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.

Monday, April 18, 2011

NOLA Cultural Center 1963

As part of the new exhibit at the Southeastern Architectural Archive, we have featured this presentation drawing of the proposed Cultural Center for New Orleans. Designed by local architects Mathes, Bergman, Favrot & Associates, the project was conceived as a part of a "downtown triangle" development project that included the Civic Center and International Trade Mart Complex. Modeled after New York's Lincoln Center, the Cultural Center was intended to consist of theaters, an auditorium, an art museum, community facilities, and copious parking lots.

With an estimated cost of $18 million, the plaza was to extend from the Orleans-Basin Connection to St. Philip Street, and from N. Rampart to N. Villere Streets. Widespread site clearance began in 1966, after the relocation of 122 families. Hampered by financial shortfalls, the CC was delayed and eventually abandoned.

If you want to learn more about the project and the history of Louis Armstrong Park, read Michael Crutcher's new Tremé: Race and Place in a New Orleans Neighborhood. The author will be reading from his book 21 April 2011 at 6:00 pm, Octavia Books, New Orleans. Click here to learn more.

Image above: Mathes, Bergman, Favrot & Associates.
Cultural Center of New Orleans. Scheffer Studio. 1963. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Feet James

As attention turns once again to the Red River of the North, Winnipeg Free Press reporter Barley Kives has explained the Peggers' peculiar unit of measure:

If you're following the flood in Winnipeg this spring, you may be wondering why the city makes such a big deal about some guy named James.

Thanks to a quirk of history, the city's shorthand for the height of the Red River happens to be the "number of feet James." Unfortunately for circuses everywhere, this is not a question about a man with too many appendages.

James actually refers to the James Avenue Pumping Station, a facility on the west bank of the Red River in the Exchange District. For nearly a century, this site has been used to monitor river levels.

Originally, this data determined the operation of the St. Andrews Lock and Dam at Lockport. Measurements were live human beings and the station was staffed 24 hours a day. Now, the James Avenue station operates automatically. It's basically just a culvert with an electronic water-pressure gauge that transmits river-level data every 15 minutes. The city uses feet instead of metres to express this information, mainly for the sake of consistency. The "number of feet James" is also easier to digest than the number of feet above sea level, a far bigger number.

On Friday afternoon, the Red River in Winnipeg stood at 9.7 feet James. That's still well below flood stage, as you can see from the following milestones on the scale. . .

Zero feet James
This is the famous "normal winter ice level" in Winnipeg -- 727.6 feet (or 221.7 metres) above sea level. This level is an average of mid-winter measurements at James Avenue dating back to 1912. The actual river ice level varies from year to year.

6.5 feet James
The average summer river level in Winnipeg, again based on measurements taken over the past century. St. Andrews Lock and Dam maintains this level during years when the Red River would otherwise drop even lower.

18 feet James
While river levels above 15 feet are recorded as floods on the city's website, the city is in de facto flood mode at 18 feet James. River levels of 18 feet or higher require significant flood-mitigation efforts, such as sealing up drainage gates or sandbagging low-lying homes.

20.2 feet James
The peak of the 2005 summer flood. The Red River crested on July 3 and 4 due to unusual rains over the Canada Day weekend.

20.4 feet James
The peak of the 2006 spring flood, when the Red crested on April 7. At the time, this was the largest flood in the Red River Valley since the Flood of the Century in 1997.

22.6 feet James
The peak of the 2009 spring flood, which confounded flood forecasters who initially predicted a milder spring deluge. Ice jams downstream created two smaller crests before the Red finally peaked on April 15.

24.5 feet James
The peak of the Flood of the Century. The Red River crested on May 3, to the relief of Winnipeggers who watched the same deluge destroy downtown Grand Forks, N.D. and inundate Ste. Agathe.

30.3 feet James
The peak of the 1950 flood, the most destructive disaster in Winnipeg's history. The Red crested on May 19 and did not recede below the flood stage until mid-June of that year. The flood forced 100,000 people to evacuate and caused $600 million in damage, in Winnipeg alone.

34.7 feet James
Estimated peak of the 1852 spring flood in what was then the Red River settlement.

EcoInformatics International -- based in Ottawa -- has done a fine job compiling historic & contemporary GIS data for Glacial Lake Agassiz. Click here for access.

Friday, April 8, 2011

1930's Germany

New Orleans architect and preservationist Samuel Wilson, Jr. (1911-1993) visited Europe in the late 1930s, venturing through France, Austria, Germany and Finland. As he traveled, he documented historic and contemporary architecture, public monuments, and countryside.

Judging by his photographs, he had a heightened interest in what he saw in Bayreuth, Dresden, and Nuremberg. He recorded Otto Ernst Schweizer's (1890-1965) modernist Nuremberg Municipal Stadium and Swimming Baths (1926-28); Albert Speer's newly constructed Zeppelin Grandstand (1935-37); and National Socialist banners along Richard-Wagner Straße in Bayreuth.

Architects' travels have been discussed in a number of previous posts, which can be accessed by following the Label Link "Travel and Tourism" (at right).

Images above from the Samuel Wilson, Jr. Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries:

Samuel Wilson, Jr., photographer. Albert Speer, architect. Zeppelin Field Grandstand, Nuremberg. c. 1937.

Samuel Wilson, Jr., photographer. Otto Ernst Schweizer, architect. Stadium Swimming Baths, Nuremberg. c. 1937.

Samuel Wilson, Jr., photographer. Richard-Wagner Straße, Bayreuth. c. 1937.