The Sunday porch: Struan

Struan, Arden, North Carolina, via Library of CongressGrape vines over the porch of an old outbuilding at Struan, Arden, North Carolina, 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Struan, Arden, North Carolina, cropped, via Library of CongressDetail of the above; note the potted plants on the old ladder.

By the time Johnston photographed the old plantation of Struan for her Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, the property had been a school for boys, Christ School, for 38 years.

The Sunday porch: Palo Alto, Louisiana

. . .lovely, dark and deep.

Palo AltoThe old kitchen wing of Palo Alto Plantation House near Donaldsonville, Louisiana, in 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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.

dark and deep 2The kitchen building was originally free-standing, about 22′ from the house. Later, it was connected to the main house by a breezeway.

Drawing by Max Miller of the entire Palo Alto Plantation House, 2003, HABS, via Library of Congress.
The entire Palo Alto Plantation House, 2003, HABS, via Library of Congress.

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.

P.A. croppedIts 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.

2010, by cajunscrambler, Palo Alto, LAThe 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. . . .

John Beer, from “The Waste Land

*Photo (cropped by me) from 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress.

†Photo by cajunscrambler, via Panoramio.

Vintage landscape: perspective

Belmont, Falmouth, Virginia, late 1920s.

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.

Wormoloe Plantation, Savannah, Georgia, 1939 or 1944.

York Hall, Yorktown, Virginia, ca. 1930s.

Wakefield, Westmoreland County, Virginia, 1931.

Redesdale, Richmond, Virginia, 1926 or 27.

Sherrill Inn, Hickory Nut Gap, North Carolina, 1938.

Gardiner Booth, Alexandria, Virginia, 1930s.

Reveille House, Richmond, Virginia, 1936.

Nostalgia for New Orleans

931-933 St. Philip Street.

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,, 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.

Broussard’s patio, 815 Conti Street. All photos on this post are of New Orleans, La., in the late 1930’s, via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Gaillard Cottage, 915-917 St. Ann Street. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

They are all from the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South of the Library of Congress.

Spanish Customs House, 1300 Moss Street.

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.

818 Bourbon Street.
Beauregard House, 1113 Chartres Street.
Plantation House, 3939 Chartres Street.
837 Gov. Nicholls Street.
806 Royal Street.
Olivier Plantation, 4111 Chartres Street.

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.

Johnston’s cats, Hermin and Vermin, seated on the brick railing of her New Orleans house.
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952), ca. 1950, in New Orleans.

You can buy prints of Johnston’s photos at 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. 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”