Monday, January 31, 2011

St. Charles Avenue 1940s

Over the last two decades, the Louisiana Landmarks Society has donated many important records to the Southeastern Architectural Archive. Included are photographs taken by former New Orleans city engineer Clem P. Binnings (1918-1991).

Binnings compiled his photographs into albums by subject, creating typewritten annotations which he wrote or gleaned from historic sources. His "Know New Orleans" album includes the above photograph, accompanied by his text:

"Walgreen Drug Stores have gone to a great expense to put in one of the most expensive and modern drug stores in New Orleans, located on a very prominent intersection and where thousands of uptown residents pass daily. For some unaccountable reason they have seen fit to rent space for this sign to DH Holmes Co. Ltd. It is such a dominating sign that it overshadows the remainder of the location and in passing about all the average motorist can see is the DH Holmes sign. Holmes knows this and always maintain a seasonable, well executed institutional sign."

Image above: Clem Binnings. Holmes Sign, St. Charles and Napoleon Avenue, 1940s. Clem P. Binnings Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dallas Tout Ensemble

In the late 1940s, the modern design firm Knoll began to establish its Dallas showroom located at 2909 Fairmount Street, then a residential district. Designed by Florence Knoll Bassett (born 1917), the showroom utilized a preexisting "Texas-Colonial" structure modified with enlarged showroom windows. Knoll opted to paint the structure black, added a white roof, and incorporated a Knoll-red door emblazoned with the firm's name in distinctive slab-serif capitals. Chicagoans architect Robert Bruce Tague (1912-1985) and photographer Arthur S. Siegel (1913-1978) contributed artworks for the front room, which was organized as a conversational grouping. Knoll adopted bold contrasts of black, yellow and gray that was meant to attract passing motorists (lower image).

Want to see/read more? Consult:

Bassett, Florence Knoll. Papers. Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Series 5: Subject Files, circa 1930s-1999. Box 3, Folder 11. URL:

"Famous Designers Visiting Dallas." Dallas Morning News 29 July 1956.

"Firm Plans Branch Here." Dallas Morning News 29 January 1950.

"Outpost in Dallas: Knoll opens a Lone Star Branch." Knoll Showroom in Dallas. New York: Knoll, n.d. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. [Images above are by Arthur S. Siegel for Knoll and from this publication]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Charlie Smith AKA Rathbone DeBuys

In 1930, New Orleans architect Rathbone DeBuys (1874-1960) reminisced about his post-graduate training:

"It was after I had graduated from Tulane and Yale and was about ready to hang out my shingle as an architect. W.W. Bierce, Southern representative of the Illinois Steel company, and a friend, advised me to learn the steel business from the inside out so I'd be able better to understand its use in buildings. He gave me a letter of introduction to the company.

Up there, they thought it was a joke, but when I insisted that I wanted to work as a laborer, they gave me a job. They were interested in my name--its derivation and all that sort of thing, so I took the tip and changed it to Charlie Smith, and that's the alias I went under all the time.

My first job was in the rivet gang. I had the dirtiest job in the pit, and the pounding and fumes of lamp black and linseed oil gave me a splitting headache, but I got used to it in a couple of weeks. Men can get used to anything.


Well, I stayed with this steel work for two years, and I worked up through the shops into the designing department. I consider this experience one of the most valuable in my life. And the friends I made among those laborers--they don't come any finer, I'm here to tell you."

DeBuys graduated from Tulane University in 1896, and Yale University in 1897. He went on to design the International Trade Mart, Loyola University's Holy Name Church, various New Orleans subdivisions, the Texas Company Building, and Hecht Japanese Gardens. During the 1920's Florida building boom, Rathbone DeBuys established a Miami office.

Excerpt above from Rathbone DeBuys, "I Remember: When I was a Boy." 30 December 1930. Newspaper clipping, Rathbone DeBuys Biographical File, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lexicon: Nogged

An early blog entry addressed the use of bousillage, bouzillage, barreaux, and briquette-entre-poteaux to describe Louisiana wattle and daub construction. The 1895 Sanborn Atlas for New Orleans uses another term altogether, nogged. Some structures are labelled "br. nogged" for "brick-nogged." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term was first used in the late seventeenth century, in reference to a wall. The related term "nogging" was used in medieval accounts of the late fifteenth century. By the early twentieth century, the expression was associated with a South Worcestershire dialect. For the 1895 Sanborn atlases, brick-nogged structures are indicated with alternating pink (masonry) and yellow (timber) bands along the perimeter walls.

To view historic Sanborn atlases for the region, consult the Southeastern Architectural Archive's collection of fire insurance atlases. Some atlases are also available through Digital Sanborn online, a subscription database available via Tulane University Libraries. Do note that the digital format lacks the color indicators and holographic additions of the physical copies.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Field Trip: Lincoln Square (Chicago) Illinois

Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924) designed this facade for William C. Presto's Krause Music Store, which was completed in 1922. His last commission prior to his death, the Krause Music Store facade is profusely ornamented with Sullivan's distinctive naturalistically-driven terracotta.

After property owner William Krause died in 1929, the property eventually was sold to a funeral company. The structure functioned as a funeral parlor for over five decades and during that period its facade was altered and neglected.

Preservation architects McQuire Igleski & Associates researched historic architectural and terracotta shop drawings in order to restore the building for adaptive reuse. Their project was the recipient of the AIA Illinois' Crombie Taylor Award and a Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award.

Preservation architect Gunny Harboe was recently honored by the City of Chicago for his significant efforts to restore its notable buildings, including Burnham & Root's Rookery and Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott Building.

The Art Institute of Chicago maintains a website that identifies Louis Sullivan's extant buildings in the Chicago metropolitan region. Click here to access.