Friday, February 24, 2012

Surveying Louisiana

This past fall I participated in the North American Cartographic Information Society Conference, where I presented on the topic of surveyors' records in the Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA).

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 for $20,000.  The Louisiana Land Surveyors 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 Louisiana Land Surveyors Association 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.

The Seghers family surveying business outlasted its rivals, the last old surveying family still operating in the region.  Families such as De Armas and D’Hemecourt left the profession – whereas the Seghers family continued its operations, adapting its business as New Orleans expanded and various trade concerns sought their services.   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.

They frequently collected and inherited surveys of their predecessors and competitors.  Since the Seghers gathered historic maps in the course of doing business, their records are imbedded with original maps, blueprints, bluelines, photostats and photocopies of old plats and lot surveys. 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. They includes survey sketches, architectural drawings, photographs, field notebooks, chain of title research, historic maps, auction announcements and correspondence.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Face Bricks in New Orleans

This blog has previously addressed the Internet Archive resource, the Building Technology Heritage Library, an expanding collection of pre-1964 North American architectural and building trade catalogs, house plan books, and technical building guides.  Regardless of the vendor's base of operations, it is often possible to locate building documentation related to your respective region amid the testimonials, competition announcements and advertisements.

The image above appeared in the Chicago-based American Face Brick Association's publication, The Story of Brick  (third edition, 1922), along with the caption "An excellent example of how admirably suited face brick are to a beautifully designed house."  New Orleans architect Nathan Kohlman († 1957), most known for his Napoleon Avenue Gates of Prayer Synagogue (1920), received credit for planning the bungalow.

In 1919, the American Face Brick Association (AFBA) had advertised a national competition for a small face brick house.  Five members of the American Institute of Architects served as judges, screening hundred of plans received from American and Canadian architects. From the selected plans, the AFBA published a small house plan booklet, titled The Home of Beauty, which sold for 50 cents.  A similar publication, Face Brick Bungalows and Small House Plans, published in 1921 and available for 25 cents, garnered such interest that over 43,000 copies sold in nine months.

Image above:  American Face Brick Association.  The Story of Brick, 3rd ed.  Chicago: Eben Rodgers, 1922, p. 27, as it appears in the Internet Archive.