Friday, November 21, 2014

William S. Wiedorn

William “Bill” Shaffrath Wiedorn (1896-1990) was a prominent landscape architect and town planner. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he graduated from Waterbury High School (CT), and then served in the United States Army during World War I as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry division’s machine gun section. After receiving his Bachelor of Science (1919) and while completing his Master of Landscape Design (1921) degree at Cornell University, Wiedorn was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). During this period, he also worked as an assistant designer for the Olmsted Brothers in Brookline, Massachusetts. In their employ, he contributed to the development of large estate subdivisions and park design. Most notably, he devised the planting and grading of the Rolling Rock Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Image above:  William S. Wiedorn, landscape architect. New Orleans City Park Administration Building and the Climatron Area. [Detail].  George J. Riehl, chairman, Technical Advisory Committee. 16 June 1965.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Petrolane Gas Company

In 1954, New Orleans architect F. Monroe Labouisse (1911-98) designed a showroom addition for the Petrolane Gas Company, located at 1352 Jefferson Highway in Jefferson, Louisiana.* Tulane University professor Milton G. Scheuermann, Jr. credited this structure with being the impetus for his pursuing a career in the offices of Goldstein, Parham & Labouisse.

The showroom was completed in less than four months, quickly garnering the praise of the Times-Picayune. The Alec F. Leonhardt Construction Company built the suspension structure elevated 7.5' above ground level. Two low-hanging steel arches rising 22' feet supported the 65 x 12' glass display box. Consumers could park their vehicles right underneath the showroom.

Petrolane Gas Company president Louis Abramson, Jr. proudly inaugurated the "one of a kind" showroom with a two-day celebration in October 1954. Executives representing various oil and appliance companies were present for the festivities. Photographers Leon Trice and Charles L. Franck captured images of the elegant building shortly after its completion.

Petrolane was a liquified petroleum gas that could be used to run driers, freezers, heaters, plumbing fixtures, ranges, refrigerators, and washing machines. Such appliances were on display in Labouisse's glass box.

Read more:

"Bold Design Presents Suspended Glass Room." The Times-Picayune 30 May 1954.

"Firm Will Open New Showroom."  The Times-Picayune 1 October 1954.

Milton G. Scheuermann, Jr. Correspondence with Francine Stock. "Modernism : Lost and FOUND!" Regional Modernism :: The New Orleans Archives Blog. 27 July 2009. As viewed 18 November 2014. URL:

*Address later changed to 917 Jefferson Highway.

Image above:  F. Monroe Labouisse, architect. Petrolane Gas Company Showroom Addition, 1352 Jefferson Highway, Jefferson, Louisiana. 1954.  F. Monroe Labouisse Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

NEW! Digital Collection

The Southeastern Architectural Archive (SEAA) and the Tulane Digital Library (TUDL) recently completed an exciting digitization project.

The new digital collection consists of architectural drawings made by various nineteenth-century New Orleans architects.

"The Architect's Eye" incorporates highlights from the Southeastern Architectural Archive, the largest repository of architectural records in the southern United States. Selected drawings illustrate nineteenth-century architecture as practiced by the Crescent City's leading designers, many of whom were educated in Europe. Building types include residences, commercial and institutional buildings. Selected drawings hint at the ways in which architectural drafting techniques separated the specialist from the layman. In an era of increasing professionalization, one's ability to render the third dimension on a two-dimensional surface elevated the socioeconomic level of one's clientele and the scale of one's commissioned projects. The collection represents some of the most accomplished architectural designs produced in nineteenth-century New Orleans.

To browse the collection......

Image above: James Gallier, Sr. architect. Mechanics' Institute.  Canal Street Elevation. Tchoupitoulas and Canal Street.  Circa 1850-51.  Sylvester Labrot Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Edgewood Park

This fall the National Park Service approved New Orleans' Edgewood Park neighborhood's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The subdivision was developed in 1909 on the former Dennis Sheen Tract, originally bounded by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, Gentilly Boulevard and Clematis Avenue. This tract was desirable pasture land covered in blackberry bushes and grass, located along a natural ridge. Real estate developer J.L. Onorato secured an option on the property in February 1909. The following month, the New Orleans Railway Company announced it would extend its Villere streetcar line a mile beyond the Franklin Avenue/Galvez Street stop in order to provide service. Soon thereafter, consulting engineer Warren B. Reed platted the subdivision with all lots measuring 30' x 120'.  Early purchasers had a tendency to buy two adjacent lots (map above). By spring of 1910, Onorato sold a large number of Edgewood's remaining lots to Grover & Leyman, an Indianapolis-based real estate investment firm.

The neighborhood includes a large number of bungalows.

Image above: William Reed, consulting engineer. Edgewood Park, New Orleans. /J.L. Onorato, Agent. May 1909. Guy Seghers Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Early Car Camping

Early automobile tourists frequently slept in or near their vehicles. In the late teens and early twenties, such travelers were encouraged to set up camp in the Crescent City's municipal parks and along its levees. Both City Park and Audubon Park operated short-lived no-fee auto camps.

Norwegian-American pathfinder Anthon L. Westgard published a guide to car camping for the American Automobile Association in 1920. The guide, Official AAA Manual of Motor Car Camping, featured various advertisements for newly invented products, such as the A.B.C. Sleeper and the Stoll Auto Bed (shown above).

Westgard provided advice regarding setting up camp, travelers' attire and how to properly stock first aid kits. His guide featured recipes for making biscuits, cornmeal mush, squirrel and rabbit. His "Health Hints Worth Heeding" also included the following travelers' remedies:

For Lockjaw. --Warm a small quantity of spirits of turpentine and pound into the wound, and bathe backbone with cayenne pepper and water, or mustard and water (vinegar is even better than water). Use as hot as the sufferer can stand it.

To Remove Cinder or Sand from the Eye.--One or two grains of flaxseed placed in the eye. All campers should carry a few of these seeds. Or drop castor oil in the eye freely. Do not rub the sore eye--rub the other eye.

Images above:  A.L. Westgard. Official AAA Manual of Motor Car Camping. Washington, D.C. and New York: A.L. Westgard, 1920. Courtesy University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Portable Structures

We recently came across an invention by Mexican-American New Orleanian Dolores Morgadanes (c. 1894-1975). Patented as Automobile Tent in June 1940, the object was to improve conditions for automobile tourists visiting beach resort areas. She referred to the fact that many vacationers utilized their vehicles as changing stations, and that this practice had a deleterious effect on upholstery and beaches. Evidently a common practice was to protect car interiors with newspapers and other salvaged paper while one changed into or out of a swimsuit, and then to discard the paper on the beach. Her invention provided a pop-up dressing room that attached to one's automobile.

One Midwestern town's versatile solution to its lack of bathhouses attracted our attention this election week. In August 1922, Popular Mechanics reported that Newark, Ohio used its portable voting booths as comfort stations for swimmers on the Licking River.

Images above: Dolores Morgadanes. Automobile Tent. June 1940. Patent No. 2,204,432.
As viewed 7 November 2014 via google  patents.

"Election Booths on Wheels Used as Bathhouses." Popular Mechanics August 1922, p. 226. As viewed 7 November 2014 via google books.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

TU Grad Magill Smith

Model of Beech-Nut Building for World's Fair 
In 1938, Tulane University graduate Charles Magill Smith (1904-41) designed the Beech-Nut Packing Company's exhibition building for the New York World's Fair (model shown above).  A native of Franklin, Louisiana, Smith moved to New York upon the completion of his Bachelors of Architecture degree  (1926).  He established an independent practice, operating as Magill Smith. In 1929, he married Mexican socialite Elizabeth Consuelo de Cravioto in New York.

Smith's Beech-Nut building included an electrically-operated miniature circus replete with acrobats and animals. Its entrance was adorned with a colorful circus mural, and the interior featured dioramas and photographs representing coffee cultivation and the gathering of chicle. Sets of twin girls greeted fair-goers with candy and gum.

Smith also designed the Botany Worsted Mills exhibit in The Man Building, and renovated 20 West 12th Street, where he lived with his wife prior to their separation. His career was cut short by his suicide in December 1941.

Image above:  Wurts Brothers, photographers. C. Magill Smith, architect. Model of the Beech-Nut Packing Company building, New York World's Fair. 1938. Gelatin silver print. Wurts Bros. Collection. Museum of the City of New York.  As viewed 6 November 2014.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Soulie and Crassons

In 1922, New Orleans carnival designers Soulie and Crassons built an enormous white knight for the April Knights Templar convention. The team used thirty-five tons of clay in molding the horse and knight figures, which were ultimately assembled on Canal Street near the Maison Blanche building. The horse and rider alone were created in thirty separate papier-mâché pieces weighing more than 1800 pounds. The arch consisted of a wood frame sheathed in tin. Prior to erecting the 55' foot arch spanning the neutral ground, Soulie and Crassons developed a model that was exhibited in a nearby window display.

The firm was the most prestigious Carnival builder during the 1920s and 1930s. Staffed by carpenters, papier-mâché craftsmen and painters, Henry A. Soulie and Harry W. Crassons' business operated out of 2419 Calliope Street.

Image above:  "Erect Huge Mounted Figure of Knight Templar." Popular Mechanics (August 1922): p. 229.