. . .lovely, dark and deep.
It’s almost too dark and deep to see very well in the above picture. However, this shaded, lattice-enclosed porch must have been the best possible place to sit and snap beans during Louisiana summers.
A 2003 Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) drawing of the property seems to indicate that the enormous Quercus Virginiana or live oak tree at the right in the top photo was still standing at that time. Over 15 live oaks are shown in the area immediately in front of the house.
The principal part of the house is described in the HABS as an “Anglo-Creole type Louisiana plantation cottage decorated in Greek Revival style.” It was built in the mid to late 1850s and faces Bayou La Fourche, off the Mississippi River.
Its porch, above,* is a “deeply undercut Acadian gallerie,” according to The Planter’s Prospect: Privilege and Slavery in Plantation Paintings.
In a c.1860 painting of Palo Alto shown and discussed in the book, the main porch originally had railings and double front steps.
The steps and railings were restored (and the lattice removed from the old kitchen porch) by the time of the HABS and this 2010 photo† above. The plantation (with 6,000 acres, according to one source) belongs to a family that has owned it for several generations. They now offer stays in a “Log Cabin” lodge and guided hunting trips on the property.
. . . the tree implies a quiet place
where pendulums might rest,
the heart decline to beat, a place
of time disclosing the lattice of time. . . .
*Photo (cropped by me) from 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress.
†Photo by cajunscrambler, via Panoramio.
All photos by Frances Benjamin Johnston via the Carnegie Survey of the South, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Click the pictures to enlarge.
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).
Continue reading “Nostalgia for New Orleans”