Friday, October 18, 2013

Enough of Roseland Terrace Bungalows?


No End of Brackets
Myrtle Street, I think

903 Camellia Street, at Tulip.  This is a corner-lot house and qualifies as "Craftsman" on the sides as well as the front.
Last year just before Hallowe'en, when the block of Wisteria Street (the first south of Government Street, which was the northern boundary of Zadok Realty's Roseland Terrace) for the first time I took my miniature camera and recorded all the bungalows that were not obscured by foliage.  One had the proportions of one in my own block, with a steeper roof, that its residents had told me dated from 1918; my own, which according to the registrar dated from 1928, was of the commonest basic type.  Eventually I learned that only the smaller houses that had been the victims of Gustave or of one of the other recent hurricanes and whose replacements were built on concrete slabs flat on the ground instead of brick pillars about a foot high, were later than the very early 1930s, and I don't know of any of our six-room houses earlier than just after the first World War, though Roseland Terrace had been planned and put up for sale before 1912.
At first I wrote posts on some of the big houses on the corner lots, such as the big white 717 Camellia Street  that, by November of 2011, its owner was renovating after Gustave's damage (and, working evidently alone, is still renovating, a huge task: a balustrade is being replaced on the south side wing right now), and then on the 1912 houses identified from the EBRPL photos by Cazadessus.  It took time to grasp what is properly called a bungalow, and why.  I had to study first the site of the Garden District Civic Association, and I learned to my astonishment that the original tract, Roseland Terrace, got less attention on line because the second tract, Drehr Place, has larger houses of much assorted styles, though some are as old as those of Roseland Terrace, which is delimited at South 22nd Street.  Ever increasingly, most of the web pages are for realty and very few of them show interiors that could not have been created yesterday for Better Homes and Gardens.  That is not to denigrate Drehr Place, but to me it suggested that all those four- and six-room bungalows needed study (now, of course, they are themselves selling like hotcakes).  Gradually I realized that what we have is a dense collection of the remarkably well preserved southern variety of the last stage of bungalows.  See the post of May 10, 2013.  Especially those that belong to LSU faculty and staff are perfectly maintained.
Obviously, I had to collect at least several dozen images of bungalows, collected without prejudice or preference, and by January 28, 2013, I finally could venture to write "An Introduction to Roseland Terrace" and "The Center of Roseland Terrace".  For taking the planner's point of view, for beginning to see our neighborhood in its setting, I needed to see more than some nice small houses, or, rather, I needed to see them as part of the town's history.  Just recently a former resident only slightly older than myself had asked me to look into the juncture of City Park and Park Blvd, which a postcard of an old air view and a visit to the site elucicated.  So I ventured to write what I had learned from a few more than half of the bungalows.
Then I sprained an ankle.  Also, I realized that I needed to see how much Beauregard Town overlapped with Roseland Terrace.  There is overlap, and Beauregard Town is earlier on the whole, but I had learned not to take generalized statements in print very seriously.  In the process. too, I encountered Gov. Fuqua's house, which bungalows, I'm afraid, can't compete with (for me).
Not to say that I forgot the two whole blocks of Roseland bungalows I'd left unphotographed.  I come from a family of amateur photographers, and it seems to be congenital that we don't really see things until we have photographed them.  I'd only looked down Tulip and Olive from S. 22nd Street, and I certainly hadn't seen them.  Finally, last Sunday my ankle and knee felt well and there was no rain, and I took out the Nikon 1 V2; all the images dated 14 October in Album GD III Paralipomena (those taken on 05 August mostly on Tulip Street go with those of 14 October).
On these two streets I found such a variety of rectangular brackets, so many additional tau devices, like tenons on abaci on pillars, so many pergola-derived details, so many properly screened porches (meaning screened the old way), that some of my tentative conclusions were undone.  That is interesting, not disheartening.
But I have written enough, at least for now, on the bungalows.  I'll just take more pictures of anything I like but rather for light and color, which is what first attracted me in a fine alley with a lovely stand of bamboo.
And what business have I writing about houses?
Largely, I have concluded, the methodology, the discipline learned in sorting excavation pottery, five-gallon tins of sherds each with a wooden tag recording exactly where the baskets (olive pickers' baskets) correspond to in the process of excavating.  Once I had a well shaft that had been used as a dump, 25 meters deep, about 2/3 meter wide.  You get all these sherds, coarse or fine, plain or decorated, and often they tell you almost nothing.  Sometimes the mixture seems to make some sense, but one's weary need to find significance makes a dangerous temptation, to fabricate tissues of fantasy, which absolutely may not happen.  One may neither tell oneself this is just sorry garbage, and to examine it is pointless, nor something like 'it takes real acumen to see it, but this can only mean, must mean..."  When that word "must" occurs to you, you are in real trouble; "must" people make bad, seriously bad, archaeology.
So, before I fell asleep one night last week, I thought: these bungalows, some of them probably kit houses (for Sears and the others gave you lots of options of all kinds) and others hard to distinguish from kit houses (for there's nothing wrong with kit houses!), are products of capable minor architects or imitators of such, just as the little cosmetics bottles, like the round aryballos illustrated below, are products of minor artisans' workshops, some of them done by the owners' children or apprentices, shipped out for the merchandising of the contents, cosmetic oils in those with a narrow mouth like this one.  You can think of them as Woolworth Tiffany, if you like, but there were also some very high grade aryballoi (and glass is no more intrinsically valuable, after all, than clay).  Similarly there were up-market bungalows, still short of the finest Pasadena Craftsman houses, and where they haven't been destroyed, the streets of Los Angeles (and some I saw in Toledo, Ohio, years ago) are full of them, anonymous and taken for granted.  If you wonder how much and to what profit one can learn by sorting thousands of humble sherds, you can look at Corinth VII: 2 "The Anaploga Well" (1975) or the publications of other Corinth or Athenian Agora wells, but remember that without spending several years in the archives of Sears and Roebuck (not just the catalogues but their sales and shipment records), we do not have the kind of primary information that you get given the privilege of working on excavation material.
It has occurred to me that our Roseland Terrace has the great good fortune not to have been taken for granted.  When in a recession we let pre-existing housing be defaced by gangs and then demolished without records, we shall be lucky if we can gather newspaper photographs, perhaps inadvertently recording the houses where "perpetrators" or union members or whoever lived in.  There were some such fleeting ones in the PBS World War II, but not appearing for the houses' sake.
In Baton Rouge, it is awfully nice not to have to get onto the Interstate in order to get to one's work!  You can pay for your bungalow with the fuel you'll save and have wonderful neighbors in the bargain.  Mine rescued my cat from some dogs about to kill it just last week.  And my cat even knows and respects their dogs.
Priv. Collection, Round Aryballos, c 600 BCE; about size of a tennis ball