Friday, February 6, 2015

Carpetbagger Architecture

We recently came across this early twentieth-century description of reconstruction architecture:

"The second period of local architectural development, which begins at the end of the civil war, shows the disorganizing influences on society which resulted from that terrible conflict. During those dark days of privation and misery it was well-nigh impossible to gratify any architectural ambitions.

"With the advent of carpetbaggers came new ideas in building. During this unfortunate period a new-born terror was added to the artistic life of the city. It became the custom to imitate the rich stone fronts of northern cities by square blocks of wood, and often carrying this debauchery to the extent of painting the blocks to imitate the markings of Italian marble. The stone-veneered frame building, Queen Anne fronts and ready-made iron frame balconies and galvanized iron cornices have all had their day among the shams of this period, but all these prostitutions of architecture, it is pleasant to note, are discarded in later buildings, and the city has also escaped the cheap putty imitations of ornaments made with putty and called in the east, where it has had a somewhat extensive vogue, 'Carton Pierre.'

"Notwithstanding the fact that the last decade was unfavorable for the development of architecture, several excellent buildings were erected. One of them which rises with great distinctness from the great mass and mediocrity is the exquisite residence of Mr. Walter Denegre. The great merit of the house is that it is designed for a southern climate, and every graceful line in its construction emphasizes the idea, carries out the design."

The Daily Picayune 1 September 1900.

The Walter Denegre residence is more commonly known as the Bradish Johnson House, home to Louise S. McGehee School, located at 2343 Prytania Street (above).

Image above:  Unidentified photographer. Walter Denegre Residence (Bradish Johnson House), 2343 Prytania Street. Undated. Visual Materials Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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