Thursday, October 31, 2013

Workmen Vouch for a Real Ghost Story

In October 1905, New Orleans house mover/shorer George J. Abry reported on his workers' encounter with a spooky place:

“I had a house back in the rear of the city to raise, repair and generally overhaul – just where that house is I won’t say, because I don’t want to give it a bad name; that might cause tenants to taboo the place – and put quite a number of men on the job.

The house was an old one, had been on its alto for a long time, I guess but until our experience we – my men and myself – didn’t know that it had the reputation of being haunted by a former occupant who had died there.


Believe me there was consternation among my men, and all were of the opinion that the house was certainly haunted, and that a ghost had taken it upon himself to superintend their work. Everybody went about with a nervous uncertain air, and at the least sound, other than the noises consequent to the work underway, each man would drop his hammer, hatchet or whatever other implement he had in his hand, and stare about with frightened eyes.”

The Times Picayune 22 October 1905

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Progress Photographs

For twentieth-century municipal, state and federal construction projects, progress photographs were often mandated. Generally commissioned of a professional photographer, these images typically document the building site prior to, during and after construction. Sometimes the series includes aerial photographs of the entire neighborhood. As such, they provide a significant amount of information to researchers regarding not only the building process, but also record alterations to the built environment as they happened.

The two photographs above document the upriver side of Canal Street in October 1936 and May 1957.

The first image, one in a series of 45 taken by photographer F.A. McDaniels, documents the old Charity Hospital buildings prior to their demolition. Patients line the seating areas along the right-hand side of the courtyard, the Knights of Pythias building and the Hibernia Bank building can be seen in the distance. The Pythian structure served as a temporary Charity Hospital for black patients for a two-year period between 1936 and 1938.

The second image, one in a series of  109 taken by Industrial Photos, records the construction of the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library. The Saratoga building and the Civic Center (former Knights of Pythias) building can be seen on the left, and City Hall and the Warwick Hotel can be seen on the right. Other photographs in the series record the construction of the Saratoga, City Hall, the State Supreme Court building and the 222 Loyola Avenue parking garage. Some reveal the removal of architectural ornamentation from the exterior of the old Pythian Temple Parisian Roof Garden.

First image:  F.A. McDaniels, photographer. Louisiana Charity Hospital Project. 10 October 1936. Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Second:  Industrial Photos, 2430 Royal Street. New Orleans Public Library Main Branch. 31 May 1957. Curtis & Davis Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, October 28, 2013

NEW! Robert Mills Finding Aid

The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently finalized the processing of the Moise H. Goldstein Collection of Robert Mills Papers. The collection consists of  papers associated with the career of Robert Mills, a South Carolina-born architect (1781-1855) who considered himself the first American to study architecture as a profession.

The papers were collected by New Orleans architect Moise H. Goldstein (1882-1972), who became interested in Mills during the early twentieth century.  Goldstein notably acquired the architect’s family correspondence, specifications, diaries, and a journal containing two essays and a series of South Carolina travel sketches.  He was especially drawn to documents related to Mills’ proposals for New Orleans: an 1826 proposal for an elevated railroad that would transport mail from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans; and the 1837 design for a new marine hospital (completed 1845).  Since the collection includes personal items associated with Mills descendants in New Orleans, it is likely that Goldstein acquired the papers directly from the family. With an interest in publishing a technical article regarding the papers, Goldstein also corresponded with Mills historians Helen M.P. Gallagher and  Charles C. Wilson, and shared his research with them. 

Earliest documents include Robert Mills’ manuscript essay on the Tuscan order, a short diary written while employed in the Washington, D.C. office of Benjamin Henry Latrobe and a corresponding survey of New Castle, Delaware.   Later documents include a journal from the 1820s-1830s that begins with a much-edited “Manuel on Railroads” and ends with a series of pencil and ink sketches of South Carolina. Sandwiched between the sketches is a short essay, “The Architectural Works of Robert Mills,” in which the architect emphasizes his national identity and the influential mentoring of Thomas Jefferson, who recommended the architect to Latrobe and for whom Mills developed a series of drawings. A second diary, dated 1828-1830, includes early sketches for a George Washington sculpture and monument, as well as related calculations and a short biography of the former president.

Image above:  Robert Mills. “Front view of the Town Hall, Columbia.” Journal. Box 2. Moise H. Goldstein Collection/[Robert Mills Papers], Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Street Cars & Population Growth

One hundred years ago, The Daily Picayune featured a long story about New Orleans population growth associated with street car expansion. The New Orleans Railway and Light Company had historically been reluctant to invest new tracks in areas with few inhabitants, but new management adopted a "build it and they will come" perspective. The Carrollton Avenue and Gentilly Terrace neighborhoods were highlighted as positive examples:

"Perhaps the most striking effects a street car line can have on the distribution of population is shown in the extension of the Villere line by the Edgewood Addition and Gentilly Terrace. This line was only prolonged to take in these spots in 1910, yet within the short period intervening between then and now there has been built up the first true suburb to the city, excluding the Lakeview property."(1)

Early twentieth-century streetcar expansions included the development of the Louisiana Avenue  and Audubon Boulevard lines. Since property values along the Carrollton Avenue and Clio Street lines had significantly increased, investors flocked to purchase lots along the proposed new corridors.(2) The Louisiana Avenue line was viewed as especially promising for real estate development, since the route offered a direct link between mercantile Canal Street and Harvey Canal industries.

Image above: Unidentified photographer. New Orleans Railway & Light Company Streetcars. 14 July 1913. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

(1)R.P. Porter. "Street Cars and the Movement of Population in New Orleans." The Daily Picayune (26 October 1913): p. 33.

(2)See, for example certain records in the Martin Shepard Office Records & Guy Seghers Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.