Many specialists in historic architecture hesitate to categorize buildings by style, preferring to judge each building on its own, noting any style or styles it may exhibit. They point out that design is a fluid process, constantly evolving- sometimes inventive, sometimes static, and most of the time combining the old with the contemporary and innovative elements in a variety of ways….more later
Creole Tradition 1790-1835
Buildings identified are those that were built before the Greek Revival period, and include Louisiana Colonial types, some with Federal and local flavor, and some showing a mix with Creole. Few Louisiana Colonial buildings remain, however there remain many Creole cottages, and Creole elements continue to influence. Distinguishing features of the Creole tradition include the use of overhanging hipped roofs, flaring at the bottom, French doors, access to a building through a carriage way, or French doors rather than the American front door, weather-boarded brick-between post or stucco soft brick wall construction, rare dormers remain squat, galleries under the main roof of the house on one, two or three sides of the dwelling mass, chimneys were located in the center areas of a building rather than on the exterior walls. Balconies were built up to the front property line, and in larger structures the living areas were raised off the ground. It is important to note that a Creole house did not use hallways, rooms opened up into each other “en suite”. Stairs were located on open galleries or loggias.
A prime building type is the Creole Cottage, discussed under “Building Types”.
As the Americans brought Federal architectural tastes to New Orleans, a mix occurred. Side and center hall plans with front doors, exposed brick, brick painted in imitation of exposed brick, large Georgian dormers, double hung windows, double chimneys, gable-end roofs, and first floor living rooms came into vogue, but the Creole galleries and balconies persist. The lack of a front door, with the use of French doors and the hipped roof are basic to the Creole building tradition.
Greek Revival 1830-60
Greek Revival buildings are identified by their clean, rather monumental forms, decorated discreetly with cornices, usually dentiled, and with columns and major doors in the Greek taste. Based on a stone post and
lintel construction method, these Greek Revival buildings have no arches, curves or undulations with the exception of domes and barrel vaulting, required in some buildings and which come from the Roman Revival period of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Roofs are temple shaped. Low and under-stated; often they are concealed behind parapets, and they do not overhang. These buildings present a lively combination of archaeological forms and details frequently adapted to every sort of building type.
By 1840 several typical Greek Revival building types had emerged. The first
was the double-chimney stacked, gable end house, usually two and one-half stories, with front and back galleries in the Greek taste, often with columns rising two stories. A similar design was found in multiple unit dwellings where a long gallery fronted two or more residences, all under the same roof. A third type was the simple commercial building with granite columns on the first floor balcony and simple cornice at the top. With the arrival of cast iron around 1850, verandahs replaced both the wood porches and the balconies, the iron being Rococo or Gothic, but the building mass remaining Greek Revival. Certain construction details and materials are typical of this period. Brick painted to imitate brick is popular in the 1830’s; unpainted brick laid within a thin (buttered) joint is typical of expressive work. Stucco walls are scored in imitation of cut stone, with the scoring lines tooled and “penciled in” in a color. Front doors often have a crossette frame. Other openings in masonry construction have thin frames slightly recessed back from the wall plane; in frame houses these openings have a trim of a wide flat board with a small rectangular edge trim. Windows are interesting; the Anglo-Saxon double-hung (guillotine) window sash reached Louisiana in the late eighteenth century and was used in conjunction with French doors. The French door not being an American taste (it possibly interfered with the elaborate draperies and curtains in favor in this century), a triple-hung sash appears in the 1830’s as a means of access to a porch or balcony. By the 1840’s, the double-hung sash reappears but with a tall bottom sash which slides into a pocket at the window top, allowing passage underneath. On buildings without galleries, the top cornice is often elaborate with small attic windows treated as a part of the design.
The Greek Revival uses the Anglo-American circulating hallway plan where access to the main rooms of the house is from corridors. Most often seen is the side hall plan, but the center hall plan is also used for larger residences. However, one does find Creole cottages in the Greek taste.
Factory production of building components started during the period of the Greek Revival. Doors, windows, columns, details of all kinds were ordered from mills or merchants selling them. This may account for the survival of many Greek details way past 1850 when the pure Greek Revival goes out of fashion.
The Italianate is a free, richly ornamental and boldly detailed style, quite in contrast to the refined elegance of the Greek Revival. It is also a style
which popularizes the free, asymmetrical plan and mass in national design with the towered Italian Villa house. Although New Orleans did not accept the asymmetrical villa, certain work of Henry Howard, Louis Reynolds and Louis Hillger shows its influence in a city that generally preferred to keep the traditional American plan introduced in the early years of the century, but to clothe it in various styles.
It is important to note that another quite different Italianate revival will occur at the end of the century and last through the 1920’s, an aspect of the more archaeological correct Beaux Arts work of that period, and discussed below.
Like the Greek Revival and Gothic, the Italianate suggests a foreign world; in its case, the towns and countryside of Northern Italy. Again, the reference is to Old World masonry work in stone and stucco, but rather than white marble, earth colors are used. Exposed brick is painted and not typical for finer work or elevations.
The general traits of the Italianate in New Orleans consist of building types and plans quite familiar already but with new detailing. Columns are generally Corinthian; cornices are bracketed rather than dentils, and can be richly detailed. Overhanging eaves on the low-pitched roofs are generally bracketed, but always pronounced. Openings have large frames with moldings in both stucco and frame buildings. Different shapes of openings- round, segmental and flat-headed, are used on a single building.
Stucco walls are scored in imitation of stone blocks and the scoring penciled; shiplap siding is the favorite weather-boarding for front walls of wood buildings, often combined with wood quoins at the corners. Front doors are often highly carved and were probably originally glazed with a large upper pane of colored or etched glass. Sid hall plans and central hall plans are usual.
The Industrial Revolution’s products are more abundant than ever- cast iron, brackets and all sorts of ornamental details in wood, imported stone, roof slate and glass.
Queen Anne 1880-1900
The Queen Anne style is based on picturesque Elizabethan and Jacobean English architecture where Gothic mingles with Mannerist ornamentation. A style ranging from the utmost severity of design and detail to one of extravagant and bold ornament, it typically has complex asymmetrical masses and high steep roofs with elaborate corbelled chimneys. In plan, it is equally asymmetrical and is characterized by the entry/ sitting room/ stair-hall design. In New Orleans it destroys the tradition of the side or center hall plan introduced by the 1820’s. Exterior surfaces are characterized by combinations of weatherboards, shingles, tiles and decorative panels, and varying types of each of these can be found on one building. In the hands of
good architects the richness and complexity of the style can seem coherent and direct; in other hands it can become a riotous style where the interest of that of vernacular work. In either case, complexity of mass and profile is desired, as is variety of surface texture. New Orleans abounds in Queen Anne houses, almost every one with original wood shingles and dark colored woodwork now repainted, generally white, which makes their original character impossible to judge.
Typical details are high steep roofs with many gable ends and elaborate tile ridge ornaments; chimneys made of complex brickwork corbel out at the top; various materials are applied to various bands or areas of wall surfaces; top window sash of tiny panels sit over a lower sash of a single pane of glass; columns, posts and pilasters all have bases; railings are of heavy turnings or are of almost Japanese design or of lengths of wood arranged horizontally and vertically in a complex kind of fret work; a variety of size from one dormer or gable to the next and to the next favored; one sees fine Renaissance details such as arched loggias and pilasters, and Palladian openings occur often at the top of a gable where a little porch is often found;
towers are favored as are oriels. The Queen Anne contribution to the shotgun house is the shingled or paneled gable end front wall to which is applied a roofed overhang and sometimes small gables over entry ways.
With some reservation, this term is used to describe a building using the vernacular wood ornament produced by mills in the later third of the century. It is an applied decoration with an interest and quality all its own, and is found applied to buildings of simple mass, such as shotguns, or to complex buildings of Queen Anne mass, both large and small.
The publication in England of Charles Eastlake’s, “Hints on Household Taste” in 1868, its popularity through the 1870’s and 1880’s in this country gives this style its name, but ironically Eastlake himself was upset by what was done here in his name. His sober arts and crafts work was quite the opposite of mass-produced, freely designed work described as Eastlake.
Emerging from a mixture of mid-nineteenth century eclectic styles such as the north Italian, the Gothic, the Tudor, and owing much to the Arts and Crafts emphasis on having buildings look handmade, the Eastlake style is readily identifiable and many details suggestive of furniture motifs abound in the extravagant decoration. Frequent motifs are rows of turned spindles; turned posts; often quite bulbous; panels with jigsaw cut designs; surfaces of checker-board pattern wood panels ; incised work, tapered grooved posts; distinctive trim of boards shaped on the front and square cut on the sides with vertical grooves and bulls eyes decorating the front surfaces. In the rarest and most important New Orleans examples, cast iron railings are incorporated into wood porch work with a result of great richness and subtlety of scale, 2524 Magazine St., and 1111-13 Second Street being examples.
New Orleans Bracketed 1860-1900
An offshoot of the architect’s Italianate style of the 1850’s, a New Orleans bracketed style is distinguished by deep roof projections supported on elaborate brackets. Although found on large and small, and on one and two story buildings, the most conspicuous expression of this style is in the shotgun house where the elevation is so treated. In earlier (Italianate) examples, the front hip of the roof projects out over the porch and is supported by brackets; in later (Eastlake) examples, the front wall ends in a gable, to which a roofed projection with brackets is added. The brackets are carved or jigsaw cut, made of thickness of wood, or laminated. There were a part of the enormous stock millwork production of the post-Civil War period.
Edwardian Builder’s 1890-1920
An awkward term invented to describe a certain type of medium sized or small residence abundant in New Orleans. It is characterized by a simple, usually symmetrical design, has a front porch with simple classical columns, a low hip roof with a shed dormer, front door (often two sash) of one long pane of glass, and wide double-hung front windows usually with diamond-shaped panes in the top sash which are repeated in the dormer. Found in double shotguns, the same style can be seen in single family houses of a small size, with the same design elements. It also occurs in one and two story houses of average and above average scale and cost, but here the house is apt to be raised somewhat and to have a roof of red tiles and eaves supplied with thin out lookers cut into fine curves. It is an observance to say that this whole neglected style seems to be an adoption to medium and small sized frame houses of the Italian villa so popular with the rich American of the Edwardian era and so conspicuous along St. Charles Avenue.
Bungalow/Western Stick 1900-1930
The true bungalow is basically a modest house on one floor level and is a plan type, and not style. Found in various styles, notably Mission or Western Stick, the California bungalow, as it was called, was quite popular in New Orleans in the early twentieth century. The Western, or California Stick style exhibits on the exterior a great emphasis on wood construction members and their joining-beams, joists, railings, exposed roof rafters, and so on. Influenced by Japanese construction, the design is to call attention to the materials and their construction. Any decoration ideally is made on the job by cutting the wood members. This California style is found on ambitiously designed houses, and in a vestigial form as brackets supporting an overhanging roof on an otherwise plain structure. Uncut and rough cut fieldstones often were used for column bases and chimneys, and the wood and frequently found shingles were to be natural or stained earth colors.
This style derives from the simple adobe architecture of the Spanish Southwest, and its forms reflect the simple masses possible in the original material. Tile roofs are popular, as are wood porches in finer examples. In its simplest form it is an arched or columned stucco front porch on a shotgun house. There is in New Orleans a mixing of this with elements of the Spanish Revival and of French Quarter architecture that is a New Orleans kind of local mission style.
This term is applied to very simple buildings of this period that derived from
Western Stick or Mission design. The Western Stick influence is seen in deep overhangs or gables with brackets on other wood joining details; the Mission taste is expressed in stucco facades of simple form-arches or heavy posts.
and then there are more: list goes here
post World War II Modern
Federal-denotes a building in the East Coast manner. Brick or weatherboard, it will have a chimneyed gable end mass, important front door, double hung sash, and dormers. In the East it does not have galleries nor, usually balconies, nor French doors, but in Louisiana these amenities are added. The Herman Grima House at 822 St. Louis is a classic example.
Gothic (Revival)-For a few years about 1850 a picturesque style flourished based on Gothic Designs published ay A.J Downing. A free and inventive style, it is represented by only a few buildings in New Orleans-
1015 S. Carrollton Ave., and 921 Tchoupitoulas are outstanding; St. Patrick’s Church at 724 Camp St. and St. Theresa of Avila at Camp and Erato Streets are ecclestiastical examples of this early Gothic Revival.
Norman- A term used in the mid-nineteenth century for what we would term a form of Romanesque, characterized by the use of round arched openings and raised decorative bands of small arches, usually at the top of a wall. Quite close to German Romanesque work, it is especially popular in exposed brick construction and is found from the 1850’s until 1900. Examples include
2201 Tchoupitoulas Street, and 1055 Dryades.
Ornamental– Used by A.J Downing and Samuel Sloan to describe a richly detailed wooden architecture where boards were sawn and cut or pierced, where brackets and chamfered work were used, it merges later with the Swiss. Very rare in New Orleans, its influence can be seen in gable end work of the Post-Civil war period. Example:
gate pavillions to the Fairgrounds at 1700 block of Gentilly Boulevard.
Swiss– An exotic picturesque style of the 1850’s, it has a gable ended fron facade with the overhangs of the steep roof projecting deeply out, requiring large brackets, and with the roofs also extending down close to the ground on the side. The facade is often decorated with a pattern of boards in a kind of half-timbered manner. It later merges with the Ornamental style and looks less like a “cuckoo clock” Example: 3627 Carondelet
Modern French- A style of the 1850’s, it’s close to the Italianate, but with a heavily emphasized central bay treatment,…
example is 134 Carondolet Street.
Mansard– This style was the high fashion style of the late 1860’s and early 1870’s. Growing out of the Modern French, a baroque mansard roof with wood moldings at the roof angles and with roof slates laid in patterns is typical. Usually with a tower, houses are often asymmetrical.
3005 St. Charles Avenue; St. Elizabeth’s Asylum.,
Gothic (Revival)– This term is applied to post-Civil War to twentieth century Gothic which is increasingly academic and correct, but which includes vernacular work using the pointed arch.
The First Presbyterian Church at 5401 S. Claiborne Avenue, and
1924 St. Charles Ave. are examples.
Romanesque– Used to refer to archaeologically correct work based primarily on French Romanesque church architecture. Example;
St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4600 St. Charles Avenue,
St. Joseph’s Church, 1802 Tulane Ave.
Colonial Revival– Inspired by East Coast Georgian period work and popular from the late nineteenth century until today, the first versions seem close to Queen Anne in many details. However roofs are low pitched and often have a railed widow’s walk, the building is symmetrical in elevation and the eaves do not overhang the walls. The baroque broken pediment is often applied all over, to door and window frames and to dormers. Porch columns go full length from soffit beam to floor. Laterr work is more “correct” and includes Louisiana Colonial Revival. The Williamsburg small dwelling and the Cape Cod Cottage were the basic builder types during the Depression.
5809 and 6000 St. Charles are early,
1835 St. Roch and 1303 Third Street are twentieth century.
Greek Revival Revival, a form of Colonial Revival based on Greek Revival, with monumental scaled columns.
5603 St. Charles and No.2 Audubon Place are early twentieth examples.
Louisiana Colonial Revival, Starting about 1900 there is an interest in using Louisiana Colonial Revival architectural details such as fanlights, wrought iron and balconies of buildings in the French Quarter. The wrought iron and French doors at the Lafayette Hotel at 628 St. Charles,
630-32 S. Rampart Street
Newcomb building at 2828 Camp Street are examples.
Twentieth Century Beaux Arts, The Beaux Arts tradition centered itself on the Italian Rennaissance, from which base it could move backward to antiquity and forward through Georgian Colonial, unifying all design in a specific visual vocabulary. Ranging from restrained to ornate archaeologically based detailing, this style is found most frequently in banks, public buildings and some expensive residences. The turn of the century Italian and Spanish are really also Beaux Arts styles; correct Gothic follows the same design rules. The
Carrollton branch of the Whitney National Bank, 1200 S. Carrollton
518 S. Rampart St. are examples of commercial design.
Italian (later)-about the turn of the century three prototypes have important influences:
1) the Villa is named for and based on the unfortified country house of fair size. Generally symmetrical, but is dtinguished by
a tiled roof wich has a good overhang decorated with shaped outlookers Theactual style can be simple Renaissance, Neo-Classic, Rococo or even somewhat Sullivanesque.The type is highly popular and prevalent in New Orleans, and influences small dwelling design as pointed out earlier in the discussion of “Edwardian Builders” style.
In an attempt to differentiate it from the Italianate of the mid-nineteenth century, our inventory forms often list it as Medeteranian Villa.
2) The Palazzo is a fortified Italian city house, usually in a renaissance style with rusticated first floor with small windows and with large scale openings and richness of detail on the main, second floor. In less costly buildings the rustication is done with stucco scored with a v-joint.This is a favorite design for both simple and ambitious work in the Central Business District where buildings are set up to the property line. Cast concrete blocks of rusticated type are popular in simpler work, even fences.
3) The Castello is a medieval Italian fortified construction. Using various round and segmental arched openings, nineteenth and early twentieth century work is distinguished by corbelled projections at the tops of the walls and especially by tall thin towers corbelled out at top to provide a room or lookout. The best examples of this are in some warehouses of the late nineteenth century, such as
755 Magazine Street.
Tuscan– A specific kind of Italian Renaissance design based on rows of semi-circular arched openings linked at the spring lines by a horizontal molded band which is repeated around the heads of the arches. The top story of the Contemporary Arts Center at 920 Camp Street
and the Luling house on Leda Street use this motif.
Richardsonian– In the style of Henry Hobson Richardson, for example, Gibson Hall at Tulane University.
Sullivanesque– Clearly in the style of Louis Sullivan. An outstanding example is 928 Canal Street.
Wrightian, Based on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, usually the early work. Examples include; No. 6 Newcomb Place
7929 Freret Street.
Early Chicago Skyscraper– examples include
209 Magazine Street, 224-228 Camp Street and 210-11 Carondelet Street.
Sullivanesque Vernacular, We invented this term to describe a popular style of the Edwardian period; “Decorated Structural” might have been a better term. The usual elements are large columnar masses on each side of the front facade, supporting horizontal spandrels and beams. The corner columns are decorated with long recessed reveal or with long rectangular pattern in brick or tile. Spandrels and any cornice are equally decorated. Found in commercial buildings of one to five stories, in one or two story residence porches, this style with its expressionistic emphasis on structural elements and its love of ornament seems closer to the spirit of Sullivan than anything else.
Sullivanesque Builder’s Vernacular, This is a watering down of the previous style with the decoration consisting of applied stock tiles arranged in various patterns.
Factory, A building characterised by the use of large areas of metal window sash which have a large number of small panes of glass. Usually placed in a simple building bass, sometoimes factory sash are set in a finely designed structure. Examples include 527 St. Joseph Street and 839 St. Charles Avenue.
Spanish, Based on work in Spain, either Gothic or Renaissance. Simple or elaborate, its details are quite correct. The style depends for effect on highly carved and ornamented entrance doors, tile roofs, wrought iron at windows, tiled wall surfaces, and so on. Deriving from an architecture of stone, it uses decoration not possible in the adobe tradition. Examples include,
27 Audubon Place,
the Baronne street elevation of the Roosevelt Hotel, and
1224 St. Charles Avenue.
Tudor, half timbered design. An example is;
5010 St. Charles Avenue.
Byzantine, Our Lady Star of the Sea, at 1901 St. Roch Ave.
Touro Synagogue at 4238 St. Charles Avenue.
Art Moderne, A style of the 1920’s and 1930’s where the design premise was to bring the Beaux Arts up to date by simplifying or eliminating classical details. Basically a symmetrical style, it has, for example, columns and pilasters with no capital, or ones with a new kind of abstract ornament. Saarinen’s Arcade at Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Trocadero Palce in Paris are typical. An example is the Federal Building at
600 South Street.
A sub-species here is called “Shop Front Moderne”. The best example is the Gus Mayer building at 600 Canal, where the walls are covered with square blocks of limestone and the openings framed like pictures with large scale marble moldings. This repetitive panel surfacing with applied large scale ornamental patterns of openings or pure decorations is frequently seen on remodelings along Canal Street, often using colored enamel panels.
Art Deco, A decorative style of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Based on abstracts of classical motifs such as flowers, it also borrows from American Indian designs and some Cubist work. Most noticed in bas reliefs, murals, door frames and so on, this style also finds architectural expression in three dimensions, notably at tops of towers or at the roof lines of certain buildings. Examples include
Lapeyre Miltenberger Building at Charity Hospital on Tulane Avenue and the Rabouin School at 727 Carondelet Street.
Streamlined, to express the influence of speed, rounded corners and rows of parallel horizontal bands were used on buildings, coming from forms developed to reduce wind resistance of railroad cars, automobiles and imaginary space vehicles. Examples of this style are
900 Camp Street and 1315 S. Jefferson Davis Parkway.
International Style, Based upon the austere, undecorated work of the Bauhaus. Flat-roofed, it contrasted stark masses of solid masses of solid walls with areas of glass derived from factory sash. Examples are
5355 St. Charles Avenue, and 840 Carondelet.
Arts and Crafts, This is a movement rather than a style but affects architecture, especially Western or California, Stick and most modern design. Its basic effect is in its interest in honest material expression: wood should not be painted, nor should brick or stone; the handmade look of a building reflected the activity of the of the craftsman. A fine example is 2617 St. Charles Avenue where an earlier building is covered with stained wood shingles and stone work is found near the entrance.
Vernacular, Work by untrained designers, rather ambitious and of significant appeal and importance in its neighborhood.
Vieux Carre, A contemporary style based loosely upon older French Quarter work. Exposed soft brick is mandatory. Small scale millwork is used, but derives from Mission and Colonial Revival work rather than historical antecedents. The building scale is much smaller and lower than original work. Iron work is popular, both traditional cast iron and imitation of wrought iron made of stock sections of soft steel.
Note: As mentioned in the text above, we are obliged to invent certain stylistic names; specifically, “Sullivanesque Vernaculer”, “Edwardian Builder’s”, and “Vieux Carre”. The work described by these terms falls into groups of similarly designed buildings which exist in enough quantity that they had to covered thoroughly in the survey. None of this work appeared to have been researched or if researched, has not been published to the extent of being availiable in standard reference material. We urge extreme caution in using our terms for anything else than a kind of symbolic code limited to this survey and, as mentioned before, we fully expect appropriate terms for this kind of design will be forthcoming at some point.
*i did not write this, i might have helped a little,
from the New Orleans Historic District Landmark Commission (HDLC)
architectural district survey, completed Dec., 1979
although, all the photographs are mine,
©jeffrey lamb 2008