Monday, April 19, 2010

Mid-century New Orleans

New Orleans' hallmarked architecture, rightfully so, consists of the Garden District's famed Greek Revivals and historic Creole cottages in the French Quarter.  Architecture buffs and design lovers flock from all over the world to photograph and tour the raised centerhall villas and shotguns that dot the landscape of the city.  There are literally volumes upon volumes of tomes written about the architectural gems that can only be found in New Orleans. 

We are spoiled, indeed. 

Greek Revival home in the Garden District. 

Creole Cottage in the FQ

Garden District rowhouse

French Quarter

Now, something you may not know is that New Orleans has some delightful enclaves filled with mid-century wonders.  I often stop and snap pics of the VERY few mid-century homes Uptown because, as you may know based upon prior posts (and constant posts about Palm Springs), I have a deep love and appreciation of mid-century architecture. 

Why am I talking about this today?  We were invited to a crawfish boil yesterday in Lake Vista, the land of my childhood years.  Our friends just bought a mid-century gem and are in the process of restoring it.  It spurred my thinking about the very rarely discussed mid-century architecture that is alive and present in Nola.  A large part of the Lakefront in New Orleans (Lakeshore, Lake Vista and Lake Terrace) was built starting in the late late 1940s and early 1950s and, let me tell you, there are some SWINGIN' Rat Packy pads out there.  Party houses (some of which are well-preserved and could easily be used on a set of Mad Men)!   Unfortunately, many were bastardized by the 70s and 80s or have been torn down completely to make room for McMansions. 

I found a wonderful flickr stream called New Orleans Mid-Century and I felt the need to share some of it with you today.  The funny part is that, in viewing it, I knew most of the houses!  (some are incorrectly labeled as "Lakeview."  In actuality, they should be marked as Lakeshore, Lake Vista, or Lake Terrace)

Behold something that, to me, is like finding a hidden treasure:

I know I have seen this one, but seriously cannot put my finger on where it is...anyone?

Merry Christmas.

Residence in Lake Terrace?

Methodist Church located right off of Spanish Fort in Lake Vista.

Interior of St. Pius X Church. Is it wrong to call a church swingin' (it really is, though...)?

This Lake Terrace home was listed on sell modern....It was designed by John Lawrence and is perfectly preserved.  Click here if you are interested in investing in your very own MCM gem. 

Now, kiddies.  Don't think it stops here.  I would be the worst design blogger ever if I did not discuss the seminal architects behind New Orleans' most famous (mid-century) buildings.  Curtis and Davis are responsible for the likes of the Superdome, the Rivergate, Angola State Prison, and countless other municipal schools and buildings throughout our city.  I have come to realize that they are the architects behind a substantial portion of the modern city buildings.    In addition, they are often the duo behind the notably unique mid-century homes in the Uptown  (and sometimes Old Metairie/Lakefront) area. 

The team began designing modern buildings in New Orleans in 1948 after graduating from Tulane's Architecture School...quite a challenge in a city steeped in architectural traditions rooted in the early nineteenth (and even eighteenth) centuries.   

Behold, Part 2:

Curtis Residence.   Photo in Life Magazine.
6161 Marquette Place.  I used to run past this home in college.  I still like to "visit" it while passing by.  (It is less than a mile from our house)

Another shot for Life Magazine. 
Built in 1962.
Curtis Residence on Marquette.

More from Life.
"I die."

The Davis Guest House.  Located on Bamboo Road (area right near Metairie Country Club on the border of New Orleans and Jefferson Parishes)

7424 Hampson Street (Uptown New Orleans)

Moses Residence via this entry from the great Regional Modernism blog.  Their flickr set is also incredible. 
171 Audubon Boulevard (Uptown New Orleans)

Steinberg Residence via regional modernism
Located on Conery Street (Garden District), it was on the market, um, last year.  Yes, right before we were able to start looking...
(Perhaps if Lil Harms sold faster, I would have convinced Beau to renovate the entirety of this home to its original grandeur....wishful thinking!)

Steinberg courtyard roof. 
More shots on regional modernism's flickr set

Davis Residence, 1951
25 Finch Street, Lake Vista
(I am telling you...these are everywhere throughout Lake Vista)

Behold, Part 3.  The municipal contributions of Curtis and Davis.

Giraffe House at the Audubon Zoo (who knew!?)


New Orleans' public library (located downtown).

The Rivergate.  Downtown New Orleans, 1968.
Demolished 1995.

I remember those great terrazo floors (and I swear those chairs MAY have been in the UC when I started Tulane)!


St. Francis Cabrini Church, 1962.  (Controversially torn down after it was ravaged by Katrina)
via regional modernism's fab flickr stream

Recognize this?  via Regional Modernism

There is so so so much more to say.  The rich contributions of not only Curtis and Davis but other New Orleans architects to mid-century modern architecture is incredibly prolific, and I recognize that this post is simply a thumbnail sketch.    Even if you are not particularly interested in or admiring of mid-century modern architecture, I hope you found this post at least somewhat eye opening....New Orleans has a rich architectural history that includes some buildings that you may not have considered to be "typical" Nola.  Keep your eyes peeled....these artifacts are literally EVERYWHERE around us. 

Interesting resources (be can get sucked in!):

Some other quick notes...sorry, this is the never ending post.  I just can't stop, though.

Dr. Simon (my pediatrician!) Residence, 1961. 
922 Octavia.  I pass this home all of the time and wrongly assumed it was Curtis and Davis.  It was actually designed by Charles Colbert.  Courtesy of regional modernism flickr.

Original snap in all of its glory.  

Must have been a sight to see.

Recent shot of Irving Roth residence.  4116 Vincennes.
This home was designed by Albert Ledner. 
To be honest, I did not include this one for the actual residence, but rather, to point out another "Who knew?"   After graduating from Tulane, Ledner studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesen.  Lucky ducks who get to own a Ledner property! 

If you enjoy mid-century modern architecture and have some other recommendations of great buildings (and residences) in New Orleans, let me know!  As you can see, I am a buff.  I hope you are (or at least contemplate becoming) one too.   



P.S.  Thanks for your interest, but the Crate and Barrel beaut has been sold to a gimleter! 


  1. GREAT post! I haven't seen a lot of these! I can picture millions of mid-cent homes I love in Lakey T. I die.

    Thumbs up on feauturing St Francis Cabrini, my family's former church and where I went to school until 5th grade! I wish you could find interior shots of Cabrini church as well, I loved it. And the school's design was great too, as you would know from your mom! It was pretty awesome, such a simple design. The classrooms had huge glass walls that would slide open onto shared courtyards/atriums. Still a little traumatized that the church and the school are gone.

  2. I love love love the MCM homes! Thank you so much for writing such an informative piece.

  3. Loved, loved your post... As you know, I am HUGE fan of all Mid Century Modern !!! I just wish there were more MCM homes available Uptown... Perhaps you can do a piece on fab MCM furniture!?!

  4. You know, I pass the Steinberg house ALL THE TIME and have often wondered about its origins considering it's very non-Uptown design. Thanks for the info!

  5. The 2 houses that seem very familiar to you are located in Lakeshore West. West of Canal Blvd and north of Robert E. Lee. The white brick is on the corner of Amethyst and General Haig. The other two are in the same vicinity, one on topaz and one on crystal. Plenty of beautiful modern homes in this neighborhood.

  6. Hi! Love this post! My husband and I are purchasing a home Uptown that was built c.1970, and we are curious how to find who built it. It's interior is MCM but the exterior is a bit more traditional with a mansard roof. Any ideas where to begin looking for this info? Thanks!

  7. Hi! Love this post! My husband and I are purchasing a home Uptown that was built c.1970, and we are curious how to find who built it. It's interior is MCM but the exterior is a bit more traditional with a mansard roof. Any ideas where to begin looking for this info? Thanks!

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