Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lost Marbles

For those who have wondered whatever happened to the figurative sculptures from the old New Orleans Cotton Exchange Building, Albert Weiblen's Marble & Granite Works office records provide the answers.

Louisville, Kentucky architect Henry W. Wolters (flourished 1870s-1890s) designed the ornate structure in 1881 after winning a public competition (first image). Wolters referred to the style as 'French Renaissance,' claiming it to be the 'most popular and appropriate style of street architecture in Paris.'(1) The Carondelet Street facade was especially elaborate, with broken pediments and abundant sculptural embellishment. Caryatids framed the doorway and personifications of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry surmounted the segmental pediment crowning the entrance bay.

In 1918, the sculptures were removed from the building in preparation for the new Cotton Exchange Building.(2) Exchange secretary Colonel H.G. Hester intimated that the new structure would be a replica of the old, and that the sculptures -- either replaced or restored -- would remain.(3)  However, as the building project developed, his assurances were never realized. The Park Commission agreed to place the salvaged marbles in City Park despite criticism from the architectural community.(4)

When the Works Progress Administration began altering City Park, the marbles were moved to the Weiblen Marble and Granite Works. Architect Albert W. Drennan incorporated the caryatids into the Weiblen Showroom building located at 116 City Park Avenue (second image), but the pediment figures proved more difficult to reassign. According to Weiblen architect Ralph G. Phillippi, the 11'10" figure of Commerce (sometimes referred to as Peace; fourth image) -- along with part of the frieze -- was sent to the quarry "to be sawed for slabs and vase stock." Albert Weiblen stored the 7'5" sculptures of Agriculture (third image) and Industry(fifth image)  in the Metairie Cemetery Annex, but both works were vandalized by boys "shooting at them with twenty twos from the railroad track." Weiblen subsequently broke the marbles for use as fill under Bell Avenue/Fairway Drive on the western side of Metairie Cemetery.(5)

This blog has previously addressed Tulane's lost owl sculptures that New Orleans architects Moise Goldstein & Nathaniel C. Curtis, Jr. buried somewhere in Audubon Park.

(1)"The New Cotton Exchange." The Daily Picayune (23 March 1881): p.4. Located on the corner of Carondelet and Gravier Streets, the building was constructed for approximately $370,000. James Freret served as supervising architect for the foundation, and Charles A. Marble of Chicago was supervising architect under Wolters. See: "An Imposing Structure: The New Cotton Exchange in New Orleans." Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (24 March 1883): p. 76 and "A Palace of Commerce." The Daily Picayune (9 May 1883): p.4. According to the latter article, the sculptures were the work of a stone carver A. Goddard, who also executed works for the Chicago parks.

(2)"'Just What We Deserve' Say Three Granite Sisters." The Times-Picayune (17  November 1918): p.41. S.S. Labouisse was named architect for the project, but passed away in 1918. Favrot & Livaudais ultimately designed the new structure in 1920.

(3)"It Will Be a Gem." The Times-Picayune (12  January 1919): p.31.

(4)'"Stone Ladies' Regarded as 'Grotesque,' Inartistic." The Times-Picayune (9  February 1920): p.7.

(5)Ralph G. Phillippi, notes on undated photographs. Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Works Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive.

Images above: First: H.W. Wolters, architect. Cotton Exchange, Carondelet & Gravier Streets. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (30 April 1881), Miscellaneous Photographs Collection; Second: Albert W. Drennan, architect. Weiblen Showroom, 116 City Park Avenue. Undated, Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Works Office Records; Third-Fifth: Undated photographs, Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Works Office Records. All Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

1 comment:

carptrash said...

Imagine my thrill when I set out trying to learn about these sculptures and stumbled upon your blog. (thanks, Google) You even included the name of the sculptor, a rare treat for this sort of work. I am involved in a long term project, "The Field Guide to Architectural Sculpture in the United States" and am about to set out wandering through more of your blog. Einar