Tuesday, May 14, 2013

South Rampart Street Neutral Ground

During World War II, the neutral ground at the intersection of South Rampart Street and Howard Avenue was occupied by a restaurant called the Union Lunch Room. New Orleans architect Walter Cook Keenan (1881-1970) documented the bustling corner in a series of photographic negatives taken from opposite sides of the restaurant.

He often photographed signage, from hand-painted and neon signs to large billboards. Typically, he was documenting code violations in the French Quarter, although sometimes he ventured into other neighborhoods. Sometimes he photographed signs enforcing racial discrimination, as was the case with the Union Lunch Room's.

For researchers interested in the history of segregation, it will be important to note that photographers working with the Farm Security Administration also documented such signs, and the Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs Division has digitized them in response to frequent patron requests. They are accessible here.

Images above:  Walter Cook Keenan, photographer. 900 S. Rampart Street. Circa 1945. Walter Cook Keenan New Orleans Architecture Photographs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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