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Saturday, February 1, 2020

New Orleans History Through Homes

(*edited, photos added)

So before I so rudely interrupted and distracted  ... myself (lol) ... with all this Kobe business, I was on a New Orleans kick - both because Mardi Gras is just around the corner and because we're hoping to take a trip there late Spring :) 

As I've mentioned before - other than bigotry/prejudice/injustice/snobbery itself - there are only 2 things I'm snobby about - film and architecture.  

My justified reason for this is, I figure if you are wealthy enough to do either, do it well - don't just be throwing up cheap crap in our faces, assaulting our senses, and telling us it's art, wanting to make a quick buck.   

For example, there's a reason why Netflix is catching up to big-screen Hollywood and it's not because they have a bigger budget, I guarantee you. 

No, art tells us an affecting story - so tell us a good story :)

Especially art through architecture tells us a story, and  when it is done well, it not only survives, it endures :) 

It will tell you not only its own story, but the history of the people, places, and culture who came before, during, and after it was built.

Thus, one of the reasons I love New Orleans is their good taste in architecture, everywhere you look; from the tiny shotguns in the Lower 9th ward (what's left of it), all the way up to the mansions in the Garden District :)

Though you'll see copycats elsewhere in the coastal South, New Orleans architecture is the original, being the oldest.  It's unique from any other place in US; in fact, any other place else the world, due to their unusual colonization and cultural history. 

New Orleans Creole-style heavily influenced other southern architecture, particularly the southeastern coastal cities, especially those with heavy Creole populations like Charleston and Savannah.  So you may see similar there; but again, remember, New Orleans is actually the oldest/original. 

In return,  the southern colonies and first federal states traded their own American Colonial and Federal style design elements for French Creole - so you'll see elements of both, in all of these cities, as America grew :)

I'm still learning my architecture in New Orleans (and I hope to feature my own pics in the not too distant future), so I'll just give you the basics of what I've learned thus far. 

So, as you know (or may not know) New Orleans was colonized by the French (1682-1763), then the Spanish (1763-1800), who ceded it back to France again after the great fires (1763 to 1803) - "Uh, yeah, there's nothing left.  Here ya go, France, you may have this back, now?" lol

Then just after the Revolutionary War, our country, no longer British colonies, bought the Louisiana Territory for ourselves in 1803 and we have owned it since.  We did briefly fight a skirmish with the British once again, after they attempted to seize control of New Orleans and it's ports in 1812, but we won - and Louisiana officially became our 18th US state in 1812.

As mentioned above, two great fires, in 1788 and 1794, wiped out most of the French architecture in the city, sparing  just a handful of buildings in the French Quarter - such as the oldest surviving building in New Orleans,  Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (now a bar), built in 1722, which has somehow survived every fire and every hurricane.  It is also the oldest, still-standing pub/bar in America :)

Lafitte's is your classic, basic template for Creole style - which  you will instantly recognize primarily by their sloped roofs, dormer windows, and lateral-wood-slat shutters. (Though most of the wood shutters have been replaced). 

Also, you'll note that colonial/federal-style molding began appearing above the windows and doors began to appear in the cottages after 1803, as did Federal-style windows and pillars, but typically still retained the basic signature French and Spanish Colonial/Creole base. 

Most of the homes that were rebuilt after the fires were continued in the previous French Colonial/Spanish Colonial style beginning in the 1790s,  thus, they are now the oldest still existing structures, and are known "Creole Cottages." 

As a primer,  other than Lafitte's, this is your basic, traditional, classic, original Creole cottage, only built after fires, in the 1790s -  red brick, "French"doors, dark-green shutters, sloped roof, and often dormer windows. 

This one is actually currently for sale for $628,000 ...

(Psst ... had they done a better job with interior preservation/renovation, rather than HGTV Midwestern Cheap - to  -  it could've gone for over $1 million, even for a house this small size.)

Speaking of which, as a momentary aside -  you can usually tell when Midwestern outsiders have renovated the interior, rather than true NOLA natives ;)

As a public service announcement, here's the thing -  you have a 18th/early 19th century Creole Cottage.  They are among the oldest homes still standing in America; therefore, respect it, be kind to it. Please do not fill it with Wayfair items and accents and fixtures you bought at Lowe's.  Please.

Though you can do modern, you should probably at least nod to the original French Louis XV style or French colonial/provincial (and by that I do not mean the the cheap parquet that's in the kitchen of the cottage above, vita the link), or even American Colonial Federal. 

You don't have to a billionaire, but if you have enough money to buy, then renovate one, ya wanna think along the lines of these, if you want to go totally authentic ...

... or these if you want to a mix or a less formal feel ...

... or even these more modern examples can work ...

... or even these modest-budget examples ...

..point is, always give a nod with at least one piece to the heritage style of home - Louis XV French, French Colonial/Provencial/ and/or American Colonial.

But whatever you do?

If you have enough money to buy and renovate an authentic, historical Creole Cottage or Townhouse - then please, for the love of God and all that is sacred and holy -- do NOT alter the interior to ... whatever these are?!?

Strike One ...

Strike Two ...

Strike 3 ... AND're out. 

Just ... no.  

I will run you back out of New Orleans myself, with some bad-juju, gris gris voodoo, if you treat your authentic 18th-century Creole Cottage like the last 3 photos above, on pure principle lol

 AND ... I don't even live there, nor do I know any voodoo, but I'll learn some fast lol.  Sigh, wasted privilege.

Thank you, that is all - this now concludes my public service announcement. 

Anyway, back to the evolution of the Creole Cottage :)

Those later built came with siding, as well as in an array of colors, renovated or later built with decorative elements in Spanish Colonial, British Colonial/American Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic, Victorian, and even Arts and Crafts Bungalow, and a few merged the style with later Shotgun homes and Double-Shotguns  (which we'll see next).  

However, it's still the same base - 1 to 1-1/2 stories, "French" doors and windows with shutters, sloped roofs, often with dormers (though not always).

However, creole cottages can also be found all throughout the New Orleans area in Faubourg Marigny, Treme, the Bywater District, and even across the river in Algiers.

Starting with traditional, then merging with others styles in style-trend, in historical order  (mostly).

(Hint:  Remember, you can tell they were either built or renovated after 1803, when American Federal molding, windows, columns and other elements were added, and further updated/renovated after 1850 if there's Gothic or Victorian "gingerbread" wood-carved moldings as exterior adornments  ;)

Some of them were "doubles" or duplexes, a trend which would later explode with "shotgun" houses in the 1830s on.

Those were the city versions. 

However, you could find larger, countrified Creole Cottages outside of NOLA from the bayou swamp land to small farms, all the way up to large plantations - and besides being larger, they are slightly different features.

Note the distinguishing feature about these, especially the earlier ones, is the extra middle sloped roof, or an extra-long/deep sloping single roof. 

Yes, they're beautiful - but the latter homes especially were the epitome of greed at the expense of many slave lives.

So if you're curious of the price tag, those that aren't state or national preservation sites go for $15+ million.

Now, I can understand the smaller homes, but I'm not sure why you'd want to buy an actual plantation mansion, considering their history. 

IMO, if plantations are privately owned, they should only go to African Americans, particularly genetic descendants of original owners (considering they often considered slaves their sexual property as well), not to mention not only were they built with their free labor and at the expense of the thousands of African American lives, but that whole "40 acres and a mule" emancipation promise turned out to be BS. 

Much like when Tyler Perry bought former Confederate Army Base, Fort McPherson, in Atlanta for Tyler Perry Studios :)  

Regardless, notice in the last few homes, the wealthiest (greediest) built 2 stories and/or raised basements?

Similarly, going back to into the city, for those who could afford it, were the "Creole Townhomes"  (which again increasingly merged style elements with American Colonial/Federal townhouse design on the Southeast Colonial coast.)

This is the type of building that most people think of, when they think of New Orleans :)

They have the same shutter doors and windows, the same sloped roofs and dormers, but they're 2-story, 3-story, 4 story like NYC townhouses) - only they're typically adorned with the ornate "New Orleans French-style" balconies, including ornate, wrought-iron, fencing and latticework. 

It is the arrangement of these townhomes on narrow, sometimes still-bricked streets in the French Quarter, which gives the city its "Old European" feel - unlike any other city in the United States :)

Again, from (mostly) the oldest and most traditional to those incorporating Spanish Colonial, British Colonial, American Federal, Italianate, Greek Revival, Gothic, Victorian, and Arts and Crafts elements ...




If you're curious, you can pick one up for anywhere from $1 million to $5 million USD for a full townhouse, depending on location, size, and preservation (or for one that's been split into condos, you can get a floor for $350K).  

And of course, also unique to New Orleans, are the tropical courtyards accompanying the homes, typically with fountains or pools.  They can be either between townhomes or in the back and shared with neighbors, or a private individual oasis, either in the middle of the townhome or in a traditional, American style, small back yard.


Many restaurants, hotels, and pubs - both small and large -  offer dining in their courtyards. Some of them (such as Napolean House and Court of Two Sisters) are semi open to the courtyard or their French doors open to the courtyard. 

 By the way, the two photos of courtyard with the lights and the wisteria is Court of Two Sisters (probably the best of the larger restaurant courtyards, which also features a jazz brunch) ...



With the influx of new people to new land after the Louisiana Purchase, as well as slaves escaping to the slightly better legal rights for slave in New Orleans, including being able to buy your way out of slavery  (still operating under Napoleanic Code), housing was  needed quickly, without much city land - thus, "Shotgun Houses" were built, beginning in the 1840s.

The were named "shotgun" not only because they were like a long barrel of a shotgun, but also, if you shot a single bullet straight through the home, you could hit every room - because the homes feature sequential rooms, one after the other, a straight line :)

Note, they kept elements of Creole cottages, but also added Italianate, Greek Revival, Gothic Victorian, and even Arts and Crafts in the 1920s as they went along. 

Similar to today's "tiny house" trend, they were tiny - but they were at least free-standing and sometimes had a tiny yard.

Very popular at the time and until the 1920s was the "double shotgun" - essentially, a duplex ...

If you're curious, you can pick up one of these tiny shotgun houses in New Orleans for anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 USD, depending on location, size, and preservation. 

Some, like two photos above and this one below, have added a back for more space, called a "camelback."

For those with a bit more money, "Center Hall " homes (sometimes with Italianate, Gothic, or Victorian features, depending on when they were built) became extremely popular, beginning in the 1830s - basically a combination Creole Cottage and American Colonial/Federal mix - sometimes with Italianate, Greek Revival, Gothic, or Victorian features based on when they were built - often with "raised basements." 

Regardless of Spanish Colonial, Creole, Italianate, Greek Revival, Gothic, Victorian, and Arts and Crafts elements - Central Halls are characterized by a central door and symmetrical windows and dormers (Federal Colonial look) - and are mostly found in the Central City near Tulane and Loyola Universities, near the Warehouse and Market Districts, as well as the Lower  Garden District of New Orleans. 

The price tag for these? 

Anywhere from $800,000 to $3 million US, again depending upon size, location, and preservation.

Then for the ultra rich, as the city grew, it went South (literally, not figuratively lol) - St. Charles and The Garden District was, and still is, the place to be for those with money.  

(However, early in the 20th century, the rigid social caste system became so great between old money and new money, that those with new money basically said, "Screw it, we're never going to break into the snotty elite, so let's just make our own wealthy suburb" - and created the northeast, east, and uptown areas.)

In the Garden District in the 1850s, pride in their previously architectural achievements led them to incorporate all of the previous elements into one grand display, now with a wrought-iron fenced yard - the Double Gallery House ... and note that they are truly mostly an incorporation of all prior styles, the most distinguishing feature is the (mostly) flat roof ...

As for the interior, this is your basic Gallery House French Parlor - basic floor plan - 2 floor-to-ceiling windows, curtains, fireplace, chandelier, white or gilded molding.  

(In fact, this is Anne Rice's former home in the Garden District, minus the silk curtains.)

Same home, now with the high-drama silk curtains ...

Like Creole Cottages and Townhouses, they typically at least give a node to Louis XV design or American Colonial/Federal - but most step it up to high drama.  

This one is still a little formal for me,  and yet still very warm and inviting, very well done ...

HOWEVER ... then there's wooo ... high drama!

Whew, some of those wear me out just to look at, there's so much formality and/or so much going on. TOO much going on. 

I mean, some are authentic and therefore appropriately dramatic, others are just drama queens lol. 

IMO, the home itself is the drama star,  the interior design of the fireplace, the molding, the chandeliers take center stage - so though bit of high-French furnishing works, it should complement the star, not upstage it -  so I actually think less it more?

So, maybe bring it down several notches for comfort and warmth sake - always still nodding to Louis XV or American Colonial/Federal, even if it's just a couple of pieces ...

Then again, you can get TOO casual ...

Did you seriously mount 3 deer heads and ram's head on the parlor wall of your $5 million gallery house? 

OK. I mean ...why?  Just ... why? 

Never mind.  I don't want to know.  But again, wasted privilege strikes again lol

Anyway,  the price tag for all that drama that is a gallery house?

Exactly what you'd think - the sky is the limit - anywhere from $2 million to $30 million USD.

In fact, the Garden District is the choice place to be for Celebrity Homes including ...

Archie, Peyton, and Eli Manning's family home ...

John Goodman ...

Anne Rice's former home  ...

Three other celebrities own homes in the Garden District, but they are later Victorian and Art and Crafts/Art Nouveau/Mission Style homes.

Sandra Bullock's Victorian built in the 1890s  ...

Beyonce and Jay Z's Art Nouveau/Spanish Mission Style/Frank Lloyd Wright-Mayan/Aztec style mansion,  built in 1925  ...

However, if you want the double-gallery-house feel without the price, you can always do the duplex version in the French Quarter (and lower) - either split down the middle or split first and second floor "condos" - for about $650K+

Speaking of Victorian, here are other Victorian mansions in New Orleans, which you can find primarily in the Garden District, built in the 1890s to 1920s (like the rest of the nation) ...

Sometimes they're combined with the New Orleans Gallery Style, but usually they're straight NE Victorian style - one of the few styles to have a significant influence in New Orleans, without incorporating prior tradition.  Here are two examples of a mix ...

And with the 1920s and Frank Lloyd Wright's Arts and Crafts Bungalow and Mission Styles, ushering in Art Nouveau and Art Deco as well, as New Orleans grew, they of course were among the first to embrace these artistic styles ...

... these can also be found in the Garden District, but mostly uptown near the City Park, West towards Carrollton, and the Lower Garden District. 

Other celebrities have chosen to live right in the heart of it all, the French Quarter including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (who sold their Creole townhouse in 2018, after they divorced) ...

And Nicholas Cage, who not only bizarrely bought a pyramid tomb for himself in Layfayette Cemetery, but chose to own the home of mass murderer/slave torturer, Madame LaLaurie, for what reason no one knows.  Because he's a morbid freak, I guess.  I wouldn't set foot in that place lol. 

That's all I've learned thus far ... hoping to show you photos of my own personal favorites on our next trip in the coming months. 

In the meantime, Mardi Gras is just around the corner  - Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

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