Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Orleans Business Archive: George G. Sharp

After World War II, naval architect George G. Sharp (1874-1960) maintained a New Orleans office on the fourteenth floor of the Hibernia Bank building (812 Gravier Street).  Sharp first gained notice in the Crescent City during World War I, when he was employed as chief surveyor for the American Bureau of Shipping. By 1920, he founded an eponymous firm that rapidly became noted for its innovative ship designs. Sharp obtained numerous patents, and contributed to the establishment of new passenger vessels intended for ocean, inland bay, coastal and river systems. He sought to increase the number of desirable suites by rearranging passageways and clustering staterooms.

The Mississippi Shipping Company (MSC) sought Sharp's expertise to develop commodious cargo-passenger vessels that would serve its Delta Line, its New Orleans - Latin America routes. In 1931, Sharp converted a Hog Island freighter for this use (lounge stairway, top image) and in 1946, he similarly designed Del Norte, followed by Del Sud and Del Mar. The "Del" vessels were built at the Ingalls Shipbuilding Company in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and were amongst the earliest passenger ships to use commercial radar systems and air conditioning. With interior designs by Scottish-born architect John Heaney, Del Norte staterooms featured walls decorated with photographs of historic Louisiana plantations and ocean views through casement windows (deluxe stateroom, bottom image).(1)

Painter and educator Paul Ninas (1903-1964) was the artist responsible for the Del Norte's murals. The ship's lounge was decorated with his Mardi Gras scenes, the cafe with his swamp and bayou scenes. Plaques by French-born sculptor Raoul Josset (1899-1957) featured coats of arms of the nations that had historically controlled New Orleans. The Lonegren firm designed exclusive wallpaper depicting the historic Mississippi River delta.(2)

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History/Kenneth E. Behring Center maintains Fred Boucher's circa 1946 wooden model of Sharp's Del Norte. View it here.

Images above:  Selections from the Work of George G. Sharp, Naval Architect and George G. Sharp Architectural Associates. Architecture and Design Vol. XIII (1949). Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Details.

For more about the MSC, see: Gilbert Myer Mellin. "The Mississippi Shipping Company: A Case Study in the Development of Gulf Coast-South American and West African Shipping, 1919-1953." Ph.D. diss.,  Pittsburgh University, 1955 available in print through Tulane University Libraries. Digital format available through ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Full Text, a subscription database also at Tulane University Libraries.

(1)"Naval Architect Opens His Own Office Here." New York Times (13 June 1947): p. 41

(2)Mark H. Goldberg. "Delta Line--The Last Coffee Liners." Chap. in "Caviar & Cargo": The C3 Passenger Ships. Kings Point, NY, 1992. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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