Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lost Milwaukee

The previous post mentioned Richard Koch's collection of glass plate negatives, and the Southeastern Architectural Archive's current efforts to digitize them. Many of the plates document the 1915 hurricane and its effects on Orleans Parish. Some images record Mardi Gras festivities, masks and costumes in Storyville and other neighborhoods (circa 1902-1906). One photograph is a bird's eye view of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (circa 1905, shown above).

We gleaned the identification from the enormous advertising signage on the building in the lower left corner.  It reads:  "Jacobi & Richter Foreign Produce and Fancy Groceries." The business enterprise specialized in imported meats and cheeses, and was located at 510 and 512 Market Street, near the city's Cathedral Square. The Milwaukee Public Library has digitized a more recent image of the store here (circa 1920s).

Image above:  Unidentified photographer. Bird's Eye View of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Circa 1905. Richard Koch Papers and Photographs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

100 Years Ago

100 years ago today, New Orleans was hammered by high winds , tides and copious rainfall. The storm hit the Crescent City the evening of September 28th. By the next morning winds had increased to 40 mph and by the early evening , there were reports of sustained wind velocities at 80 mph and gusts of 120-130 mph. The minimum barometer reading registered at 28.11 inches.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive has been in the process of digitizing a number of glass plate negatives that document the hurricane's aftermath. The images are most likely the work of photographer John Norris Teunisson (1869-1959).  The plates were once acquired by New Orleans architect Richard Koch. Stored in large wooden boxes, some were broken, all were in deteriorated condition.

Zachary Wubben, a Tulane undergraduate working on the project, is currently developing metadata for the images, as most were unidentified or partially identified.  The SEAA plans to launch a new digital collection featuring the images in the near future.

If you want to read more about the hurricane from a contemporary source, consult Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans General Superintendent George G. Earl's October 14 1915 report here, made available by the University of Chicago.

Images above:  John N. Teunisson, attributed. 1915 Hurricane, New Orleans, LA.  1915. Digital surrogates from glass negatives created 2015. Richard Koch Photographs and Papers, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, September 28, 2015

At Large in the Library: Reinhardt Maitre

The Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners recently received a gift of Reinhardt Maitre's Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of Vegetable and Flower Seeds, Holland or Dutch Bulbs, Tuberous and Perennial Plants, Green-house Hot-house and Bedding Plants. . . (1875). Printed in Philadelphia, the work is known in two extant copies, one at Tulane University and the other at the Kentucky Historical Society Library.

Maitre was a German-born seedsman who immigrated to New Orleans in 1853. He began his career as a vegetable farmer, selling his cauliflower, celery and “ruta bagas” at the Magazine Market. By 1875 his business was so lucrative that he owned a Magazine Street seed store,(*) and operated expansive nurseries and greenhouses along Magazine Street beyond Louisiana.

He encouraged the public to visit:

“The Magazine, or St. Charles and Jackson Street Cars, leaving their depots on Canal between Camp and St. Charles Street, every three minutes will bring STRANGERS and VISITORS from the lower parts of the city, after a most pleasant ride, to the Store, and affording the same convenience to return – both lines having double tracks just before and near the Store. The Nurseries and Greenhouses are only three squares above the Magazine Car Station on Toledano Street, from whence a five minutes’ walk, on a most spacious side-walk brings Visitors to No. 976 Magazine Street.”

(*) 631 Magazine Street in 1875 (lakeside corner of Magazine at Jackson).

Images above:  Title Page. R. MAITRE’S Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of Vegetable and Flower Seeds, Holland or Dutch Bulbs, Tuberous and Perennial Plants, Green-House Hot-House and Bedding Plants, Ornamental and Evergreen Trees, Flowering Shrubbery, Camellias and Roses….  Philadelphia: Spangler & Davis, 1875. Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Sanborn Insurance Company. Insurance Map of New Orleans, Louisiana, Vol. 1. New York: 1876. Sheet 4. Fire Insurance Atlases, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Shreve's Cut-Off

An earlier post announced the Southeastern Architectural Archive's processing of Benjamin Morgan Harrod's Mississippi River Atlases.

The earliest volume, The Preliminary Map of the Lower Mississippi River (1881-1885), was printed by Julius Bien after maps by Edward Molitor, but someone -- possibly Harrod -- added penciled annotations to certain plates. Sheet No. 22, dated 1884, includes a number of these sketched amendments.  They center on Shreve's Cut Off between Carr's Plantation landing and S.L. James's Angola Plantation  landing (detail above).

Here is a more expansive view of the stretch today, from Google Maps.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


We frequently respond to inquiries regarding foundations -- researchers want to know what is underneath a given building or monument.

During the 1930s, there was considerable interest in collecting and compiling information related to the geology of New Orleans. Local engineers had long advocated the need for a comprehensive assessment, but it was not until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) that Louisiana had the requisite funds.  The State Board of Engineers endorsed and sponsored WPA projects to document soil and foundations, and to develop accurate elevation datum.

The WPA created the Louisiana Geodetic Survey’s Precise Elevations: City of New Orleans (1937) to record modern datum planes. Prior assessments had been generated by various federal, state and municipal government entities for their own purposes. These data sets proved divergent and did not reflect ground surface settlement changes resulting from early twentieth-century drainage modifications. Precise Elevations set the new WPA datum planes (measured in 1935), compared against the historic data compiled by the Dock Board, the Levee Board, the Sewerage and Water Board, and the United States (Army) Engineering Department.

The WPA’s survey Some Data in Regard to Foundations (1937) was a comprehensive assessment of the variable soil conditions underlying New Orleans, and their effects on historic and contemporary construction. WPA researchers spent two years consulting public and private records, and soliciting anecdotal and illustrative documentation from architects, engineers and builders. They gathered cartographic records, foundation plans, stratigraphic and piling data to chronicle historic construction methods aimed at tackling the city’s alluvial soils. In the process, they measured and rendered the city’s notable structures, including the American Bank Building, the Lakefront (formerly Shushan) Airport, and the U.S. Marine Hospital complex.

The WPA also documented such works as the Robert E. Lee Monument located in Lee Circle at the intersection of St. Charles Street and Howard Avenue.  Alexander Doyle (1857-1922) and Confederate veteran John Roy designed the monument, which was unveiled 22 February 1884.  The WPA estimated that the monument weighed a total of 1,141 tons which was dispersed to its 81 untreated, unpeeled red cypress piles (detail above). Excavation work conducted in 1929 revealed that over half of the piles' lengths (varying from 40-49' feet) were situated below the water line.

Images above:  "Case No. 56. Lee Monument." Some data in regard to foundations in New Orleans and vicinity. Collected and compiled by the Soil and foundation survey as requested by Louisiana engineering society. A project of the Works Progress Administration of Louisiana. New Orleans: 1937, pp. 170-171. Available at Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Prison that Inmates Built

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (model above) has been making the news lately. Just take a look at The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Hartford Courant, The New Yorker and The Washington Times.

New Orleans architects Curtis & Davis developed the branching plan as a modern departure from traditional jail architecture. Angola was the first of their many forays into penal project design, built 1954-56 utilizing pre-stressed and post-tensioned concrete. They cut costs by utilizing lift slab construction and prison labor.

The lift slab technique, developed in Texas, eliminated the need to erect interstitial scaffolding and most form work. Additionally, the institution assigned inmates to assist in erecting housing clusters. Arthur Q. Davis claimed in his recent memoir that a competition between general contractors and inmates demonstrated that the latter were able to install interior partitions and curtain walls 15% faster than their counterparts.(1) The project was completed on schedule and under budget.

Both Davis and his partner Nathaniel C. Curtis, Jr. promoted the award-winning structure within the context of James Van Benschoten Bennett's penal reforms. (2)  Bennett recommended separating prisoners based on age and custody classifications (maximum, medium, minimum), and sent his administrator Reed Cozard to assist in developing the "New Angola."(2)  It quickly became a progressive model for other correctional, detention and penitentiary structures in the United States and beyond.

Photographs of the expansive complex graced international magazines such as LIFE and L'Architecture d'Aujourd'Hui.

Angola is now the largest maximum-security prison in the United States, with over 5000 inmates. The average sentence is 93 years.(3)

(1)Arthur Q. Davis. It Happened by Design. Jackson:  University of Mississippi Press, 2009, p. 24.

(2)Ibid. Curtis quoted Bennett's Mahatma Gandhi-influenced statement, "To Deprive a Man of His Liberty Is Punishment Enough" in his circa 1979 promotional brochure, Criminal Justice Architecture. He later collaborated with University of South Carolina prison reformer (and security fence inventor) Ellis Campbell MacDougall (1927-2002) to design correctional facilities for Saudi Arabia.

(3)Bill Quigley. "Louisiana Number One in Incarceration." Huffington Post 10 May 2016.

See also:

"Angola." In Karen Kingsley, ed. Buildings of Louisiana. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 427-428.

Images above:  Frank Lotz Miller, photographer. Curtis and Davis, architects. Model of Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola. 1953. Curtis and Davis Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Frank Lotz Miller, photographer. Curtis and Davis, architects. Construction of Dining Hall/Shared Facilities, Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola. 1954.  Curtis and Davis Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Field Trip: Chiostro dello Scalzo

The last two weeks I spent walking through Florence and its surrounding neighborhoods. The Chiostro dello Scalzo was a highlight. Built by the Compagnia dei disciplinati di San Giovanni Battista, a confraternity, the cloister (1478) was originally attached to a chapel space.
In inclement weather, the laymen covered the central opening with a straw mat.

Architect Pietro Paolo Giovannozzi modified the interior in the early eighteenth century, adding a groin-vaulted ceiling, broken pediments over doorways and the doubled columns visible in the image above.

Images above:  Chiostro dello Scalzo, Florence, Italy. September 2015. K. Rylance.