily Picayune 9 January 1912, p. 40.

(3)George J. Glover, general contractor. "Form of Sub-Contract" with Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Company dated 23 April 1912. Box 15, Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Works Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

(4)"Elevator Pent Houses: Two New Orleans Examples Which Are Models of Proper Treatment." Building Review Feburary 1919, p. 14. The image above precedes the article, appearing on p. 13 of the same issue. Photograph was taken by Schnetzer.

The Art Institute of Chicago maintains certain records of the Otis Elevator Company. You can read more about the company's history in The First Hundred Years (New York: Otis Elevator Company, 1953).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Changing Hands on Carondelet

A large number of properties along Carondelet Street changed hands in the years between 1920 and 1930. A series of residential lots came up at auction in the summer of 1923 (map shown above), and by 1926, the Presbyterian Hospital Group (PHG) expanded its existing holdings by purchasing adjacent Baronne Street lots for a new medical complex.

The PHG retained the services of New Orleans architect Rathbone DeBuys (c. 1874-1960) to design a "skyscraper type" hospital. (1) He and Charles Armstrong (1887-1947) had designed an earlier PHG structure, the Corinne Casanas Free Clinic, in 1915 (814-820 Girod Street, completed 1916). After various revisions, his PHG skyscraper hospital resulted in a single five-story structure, named the James H. Batchelor Building, which was completed in June 1928. Built at a cost of $200K, the fireproof building contained an elevator and was sheathed in limestone with polychromed "marble" embellishments. (2)

In 1930, the School Board -- then operating out of the City Hall Annex -- successfully negotiated the acquisition of the Casanas Clinic and the Batchelor Building, and relocated to the latter in January 1931. Rathbone DeBuys' building is now named after former School Superintendent Nicholas Bauer.

Image above: Advertisement, The Times-Picayune 6 October 1923, p. 35.

(1) "Presbyterian Hospital Buys Three Old Homes." The Times-Picayune 14 February 1926, p. 13.

(2) Although DeBuys designed the building, the Albert Weiblen Marble and Granite Works supplied the ornamental stone carvings. Its staff architect, Albert Rieker (1887-1959), developed the requisite drawings. The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains a cartoon for Rieker's stone caduceus in Collection 39 The Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Works Office Records. Consult the Archive's online inventories here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Keck in NOLA

In the spring of 1955, Chicago architect George Fred Keck (1895-1980) visited New Orleans for an extended stay, as guest to the Tulane University School of Architecture. Then Dean John F. Dinwiddie (1902-1959) had invited Keck to serve as a visiting critic for the school's Fifth-Year students, and Keck challenged the group with designing a small residential structure.

The Chicago architect had visited Tulane approximately five years earlier, at the invitation of then Dean Buford L. Pickens (1906-1995), who had worked for Keck after attending the University of Illinois. Pickens reminisced about the visit to a Tulane audience in 1988:

"He lectured to the students and gave his spiel on modern architecture and the necessity of seeing things in a different way than the traditional. But at the same time, that's one reason I wanted him to come down here--so that he could see the affinity between the old architecture down here and the new architecture that we were talking about, because the two seemed to come together. The two ideas, architectural concepts, came together here because historical and modern blended--the openness, the columnar quality you get when you drive down St. Charles or any other street in New Orleans."(1)

Keck was especially renowned for his 1933 Chicago World's Fair "Home of the Future" and his 1934 Crystal House. After World War II, he entered into an architectural partnership with his brother William, practicing as Keck & Keck. Together they focused on passive solar systems and prefabrication.

You can learn more about his practice by consulting the Chicago Architects Oral History Project, which includes a transcript of the 1991 interview with William Keck (1895-1995) here.

(1) Talk About Architecture: A Century of Architectural Education at Tulane, ed. by Bernard Lemann, Malcolm Heard, Jr. & John Klingman. New Orleans: Tulane University School of Architecture, 1993, p. 111.

Image above: Brochure Cover. Green's Ready-Built Homes Present the Solar Home as Created by George Fred Keck. 1946. Ptak Science Books, as viewed 15 August 2011 at

Sullivan in NOLA

In the spring of 1906, Chicago architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) and his wife visited New Orleans. They spent a few days in the city before traveling on to Ocean Springs, Mississippi for an extended stay.

Sullivan's Ocean Springs bungalow was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina (2005). Read Michael Martinez's Chicago Tribune article about the destruction here.

See: "Chicago Architect on a Visit." The Times-Picayune 14 March 1906 page 16.

To view the iconic 1890 photograph of Louis H Sullivan at his bungalow in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, go to the Art Institute of Chicago. Click here to access image & related collection.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Hotel Grunewald Caterers

New Orleans architects Toledano, Wogan & Bernard (TWB; 1914-23) designed this 926-928 Canal Street structure for the Hotel Grunewald Caterers in 1916 (completed 1917). Noted for its enameled terracotta, the building served the caterers' purposes until the mid-1920s, when candy sellers Fuerst & Kraemer renovated the interior for a candy store and second-floor tea room.

TWB and its predecessor firm Toledano & Wogan (1898-1914) often used ornamental terracotta on their buildings, and maintained a business relationship with F. Codman Ford, who was the local agent for the Chicago-based Northwestern Terra Cotta Company (1877-1956) as well as the St. Louis-based Hydraulic-Press Brick Co.  AIA Associate Joseph Ariatti was the tile contractor for the Grunewald Caterers job.(1)

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains certain records for TWB and its successor and predecessor firms. For an inventory of their drawings, click here. The National Building Museum in Washington, DC retains records for the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company.

(1)"Joseph Ariatti." John Smith Kendall. History of New Orleans, vol. 3 (1922), p. 922.

Top image above: "Canal Street Lease." The Times-Picayune 02 September 1923, Section 2, Page 1.

Bottom images: The Builders Specialties Co., Ltd, 304 and 306 Baronne Street. Advertisements in New Orleans through a Camera. New Orleans: 1890s. Louisiana Research Collection, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brooke Winter Garden 1906-07

In 1906, New Orleans architecture firm Toledano & Wogan designed an entertainment space for Thomas Preston Brooke (1856-1921), leader of the Chicago Marine Band and supporter of ragtime music. Known for his two-step "The Buffalo March," Brooke obtained financial backing for his 522 Baronne Street winter season venue from the Jackson Brewing Company, amongst others. Brooke's venture lasted one abbreviated season, after which the conductor declared bankruptcy.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains a microfilm copy of the original drawings.

Image above: The Harwell Evans Company, New York, photographers. From A Few Examples of the Work of Toledano & Wogan, Architects, Macheca Building, New Orleans, LA. n.d. The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Harwell-Evans, with offices on East 28th Street, published The New York Architect, a monthly periodical.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CFP: Preservation

Journal of the Future is now accepting articles and opinion pieces on the focus of preservation of items of historical value in the world today whether pertaining to personal, social, political, the future of humankind without preservation, or a combination of these areas. Articles should be closely related to this subject. The goal of this journal is to present these articles for all to access without hindrances. Journal of the Future: Preservation is a publication that is free for all to read in its electronic form.

Article Deadline: August 31, 2011
Acceptances/Rejections Prepared by: September 30, 2011
Anticipated Publication Date: November 2011

Recycled Architectural Drawings

As reported by The Times-Picayune 7 October 1919:

"A curious war expedient has just been declared no longer necessary and the books are about to be closed on one of the most remarkable makeshifts which were resorted to during the era of universal shortages. One of the most distressing of war needs, we all know, was bandages, and what our war ladies did to supply the deficiency was one of the bright spots in efficiency, but 'over there' it was not as with us merely as a matter of woman-power that was needed, but still more the cloth of sufficient softness and fineness to wrap upon wounds and to bind fractures.

The old rags crop was quickly exhausted and a partial resort was had to various [illegible] that when dried were soft and absorbent and non-septic enough for clinical purposes. But there was still grave need for cloth, especially of linen cloth, and out of the emergency came an idea. It was remembered that thousands upon thousands of architectural and engineering plans were printed on heavily sized linen tracing papers--the kind from which blueprints are made--and also that home builders and engineers have a certain sentimental respect for their used plans, so that instead of casting them into the discard when their purpose is accomplished the architect and engineer are in the habit of rolling up the originals and stacking them on the top shelf, to accumulate dust and dream away the declining years of their lives.

The war idea was to appeal to the builders and surveyors and all others who might have on hand such stocks to sacrifice them for the good of the armies.

The War and Navy Departments, shipbuilding concerns and many other industrial enterprises turned over their stocks, and literally thousands upon thousands of willing donors added to the stacks of materials, described as 'linen, calico, butter-muslin, brown holland, etc.' which were then passed through no less than seven processes before they were freed from their glue and coloring matters and finally were rolled into neat bandages to be shipped to the several military hospitals near the front and in England, where the chief supply of such materials was secured."

To read more, consult America's Historical Newspapers, an online database available through Tulane University's Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. If you are interested in other databases that cover historic Louisiana newspapers, consult the "Databases of Historical Louisiana Newspapers" Research Guide page here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Field Trip: Iron River, Michigan

A mining boom in the early twentieth century resulted in rapid population growth for Iron County, Michigan. Designed in 1902 and constructed 1904-05, Iron River's Central School (218 West Cayuga Street) was intended to serve the community's entire public school system. The student population grew so rapidly that Milwaukee architects Van Ryn & DeGelleke's initial building proved insufficient shortly after its completion, and Chicago architect John D. Chubb completed wing additions in 1911 (one shown above). Annex buildings were constructed in 1923, and by 1928 high school students were moved to a new structure, while primary and secondary students remained at Central.

By the mid-1970s, the local economy and population had dwindled, and Central School was closed in the spring of 1980. Listed on the National Register since 2008, the structure's fate remains uncertain despite periodic proposals for its adaptive reuse.

Image above: Central School, as photographed 23.07.2011. K. Rylance.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Parking Skyscraper

In March 1921, the Standard Motor Accessories and Garage Corporation of New Orleans proposed a nine-story parking skyscraper above Canal Street. Architect Rathbone De Buys (c. 1874-1960) drafted plans for the structure, which were published in The Times-Picayune on March 13th (above). The need for off-street parking was becoming a pressing concern. In 1917, hotel and other business owners were charging exorbitant fees for the privilege to park on city streets adjacent to their properties. In August of that year, the City Commissioners announced a hearing for the purpose of developing a municipal parking ordinance. Increasing legal restrictions led to the establishment of private "motor stations" that offered vehicular storage as well as lubrication and upholstering services.

Recommended reading: John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle. Lots of Parking: Land Use in a Car Culture. U of Virginia P, 2005. Available in Tulane University's Howard-Tilton Memorial Library.

Image above: "What about your Automobile?" The Times-Picayune 13 March 1921 Section 4, page 10.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Emile Weil's Cadillac

In 1916, New Orleans architect Emile Weil (1878-1945) purchased a new Cadillac Type 55 seven-seater touring car equipped with Kelly-Springfield wire wheel tires. Cadillac introduced the model in August 1916, listing it for $2250. By October 1916, The Times-Picayune ran an advertisement featuring Weil's new acquisition photographed along St. Charles Avenue (above). The wire wheel tires were available for an additional cost through Kelly-Springfield's local distributor, Southern Hardware & Woodstock Company, which posted the ad.

At the time, Weil and his wife Marie lived in the former Isidore Newman mansion, designed by Thomas Sully (1885-1939) and located at 3607 St. Charles. The couple inherited the property upon the death of Marie's mother, Mrs. Isidore Newman. Not long after Marie's death in 1931, Weil sold the building, and moved to a smaller residence on Versailles Boulevard. The St. Charles Avenue property changed hands again before becoming the Tulane Medical School Phi Chi Fraternity house in 1947. Despite efforts to save the building, the structure was razed in 1970. Drawings for the building are maintained in the Southeastern Architectural Archive's Thomas Sully Collection.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cities, Airplanes & Civil Defense

In 1941, New Orleans architect Nathaniel C. Curtis, Sr. (1881-1953) addressed the topic of urban planning & civil defense:

"The city planner is now confronted with a situation unforeseen through the centuries. The fighting airplane has come upon the scene. By night or day, in clear air or fog, it can search out or be directed over focal concentrations of population, over places where man works and where he stores his goods, and on these dump its cargoes of death and destruction. The more concentrated the objectives become the better the chances of making a hit and the more wholesale the destruction. Moreover, in a time of war most of the factories of a warring nation are turned over to the production of war equipment and munitions, and it becomes a part of the military defense system to safeguard these against disruption or demolition, while bomb-proof shelters must be provided for all the workers in the plant.

Modern warfare requires the regimentation of large numbers of the population. All the people are ultimately concerned, civilian as well as military, and no one's safety is guaranteed.

Of all the means for carrying on offensive warfare that human ingenuity has devised, the airplane is by far the most potent, and it is no exaggeration to say that without airplanes there could hardly be a reason for any radical changes in city planning such as will be put into effect. There is no effective way so far developed to defend cities or other objectives of a widespread nature against airplanes and their destructive charges except by the employment of more airplanes. The only other way to neutralize or minimize the power of the airplane is to scatter and make less the value of its objectives."

Curtis was particularly concerned with New Orleans' vulnerability, should its pumping stations be destroyed and its air-raid shelters inundated with water:

"Would the Charity Hospital continue to function? It would as long as doctors and nurses could hold out and the essential services could be maintained. A building like the Charity Hospital cannot be destroyed except under repeated bombings. A few upper floors would be demolished--all glass windows would be shattered, but otherwise the interior would remain intact."

Read more of his address in The Tulanian (April 1941): pp. 11-12, 14. Available from Tulane University Archives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Subterranean Steel

We recently came across an article related to the U.S. Minuteman Ballistic Missile System Program. Engineers William J. Hartdegen and John A. Quigley published their configurations for 150 subterranean missile facilities located near the Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The pod-like launch and control facilities were comprised of several layers of #18 rebars (top) that were designed to withstand "the high, dynamically applied pressure resulting from a nuclear attack." Dynamic strength capability tests conducted at the University of Illinois suggested that all splices of reinforcing bars of #11 and larger size required butt-welding. The pods were additionally lined with 1/4-inch steel plate in order to provide electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and radio frequency interference (RFI) shielding. A typical launch facility with a 90-foot launch tube and its adjacent capsule-shaped equipment storage space is depicted in the lower image.

Travelers to North Dakota can now visit the Ronald Reagan Minuteman State Historic Site, and journey down an elevator shaft to enter the last* post-disarmament launch control center. Learn more here.

To read more about the construction & view more images, see: Hartdegen & Quigley. "Welding Solves Problems in Multibillion-Dollar Minuteman Program." Chap. in Modern Welded Structures, Vol. III (Cleveland, OH: The James F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation, 1970), pp. I-16 to I-20. Available in the Southeastern Architectural Archive.

*Post-Script: As part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, most of these siloes have been imploded. Read more here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Selling Braithwaite

In 1927, the Braithwaite Land and Liquidation Company commissioned surveyor D.G.W. Ricketts to map Braithwaite Plantation -- formerly Orange Grove -- and its newly subdivided tracts in Plaquemines Parish Township 13 & 14 South / Ranges 12 & 13 East. The E-Z Opener Bag Company, United Railway & Trading Company, and the Orange Grove Refining Company purchased properties here.

Ricketts, Seghers & Dibdin, Civil Engineers & Surveyors published the requisite map, including its inset "Key Map Showing Braithwaite, La. and its locations with reference to the City of New Orleans and Rail & Water Facilities as well as accessibility to chief national centers of population" 13 March 1931. Not only was proximity to other industries emphasized, but so too were express services and the region's average annual temperature, rainfall and humidity.

Image above: Guy Seghers Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Detail of Map of Braithwaite Plantation formerly Orange Grove Plantation (New Orleans: 1931).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

House Numbering New Orleans

In the early nineteenth century, the city of New Orleans codified its system of numbering houses:

ART. 1. The numbering of houses in the city of New-Orleans and its suburbs shall be established by one series of numbers for each and every street, and for this purpose the front part of each square, road, or alley, shall be divided in sections of twenty feet, if practicable, or in sections of nineteen or thirty feet, the one or the other, as circumstances or conveniency may require. Each of these sections shall bear one number. The corner, lots, or houses shall be subject to the same division on the fronts of both streets.

ART. 2. Each series of numbers shall be formed of even numbers for the right side of the street, and of odd numbers for the left side, excepting such of the streets as may have a row house on only one side, for which the natural order of numbers shall be followed.

ART. 3. The right side of the street shall be determined in the streets perpendicular to the river Mississippi, by the right of a person going down from the river towards the back part of the city, and in the streets parallel to the river, by the right of a person going down from Canal street in the direction of the current of the river; and by the right side of a person going up from Canal street in a direction contrary to the current of the river.

ART. 4. The inscription of numbers shall be made on tin or iron plates of an oval form, and of suitable proportions, painted in black oil color. The numbers shall be written in Arabic figures of at least three inches in length, painted with white lead ground in oil. The plates shall be well varnished so as not to be injured by the rain or dampness.

ART. 5. The numbers shall be placed above the main door of each house whenever it can be done, and in case of any obstacle, the numbers shall be placed on the right side of the door, and at least ten feet above the soil.

ART. 13. The City Surveyor is hereby required to superintend the said numbering; and when let out by contract, the undertaker shall affix no number without the presence and consent of said Surveyor; and in proportion as each house or lot shall be numbered conformably to the above provisions, the undertaker shall have the right to demand from each proprietor or tenant the payment of the amount to him due by reason of said work.

If you want to read more early city ordinances, including those that dictated building materials, paving guidelines, slaughterhouse and market restrictions, consult: A general digest of the ordinances and resolutions of the corporation of New-Orleans. Made by order of the City council, by their secretary, D. Augustin. New Orleans: 1831. Multiple copies of the publication are available in Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Surveyors' Plea

In the summer of 1948, New Orleans surveyor Guy Seghers entered a plea (and endorsement) to the city:

"There has never been a complete survey of this city nor has this vast area a single legal monument; thus the differences in opinion among surveyors as to street lines. The basis of all surveys consists of maps compiled prior to the War Between the States. Present-day precise instruments disclose shortages or surpluses over these old maps as well as angular differences.

Surveying requires considerable knowledge of mathematics, city and state laws and ordinances, local custom and history, plus an abundance of horse sense.

Surveying, like other professions and trades, often differs in opinion and procedure, but there exist surveyors whose knowledge of their business is tops, and who are called upon by courts and corporations as experts, in untangling the mess caused by the inexpert 'tape-man.'

The trouble the reputable surveyor finds is that an owner will agree to pay for title examination, notarial acts, title insurance, real estate costs, etc., but generally tries to avoid paying for the smallest fee of them all for the most important item--a survey. Owners will grudgingly shop like a housewife buying a can of peas, and when the owner gets what he pays for he squawks.

The solution of this problem is not a question of making bond, but of a good city survey, well monumented, thus eliminating all differences that will continuously arise with conditions as they are.

In the meantime, if I were in need of a surgical operation, I would not shop around for the doctor quoting the lowest fee, but go to a well-established specialist."

Guy J. Seghers, Letter to the Editor, The Times Picayune (June 2 1948): p. 12.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Huddling Place

In recognition of the British Library's new exhibition Out of this World, The Guardian recently asked science fiction writers to reminisce about their favorite novels or authors. Science fiction historian John Clute chose Clifford Simak's 1952 novel, The City:

"We know better now, of course. But they still entrance us, the old page-turners from the glory days of American SF, half a century or so ago, when the world was full of futures we were never going to have. In the mid-1940s, when he began to publish the episodes that would be assembled as City in 1952, Clifford Simak, a Minneapolis-based journalist and author, could still carry us away with the dream that cars and pollution and even the great cities of the world – "Huddling Place", the title of one of these tales, is his own derisory term for them – would soon be brushed off the map by Progress, leaving nothing behind but tasteful exurbs filled with middle-class nuclear families living the good life, with fishing streams and greenswards sheltering each home from the stormy blast.

Fortunately, Simak soon gets past this demented vision of a near-future world saved by technological fixes, a dementia common then to SF writers and gurus and politicians alike, and launches into an astonishingly eventful narrative of the next 10,000 years as seen through the eyes of one family and the immortal robot Jenkins, and all told with a weird pastoral serenity that for a kid like me seemed near to godlike. In its course City touches on almost everything dear to 1940s SF, and to me remembering. Robots. Genetic Engineering. Space. Jupiter. Domed cities. Keeps. Hiveminds. Matter transmission. Telepathy. Parallel worlds. Paranormal empathy. Mutants. Supermen. It's all there, and, thanks to Simak's skilled hand at the wheel, it's all in place: suave, sibylline, swift. The whole is framed as a series of legends told by the uplifted Dogs who have replaced the human race, now gone for ever. They have been bred not to kill. At the end, only Jenkins remains to keep them from learning how to repeat history and die.

It all seemed immensely sad and wise then, but fun. It still does."

Read more favorites here.

China Miéville's recent The City & The City (2010) is another great one, which Margaret Atwood has referred to as "an intricately detailed metaphor for how we live today – ignoring what is right there in front of us but 'invisible' because we choose not to see it."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Segregation Forms

We have addressed architectural segregation in an earlier blog post, and recently came across a a relevant plan among the records of the New Orleans firm Sporl & Maxwell (1946-1951).

Edward Sporl and Murvan Maxwell had been hired by bar owner Vincent Joseph Birbiglia († 1976) to draw the "existing conditions" of his Central City corner store. The structure served a variety of functions, with two lounges, a liquor store, laundry, barbershop and a camelback residence. The lounges were divided by a wall board barrier, with egress across the mahogany bar backs. Restrooms, the heater, jukebox and cigarette machine were all located in the "colored" section; the telephone situated in the "white" section.

Image above: Sporl & Maxwell, architects. Jackson Liquor Store (1833 Jackson Avenue), c. 1951. Detail of first-floor plan. Maxwell & Le Breton Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Recently, Tulane School of Architecture alumnus Tim Culvahouse addressed the neighborhood-building attributes of the New Orleans corner store. Read his article here.

Birbiglia's former corner store has been torn down since Hurricane Katrina.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thermo-Con Home 1948

The New Orleans firm of Sporl & Maxwell worked on a number of Thermo-Con projects, including this May 1948 design for a parapeted residence. Previous blog posts have addressed Thermo-Con cellular concrete, a New Orleans product developed by Higgins Incorporated and named for its heat insulating capabilities. The company controlled all aspects of Thermo-Con's use, manufacturing the product as well as its wooden forms and mixing/pumping machines.

In March 1948, the Federal Housing Authority approved financing for mortgage loans on Higgins-type cellular concrete dwellings, whereupon company president Andrew Higgins, Sr. announced that franchised contractors across the country would begin building. In New Orleans, McLaney Construction obtained a Thermo-Con franchise and commissioned Sporl & Maxwell to design this two-bedroom home. McLaney built this house TWICE: once in Lake Vista at 98 Egret Street; the other in Lakeview at 6372 Vicksburg Street.

By the mid-1950s Sarasota, Florida changed its building code to accommodate the new material. Beall Construction Co. Incorporated was the community's franchised Thermo-Con contractor, responsible for the Arlington Street Medical Arts Building (1953), the Main Street H & H Cafeteria (1955; razed), the Star Lite Restaurant, Uncle Otey's Steak & Pancake House & Phillips 66 Station (late 1950s; razed), and a seven-unit office/store structure at 1258-1276 North Palm Avenue (1954).

Image above: Front Elevation. Sporl & Maxwell, Architects. Thermo-Con Residence for McLaney Construction Company, 13 May 1948. Maxwell and LeBreton Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.