Sunday, December 22, 2013

Government at Evergreen St., Season's Greetings

Government Street Decked at Christmas 

At 2337 Government Street.  This is so much grander than the bungalows around it.
This cannot be, I think, nearly as old as the façades in New Orleans that it emulates, but decked out for Christmas and attended by its huge palms it becomes glorious.  Behind the façade is a large capacious house of, I guess, about a century ago.  I don't know who owns it (the realtors' pages on line don't say more than that it is a single family dwelling), but they take good care of the garden as well as the house,  and it deserves being the vehicle of Season's Greetings to all here of every faith.  In fact, Government Street, once the main E-W street, is well suited to represent us all, having something of everything in Baton Rouge.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wedding Portraits & Photographic Science

Naples, MNA.  Pompeii.  Man and wife, from a wall of their house.  The date is Julio-Claudian by her hairstyle.  She, again, as a poetess, he as (what else?) an orator (the idea is, someone educated to serve in public life of the town).  This famous portrait is in a style that might be called a colored drawing rather than a painting, a style which you might compare with the "dry", hard-edged sculptural styles as distinct from the plastic, coloristic styles.
Probably at their wedding 23 December 1920: Cliff and Inez Lawrence Lehman, Audine Lawrence, and (probably) Gilbert Lehman, Cliff's elder brother.

F.L.Lawrence & Mary Ferguson, Wedding Portrait, early 1890s

What Constitutes the "Traditional Wedding Portrait"

The major distinction is whether the families have one made, or not.  The probabilites of preservation from antiquity make their scarcity understandable, and funerary images are vastly more numerous.  We must remember, too, that the garments for brides differ with the ceremonies and symbolism of cultures.  For example, we know from the funerary statue of Phrasikleia (Boardman, Archaic, p. 73, pl. 108a) whose inscription tells us that she will remain a maid rather than a bride and who is dressed in red with a bridal crown, that the red bridal gown, attested to in Lain literature, is far older, since Prasikleia died in the middle of the 6th century BC.  White, I fancy, was associated with death, instead.  Besides, like the other kore statues elaborately dressed, carved in marble by named sculptors like Aristion of Paros, such statues were for the wealthy.
Usually marriage portraits are pretentious in some way or another, and that feeling is expressed in formality.  Piero della Francesca's of the noble Gonzagas are pure profile busts, which recall medallions  and cameos.  Man and Wife paper silhouettes also recall cameos.  Gilt glass, from the Late Empire, is as likely to be frontal.  Also frontal are the Late Republican and Early Empire funerary portraits.  What we don't get, even in the Renaissance, is the equivalent to the bride feeding her husband a piece of the wedding cake. 
A search to locate family wedding pictures, without locating the photographs that the younger generation expected to find, led me to think and to conclude tentatively that the first three quarters of the last, the 20th, century were the height of the Brides' Magazine "traditional" wedding.  What I'm going to suggest is tentative, because (still in its days of early scholarship) the internet seems not to address the subject properly.  What you do find is entrepreneurship: the availability of newly made, modern but jewel-like daguerreotypes, which may well promise that the marriage is consecrated also by uniqueness, by the precious copper and silver (forget the poisonous mercury vapor), by the hint of old-fashioned fidelity (not that such was always the case: indeed, my paternal grandparents, above, separated after their six children grew up). 
Yet the frontal, "iconic", basically more primitive representation of an important human, seen solemnly, is unlikely to have been the principal reason, I think, for the 20th-century parlor presentation of the new man and wife; even in antiquity for the Pompeiian couple (and the house may have belonged to a baker) the primitive preference for the mug shot may be more important.  A child draws a front view before any other, and religions use eikones, icons, flat and frontal and remote, to differentiate exalted personages from ordinary, friendly, familiar images.  But by the 19th century, sophisticated, moving, modeled, active figures prevail in pictures.  Newly wed couples by painters like Vigee Le Brun and Gainsborough, and their paintings of their own children, are usually shown as very much alive.  Even early American anonymous itinerant painters generally prefer a three-quarter view (though these do not generally paint couples in the same frame).

I considered:
  • In North America, as in Australia and South America, scattered and varied imigrants and professions wanted to define themselves.
  • The highly portable daguerreotype technology spread like wildfire after Daguerre introduced it in 1839, and in cities they were often delicately tinted.  Elsewhere, everywhere, quarter-size plates were pedalled; that is why the Library of Congress and the US Archives as well as the Smithsonian Institution and libraries everywhere have so many.  Their variety is wonderful (and the detail is breathtaking—folks like detail).  Wedding portraits are only one kind of daguerreotype portrait, but they are among the most frontal.
  • Collodion emulsion, whether processed on glass for the ambrotype or on tin for the tintype (and many family treasures are ambrotypes and tintypes), which are positive images, or on glass (replacing sensitized paper) for negatives to make prints, albumen on paper, rapidly replaced the daguerreotype in the 1850s.
  • Gelatin silver whether on glass or celluloid for negatives and whether printed in gelatin silver or albumen on paper quickly replaced collodion from the 1880s onward.
(The foregoing is much abbreviated and does not describe what has no bearing on this Essay.  See some of the many basic books on the history of photography, such as Naomi Rosenblum's, or the very good Handbook from the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995; these are just the first two that come to mind, and the Getty collection is too wonderful to be typical.  For the typical, just Search the Wikipedia).

I gathered from every search and images site on line that while people did put on their best clothes to be married, just as we usually do to go to Reno (add a corsage, a little hat with a small veil or a shoulder-length veil), that in earlier photography:
  • Only a wealthy garden wedding, providing sunlight (and I think of a somewhat bohemian couple) would have a portrait of the couple being married or just married, and it would be done with calotype (salt print) or daguerreotype.  No minister of any church would countenance the very long exposures, even if the subjects could hold the poses.  The newlyweds would have to go to a studio with a skylight and usually have their heads fixed (examples of the braces exist). 
  • The traditional white wedding dress and dinner suit for the groom, i.e., formal wear, came in only gradually, and only in large towns and cities, and in England earlier than in the USA.  The idea of a wedding photo seems clearly to have been set by those who could afford the clothes AND to have afforded the man from the main-street studio unless access to a well known photographer also made the girl a debutante or qualified to be presented to at a coming-out ball.   Photography was too expensive a hobby until Kodak, et al., came along and then its output was not fit for the rotogravure.  Similarly, flash equipment of the 19th century (and even into the 20th) was grossly unsuitable for a chapel.  Emulsions as fast as ISO 80 were tops, and only expensive cameras had shutters as high as 1/100 sec.  The wedding pictures of my youth, printed in the papers and magazines, were taken at the receptions, and I was thinking that couples who had no receptions may have had no photographs (unless a member of the party or of the family was a member of the local camera club).
  • Even as late as 1891 (I think it was), my paternal grandparents, above, had hardly formal clothes, were standing stiff in a photo studio with a paper backdrop.  Also, it is possible that the photo is a collodion negative and printed on albumen paper (in northern Arkansas, the technology might not be of the latest).
  • The newspaper's society pages' photographs of weddings that I remember from the middle decades of the last century are conventional and commercial, except for the very finest ones, and even well-to-do people, if they were conventional in their ideas, might want to make sure they had the "right kind" of images, even when the best photographer in town was, as their friend, taking far superior ones free of charge.
Now, as everyone knows, having been told, in the 1960s (really, in the late 1960s) young people and Hollywood people and liberated people began to want to create their own rites and choose their own natural places (the beaches and state parks, for example), and novel wedding clothes (or even swimming nude if water enough were available)—or of course being married at a political demonstration, often with the most high-minded intentions.  Well, they did; I remember.  But also everyone knows that there was grass-roots backlash, and the vast majority of duly engaged and announced and church-married couples still had the same kinds of wedding portraits, too.  Some of you may remember "Auntie Mame" and Gloria and her parents; Gloria to be married had to do it all comme il faut.  Also, though, the children of teachers and grocers and factory-workers continued to think of and plan their weddings as their mothers had done.  Right now, in fact, families can and do choose just what they fancy.  At the head of this essay, I mentioned the entrepreneurs who offer real, genuine dauguerreotypes to make their marriages as Victorian as can be.
Most Americans I now realize adhere to the religion of their choice and go to church fairly regularly.  Even a Reniassance Fair is a good site for a wedding, but so is the church in one's neighborhood or the big one with acres of parking lot.  My parents' generation were married by the minister who in due course would christen me and my siblings.  I am thinking of the very people who live in the same kinds of downtown bungalows or suburban post-war houses that I am most familiar with.  Those who are most apt to take pictures are those who marry at a party Fair or at home, but they take their own images.  There are hardly any society pages for wedding pictures in the surviving daily paper.  
But I think there may be more to this: hardly any of my nieces and nephews had formal weddings, let alone commercial wedding pictures.  I have to ask, how many lower-middle income, or even professional (sons and daughters of doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers), have been having the sort of wedding that entails a catered reception, a commercial photographer, and the rest?

As for that Wedding Photograph, the one you set on your piano or your mantelpiece, is it not something that flowered along with the middle-class aspiration to the upper-class formal wedding and the debutante ball?  Isn't it the quinceañero, still done by Hispanic families, the other Catholic rites of passage, the bar mitzvah, especially where there are solid enough communities to support it, that survive?  And, in that case, wasn't it that touching American quest for identity that fostered the Bridal Industry?

Isn't that why we had a huge, commercial wedding picture industry, sustaining the commercial photo studio and producing a very limited and conventional kind of image?  Now there are no photo studios downtown or in the malls.  I think that we no longer have such an industry, but instead we take and post thousands of images of our own.  Some of them are wonderful, and we ought to take care to keep them.

As it is, I don't know whether the one I share here is or is not the only one in our family.  It may be.  Because I may be too late, practically everyone older than me (and that includes all our amateur photographers) is dead, and if thousands of prints turn up in Salvation Army stores, they are someone's family history.  But I never have seen formal white bride, formal groom pictures of ours.

Or have I?  I have added, above the photo of my Lawrence grandparents, one I recalled from the wedding of my father's eldest sister, Inez.  And they are family or friend shots.  And very Californian, evidently from an orange orchard.

P.S.  If you are really interested in the technology of photography, and if you can find the book, go to William Crawford, "The Keepers of Light", Morgan & Morgan, Woods Ferry, 1979.  The best source for doing everything from scratch remains the Eleventh Edition, 1910, of the Encyclopedia Britannica. s.v. Photography.  Though the Wikipedia used this, it used only a small fraction of it and left out most of the solid science.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Without Opinions

22 November 1963
Once again, as when I first tried to write here, in 2009, what I actually remember.
I came into the lobby of the Architecture and Allied Arts building, to teach a lecture course.  The lobby was full, and there were numerous transistor radios on.  I was promptly informed that the President had been shot.  The first radio announcements were being repeated over and over.
I raised my voice enough to tell my own students that I believed that the President would want us to learn rather than gossip, so please come into the lecture room (we were right at its door).  Most of them did come and fell quiet.  I did lecture and gave them to understand that they might share their notes with students (about 25 or so) who had left before the majority had come in.  It was my fourth quarter teaching (PhD June 1962, and I was 29 years old).
About an hour later, all afternoon courses were cancelled.  From my apartment window, which overlooked the Millrace and faced a couple of "Greek" houses, I watched the students canoeing.  I thought, they are very young.  And why not?  Later I thought, well, the students who lived in private rentals probably were not playing in the same way.
I did not have a TV or indeed a radio of my own.  The footage that we all have seen since then I only saw in Life or at the movies in March of Time or the like.  
I do not remember in what sense I was shocked, but I was very sad and kept mulling it over.  No one ever rebuked or praised my teaching when I did.  I still do not know why, for sure, I did so or whether it was right or wrong.

I keep hearing people today, now middle-aged, saying that they had been age 5, for example, and so remembered it.  That is how I remembered Pearl Harbor, when I was age 7.  Though an attempt had been made on Truman (it was in the newspaper), no assassination had been made since McKinley, and that was eight years before my father was born.  Despite holding an advanced degree, I really had no idea of politics.

A few commentators have touched on a happy era ending at that moment.  Yes, but we all knew about atomic threats and problematic trials, HUAC(!),  and Cuba.  Yes, the Lindbergh baby.  Yes, we were aware that Green Berets in Viet Nam did seem rather problematic.

I already, writing above about 1945, wrote about the death of the only president I knew of (and I didn't even know who his vice president was), and about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: even more than being appalled by the deaths of so many Japanese I realized that no one would ever be safe again: that is how the 11-year-old felt.  Jolted into awareness.  Those who were age 5 when President Kennedy was assassinated had known several presidents and the Korean War.  When I was teaching History of Photography I found that many of my students could not tell WW I from WW II.  For their cohort, November 1963 was their jolt.

The way that, without my own radio or TV, I came to remember the images of the Kennedy assassination and funeral in the oft-repeated photographs (indeed, up through Viet Nam I still got most of my news from Time, Life, et al.), for the post-war cohort President Kennedy was like the death of FDR.

As for our remembering being happy until being jolted: yes.  We were not paying much attention.  It was great not to have Bikini tests any more; it was, above all, not to have WW II.  It was super-great to have a first family who dressed tastefully, as well as anyone in Europe.

But now we put away and didn't listen to "The First Family" LP (or even "My Son the Folk Singer"); we had never enjoyed them to mock!  I remember feeling that the Kennedys must have enjoyed them, too (and I'm sure Abe Sherman's family and friends enjoyed the Jewish jokes in the "Folk Singer").  But I never enjoyed laughing out loud again in the same way.

There.  That's what I remember.  Pretty shallow, but not vicious?  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kindle Literature

The Kindle, over my shoulder

You can guess the book, probably, but certainly the subject matter.
Nowadays I usually buy beautiful books in hard cover, hard copy, but when my old eyes have hundreds of pages to read, the Kindle is what makes it possible.

I wouldn't have you think that I'm just an esthete or just a someone studying houses.  I do read lots of books that I really OUGHT to read.  I always have read them, and some periodicals, if they seem to be worthwhile.  I'll even download a complete Shakespeare when I realize that I know absolutely nothing about Richard II, and Holinshed for good measure.

Economics, however, has next to no pictorial interest!  I don't count statistical charts as pictorial.

So this post occurred to me.  Politics is mind-boggling, but economics, whether in the first age of monetization or today, is fundamental and interesting. 

Besides, with a writer so good that the book is a leading contender for the National Book Award, I usually try to read the books.  So this one.

And I really am glad that the famous Bull is staying where he is; I like that statue.

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Straight-edge and Compass Design

13 June 2013.  301 Napoleon Street, Beauregard Town, Baton Rouge.  The house of Governor  Fuqua

Greek Revival in Baton Rouge: the Fuqua House

On June 13, 2013, my friend Denise and I, armed with two Nikons, the one-piece 8800, as good as one-piece digitals get, and the newer Nikon 1 v2, a digital camera with changeable lenses but also not a reflex. In a post on May 25 I already had compared the house with the Brumby House in Marietta Georgia and posted an archival photo of the Fuqua House, and on May 1 had used a winter image of it to head a general, speculative essay.
I still do not know on what grounds some on-line sources date the Fuqua house to c. 1834 (though the Brumby in Marietta is dated, with documents, to c. 1851, and the one plantation house that is equally real Greek Revival, Madewood near Donaldsonville, is securely dated in the 1840s).  I'll just repeat that the resemblance of the Marietta and Baton Rouge houses cannot be accidental, and I suspect (since I have no idea whether any architect's name is recorded, and they might not be extremely close in date) that both may be based on the same, presumed, publication.  I did not mean to entertain any possibility of the Fuqua house actually being by Henry Howard, Madewood's architect, only that Greek Revival of such intent character is rare in this region.  Also, though I want to measure the Fuqua house, even the fine frontal view (in Flickr) permits no more than the possibility that the gables are as high as the Order and that the width of the façade is about 5:4 in ratio to the height of the complete Order, with entablature and foundation (in lieu of podium).
I should repeat that the house first appears on the Sanborn maps only between 1911 and 1916, and I have not found report of its previous location.
First, to establish what I can of its ground-floor plan:
Using the Nikon 8800, dp photographed two flights of the main staircase, which should come out near  at the back of the gable that contains the enclosed 'balcony'.  The second photo shows the hall continuing  through the center of the house, W to E.

In the Picasa Album for 13 June, assembled for blogs on the large upper Beauregard houses, the views of 301 Napoleon, the Fuqua house, by dp come first, those by pl third, with the views of 201 St Charles, the Roumain house, intervening.  Since the presumed kitchen extends farther E on the N side, I suppose that the domestic rooms on the ground floor are those on N side, with perhaps a study or library at the front on the S side.  Nothing about this house suggests that it doubled as a home office.  It seems to be unfurnished now, but evidently during restoration surviving family furnishings would have been removed.

The NE (rear) corner of the Fuqua house is without (as they say) a Style, but the sequence of full-size windows on the N flank, though without continuation of the Greek entablature, is aligned with the full-length windows that open onto the porch.

There are plenty of front views in the linked album.  A shift lens would be ideal, but the Nikon 8800 was preferable here to the general lens (the longer one had been left at home), and it read the interior of the sheltered 'balcony' better, too.

Painting contractors hereabouts have been painting porch ceilings sky blue, too, but it is especially apt for this 'balcony'.  On the Marietta house the smaller order, proportioned very much like the smaller upper order in the cella of a temple, has windows.  I know of no other gable sitting room (for that is what it looks like, though it faces West) like this one.  Balconies are, almost by definition, built onto the façade above the porch, as on the red house on Royal Street.

Lovely subtle color choices are being given to to the moldings and wall, to set off the white of the Order on the Fuqua house.  Assuming that Stuart & Revett's had been studied with the usual reverence, its example of the Choregic Monument of Lysikrates (vol. I, Ch. IV, pls. III and IV) of Pentelic for white and for the reliefs and Hymettan to give the (purely pictorial—what if Alberti had seen that!)  illusion of white columns standing as in a full-size tholos temple, as they do at Dellphi or Epidaurus.  Strict Greek Revival does not preclude pictorial illusion.  But the tints chosen here are far from garish.  For some they will have their effect without even being noticed as such.  

The south side of the Fuqua House looked splotchy from a distance last June, and if I can I'll add a new photo to the Album, when the painting has been finished with the chosen palette (the tests needing a few months of sunlight and rain for the lasting effect to be appreciated and final decisions to be made).  Meanwhile you can consider what the restoration architect was considering.  Also you can see, on this side as on the north side, how the ordinary house design, with finely spaced windows (the upper ones spaced both with regard to their place in the gable and to the principal windows below), is related to the columnar Order on the façade.  For, in discussing a house, no matter how thoroughly designed, we must not forget that it is neither a temple nor a civic building.

The brick pillars seem to use bricks of the same size and solidity as for the houses of c. 1912 where on the Boehringer house, for example, they are original.  They may date from when the Fuqua House was brought to this site, or they may be more recent; it doesn't matter, since they are right.  It looks as if that sealant that now covers the Gottlieb House on Drehr and Oleander, rather than simply cream-color paint, has been applied, recently, to the brick foundation pillars here.

Whichever camera was used across the porch, it distorted it.  Needless to say, the leaning is purely a matter of optics.  It is plain that a good Greek Ionic column like those in Stuart & Revett rather than those in Serlio has been the model for the columns, except for their Tuscan Doric capitals (one suspects that carving proper Corinthian in wood was too challenging; the Brumby House in Marietta uses real Greek Doric) but here the bases, the proportions, and the entablature all are deliberate and sensitive Greek Ionic.

Bibliography and Summary
After I had reassembled all the basic reading that had mattered to me in my twenties, I had to re-read it. Scott was really very youthful.  Blunt was good but a bit generalized.  The really great one, I realized, that had most formed my ideas, alongside Kenneth Clark's Leonardo da Vinci, since they both dealt with Alberti, was Wittkower's Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism.  Like Alberti himself, Wittkower worked through all the Pythagorean principles that were concerned with harmonious ratios.  It was wonderful re-reading Wittkower now that I actually had enough general education to read it easily—except that the font is not so good and neither are my eyes, so that I am very careful to avoid eyestrain.
•• Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism.  London, Tiranti, 1952.  This had been vol. 19 in the Studies of the Journal of the Warburg Institute, 1949.  This is the book with the two appendices, one translating Francesco di Giorgio's Memorandum explaining the plan of a church and the "Vitruvian Man", in conjunction, and the second providing Bibliographical Notes on the Theory of Proportions.  It is Wittkower that wrote so well on the central-plan church embodying Renaissance neo-Platonism, Wittkower who read Alberti closely enough to understand why he called Columns part of the decoration rather than of the essential Beauty of a Building (pp.29–32): Alberti knew Classical architecture from Rome, Wittkower who explained the Mean Proportionals and illustrated Alberti's 'Generation' of ratios (pp. 100–103), which may be where our simple house and the Parthenon understand each other.  A couple of years ago I tried to explain why the numbers in a Gothic cathedral were quite different from the numbers (but they aren't numerals but ratios!) in Renaissance architecture.  Renaissance thought musing over Pythagoras (and working on the area of the circle, too) is quite different from the number-symbolology taken from the description of the Temple in the Old Testament!  Alberti knew he was being Greek, not what we would call Medieval, but he didn't know Greece; it would be the generation of the Dilettanti Society that propagated measured drawings of real buildings in Greece.
One thing we need to remember constantly is that the Renaissance theory (barring Palladio's villas) is largely of church design.  The Malatestas poured all their grandiose ideals into S. Francesco at Rimini, with Alberti realizing it for them; they died in it, but they didn't live in it.  Somewhere I got the bon mot that all I had learned about Roman Imperial sea trade in Sunday School was that it was provided for the transportation of Apostles.  Apparently, too, Renaissance noblemen did not want living arrangements governed by ratios (even Palladio...a villa is not the same thing as a palazzo).
•• With an Introduction and Notes by Frank Salmon, Princeton in 1971 published, beautifully printed, the three volumes of Stuart & Revett's Antiquities of Athens (not quite so expensive as you might fear and affordable by any college or university library).  Thomas Jefferson is documented as owning vol. I, but I should think that by the time that he died, and certainly in the second quarter of the 19th century, most important architects and certainly universities that had great schools of architecture, owned the whole set.  After all, the Acropolis buildings are all in vol. II.  If you can get access to the original (large folios), by all means study them, but the Princeton edition, printed in China, is a beautiful book in its own right.
•• If you can't get to that, go to John Travlos, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens, Thames & Hudson, 1971, very fine, printed in Germany.  By then almost all the books that today, after nearly half a century, have not yellowed at all were printed overseas.
The Choregic Monument of Lysikrates (s.v., Lysikrates) is illustrated, though not fully, in Travlos.  In Stuart & Revett, it is Vol. I, Ch. IV, Pls. II—IX.  You really cannot improve on this, although, as Salmon says, the draftsmen were so convinced of the beauty and precision of Greek measurements (not realizing that ancient Greeks had no place-marker and no annotation for advanced arithmetic, which is also why they generated beautiful ratios—and were about to have Euclid's compendium to work from) that some of their numbers are impossibly accurate.  That tells us something about how the Greek Revival felt; their devotion to meeting the Pythagorean, or at least the Vitruvian, standard is their kind of romanticism.
I was going to use Edna St. Vincent Millay's euphonious sonnet line (she was just out of college and not, I think, really mathematical) as a catchy heading for this post, but it won't do!
Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare
Alone?  He's not Thales!  What is the point of looking at beauty bare, whatever that may mean?  Is there some keener thrill in bare beauty?  Is that mental porn?

That leaves us with the stunning effect that Greek Revival has on some of us.  Why?  Is it that as we grew up we were exposed to all sorts of stimuli that prepared us to respond to a house façade that is (as near as makes no difference) Width:Height=9:4?  That prepared us to enjoy alignments and the like?
The Fuqua family said that their house had been built for a Methodist minister, and the governor, for his part, was Episcopalian (St. James Church, right down town).  I have been taught to cringe with shame if I suppose that there is such a thing as Protestant vs Catholic taste.  That would be hogwash.  Are circles, then, Unitarian?
Be that as it may, except perhaps for the Boehringer house (or Mrs. Borck's if it still had its south porch), I invite you to share my pleasure in Governor Fuqua's house.  Perhaps someday I may even see the inside of it.
By the way, what that gable-balcony reminded me of was the unfinished front of S. Francesco in Rimini, but the resemblance is, of course, specious.

Here are photos in color showing the pictorial use of colored marble, but only Athenian marble, to create an illusion of a wall in shadow behind white columns; Hymettian marble is naturally pale bluish gray.  Pentelic is white, but it contains some iron, which exposure brings out.  Add to these that the architect has, I think, made allusion to earth, on which a tholos would stand, by making the pedestal of poros limestone.  I like to think of Alberti knowing of this, as he couldn't, since it was tucked into a dark corner of the courtyard of a monastery.  I think (as I recall) it was Stuart and Revett who first crawled in and measured and drew it.  It isn't the only example of Greek pictorial architecture (the Romans had to inherit it from somewhere, after all), but it's the only one I have digital color images for.

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...