Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Louisiana State University geographer Jay Dearborn Edwards has frequently addressed the relationship between Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and New Orleans building typologies by drawing on pictorial sources housed in the New Orleans Notarial Archive, the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Southeastern Architectural Archive.(1)  Late architectural historian and architect Samuel Wilson, Jr. (1911-1993) shared an interest in Saint-Domingue, an interest that is reflected in a small collection of historic photographs and research notes that may be located amid his personal papers. From what remains, Wilson was particularly interested in Cap François, the French colony's administrative capitol.  He gathered together a 1723 perspective view of the village, and translated Médéric-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry's 1797 narrative description:

"The houses almost all have the same arrangement. There are rooms fifteen to eighteen feet square which have very high ceilings, and which have on the street a doorway between two windows, or one doorway and one window. These openings are repeated on the courtyard side where ordinarily there is a more or less wide gallery. There are lean-to sheds along the walls of this courtyard, and their division into small rooms furnishes kitchens, offices, and lodgings for the negroes."(2)

His file includes two twentieth-century photographs of structures in Port-au-Prince, one identified as "old house near cathedral" (undated, top image); the other as "Old House" (1961, lower image).

(1) See, for example his "Shotgun: The Most Contested House in America." Buildings & Landscapes XVI:1 (Spring 2009): pp. 62-96.

(2) Médéric-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry. Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie francaise de l'isle Saint-Domingue. Avec des observations générales sur la population, sur le caractère & les moeurs de ses divers habitans; sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration, &c. &c. Accompagnées des détails les plus propres à faire connâitre l'état de cette colonie à l'époque du 18 octobre 1789; et d'une nouvelle carte de la totalité de l'isle. (Philadelphia, Paris, & Hamburg, 1797) Volume I, p. 300. The John Carter Brown Library's copy has been digitized and is available via the Internet Archive at: http://archive.org/details/descriptiontopog00more

Images above:  Old House Near Cathedral/Port-au-Prince, undated; & Port-au-Prince/Old House, 1961. Box 27, "Saint-Domingue," Samuel Wilson, Jr. Papers, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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