Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lost New Orleans

Aerial View of Charity Hospital and Surrounding Neighborhood.  Alex Greenberg, delineator for Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, architects. Copy print of undated presentation drawing. Weiss Dreyfous & Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA), Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Front Elevation, Isis Theatre, 1513 Dryades Street, New Orleans, LA. 1927. Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, architects. Detail of alterations. Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA), Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.
Preliminary Front Elevation, Ritz Theater, Corner LaSalle & Felicity Streets, New Orleans, LA. circa 1938. Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, architects.  Detail of proposed facade.  Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA), Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

For more information on the SEAA's Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth collection, check out the online Finding Aid. Other SEAA Finding Aids may be found at:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1950's Saigon

In the mid-1950s, New Orleans architects Curtis & Davis received a commission to design the new U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam. One early conceptual sketch is reproduced above. Affected by heightened political tensions, the project underwent many revisions through the building's completion in 1966. Two years later the embassy building was attacked, and in April 1975, Gerald R. Ford authorized the rooftop evacuation of American personnel. The structure remained standing and was eventually returned to the U.S. government in 1995, but razed in 1998.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum retains an architectural model of the structure, as well as the rooftop ladder utilized in the evacuation. Tulane University Libraries' Southeastern Architectural Archive houses the Curtis & Davis office records, which include preliminary sketches and photographic documentation.

The firm's design research process incorporated an extensive series of photographs commissioned from the Saigon-based USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory. These images -- taken December 1955 -- document the buildings associated with different foreign missions:  the existing American Norodom compound, as well as the residences of the British and French governmental officials. The series includes structures associated with Shell Oil Company, its "Compagnie Franco Asiatique de Petroles" headquarters (Boulevards Norodom and Luro) and its employees' apartment complex.

Images above:

Top: Curtis & Davis. Saigon Embassy, conceptual sketch. February 1956.

Center: USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory, Saigon, Vietnam. "Shell oil company office building, corner of Blvd. Norodom and Blvd. Luro, Saigon. Constructed in the early 1930s. Photo taken December 1955."

Bottom:  USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory, Saigon, Vietnam. "The front view of the Shell Oil Company's employees' apartments in Saigon. Photo taken December 1955. Building constructed about 1952-1953."

All from Curtis & Davis Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Unit Buildings Principle

In September 1951, Laurence G. Farrant (1921-1978), a Miami-based consulting engineer, published an article in Architectural Record pertaining to a new parking structure that he had helped to realize. Working with project engineer W.C. Harry and New Orleans architects Diboll-Kessels at the request of parking lot entrepreneur George Blaise, Farrant developed a flat-slab garage comprised of 30 independent structures with column supports hinged at the bottoms.

Influenced by the work of Swiss civil engineer Robert Maillart (1872-1940), Farrant developed the plan based on the "unit buildings" principle, which allowed overlapping cantilevers to accommodate additional automobiles. The hinged column bottoms allowed the independence of the separate building units, and also provided more space for automobiles. Ramps between levels were simply hung between unit buildings in a non-continuous placement in order to secure the unit buildings' independence. Farrant asserted that his scheme yielded considerable savings in the purchase of steel and concrete, for he was able to reduce the slab thickness over what would have been required for a single monolithic base.(1)

Click here to see more recent images of the structure.

(1) Laurence G. Farrant. "Parking Garage: Series of Unit Buildings." Architectural Record (September 1951): pp. 167-170; Laurence G. Farrant. "Unit Buildings Cut Construction Costs." Journal of the American Concrete Institute 47:5 (May 1951): pp. 669-679.

Images above:  Details, Laurence G. Farrant. Drawings for garage for Blaise, Inc., 200 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA. Diboll-Kessels and Associates, Architects. March 1950. Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kahn System

In March 1906, Asa J. Biggs (†1913); a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained engineer and principal in the New Orleans firm Mackenzie, Goldstein & Biggs; wrote an article for Architectural Art and Its Allies heralding a new reinforced-concrete building technique, the Kahn system. Invented by Julius Kahn and patented 18 August 1903 (Patent No. 736,602), the system featured rolled bars with diagonal "wings" bent up at regular intervals to prevent shear cracks in horizontal beams (see diagram on envelope below). Kahn's Detroit-based Trussed Concrete Steel Company manufactured and marketed the reinforcement system, and its structural engineers supplied builders with their services.

Frank Lloyd Wright employed the Kahn system in his Imperial Hotel (1913-23) in Tokyo.(1)  In New Orleans, Bemis Brothers' Gulf Bag Company building (329 Julia Street) was erected on 660 Raymond concrete piles, and its beams and floor slabs employed the Kahn system (1905-06).  This facilitated the builder's desire to span a clear space of 44 feet that would allow heavy bales of burlap cloth to be loaded and unloaded.(2) Edmund Burke Mason was the engineer in charge of construction for Bemis Brothers Bag Company of Boston, and supervised the construction of the Julia Street facility, as well as that of Bemis plants in San Francisco and St. Louis.(3)

(1) Joseph M. Siry. "The Architecture of Earthquake Resistance: Julius Kahn's Truscan Company and Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel" Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 67:1 (March 2008): pp. 78-105.

(2) Asa J. Biggs. "A Re-Inforced Concrete Factory." Architectural Art and Its Allies (March 1906), pp. 13-14.

(3)John Smith Kendall. "Edmund Burke Mason." History of New Orleans, vol. 3. 1922. p. 946.

Images above: "Gulf Bag Company Building." Architectural Art and Its Allies (March 1906), p. 13; Trussed Concrete Steel Company envelope, 1909. "Louisiana Printing Co.," Martin Shepard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shepley in NOLA

In the 1890s, Henry Hobson Richardson's successor firm Shepley Rutan & Coolidge, Architects (SRC) received two important commissions in New Orleans. Both projects were published in the May 1896 The American Architect & Building News. Both buildings were constructed in the Central Business District, one at 1030 Canal Street (top image); the other at 221-223 Baronne Street (bottom image). The first to be completed was for the New South Building & Loan Association, erected in 1895 and the second was the Pickwick Club House, completed in 1896. (1)

The Heliotype Printing Company of Boston produced the journal images above, with the hand-colored collotype only available in the international and imperial editions.

Images above:

Top: Shepley, Rutan & Collidge, Architects. Pickwick Club-House, 1030 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA. 1896. Collotype. The American Architect & Building News (30 May 1896).

Bottom: Shepley, Rutan & Collidge, Architects. New South Building & Loan Association, 221-223 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA. 1895. Hand-colored collotype. The American Architect & Building News (30 May 1896).

Both Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

(1) Interior plastering for the Pickwick Club-House was not completed until 1897, as club members wanted to allow the building to settle for one year to prevent the formation of wall cracks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mushroom System II

We had posted an earlier entry regarding the use of C.A.P. Turner's so-called "Mushroom System" in the construction of the New Orleans Johns-Manville Building (1914). One year earlier, architect Emile Weil (1878-1945)  was touted as employing the method for the "Most Up-to-Date Wholesale House in New Orleans," his Woodward-Wight building (344 St. Joseph Street). The construction photograph reproduced above appeared in the January 1913 issue of Architectural Art and Its Allies, a local architecture/building journal.

Image above: "The Mushroom System of Reinforced Concrete." Architectural Art and Its Allies (January 1913), p. 20.  Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lexicon: Stair-Mobile

Previously we had posted a 1938 residential lift called the Stair-Travelor, designed to assist individuals needing transport from one story to the next. Thirty years later, the Atlanta-based Southeastern Elevator Company, Inc. was advertising a prefabricated StairMobile (shown above), which performed the same function, but traveled 27 feet per minute, and had the capacity to carry a 250-pound person. Southeastern Elevator's stair climber could operate on a standard 110 volt alternating current (AC) and could be finished to match one's home decor.

In New Orleans, the Jolley Elevator Corporation at 2630 Banks Street was the local distributor for the Stair Mobile.

Image above: StairMobile Stair Climber,Southeastern Elevator Co., Inc. 441 Memorial Drive/Atlanta, Georgia. 1968. Trade Catalog Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NEW COLLECTION: Albert C. Ledner Office Records

The Southeastern Architectural Archive has recently finalized the processing of New Orleans modernist architect Albert Ledner's office records. The documents span his education and professional career from c. 1943-2011.  The collection includes project drawings, correspondence, articles, patents, photographs, color transparencies and diapositives.

Ledner typically served as both architect and construction manager for his owner-built projects. He designed numerous structures for the National Maritime Union of America, and completed projects in eight states. At times he worked with his contemporaries, Philip Roach, Albert Saputo, and Leonard Reese Spangenberg.

From 1944-1955 Ledner travelled extensively to study modernist architecture, and his office records include images of structures he visited.  These photographic images record buildings primarily by Frank Lloyd Wright, but also by Bruce Goff, John Lautner and Eero Saarinen.  Notable amongst the color transparencies are those that document the construction of Florida Southern University in Lakeland, Florida.

Access the finding aid here.

View the SEAA's online exhibit, Modernism in New Orleans here.

Image above: Albert Ledner at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona, c. 1943-44. Albert C. Ledner Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Stone Mountain Granite Corp.

In 1911, the Weiblen Marble and Granite Company leased Stone Mountain, Georgia from Samuel and William Venable, operating there as the Stone Mountain Granite Corporation (SMGC) until 1936. Company founder Albert Weiblen (1857-1957), a German immigrant, gave SMGC operational responsibilities to his two sons, Frederick († 1927) and George († 1970).

The photograph above was taken by Reeves Studios, founded in Atlanta, Georgia (1914). The Atlanta History Center's Kenan Research Center has digitized a number of Reeves Studio photographs with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Close attention to the cutting shed image above reveals a crane operator situated inside a Pawling & Harnischfeger 15-ton type "C" I-beam crane cab. Such cranes were used in lumber mills and granite quarries, and images of its use in these and other contexts may be found in a set of digitized images from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains the records of the Weiblen Marble and Granite Company, as well as supplemental information pertaining to its Stone Mountain and Elberton, Georgia quarry operations. An inventory of holdings may be located here.

Stone Mountain granite was used on many New Orleans public projects, including the pedestal of the Lafayette Square Benjamin Franklin statue, the Huey P. Long Bridge, and -- at the request of City Engineer A.C. Bell -- was used to pave the riverfront between Thalia and Nuns Streets for the construction of the Pauline Street wharf.(1)

(1) "Dock Board Lets Paving Contract." The Daily Picayune (25.1.1913), p. 6.

Image above: Reeves Photo Atlanta. Stone Mountain Granite Corporation, Stone Mountain, Georgia, c. 1914-29. Weiblen Marble and Granite Works Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Theodore Brune (1854-1932)

The German-born architect Theodore Brune died in New Orleans in 1932 at the age of 78. He obtained his architectural education at the University of Tübingen before immigrating to the United States and establishing his New Orleans architecture practice. Primarily known as a Catholic church architect, Brune also designed the Biloxi, Mississippi Yacht Club Building, Dukate's Theatre, and private residences for W.K.M. Dukate and L. Lopez, Sr. (all shown above).

He is most noted for his design of the Swiss Benedictine St. Joseph's Abbey, located near Covington in St. Benedict, Louisiana. The structure has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2007. Blueprints reside in the Southeastern Architectural Archive's Philip P. Cazalé Office Records, a recently processed collection.

Upon his death, Brune was interned at St. Joseph's Abbey.

Images above: "Theodore Brune" & his buildings. In Biloxi Daily Herald: Twentieth Century Coast Edition (1902), as viewed 1.11.2012 via The Internet Archive.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Orleans Business Archive: Architectural Stone

Assembled in this circa 1930 photograph are employees of the Architectural Stone Company, a New Orleans business founded in 1923 by Victor Guido Lachin (born Venice, Italy c. 1896 - † New Orleans 1980).  Lachin learned plasterwork from his father Angelo, a Venetian woodcarver who remained in the United States after working on architectural ornamentation for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.  By 1910, Angelo Lachin had established an eponymous New Orleans business located at 518 Royal Street and relocated his wife and two sons, Victor and John M. (Venice, Italy c. 1890 -† New Orleans 1986) to the United States.

Victor established the Architectural Stone Company after serving apprenticeships in St. Louis and New Orleans. Three generations of the family worked for the company by 1969, when Victor Lachin retired and sold the business.

Over its 46 years of operation, Architectural Stone supplied architects, builders and contractors with its cast ornamentation. Renowned as early innovators in stone fabrication, the company modernized traditional Italian scagliola techniques, mixing cement with ground stone pigments, then casting and polishing the composite to emulate cut stone.  Its sculptural work was used on cemetery, residential, institutional, industrial and mercantile structures.

Many of the company's shop drawings are housed in Tulane University's Southeastern Architectural Archive. An inventory of holdings may be found here. Thanks to Tulane School of Architecture graduate Scott Heath for his assistance processing the collection.

Image above:  Architectural Stone Company, 8122 Colapissa Street, New Orleans,  c. 1930. Donor Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, October 26, 2012

New Orleans Maps

William Edward Boesch, Sr. (1903-1973) created this map of Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes in 1926, the year he founded the New Orleans Map Company. Boesch was one of the first cartographers in the city to utilize aerial photographic data in developing his maps.

Boesch's early training was as a draftsman, and he drew his first maps with approximate rather than precise scales. In 1930, he published a technical manual titled Commercial and Engineering Map Drawing and Lettering. By the late 1930s, he had compiled a two-volume atlas of  New Orleans commercial and industrial lots and municipal block ownership maps, now housed at the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Over his long career and prior to his becoming Honorary Mayor of Little Woods, Boesch published the following maps:


Map of Orleans & St. Bernard Parishes Showing Lake Shore Developments & Etc. 


Map of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana [for Chamber of Commerce]

Map of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana


Map of Louisiana: Illustrating the Major Features of Interest to Tourists, Campers, Picnickers, Anglers, Hunters and Nature Lovers Generally Described in the Guide to Louisiana's Great Outdoors


Map of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana

Map of Louisiana, Showing Oil, Gas and Sulfur Fields, Salt Domes & Etc.


Map of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana

1930s (undated)

Southeastern Louisiana: Showing Some of the Excellent Fishing Grounds in the Southeastern Part of the State.


Map of Part of New Orleans Showing Dock and Nearest Catholic Churches


Map of the Business District of New Orleans


The Fisherman's "Ofishall" Map and Guide: New Orleans Area, Southeast Louisiana and Gulf Coast


Map of Vieux Carre and Business District, New Orleans

New Orleans/Second Port of the USA, Air Hub of the Americas

Official Map and Guide of New Orleans USA


New Orleans Retail District


Map of Greater East Jefferson, Including Harahan-Kenner and Metairie, Louisiana

Map of Gulf of Mexico, Showing Port Facilities

Map Showing Municipal Districts and Wards of New Orleans, La.

1950s (undated)

Map of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana, corrected edition


Map of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana


Map of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana


Map of Greater Eastern New Orleans

On Tulane University's campus, historic maps may be located in the Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) and the Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA), both departments in the TU Libraries' Special Collections Division.  The SEAA's collection of Guy Seghers Office Records contains a large number of twentieth-century maps and surveys.

Map above:  Wm. E. Boesch, Map of Orleans & St. Bernard Parishes Showing Lake Shore Developments & Etc. Copyrighted November 1926 by Wm. E. Boesch, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Building Letterheads XV-XVI

Southern Demolishing & Lumber Company, Incorporated
407 North Broad Street
George L. Ducros Tile Company Tiling Contractors
1601 South Gayoso Street

Images above: Building Letterheads, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Building Letterheads XIV

In August 1925, three large New Orleans lumber concerns merged. Salmen Brick and Lumber (founded in 1844 by Fritz Salmen), Hortman Lumber (founded in 1913 by Claude Hortman) and National Sash & Door Company (organized in the first decade of the twentieth century) consolidated to become the Hortman-Salmen Company, Incorporated.

In April 1931, the company moved to its new plant, located at the intersection of Dupre and Toulouse Streets, and covering four municipal squares adjacent to the Carondelet Canal.

Image above:  Detail, EAH, Sales Department to Perrilliat-Rickey Construction Company, 22 July 1936, Building Letterheads, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Formica 1966

In the spring of 1966, Formica® Corporation was advertising its solid color and wood grain patterns for use in horizontal and vertical applications. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, the company was then a subsidiary of American Cyanamid. Touting the product's heat and scratch resistance, companies such as the Louisiana Elevator Corporation recommended it for use in elevator cab walls.

1966 customers could choose from colors named "Absinthe," "Chutney" and "Matador," among others (top image, above). Woodgrain selections included "Malacca Teak," "Paldao," and "Macassar Ebony" (lower image above).

Images above: Louisiana Elevator Corporation Contract for 630 Gravier Street, Architectural Trade Catalogs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lost Louisiana

In April 1926, Mrs. Wheeler H. Peckham, honorary curator of the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), addressed the New Orleans Garden Society at the residence of Mrs. L. Kemper Williams. Her presentation focused on preserving Louisiana's native iris. Mrs. Peckham had been touring the region with NYBG curator Dr. John K. Small and botanical magazine editor E.J. Alexander. The team was alarmed at the rapid disappearance of southeastern Louisiana's iris fields.

Small (shown at right in center and bottom images above), in an article for the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden, quoted a letter he received from New Orleans Parking Commission member George Thomas:

'During the past twenty-five years, I have witnessed the most frightful destruction amongst the irises within the city limits of New Orleans and adjoining parishes, even worse than that of the Frenchmen Street location. At the junction of Washington and Carrollton Avenues, there was a patch of several acres, which when in bloom appeared to be a solid mass of iris; today not one remains. At the site of Newcomb College there was a fine stand of Iris fulva. This has disappeared entirely.'

Small considered New Orleans the biological and geographical center of Louisiana iris culture, and lamented  the disappearance of the Bayou Sauvage fields in Gentilly and the dwindling of the Frenchmen Street field:

"The present condition of the well-known Frenchmen Street iris fields attracts one's attention. The marsh along which and through which Frenchmen Street was built was a celebrated iris field, for many years a favorite place for the citizens interested in iris to observe and gather specimens or bouquets. Manufacturing plants finally began to use the marsh as a dumping ground for refuse, and today most of the former iris growth has been buried, and only a few isolated patches of the plants of the several species that once thrived here in countless numbers remain in the landscape."

Small and Peckham called on the citizens of New Orleans to save Louisiana's native irises. They returned to New Orleans many times, with Small collecting specimens for the NYBG, and naming innumerable natural hybrids or species variants.

Quoted matter from John K. Small, "Vanishing Iris." Reports on Florida Explorations 76, offprint from Journal of the New York Botanical Garden 32 (1931): pp. 277-288.  Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Images, top to bottom: 

Top: "In the delta of the Pearl River, Louisiana. A small patch of Iris giganticaerulea in the foreground. The 'weed-wagon' (the popular name for our collecting motor) in the background."

Center: "Collecting iris in swamp at Arabi, Louisiana. Colonies large and small of many kinds of iris occur here. This swamp and those of Gentilly are the richest in various kinds of iris."

Bottom: "Our tallest-stemmed iris--Iris giganticaerulea, growing in a swamp near Cut-Off, Louisiana. In this swamp violet-flowered irises prevailed. The plants were mostly three to five feet tall. The plants in the colony shown above were fully seven feet tall. If some of the dropping leaves were straightened, they would overtop one's head."

Images from John K. Small, "Salvaging the Native American Irises." Reports on Florida Explorations 73, offprint from Journal of the New York Botanical Garden 32 (1931): pp. 175-184. Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Building Letterheads XIII

Beginning in 1901, the Schwing Lumber & Shingle Company operated along the Mississippi River at Bayou Plaquemine. The company's dominance of the Louisiana cypress shingle market was mentioned in W.E. Clement's Plantation Life on the Mississippi (1952). Schwing also operated a successful Spanish moss operation, supplying the cured "lagniappe product" for the upholstery trade.

By the late 1930s, Schwing was managing mineral rights related to speculative oil drilling operations across its vast land holdings. Company president Calvin Kendrick Schwing became a prominent politician, serving in the Louisiana state senate from 1928 to 1936. In December 1956, Dow Chemical Company purchased all the Schwing Lumber stock, and thus acquired 60,000 acres of land.

Image above: Detail, Calvin K. Schwing, letter to Mr. Bert Nadler, 15 November 1938, Building Letterheads, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dixie Brewery

The Dixie Brewery held its grand opening on Thursday, 31 October 1907. The management revealed the vast facility to the New Orleans public, serving lemonade, ice cream and danishes to the attendees. Orchestral music punctuated the event.

After securing the Tulane Avenue/North Rocheblave Street site in 1906, Dixie's officers retained the services of the Chicago brewery architect Louis Lehle & Sons to design its modern plant and stables. German- born architect Julius Koch (Stuttgart 1857-New Orleans 1918) supervised the construction of the five-story concrete, steel, brick and asbestos edifice.

Louis William Lehle designed many other noted American breweries, including the Blatz Brewery (Milwaukee), the John Hauck Brewing Company (Cincinnati), the Lake Superior Brewing Company (now Fitger's, Duluth, Mn), the Lion Brewery (Chicago), the Thieme & Wagner Brewing Company (Lafayette, La) and the Detroit Brewing Company. In October 1911, he presented his personal observations on brewery site selection, construction, insulation and design to the Second International Brewers' Congress in Chicago, Illinois. You can read his paper here.

Image above: "New Brewery Opens: Magnificent Plant on Tulane Avenue Receives Guests." The Daily Picayune 1 November 1907, p. 6.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lexicon: Bodine

We encountered a new building term yesterday in a trade catalog titled The Complete House Builder (1890). Bodine was a patented roofing product developed by the Bodine Roofing Company of Mansfield, Ohio in the early 1880s. Comprised of polychromed white poplar and spruce wood pulp, bodine's advantage over slate was its affordability and the ease with which any DIYer could install it. For the "Cheap Cottage Set on Posts" illustrated above, it was one option that the M.A. Donohue & Company considered economical. An added benefit for those with rain barrels and cisterns was its inconspicuous flavor. The Architect, Builder and Woodworker reported that rain water flowing off a bodine roof imparted "no unpleasant taste," unlike that experienced with composition roofs (gravel, pitch, chemical, asbestos or felt).(1)

(1)"The Bodine Patent Roof," The Architect, Builder and Woodworker 19 (October 1883): p. 188.

Image above: "No. 1--Front Elevation," The Complete House Builder with Hints on Building (Chicago: M.A. Donohue & Company, 407-429 Dearborn Street, 9 April 1890), n.p. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mushroom System

In September 1914, the New Orleans architectural firm of Toledano, Wogan and Bernard was completing a new skyscraper in the Central Business District, the Johns-Manville Building (441 Gravier Street/225 Magazine Street).  The building employed a recently patented flat-slab construction system that allowed for thinner slabs, broader spans, and reduced shear. Minneapolis-based engineer Claude Allen Porter (C.A.P.) Turner (1869-1955) developed the system  after years working as a railroad bridge engineer for the Soo Line.

Turner's first documented mushroom system building was the Johnson-Bovey in Minneapolis (1906; razed). Milwaukee's Hoffman building (now Marshall) was completed the following year.(1)

In New Orleans, there was considerable interest in the Turner Mushroom System. J.T. Mann & Company was Turner's southern agent, and envisioned the Johns-Manville building its prototype.  The locally-published Building Review reported to the Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects:

"The building is the highest of its kind in this city and is of the Turner Mushroom system construction. It is fireproof, has a modern sprinkling system, extensive fire extinguishing devices and automatic door shutters. The walls of the building are stuccoed, trimmed with press brick and polychromatic terra cotta, models of which were colored in the architect's office, giving a general color scheme that presents a composition of refinement and good taste. The average test of the floors have proven a loading capacity of 600 pounds to the square foot in spans averaging 20x20 feet with a deflection of not more and in some cases much less than 1-8 of an inch."

(1) In 2002, the American Society of Civil Engineers declared it a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

(2) "A New Turner Mushroom System Building." Building Review (19 September 1914), p. 8.

Images above: C.A.P. Turner, consulting engineer. Column Top Detail, Johns-Mansville Bldg., New Orleans, LA. Blueprint.  Toledano, Wogan & Bernard Office Records; "Testing Floor Load in the New Johns-Manville Mushroom System Building." Photographic reproduction. Building Review (19 September 1914), p. 8. Both Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tulane & the Beaux-Arts

In the second decade of the twentieth century, the Tulane Department of Architecture boasted its relationship to the Parisian École des Beaux Arts:

"The entrance requirements of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris are exacting and specific. The departments of this famous school have a standing hardly equalled by any college elsewhere in the world. To be a student in the 'Ecole' is one of the highest honors that can come to the young Frenchman and it is an honor no less prized by those foreigners who seek to gain admission through its doors."

"Last year 500 Frenchmen and 185 foreigners took the entrance examinations. Of these 185 foreigners 7 were Americans. Three of these Americans were successful and it is gratifying to note that of those three, two had been students of the Tulane Department of Architecture, viz: Feitel, B., Arch, 1911, and Armstrong, a three year student."

From "Architectural Department" Building Review125 (1913-1914), p. 7. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, September 24, 2012

At Large in the Library: Geosophy

This blog has mentioned University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Emeritus Yi-Fu Tuan in earlier posts. His most recent book, Humanist Geography: An Individual's Search for Meaning, will be coming soon to Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Frenchtown 1911

We recently came across an early article by New Orleans architect, educator, librarian and preservationist Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis, Sr. (1881-1953). The work was one of the first to posit a "Creole architecture" in New Orleans based on social customs and climate. As a young architect, Curtis dichotomized the demands for structural integrity and "orderliness" against the artistic romanticism evoked by the city's oldest (and rotted) buildings:

"[The architect] cannot translate its decayed beauty into new and fresh materials; and even when he tries to preserve some of the antique character of the building, the result is almost certain to be inharmonious and offensive to his own artistic sense."

Image above: N.C. Curtis, "Map of the Older Section of New Orleans, Locally Known as 'Frenchtown'." In "The Creole Architecture of the Old South." The Architectural Record XLIII:5 (May 1918): p. 437.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Orleans Traffic 1927

In 1927, New Orleans boasted a population of some 428,000 people. The city evidenced a 6.79 ratio of population to automobile ownership, compared to Milwaukee, Wisconsin's estimated 4.18 and Seattle, Washington's 4.68. Increasing vehicular traffic resulted in commuter congestion problems, as well as an elevated number of personal injury reports. Between 1925 and 1927, the vast majority of New Orleans' personal injury accidents involved a motorized vehicle and a pedestrian. Some 2,000 pedestrians were injured in accidents involving motorized vehicles (see chart above).

The city retained the services of Miller McClintock (†1960), then director of the Albert Russel Erskine Bureau for Street Traffic Research (housed on the top floor of Harvard University's Widener Library), and St. Louis urban planner Harland Bartholomew (1889-1989) to conduct a comprehensive study of traffic problems and to propose solutions. The team's resultant work, The Street Traffic Control Problem of the City of New Orleans (November 1928), was based on extensive field observations and cartographic reporting.

McClintock and Bartholomew lauded the city's role as the first "to take formal recognition of the changed status between pedestrians and motor vehicles in its regulations and ordinances" but lamented that "there has not been a stricter enforcement of these provisions and that other cities which have copies [sic] similar regulations have been more successful in their application." (1) To rectify this problem, the team proposed enhanced regulations and ordinances, administrative reorganization and better selection and supervision of traffic division police personnel.

Read more in the Southeastern Architectural Archive. . .

(1)Miller McClintock and Harland Bartholomew. The Street Traffic Control Problem of the City of New Orleans (November 1928), p. 177. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gehry in New Orleans

As Frank Gehry's new Make It Right house has been gaining attention, it reminded us that the Southeastern Architectural Archive retains drawings of the architect's first New Orleans project, the Louisiana World Exposition Amphitheater.

An American Institute of Architects award-winning structure, the LWE amphitheater was designed in 1983. Originally the city expressed an interest in retaining the amphitheater beyond the duration of the World's Fair, but the Dock Board  had concerns about the structure's impact on wharf operations and property owner Lester Kabacoff felt that it would obstruct river views.

The Liggett and Myers Quality Seal Amphitheater -- the structure's promotional identity -- was dismantled shortly after the fair ended.

Image above:  Inverted detail, Frank O. Gehry & Associates, Inc. L.W.E. Amphitheater. 12 January 1983. Perez Associates 1984/Louisiana World Exposition Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collection Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dedication of the Industrial Canal

This photograph was taken by an unidentified photographer on 5 May 1923 during the dedication of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal. Governor Parker addressed the thousands who had gathered at the locks to celebrate the public holiday. Dauphine and Claiborne Avenue streetcars transported hundreds of visitors to the Ninth Ward location.

The photograph includes the steamboats Susquehanna and Aunt Dinah as well as a dock board tugboat that participated in the event's marine pageant.

Image above: Unidentified photographer. Dedication of the Industrial canal. 5 May 1923. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Building Letterheads XII

Alexandria's Rapides Bank & Trust Company (RBTC), located at 400 Murray Street, was designed by the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation (1954). The company specialized in modernist design-build services, and had a significant affect on banking in both North and South America. In 1969, RBTC used its new bank as a gallery space, hosting an important Rodin exhibition that featured B. Gerald Cantor's collection now housed at Stanford University's Cantor Arts Center.

The Alexandria building is still standing and serves as a branch of Chase Bank. Its predecessor, the Old Rapides Bank & Trust Company building (1898), has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.

The Bank Building & Equipment Company's lead architect Wenceslao A. Sarmiento also designed modernist branches of Hibernia Bank in Gentilly (1956) and Mid-City (1955).  Click here for photos and more information.

Image above: Detail, Robert H. Bolton, letter to Louisiana Landmarks Society, 25 August 1971, Louisiana Landmarks Society Records, Folder 556, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

New Orleans Molasses

Photographer and Precisionist painter Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) recommended New Orleans molasses for his Shoo-Fly Cake, as a Smithsonian archives intern recently discovered while processing the artist's papers. She recently adapted his recipe to create a vegan and gluten-free version. Read both his original and her modernized version  on the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art blog.

See New Orleans photographs by Sheeler's fellow Precisionist Ralston Crawford at the New Orleans Museum of Art through October 14th.

Friday, July 6, 2012

CFP: Port Cities

Port Cities as Hotspots of Creative & Sustainable Local Development
Naples, Italy  1-2 September 2012

The aim of the meeting is to discuss principles, tools and practices of creative places, for the identification of successful policies and for the formulation of recommendations to balance economic prosperity with social needs and conservation of eco-systems in reinventing the city.

In particular, it will be focused on the following goals:

1. to propose new ideas to strength the development strategies of port cities, combining new and old architecture;
2. to identify the necessary conditions for the design of the creative sector and sustainable developments in port areas/cities;
3. to map out learning modes based on creative practices or experiences in various parts of the world;
4. to seek for appropriate indicators and evolution tools for mapping out the performance of creative port area/cities development initiatives;
5. to identify innovative tools to implement UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape approach into an integrated perspective, that balances and integrates conservation and development;
6. to compare creative practices of conservation/development of port areas/cities, identifying critical elements;
7. to compare best practices in financing integrated conservation of historic urban landscape;
8. to interpret port areas as particular "places", as spaces of creativity, to be re-generated and/or created through design/planning;
9. to discuss the creative role of port cities in designing city future.

Call for Papers: The Scientific Committee invites researchers and practitioners to submit abstracts of papers for presentation at the meeting. The deadline for abstract submission is July, 20th 2012.

Event website:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Building Letterheads XI

In 1946, New Orleans builder Clarence M. Wise purchased the old First District Engine House Number 13 and renovated it as his drafting and engineering offices. He altered the facade and added air conditioning.

By the early 1960s, the Wise Building was razed to accommodate a parking lot, and SOM's One Shell Square is now situated on the site. Wise Builders' residential structure mentioned in the above correspondence fared better, for it is still standing at the intersection of Cherry and Apple Streets in the Seventh District.

Image above: Detail & Full Page, T.J. Madden, letter to Guy Seghers, 8 March 1950, Guy Seghers Office Records, "7th District, Square 368 (Carrollton)," Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Building Letterheads X

We recently came across an old check from the People's Bank of New Orleans that features a wood engraved image of the bank building formerly located at 207 Decatur Street/507 Iberville Street in the Second Municipal District. Opened in August 1877, the structure served the bank's purposes until it relocated to Thomas Sully's Morris Building in the early twentieth century.

The structure was designed by a succession of architect-surveyors, first by Jules A. D'Hemecourt (†1880) and then finished by Stephen J. Turpin. Motherwell M. Bell served as the contractor, and Harry H. Dressel (†1905), the scenic artist who had his studio on Iberville (then Customhouse), painted the interior fresco panels that included personifications of Industry and Commerce, and a depiction of the Steamboat Natchez.(1)

(1)"The People's Bank." The Daily Picayune (5 August 1877) p. 1.

Images above: T. Fitzwilliam & Co., printers. Peoples Bank of New Orleans checks, c. 1900-1907. Full view and detail of People's Bank building located at 207 Decatur Street. Guy Seghers Office Records, "7th District, Square 179 (Carrollton 66-A)," Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

From Bicycle to Automobile

An earlier post addressed New Orleans architect Rathbone De Buys' 1921 proposed Canal Street parking skyscraper. Five years earlier, Gustav Stickley's journal The Craftsman featured a review of the American Architect's publication, Garages, Country and Suburban, a series of ... articles on the structural features of the private garage and its equipment, the care of the car, the safe handling of gasolene and topics of interest to the owner and driver (New York, 1911).

The Craftsman extensively quoted the book:

"The coming of the automobile has introduced a new phase into the architect's daily work. The smart, shining, highly developed machine, quick, accurate and efficient, full of the very essence of modernity, with its irrepressible and confident chauffeur, seems to require more 'chic' accommodations, than did even the smartest horses and vehicles of the last generation. The age of the automobile is the age of cement, of high efficiency electric lighting and of the banishment of germs and crevices which harbor them. The garage must be modern, light, shining and not only clean, but free from any possibility of harboring dirt in any form. So, though the architect may still affect the homely and reliable bicycle as his own personal mode of locomotion, he enthusiastically approves the change in habits of clients which make necessary the designing and providing of a new type of building."

The reviewer seems to have been especially drawn to those garages that were portable, functioned equally as garden trellises and/or chauffeur's lodging, and one that served the purposes of the aviator as well as the motorist:

"The combination garage and hangar floor foretells the future form of this new, almost indispensable adjunct of the country house, for man must soon mount to the skies as well as skim the surfaces of the earth."

The airplane pictured above looks like the Bristol Box Kite, invented seven years after the Wright flyer, and used by the Royal Naval Air Service (U.K.), the Royal Romanian Air Force, and the Australian Flying Corps.

For aviation history buffs, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) manages an aircraft museum  that includes a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer and holds its popular annual airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin every July.

Images above: "Book Reviews." The Craftsman XXIX: 4 (January 1916): pp. 440-443.