Monday, July 15, 2013

Houses with semi-cylindrical...II: The Boehringer House

II. The Boehringer House (1912)
By request, the newly finished house, from which, using also the windows, you can identify the interior by reference to an exterior photo taken when it stood alone.  The infant oak tree had been planted only months earlier.  You can verify the glass in the door and front windows as well as the stained glass.  Also the lattice enclosure of the semi-enclosed NW back porch.

I already wrote about the house built for the Boehringer family when I identified it among the Pazadessus photos in the Digital Archive of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library as an "exceptional" one.  It is simply exceptionally well designed and well built.  The 1912 photos show its foundations being built when the Reilly-Reeves house was just finished in the winter to spring of 1912 and this house by late spring complete but not yet much landscaped and in the summer of 1912 evidently inhabited by the Boehringer family with two little girls.  If you just count the rooms, there are no more than eight (not counting baths and porches): it faces east, and on the south side has a living room, a dining room, a pantry, and a kitchen (the last less high-ceilinged but present already in the newly finished house); on the north side it has a real entry hall (which also accommodates the stairway), then with a protruding bay matching that of the dining room opposite it a room that century-old plans often label library or study, but, directly accessible from the dining room through the corridor-hall, you could call it a drawing room in any of the old meanings of that name.  I imagine that a WC/bath is behind that (it would correspond to the pantry), but from the exterior I see a semi-enclosed porch.  The semi-finished basement (which makes a fine wine cellar and serious workroom)  is accessible here, from an interior stairway.
This kind of a basic house plan, not always as large as here but often with more bays both laterally and in depth, is a standard one and, if I can manage it, I shall write about it later as such.  Suffice it to say here and now, from the front door you can look straight through to the back door.  This is still true of the Roumain house, too, additions notwithstanding, and a couple of generations earlier of the Fuqua house in Beauregard Town.  Since I am not an architect, I squirm at the idea of counting other people's rooms and arrangements.  Here an LSU family who understand their house and love it have most kindly let my camera in, too.  What delights me here, beyond its stately and gracious character and its very solid and refined workmanship (window frames and transoms to die for), is its fully informed use of a real Ionic order throughout and its matching upper and lower balustrades (both visible in the old photos, the upper progress but preserved in pieces).  This architect knew that an Order is not limited to columns with all the right details; he also knew the entablatures to choose among, the pedestals for Ionic, and all the other moldings.  No thought was spared.  What is more, the designs of the windows, stained-glass included, are preserved.
From SE.  This one of the two original oaks survives.
The semi-hexagonal bay of the E windows of the living room.
Shortly after midday the beveling of the heavy glass door windows, in the latest style, reveal their prismatic character and also show the order on the porch and the balustrade and part of the Christian 
Science church directly opposite it.  The lens telescopes the width of Park Blvd, which then was Goldenrod Avenue.
 The through hall from a point between the Study at left and the dining room at right, so right in the middle of the house.  All the openings, with transoms above provide the openness (supposedly a modern idea but also more than a mere idea before AC or even efficient ceiling fans (unless you wanted your house to look like a barber shop); this house type is not only light but, no matter how you paint it, airy.  In fact, though the camera is good about handling color balance, the alternating casts of pale cyan and pale pink exaggerate colors.  Today no one knows whether the woodwork was dark or light in 1912, but magazines and catalogues do sometimes call for off-white paint (Greene and Greene did so sometimes) and I like to think of the Ionic character of all the main rooms with their exactly matching Ionic merely reduced in scale as carrying out the idea of marble columns,
because here all three of the showy rooms, Living, Dining, and Entry, use the Ionic (complete with entablatures and with pilasters like Ionic antae).
The ceiling medallion in the Living Room is the most elaborate of the four that I noticed, but in the same intelligent taste as all the rest.
Here in the semi-circular part of the porch, we see that the capitals larger and smaller do actually match each other.
It would have required video to complete continuously the design and space.  Here at left is the door into the hall looking E from the dining room, through the living room, to the front windows with which we began in the second image above.  This image is taken from the doorway to the pantry:
The pantry when new would have needed to be kept as cool as possible; in this one case the window in its S wall has been enlarged.  This image shows only a small part of the pantry, which by itself contains enough still life to keep an artist happy for weeks on end, as light shifts and usage gradually alters things.  There are some more views in the Album.  Here we see that the wonderful planks of the flooring are as fine as farther frontwards.
By present-day standards the kitchen may be small but it also boasts a genuine moveable table that won't wobble and, pulled out, could seat six.  And having a pantry helps a lot.

Now, back to the front, to imagine having just come in the front door.

This oval window is easily located on the N exterior.  It gives light to the landing where the stairs turn to enter the upper group of rooms (assumed to be bedrooms, which are doubtless, as they usually are, light and ample with window nooks for reading on the N and S, for example).
Not being a farmhouse, this one has no "mud room", but a couple of chairs to your right as you enter could take a book bag or a jacket or a place to sit to remove galoshes.  As for such impedimenta, the bench with a lifting seat would handle roller skates and the like.  Two steps perpendicular to that small utility space are marked by the heraldic stained glass and paneled to match the rest of the wall.
With the Living Room open at our left we have the through hall setting out to pass the Dining Room door.  One of the great virtues of this generous house, in my opinion, is having plenty of room for one of the owners' true sofas, strong and ample (not that I tested it!) and for an upright piano.  A real family needs lots of storage places, and this house actually needs all those provided.  The remaining width of the hall still is greater than the aisle of any First Class air liner; think rather of the coach cars of one of our great trains.  The paneling design is carried up the underside of the stairs.
This picture was taken for the nice door moldings and the open transom into the Dining Room, but a detail like that pendant knob (think of a newel post coming straight through and needing a terminal) delights me no end.
So here is a conspectus of the Entry Hall, integrating the Living Room's Ionic divider and showing the smaller and plainer ceiling medallion in the center.
Behind the piano, so to speak (on the other side of its wall), is the other middle room with its windows and center panel (its landscape-motif stained glass matching that in the corresponding place in the Dining Room).  Academic families don't need to hire Interior Decorators; in this house as in many others books and chests fill the bill, but the owners also have their own taste and must take real pleasure in their house. 

As for locating things, the neighboring lots do cramp this one, so the image is askew, but on the underside of the eaves of the semi-circular part of the porch you can see where part of the balustrade is fastened, then the heraldic stained glass on the lower landing and, farther right, the oval stained glass on the upper landing.  Subtracting the neighbor's garden gate, you discern the semi-hexagonal bay of the Study and, above it rectangular shape of the upper-storey group of windows.
At the foot of the front steps, part of the very solid dark red foundation bricks laid in 1912 are visible and the ample space for bench, table, and swing in the porch itself.

Though most Baton Rouge houses do not have real basements, the rear, west, part of the Boehringer house does have one, deep enough to stand in comfortably.  This was taken, as I recall, just to the north of the kitchen.
This nice house in the 600 block of Napoleon St. in the southern half of Beauregard Town has a wrap-around porch and gables over the centers of the front and the sides, but it is not interested in classical references.  Someone, fairly recently, has restored this one.  It looks either more rustic or earlier to me.  
Dated "c. 1910" in the register for Drehr Place, this really handsome house (also minus its balustrades), with its "colossal" Ionic order and Palladian-arched windows, probably has a plan rather like that of the Boehringer house.  I'd love to get inside to see its front rooms.  It was moved to the 2200 block of Government Street next to the one-time Methodist church, now being restored, when it had to vacate its original site downtown.  Anyone want to help me to identify it?  I can't imagine anything better to live in than one of these big, square houses; the Boehringer one is merely, for my taste, an uncommonly lovely one.

A whole album of details of the Boehringer house is in my Picasa albums.
And, for additional exterior views, photos nos. 226–233 in the album:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Brief note for 14 July

Des idées aux mots, des mots aux idées
The other evening I was reading up on Gertrude Jekyll, whom I hadn’t thought about for many years, while, in the background, on TV, a couple of celebrity chefs were discussing who was committed to terroir and who was a master of ethnic mix as a basis of their creativity.  In New York City as in London and other cities the latter produces gastronomic novelties that are often wonderful (though sometimes simply imitative of the great chefs).  So, does terroir have a figurative meaning such as US urban slang, ‘turf’ has?  As in the old vaudeville song, “Cohen is living the life of Riley now”? (I have the old 78rpm record; the song is jarringly impolite) or, of course, as in West Side Story?  Or, does the French terroir have only its literal sense?  I have only the two-volume OED and the usual Cassel and Langenscheidt dictionaries in my working library, and neither they nor my proper Roget (the dictionary-format one being useless for nuance) answered the question, and the gastronomic profession, like that on bel canto technque, for example, is sometimes merely fashionable, like Eliot’s women talking of Michelangelo.  Sometimes right, but never rigorous.
The Larousse Thésaurus français, one of the books I have and, yes, actually use, seems to answer my question; when she was working in France, what would Jekyll have meant by terroir?  The plants and animals native to the soils peculiar to Provence, or the impact on southern French cooking of Moroccan and Algerian cuisine?  Both make sense.  But terroir evidently always means what ecological writers today would call ‘native’as distinct from ‘intrusive’ or ‘invasive’ (usually hybrids or imports for sale at nurseries).  Jekyll was famous for using native, locally native, plants on the margins of her designed gardens (as she was, too, for her collections of specimens and seeds for the conservancy).  I suppose that she also realized that, as well kept lawns do, this kind of planting made a bulwark against accidental intrusions by both cultivated invaders and wind-borne weeds that otherwise might gain an easier foothold.
Still, you’ll have to ask the chefs what, exactly, they mean by terroir.  It was Jekyll I wanted to be sure about, and I think the French thesaurus was sufficient.  The Larousse French Thesaurus has the best introductory preface and the best explanation of its compilation and use.  It is academic in the fullest sense of the word.

P.S., Yes, I did later realize the proprietary and commercial usage of terroir.  Just think 'Roquefort' and 'Champagne', et al., and go to the Wikipedia.  But it is fun (to me) to work at words in the old-fashioned way.  

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...