Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tulane Library (1966)

In June 1966, The Times-Picayune reported on the construction of the new $6.2 million Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. Anticipating an August 1968 completion, library director Robert L. Talmadge emphasized that the library would provide easy access to books and be re-organized according to a subject-based divisional system:

"'Traditionally, libraries were considered primarily storehouses for books, and librarians chiefly their guardians. This concept led to the core bookstack where most of a library's collections were locked up, creating barriers between books and the general reader.

'By sharp contrast, the importance of wide and intensive use of library resources argues for the readiest possible reader access to books. Thus, in the new Tulane library all of the regular collections will be on open shelves, freely available to every reader. Special resources such as rare books and manuscripts will of course be located in a separate section under the supervision of librarians.'"

As the construction was underway, Talmadge defined a structural and administrative reorganization according to three divisions: science-engineering, humanities-fine arts, and the social sciences, the latter including government and policy documents. With this scheme, it was felt that researchers could go to a singular place for books, journals, microfilm, pamphlets and reference materials.

Funds for the new library came from two sources: the Tulane Forward Fund and a federal grant made under the Academic Facilities Act of 1965. New Orleans architects Nolan, Norman and Nolan designed the four-story structure with foundations to support an expansion of four additional stories. They  devised the library's plan according to recommendations from Harvard librarian Keyes Metcalf (1889-1983), who authored the 1965 book, Planning Academic and Research Libraries.

If you want to read about the NEW Howard-Tilton Memorial Library building project currently underway, click here.

Quoted matter above:  "Tulane Library Gets Under Way." The Times-Picayune 30 June 1966.

Image above: B. Samuels, photographer. Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. 7001 Freret Street, New Orleans, LA.  Progress photograph. 1 December 1966. Nolan, Norman and Nolan, architects. William T. Nolan Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Poultry Netting & Stringers

Early in his career, New Orleans architect William T. Nolan (1887-1969) designed a ballpark grandstand for an unidentified client. Suggesting the use of concrete piers, Carnegie Steel Company's 8 x 8" I-beam, 2 x 12" stair stringers and poultry netting, Nolan developed the section (above) and plan (below).
Nolan's plan included a ladies' restroom, an umpirer's [sic] room, a clubhouse and player's pit. The stadium featured metal folding chairs in boxes as well as bleacher seating. There was a separate right-field section with its own entrance, box seats and bleachers for African-Americans.

Images above:  William T. Nolan, architect. Grand Stand for Ball Park. Section. [Detail]. Undated. Pencil on tracing paper. William T. Nolan Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

William T. Nolan, architect. Ball Park. Plan. [Detail]. Undated. Pencil on tracing paper. William T. Nolan Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Beautiful Levee (August 1845)

170 years ago, the Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette reported on improvements to New Orleans' water management system. The city's First Municipal District had expended resources towards its levee and streets:

"The First Municipality is vigorously engaged, now that she is clear of debt, in making her Levee the most beautiful in the city, and repairing her streets in splendid style. As she is bounded in front by her two enterprising sister Municipalities, she has commenced draining her swamps in the [illegible] on a grand scale and will reclaim a [great?] territory from the dreary home of the craw-fish and the aligator [sic]. The ancient heart of the city will hereafter extend her streets to the Metairie Ridge and to Lake Pontchartrain."

Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette  12 August 1845; Issue 95. As viewed via 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, 21 August 2015.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Military Pageant (August 1848)

In 1848, an unidentified New Orleans architect was commissioned to design a "triumphal temple" to honor U.S.-Mexico War hero Persifor Frazer Smith (1798-1858). The structure was erected in the Place d'Armes (Lafayette Square) to celebrate Smith's return from Mexico. The 50-ft. wide octagonal platform was festooned with evergreens and the coats of arms of all the U.S. states.(1)

Persifor Smith was a prominent New Orleans lawyer and adjutant general who led the Washington Artillery in the 1840s. Under his command, the Louisiana militia participated in the battles at Contreras and Churubusco. Smith remained in Mexico until the last U.S. company returned in the late summer of 1848.

Despite oppressive  heat and its diminished seasonal population,  the city of New Orleans sought to celebrate his arrival with an elaborate reception. On 7 August 1848, a fleet led by the steamer Conqueror departed from a wharf near the Place d'Armes towards the Barracks [AKA Jackson Barracks]. Spectators gathered along the Mississippi and the Conqueror transported a band that played a new march devoted to Smith.

After observing various congratulatory exercises, the fleet returned to the Place d'Armes wharf. A 50-gun salute marked its arrival. General Smith passed through a double phalanx towards the triumphal platform to receive honors from Mayor Abdiel Daily Crossman. After an address by Randall Hunt, another salute fired from each of the city's squares inaugurated an equestrian-carriage procession that passed the Cathedral to Elysian Fields, and returned along Royal Street to Canal Street to meander towards its final destination, the St. Charles Hotel.

Mayor Crossman presented General Smith with an elaborate sword made by the city's Baldwin & Company. Modeled after antique swords, Smith's was inscribed "Presented to the Hero of Contreras by the People and State of Louisiana." With Hercules fighting Antaeus on its hilt and Louisiana's pelican on its sheath, the short sword is considered the finest of its day.

In addition to the cannons, music, flotilla and procession, a local merchant sought to capitalize on the event by advertising his new  "Smith Hat."

(1) North American and United States Gazette 8 August 1848.

Images above:  Gary Hendershott, dealer. Brigadier General Persifor Smith Presentation Sword. New Orleans: Baldwin & Co., 1848. As viewed 20 August 2015.

J.T. Martin. Smith's March, Composed and Dedicated to Gen. Persifore Smith, the Hero of Contreras. Baltimore: Miller & Beacham, 1848. Louisiana Sheet Music, Tulane University Digital Library from original in the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Architects' Libraries

Tulane University Libraries have benefited from donations made by the region's architects and their estates. Many of these historic gifts bear the signatures of their owners or their personally designed bookplates.

Architect Frank G. Churchill (Natchez, MS 1876- New Orleans, LA 1924) created his own ex libris (shown above). After attending Tulane University during the mid-1890s, Churchill studied painting in Cincinnati, Ohio.(1) He was briefly a principal in the DeBuys, Churchill & Labouisse firm before entering private practice.
His library included a copy of George Louis Adams' L'architecture moderne; élécations, coupe plans d'ensembles, et de détails de maisons de ville et de campagne (Paris, 1847). The book is incredibly scarce, and Churchill's copy bears the stamp of the Mayor of Saint-Quentin (Aisne, Picardy, France).
James Gallier, Sr. (1798-1866) also owned a copy of L'architecture moderne. He pasted the plates from both volumes into a large scrapbook that he had purchased from H.G. Stetson & Company, 54 Camp Street.

(1)"Orleans Artist, Architect, Dies in Life's Prime." The Times-Picayune 7 March 1924.

Images above:  Frank G. Churchill. Ex Libris, Undated. As it appears in George Louis Adams. L'architecture moderne; élécations, coupe plans d'ensembles, et de détails de maisons de ville et de campagne, Vol. 2 (Paris, 1847). Rare Books Unit, Tulane University Libraries.  Jones Hall Rare Books (large) NA7346 .C5

James Gallier, Sr. Scrapbook.  Plate from George Louis Adams. L'architecture moderne; élécations, coupe plans d'ensembles, et de détails de maisons de ville et de campagne, Vol. 1 (Paris, 1847). Sylvester Labrot Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

New Orleans Architect, Elizabeth Kendall

Elizabeth Kendall [later Thompson] graduated from Newcomb College in 1929 before attending the University of Wisconsin (M.A. 1930). When she completed her graduate program in Spanish and French literature, she returned to New Orleans in order to study architecture at Tulane University. Her classmates included William King Stubbs and Samuel Wilson, Jr.
Kendall attended Tulane for two years, from 1930-32.She joined the Tulane Architectural Society and became the architecture editor for the school's newspaper, The Hullabaloo.
In 1932, she left New Orleans to study architecture at the University of California-Berkeley. According to her 1998 obituary, UC-Berkeley discouraged dual master's degrees at that time, and so despite concluding her studies in architecture, she did not graduate.(1)

Upon the completion of two years at Berkeley, Kendall returned to her family home in New Orleans. From 1934-35, the Southern Pine Company employed her as an architect/draftsman engaged in designing catalog homes.

She relocated to New Hope, Pennsylvania in order to teach humanities at the Holmquist School for Girls in 1935. This proved a short stint, for she obtained a position in New York City as the assistant news editor for Architectural Record in 1937. Within a short time, AR promoted Kendall to the position of associate editor. She "retired" upon her 1941 marriage to Bay Area architect Frank Hofmann Thompson, whom she had met while both were students at Berkeley.

AR enticed Elizabeth Kendall Thompson out of retirement in 1947.(2)  She became the journal's western editor and then senior associate editor for the western district, which included eleven states, Alaska and Hawaii.

(1)Allan Temko. "Elizabeth Thompson." SFGATE 21 April 1998. As viewed 4 August 2015 via:

(2)Elizabeth Kendall Thompson. Letter to Samuel Wilson, Jr. 19 February 1952. Box 5. Miscellaneous Correspondence. Samuel Wilson Jr. Papers and Drawings, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

For more on Kendall, see AIA Membership File for "Elizabeth Kendall Thompson." AIA Historical Directory of American Architects. URL:

Images above, top to bottom:  Jambalaya (1929); Jambalaya (1931); Jambalaya (1932). All available through Tulane University Digital Library (TUDL) and the Internet Archive.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Of Dungeons & Manuscripts

In planning the Southeastern Architectural Archive's Medieval Louisiana exhibit, we came across a number of relevant historic news items. This mention in The Christian Observer dated 19 March 1840 piqued our curiosity:

Dungeons of the Inquisition in New Orleans

"A curious discovery has been made by some workmen employed in erecting houses on the site of the old Calaboose. That ancient building, which dates far back into Spanish times, was recently pulled down, and the ground on which it stood sold out to private individuals. The purchasers immediately commenced improvements upon the property, being valuable, from its location in the centre of the city. In the course of operations to this effect, it was found necessary to dig several feet under the surface, to lay a substratum for the walls of the houses about to be built. The labourers, in excavating at a particular spot, discovered that their progress was retarded by some hard substance, which resisted any impression from the working tools."

* * *

The Daily Picayune had reported on the discovery one month earlier:

The Subterranean Vaults

"The excavations into the old vaults discovered behind the calaboose were continued yesterday and the chain gang were employed digging out the mud and rubbish. Nothing was found that could lead to any knowledge of their history and after digging about six feet into a strongly arched passage the workmen were stopped by an iron door, and the labor was abandoned until to-day, when the search will be continued.

"An old creole woman, upwards of a hundred years of age, it is said remembers that upon this spot stood a building in which Jesuits resided; and the most plausible supposition that can be arrived at, is, that these strong vaults were prepared as places of deposite for valuable manuscripts and other precious things, in case of war or other danger placing their establishment in jeopardy. That they were designed for some more than ordinary purpose is evident from the massive iron archings, and careful mason work used in their construction. The very fact of an apartment being built under ground in our soil, is sufficient evidence that it was designed for no common purpose; and it is also probable, although anxious precaution may have led to the construction of those vaults, that no urgent necessity ever called for their use. At any rate they should be thoroughly examined, not merely to satisfy the natural curiosity of the public, but the search should not cease while even the slightest probability exists of anything strange or secret being brought to light. If they are covered now, without their history being unfolded, they may be opened again in a succeeding century, and mystery may then assume what shape she pleases, bidding defiance to scrutiny. It will take but little labor to explore these recesses carefully, and a single relic found would amply repay investigation. They should be searched at any rate, that false constructions may not be left to perplex the public mind."

* * *

The Editor of the New Orleans Bulletin was allowed access to the excavation site, and The New Yorker picked up his report:

Discovery of An Inquisition

"'We found that considerable progress had been made in the excavation since our visit two days previous. The water and mud were drained out by means of a fire engine so as to expose the upper section of the cell, the bottom being still covered with mire and rubbish three feet deep. On a temporary bridge of scantling we descended under the arch, so as to have a fair prospect of all that could be seen. The vault may be described as a cell arched over with brick walls and ribs of iron, about seven feet in altitude, and as many broad. On three sides, it is entirely shut in by solid masonry and iron bars.

"'The only outlet is on the side facing the South. Here a narrow arched passage opens into the vault. The floor of the passage is on the same level with that of the main apartment. The height is not so great, being about six feet, and the breadth about two feet and a half. The dimensions were large enough to permit the transit of a man of ordinary size, without difficulty. The extent of the arched recess or passage leading from the vault, has not been ascertained. It runs horizontally in a southern direction, and can be traced a distance of ten feet or more under the ground. The excavation will have to be carried on still farther before the subterranean apartments can be fully explored.'"

If you are wondering about the appearance of colonial structures,  you may want to consult the University of North Carolina's Research Laboratories of Archaeology portal.

A January 1730 plan, section and elevation of New Orleans prisons has been digitized by the Archives nationales d'outre-mer here.

The old calaboose referred to above was located in the general vicinity of Exchange Alley, the Second Municipal District, Square 44.

Quoted matter above:

"Dungeons of the Inquisition in New Orleans." Christian Observer 19 March 1840. Accessed via American Periodicals database.

"The Subterranean Vaults." The Daily Picayune 19 February 1840. Accessed via America's Historical Newspapers database.

"Discovery of An Inquisition." The New Yorker 7 March 1840. Accessed via American Periodicals database.

NEW! Blitch Finding Aid

The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently finalized the processing of the Blitch Architects, Incorporated Office Records. The collection consists of architectural drawings representing the following firms: J. Buchanan Blitch & Associates and Blitch Architects, Incorporated.

Read more about the Blitch practice in the online finding aid here.

If you are unfamiliar with the Southeastern Architectural Archive's holdings, consult its list of "Finding Aids by Collection Name."