Monday, October 27, 2014

The Gottlieb House



The One Truly Different House in the Garden District
The front through the great tree


 When, Depression baby that I was, I had saved enough to put down the full 20% of the asking price on a house in the neighborhood that I liked,  I got a 6-room 1928 bungalow, with fixtures just like the ones of my childhood.  Our "Garden District" offered dozens of these.  My oldest neighbors then were about my present age, and many of them were the original owners, and they knew all about our Garden District.  As Southerners, though (I was from northern California, via New York City), they meant that they knew all of  Who was Who.  Our corner-lot houses are larger and most of them are the ones with family names.
Even in that category (I have written about several of them) this house is outstanding.  Kathryn Darsey, who lived next door to me and was about 80 even when I moved in, told me that the house above was the Gottlieb House.  In 1986 I didn't yet have a computer, let alone Wikipedia, but I did remember the name, partly because she didn't like the house (which I loved at sight), because it was dark.  I should have had the sense to photograph it while it was still dark: for this kind of brick and this kind of design, "dark" is like that original finish that the Keno twins on the Antiques Roadshow insist upon.
Does anyone have good photographs of the house before 2002, when, together with some necessary repairs, it was painted with the cream-colored paint that also is a sealant?
The forms are so powerful that it still has plenty of character, even without white window frames and black screens setting off the dark red brick.  But having a family to fully inhabit it is the most important; it's just that I'd like to have a record of it  as I remember it.
Thing is, since taking pictures of oak trees is a no-no on campus, for a faculty member whose colleagues teach photography (like putting a perfect pink rose on a wedding altar or photographing the Old Wagon Wheel or a Mail Pouch barn somewhere out West), I would go and photograph these equally grand oaks just three blocks from my own house—and only look at the house; I got into the study of houses only about 2011.  And I was timid to trespass: anyone who could have that house and maintain its gardening outclassed me by far, besides my having been taught as a little Presbyterian not to pry or snoop in other peoples' lives.  So one day as I drove past it, it was all cream-colored.  In Berkeley I had always envied the big brown shingle houses, pre-World War I, and knew that people who were working their way through college at 90 cents per hour could never have them.
Anyway, when a friend asked me to take pictures all around it, I was delighted for the excuse to oblige.
You can check as I did, in Wikipedia: The Gottliebs were bankers; they had founded the best and most solid of our banks, in the days before all our banks were bought out.  One of them was an important Louisiana state senator, too.  They certainly were qualified to build this great, solid house, apparently using imported brick and on property ampler than any other in Baton Rouge.  So "Gottlieb House" is correct.
When this old lady showed up with a camera, people were very friendly.  And I promised to post the pictures and not to relay any gossip I might be given and not to ask to come inside: this is a whole family real home.  I really should like to get a Plan, and someone thinks she has one.  It is true that some early Frank Lloyd Wright and Prairie Style houses generally handle a porte cochere similarly, and I think that the date I was given, 1915 or 1917, must be about right.  (The Register of houses in Drehr Place gives very generalized dating, especially for houses so different from the Colonial manner or Cottage Style that is prevalent here).  My knowledgeable friends and former colleagues assure me that it is not Wright, but I see what they mean about Prairie Style; it is anything but Gracious Southern.  Colonial's nice, too, but very, very different.  This house is much more like many in well-to-do parts of America, including the Northwest as well as the Midwest.  Not that I've studied it yet.  I have written so many posts about houses that my neighbors tend to suppose I'm an architectural historian.  But what I am is a classical archaeologist and art historian and, admittedly, a thorough dilettante.
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Here are the oak trees  about the time of Hurricane Andrew,
taken with a Nikon F camera on Tri-X film.