Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Houses with semi-cylindrical foundations for wrap-around porches-I


I. The Roumain House at 201 St. Charles Street
This house must date to about the time of Mr. Roumain's 6-story skyscraper on 3rd Street.  Its more than semi-cylindrical porch on its NW corner  has marble hexagonal tiles (and the steps are marble, just as almost all the steps to houses in Athens, Greece are, though they are exceptional here), but the columns, to my surprise, are built of wood.  The foundations are of that lovely dark red brick, just like the 1912 foundations of the Boehringer house and the Reiley-Reeves house.
The red tile roof also is noteworthy, but more remarkable is the use of custom-curved glass  for the round corner (not a round porch here) of the room that begins just behind the column at right.  These columns are more or less Tuscan Doric with adorning motifs added (as also wherever space allows on the balustrade above and on the face of the upper story.
The front doors are better than stained glass; they are heavily leaded glass in fine hardwood frames.  In this photo you can see, also, the marble tiling of the whole porch floor.
The fireplace in the small front room, perfectly preserved and with its imported marble hearth intact, though the  elaborately framed mirror (reflecting an oriental rug) has been removed and all of the period furniture.  (Note also the recent decision to make the inner frame pale; when a fireplace was used for fire with wood or coal, the black finish on the metal fire box would be functional).
Suitably, the young couple's Going Away picture, so close to the front door, was taken in front of this fireplace; you see the identical veining in the marble hearth.  The photos are more than a half century apart.  Not only the hearth is unaffected by time: the fake logs in the gas fire also are identically the same.  Everything suggests that the YWCA  occupancy of the house was on condition of good care.  From a built-in bench (is the foyer a waiting room?) one turns to go up a couple of steps to a first landing.
The rest of the stairway to the upper rooms (not accessible and seemingly not used)  shows us the Ionic capitals  (shiny and dark in 1954) and the young Mrs. Kidd tossing her bouquet to the bridesmaids.  The older persons in the background seem to be standing just inside the leaded glass front door.

The stairs lead up to undamaged, high quality stained glass  (for details, see the Album), and  also you see  both of the Ionic capitals that do duty to dignify the posts.  One is shown below.

None of the woodwork seems to have been scuffed up (though one assumes that recently it has been cleaned and oiled).  The rosettes and pendant palmettes  have nothing to do with an Ionic order and may have been applied rather than carved in the wood (?).

Today you can see that these capitals, if not gessoed wood, must be plaster.   The mixture of expensive materials and less expensive work is one of the interesting things about this house.  I have failed to find a thesis or an article on this house (and perhaps its comparison with Mayor Irvine's house that, less than a decade old (built in 1904-5), which was destroyed by the 1912 Bayou Sara flood).   The house that Mayor Irvine built to replace it was not so splendid and did not have a semi-cylindrical porch element.
But round-foundation wrap-around porches (which I think must be truncated turrets, as Mayor Irvine's certainly was turreted) are not the whole story of style.
Just outside Beauregard Town, but facing north on Government St., and just east of WAFB-TV, 982 Government Street, given over to divorce lawyers, has a little dormer for air in the attic and very elaborated Craftwman-like brackets, quite comparable with those on the Roumain House up at 201 St. Charles.  I strongly suspect that it has been rescued from the attempt at a mall downtown and brought here, where it lords it over its neighbors.  To me, it has "c. 1912" (or so) written all over it and, very substantial but not adorned with marbles, it could easily be by the same (unknown) architect as the Roumain House.
*****
The satellite view of the Romain house in Google Earth (zoom to max) is very surprising.  It shows a building quite unlike the squarish houses with a bay of windows at each side with, or without, wrap-around porches.
The Romain House is quite unlike any other that I know, and, now that I know that the YWCA already had it in 1954, there is no reason why it should not be quite alike in 2013 and 1954.  The question, therefore, is whether it ever was occupied by a family, domestically. or what it looked like inside then.  Friends of my friend, jbk, whose parents appear above, know ladies who went to teas there, at the YWCA, over the years.  I think of the Women's City Club in Berkeley...