Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Orleans 360˚

Fifty years ago, The Times-Picayune reported on an important shipment from Stamford, CT to New Orleans. The Macton Machinery Company had completed the fabrication and assembly of the enormous turntable to be installed on the roof of Edward Durell Stone's International Trade Mart (ITM, now World Trade Center). Created with 180 low supporting wheels and 45 horizontal stabilizing wheels, the turntable resembled an enormous lazy susan measuring 97'11" in diameter.(1) Macton's team reassembled the turntable in New Orleans, and the ITM's rotating restaurant and cocktail lounge, the Top of the Mart, celebrated its grand opening on 2 January 1967.

Macton devoted its operations to the manufacture of such steel turntables. They initially undertook much smaller platforms, first for tailors and then for portable entertainment. Popular Mechanics reported on their products during the 1950s-60s. Frank Lloyd Wright utilized Macton turntables in his Park Avenue Jaguar (later Mercedes-Benz) showroom (1955) and the Kalita Humphreys Theatre (Dallas, 1959).

In 1911, millionaire Mary (Mrs. Levi Z.)  Leiter designed and built a revolving glass summer house in Beverly, Massachusetts:

"It stands at the end of some small gardens on a terrace overlooking the beach and sea. Its roof is constructed of small poles and is supported by rustic posts covered with rough bark. Around three sides of the structure heavy plates of glass are set. Curtains within are so arranged that the occupants can protect themselves from the hottest glare of the sun's rays. The structure is balanced upon ball bearings as nicely as the carriage of an expensive telescope."(2)

While Leiter's invention was meant to provide a healthy recreational experience, it was an Alsatian-born waiter turned restaurateur who patented revolving dining room floors in order to reduce the wear and tear on service workers. Antonie Martzolf filed his revolving dining room floor scheme in 1914 while managing the Gustony Restaurant at West 32nd Street in New York. He also developed a patent for a combination electric match stand and waiter-signal device so that customers could signal staff without noise.

The New Orleans Monteleone Hotel's Carousel Lounge operates on a similar principle to Martzolf's revolving dining room floor, only with bar staff situated at the center while customers make their 15-minute rotation. The Carousel opened in early September 1949, with bartenders serving a trademark cocktail, the Carousel. Glenn Flanders (1913-98), a University of Missouri-Columbia fine arts graduate based in St. Louis, designed the original Carousel interiors.

In 1958, a father-son team from New Orleans patented a rotating circular bed with an attached headboard-shelving unit-chairs. But that's another story.

(1)"Ship Unit to N.O. for ITM Tower." The Times-Picayune 20 December 1964.

(2)"Revolving House for Mrs. Leiter Nicely Balanced on Ball Bearings." The Times-Picayune 29 May 1911.

Images above:  Popular Mechanics: January 1951 & July 1964.

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