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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Down The New Orleans Rabbit Hole Again

The internet will make you a lot of friends you don't know.

Our friends we never met over at Maggies Farm have linked to my little riffs on American architecture. We like their boats, so we're going to put them in our blogroll. Anyway, they seem to like the odd and unusual building styles we've dredged up. And they had a question about the provenance of a building in New Orleans. I don't care if they were fooling; I'm going to answer it anyway.

We've lost our minds about New Orleans before here on this page.

Good Morning America, How Are You

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?

Crescent City Fais Do Do

At any rate, the picture of the building in the Vieux Carre in New Orleans on Maggies Farm is an example of another pre-Victorian style we need to cover: French Colonial. And if you're talking about French Colonial, you're basically talking about New Orleans. So let's. It's such an ancient and wonderful cock-up of a place. It's nasty and marvelous and sedate and wild and eternal and ephemeral and every other damn thing. And right from the get-go, it was French.

For the most part, French Colonial doesn't exist anymore. It's like New Orleans. Ancient, but burned, flooded, looted, neglected, and occasionally so overrun by attention that there's next to nothing of it left, unless you look for ghosts. I do.

New Orleans is full of the ghosts of French Colonial architecture.

The real thing doesn't look all that much like Bourbon Street: It looked like this:


That's the Olivier House. Its original owner was born in Lyon, France. That's French. It's being demolished when these pictures were taken 60 years ago. it was built in 1820, but the style was even older. It's a French Colonial Plantation house. You could probably find something similar in Vietnam or Africa somewhere.

The real estate under it was too valuable to keep it standing inside the city limits. Its ghost is underneath numerous houses over a number of city blocks now. Here's how the French did it differently than their English counterparts up north:
  • Lots of doorways leading outside
  • Stairways outside, not in interior stairwells
  • Rooms enfilade, opening one into another without hallways linking them
  • Double doors and windows and shutters
  • Big gallery porches under a roof
  • Interior courtyards
  • Slave quarters and kitchens in outbuildings
They had a sort of urban version of it, too:

That's the Gaillard House. 1820s. Has that continental medieval look to it . Fronts right on the street. Skinny, paired doors and windows with shutters for privacy. Attached to its neighbors. It turns its back on the street and shelters a courtyard in the back, like many city properties do to this very day:
D'Artagnan, is that you? Not shabby inside:


The stories that come out of the mists for these buildings boggle the mind. We're running long, and late today. Tune in again and read about:

Friday: The ballroom that burned down before it was built.
Monday: The Confederate general and the mafia
Tuesday: Judge Wisdom, and Master Builder, Contractor, and Undertaker Charles Pride.

8 comments:

PatHMV said...

Actually, much of the architecture of the French Quarter dates from the Spanish period (1763-1801), not the French. Both being continental European countries speaking a derivative of the true tongue (Latin) and with a bent toward colonization and exploitation of the locals, France and Spain share some architectural similarities as well. But of course there are differences.

Take the wrought-iron fences surrounding the balcony of the "Caribbean Whorehouse" pictured by the good folks at Maggie's Farm. Walk through the streets of Paris, and you won't see many wrought-iron balcony fences. Pop over to Seville or Barcelona, though...

The fundamental defining characteristic of New Orleans is that all of its fundamental defining characteristics derive from a melange of French, Spanish, African (and later Italian and Irish) influences.

I'm at work right now, but I'll upload some New Orleans architecture pictures I've taken recently when I get home this evening. In the meantime, there's some more history of New Orleans in its Wikipedia article.

Rick Lee said...

I recognize a lot of these photos... I think we have some of the same reference books!

SippicanCottage said...

Pat- I can milk another day or two out of Spanish Colonial architecture later.

You're right about the wrought iron of course.

Look forward to your pictures.

Hi Rick- The pictures are from depression era surveys. They get mined by everyone. I imagine I crop them worse than average, though.

Hey everybody Rick Lee has the greatest photo site on these here intarnets: Rick Lee

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Hey, hey, hey, there. My brother has a damn good photo blog, too.

PatHMV said...

I saw Rick's black widow pictures the other day, thanks to Instapundit. Very, very nice. Rick, I've got my own horse's eye picture here.

char said...

Love your architectural/ furniture posts. Am too lazy to look up this building in books stashed on another property, but I did locate it on the corner of Royal and St. Peter’s Streets. Thought you the better researcher might name and date the structure (although I understand you are happily married--)

Do we know for sure that the ironwork is wrought rather than cast? It does seem so, and that the building predates the popularity of cast. But was wondering whether there are visual clues in the style and fashioning of ironwork that tell us which is which from a distance/ photograph.

Thanks!

SippicanCottage said...

Ruth Anne-Yes, your brother is an excellent photographer. I must admit, though, that I'm a little ashamed I haven't mentioned my own good friend Steve LaBadessa yet either. He's awesome. And he's a great guy, and one of my lifelong friends, too. Check out his celebrity pictures.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi char- you have the address correct. I have pictures of that place in the 1930s. Well, not exactly. I have pictures of the place across the street taken from the gallery of that building. The short answer is: it's both cast and wrought, from what I can see. The infill filigree looks like it's cast and then attached to wrought iron frames. I have the plans for the wrought iron railing of the balcony across the street if you want to make one yourself.