Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lost New Orleans 1906

We recently came across a cache of invoices dated 1906 that feature various wood engravings of New Orleans structures. Each business is identified by street address.

From top to bottom:

Woodward Wight & Co., Limited
St. Joseph & Magazine Streets

Woodward Wight & Co., Limited
Office and Salesrooms
406-420 Canal Street

Berwick Lumber Co. Ltd.
[Had Cypress Lumber and Shingle Mills at Berwick City, LA]
Dealers' Office and Manufacturing Warehouse
Corner Clio and Freret Streets

Bedell Structural Steel and Foundry Co.
Office & Works
Magnolia, Erato & Clara Streets

Images above:  Box 53. Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Works Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Exhibit Highlights Superdome

Tulane University’s Southeastern Architectural Archive has announced a new exhibition:

In celebration of Super Bowl XLVII and in anticipation of the 40th Anniversary of the Louisiana Superdome, this exhibition documents the structure’s early history.  Beginning with a 1966 public referendum to establish a Louisiana Exposition and Stadium District to build a domed stadium in New Orleans, the project rapidly progressed through an exhaustive site selection phase. Governor John McKeithen proclaimed it the best thing to happen to the state since the Louisiana Purchase.

Before the structure was even begun the vox popoli had established it as “the superdome.” By summer 1967, a design team led by Nathaniel C. Curtis, Jr. was developing conceptual models. He stressed the building’s legacy as a classical amphitheatre envisioned in modern terms, a challenge to both the past and the future. His team developed the space around the spectators, then subjected the designs to computer analysis in order to determine the appropriate structural system. Additional modifications were made due to the city’s high water table and the need for the building to withstand hurricane-force winds. Helicopters delivered final building materials to the dome when cranes could no longer reach.

The resultant stadium sits on a platform twenty-five feet above grade and features a five-thousand ton dome supported by a tension ring comprised of twenty-four prefabricated sections that were welded in place. After eight years of labor, employing over one thousand people, and costing over $163 million, the Louisiana Superdome required “the unrelenting efforts of people who were not afraid to make a dream come true.”

The Dome
17 January 2013  -- 1 November 2013

Image above:

Art Associates, Illustrators.  The Louisiana Stadium. Presentation rendering. Undated. Curtis & Davis Office Records, The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Metal Caskets

In 1931, the Fuller Company, charged with site clearance for the new Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge, began to uncover human remains. When construction operations were initiated, the project architects Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth had been informed that there was a possibility this would happen, as certain portions of the site had once been used as a cemetery. They had the site surveyed and any bodies that were easily located were disinterred and reburied. When one of the Fuller Company steam shovel operators struck a metal casket, construction was immediately halted, and a Baton Rouge treasure hunter named George Maher, Sr. was hired to locate any other such cases using a radio device.(1)

Maher ultimately uncovered some twenty-three metallic coffins.(2)  On 11 April 1931, some of the caskets  -- now removed to a collective burial site -- were photographed as part of the construction documentation (shown above).

Such metal caskets were popular during the second half of the nineteenth century, and a host of entrepreneurs patented their own versions. Almond D. Fisk of New York famously patented the model above in November 1848. It featured a round glass window for the face that was securely mounted to the casket. Fisk suggested removing all air from the coffin in order to prevent putrefaction.
Martin Crane -- representing Crane, Breed & Company of Cincinnati -- patented this  "Metallic Coffin" in March 1855. His model featured an octagonal-shaped glass window for the face, and a name plate, both with ornamental molded surrounds. 
In 1861, Knoxville inventor James H. Renshaw patented this "Metallic Coffin," asserting his improvements over earlier types. He employed unique bevels along the upper edges of his caskets.
Among the patent developers, one of the most unusual descriptions accompanied Philip K. Clover's "Coffin-Torpedoes," in which he claimed his invention would prohibit the "unauthorized resurrection of dead bodies" because any attempt to remove the body after burial would cause the death of the grave robber. His patent involved the use of spring-loaded explosives.

After the Civil War, Crane, Breed & Company established a New Orleans office on Magazine Street. They advertised their services in Gardner’s New Orleans Directory for 1867.
One of Crane's competitors was T.W. Bothick, who  sold "metalic burial cases" of the type patented by Lucian Fay in 1864. These were a much simpler form, with Fay recommending the use of sheet rather than cast metal.

It's a good thing the 1931 State Capitol crew didn't encounter any of the booby-trapped torpedoes!

(1) Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, Inc. Letter to Mr. Harris N. English dated 19 December 1931. Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive.

(2) Gene Bylinsky. "Search for the Pot of Gold." The Times-Picayune (30 September 1956): pp. 134-135.

Images above:

Progress Photograph of Caskets Removed to Collective Burial Pit. 11 April 1931. Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive.

All patent images from google patents.

"Crane, Breed & Co." Gardner’s New Orleans Directory for 1867. New Orleans, 1867. Southeastern Architectural Archive.

"T.W. Bothick, Undertaker." Gardner’s New Orleans Directory for 1867. New Orleans, 1867. Southeastern Architectural Archive.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Orleans "Sports Plant" 1968

In the spring of 1968, Maurice E. "Moon" Landrieu (top image above) was advocating a new stadium for metropolitan New Orleans, quoting then Governor John J. McKeithen's assertion that "the stadium is the greatest thing that's happened to the state since the Louisiana Purchase." Landrieu outlined the project's merits in an article for The New Orleans Realtor:

"A city and state, like any other big business, must continually invest in the future. New Orleans is deeply committed to tourism and recreation, and we are in active competition with other cities for new industries.
Construction of a multi-purpose domed stadium may be bold but not unrealistic. Such a facility is an investment that will mean additional income for everyone in the city and state, and new tax dollars will flow into state government coffers for the benefit of all. Economically, the impact of a huge sports plant such as the domed stadium--with its projected attendance of three to four million people a year--will be one of several new industries locating in Louisiana. After a careful and thorough study of existing facilities, the Gulf South Research Institute estimates that the total amount of benefit to the state will be in excess of $150 million in the first year."

After considering twenty-one sites across Orleans and Jefferson Parish, members of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Commission selected a fifty-five acre site bordered by the Pontchartrain Expressway, Poydras Street, and Claiborne & Loyola Avenues. New Orleans architect Nathaniel C. Curtis, Jr. was named project director over a team of architects and engineers that included his firm, Curtis and Davis, as well as Sverdrup and Parcel; Nolan, Norman and Nolan; and Edward B. Silverstein and Associates.

An early design -- shown in the reproduction above -- was configured with a football-shaped massing meant to accommodate more sideline seats than in the Houston Astrodome.

To read more, see:  Maurice E. Landrieu. "The Domed Stadium--Its Impact On New Orleans." The New Orleans Realtor (March 1968): pp. 5-7. Images above from the article, available in the Southeastern Architectural Archive.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Orleans Architects 1917

In 1917, the Roycrofters printed a compendium of William K. Patrick & Associates' caricatures of Louisiana notables. These included New Orleans architects H. Jordan MacKenzie, W.L. Stevens and Leon C. Weiss (shown above).

To view more of the vignettes, see Club Men of Louisiana in Caricature. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1917. There are multiple copies in Tulane University Libraries, and the work is also digitized and available via the Internet Archive.

W.K. Patrick was a cartoonist who patented his comic duck avatar in 1911. He worked for the Times-Picayune and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.