I’ve been thinking a lot about New Orleans and its special style since we were finally able to watch season one of the HBO series, Treme, in December and January. We lived in an Uptown neighborhood briefly many years ago, and I think the Crescent City is like Paris or Rome: any time passed there stays with you deeply.
It was that way for Walt Whitman, who was editor of the New Orleans newspaper The Crescent for few months in 1846.
Once I pass’d through a populous city, imprinting my brain, for future use, with its shows, architecture, customs, and traditions. . .
— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I tracked down a column by Dave Walker of The Times-Picayune on its website, nola.com, called “Treme Explained,” which explicates all the local references in each episode. I’m trying not to read ahead, because we’ll eventually get season two here.
More recently, I found these beautiful photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnston of courtyards and gardens in New Orleans in the late 1930s.
They are all from the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South of the Library of Congress.
From 1933 to 1940, Johnston photographed buildings and gardens in nine southern states, funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. She was one of the first to photograph and record southern vernacular architecture.
Her entire collection is fascinating. It contains 7,100 images of 1,700 structures and sites.
There are more Johnston photos of New Orleans in the gallery after ‘Continue reading’ below. Click on any thumbnail to scroll through all the pictures in full size.
In 1945, Johnston moved to New Orleans, where she enjoyed the lively bohemian atmosphere. She lived in her house on Bourbon Street until her death in 1952 at the age of 88. These two photos are from the Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection of the LoC.
You can buy prints of Johnston’s photos at Shorpy.com here.
If you’re thinking of visiting the Big Easy, you can read “36 Hours in New Orleans” in The New York Times travel section.
About.com has a list of New Orleans blogs here.
Tulane University’s Southeastern Architectural Archive maintains the Garden Library, a collection of over 1,000 titles, including published materials associated with women’s garden culture. Currently, the Archive is showing an online exhibit of vintage Reuter’s Seed Company catalog covers (here).