Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Schwegmann Brothers' Stores

As today's news reports on the planned rehabilitation of the former Schwegmann Brothers Giant Supermarket at Broad and Bienville Streets, we focus on the building's designer, Edward Mung-Yok Tsoi (1916-2005).

Tsoi studied civil engineering at St. John’s University in Shanghai, China before receiving his undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from the University of Michigan (B.S. 1938; M.S. 1939).  He began his career as a draftsman: first, in the offices of Garry & Sheffey (Bluefield, West Virgina); then for Max J. Heinberg (Alexandria, Louisiana); and for A. Hays Town (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). As the United States became increasingly involved in World War II, Tsoi obtained engineering jobs, first for the U.S. Engineers at Harding Field (Baton Rouge); then for the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation (New Orleans, Louisiana). After the war, he worked for New Orleans architect William R. Burk, first as a draftsman, then as an architect and engineer.

By 1952, Tsoi established his private practice, securing commissions from the Orleans Parish School Board and the First Methodist Church of Picayune, Mississippi. His professional career spanned four decades. He designed and renovated public schools, developed commercial properties for the Schwegmann supermarket chain, and created plans for religious institutions and residential property owners. In 1984, he participated in the Louisiana World Exhibition, for which he contributed the Korean pavilion.

To read more about Tsoi's work, see the Southeastern Architectural Archive's online finding aid.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Impassable Cypress Swamps

As so many tilling and paving projects are currently underway in New Orleans, we thought it timely to quote from city paving engineer Bryson Vallas' 1926  lecture to the Realtor Salesmen's Division on "Paving and Allied Projects."

"Expansion for most cities, has meant merely the cleaning away of the forrest that surrounded it, and finding that Nature had already provided the land on which to locate the farm, the home or the factory. When our ancestors left the confines of the little settlement nestled behind the two foot levee in the bend of the Mississippi River they found their task of expansion a bit more difficult, especially when this expansion was lakeward, for not only was the cypress and the gum forrest to be cleared away but the land upon which this future expansion must grow, had to be made.

"Old maps of New Orleans made in 1798 show the Old City, or the Cieux [sic] Carre, as we pridefully term it, surrounded by impossable [sic] cypress swamps and by laying out on these old maps such thoroughfares as Canal, Claiborne, Broad and Carrollton, as we know and use them today, we find these these cross through the very heart of this swamp of 128 years ago.


"The unimproved streets of New Orleans consist usually of a fairly hard top crust about one foot thick under which is found a very saturated plastic clay soil. In paving, this top crust is removed and after installing sub-surface drainage the tendency of the sub-soil is to dry out. There is therefore the problem of placing a pavement on a none too stable sub-grade which in later years and after completion of the pavement, will dry out and subside.

"We therefore see in all parts of the City pavement curbs sunken almost out of sight, manholes protruding above the pavement surface and catch basins that were once at the lowest point of the street now occupying a place at the highest point. Treatment of the sub-grade would no doubt result in correction of the unstable sub-grade at the time of paving but only as the soil is drained years in advance will any near correction of the subsequent sub-grade settlement be accomplished."

Bryson Vallas. "Paving and Allied Projects." Realtor Salesmen's Division Lecture. Typescript. 1926. Martin Shepard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Signage Crack Down 1948

In August 1948, The Times-Picayune published mention of an affidavit filed in recorders' court against the Old Barn Bar, 200 Royal Street. The Vieux Carre Commission (VCC) sought the removal of the bar's murals on the grounds that they violated a city ordinance regulating the amount of front footage such illustrations could occupy. VCC architect Walter Cook Keenan (1881-1970) recorded the violations in photographs taken August 18th (above).

The Old Barn Bar's murals were painted by French Quarter artist George Bohland, a pastelist who frequently sketched tourists in Pirate's Alley. Some of his pastels may be found in the Smithsonian's Duke Ellington Collection.

Images above: Walter Cook Keenan, 200 Royal Street. 18 August 1948. Walter Cook Keenan New Orleans Architecture Photographs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

NOLA Canals 1903

In 1903, engineeres Coleman, Malochee and Villere surveyed landholdings of the New Orleans Land Company between City Park Avenue and Lake Pontchartrain. They recorded the canals that punctuated the subdivision, as well as the historic tracts that formed the basis of the company's possessions. Much of this area had been utilized by charitable groups, including the Firemen's Charitable Association and the Milne Asylums. Spanish Fort is discernible in the upper right-hand corner of the map.

Image above: Coleman, Malochee and Villere. Map showing some lands belonging to the New-Orleans Land Co. situated in New-Orleans. April 1903. Martin Shepard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Orleans Silica Brick

In 1915, Harry M. Dyett announced the formation of a new venture that would transform Lake Pontchartrain white sand into brick. He sought testimonials from local architects, including Paul Andry and Rathbone De Buys, and claimed that his new company would utilize the Dyett Press (patent image above), which had been developed by his brother, James H. Dyett.

The Dyetts established the New Orleans Silica Brick Company and built a factory along the New Basin Canal near Murat Street. The location allowed easy transport of sand acquired along the Tchefuncta River. The bricks could be made in ten hours' time, which significantly reduced the lengthy process that had been associated with kiln-fired brick.(1)  The company employed one hundred men in its first year of operations, and expanded its workforce as the material gained popularity.

Emile Weil used the brick for his 827 Carondelet Street building for the Jacobs Candy Company, his 5341 St. Charles Avenue duplex for Louisiana Bag Company President Jasmin Feitel (1917) and Nolan & Torre used it for their Klotz Cracker Factory building (615 Tchoupitoulas Street, 1918). Bungalow architect Morgan Hite advocated its use as a means of reducing construction and upkeep costs, and cited its planned appearance in Gentilly Terrace.(2)

Image above: J.H. Dyett.  The Dyett Press (Patent No. 952,790). 22 March 1910. As viewed 10 April 1913 via google patents.

(1)"Silica Brick Company Plant." The Times-Picayune (13 August 1916): p. 32.

(2)M.D. Hite. "Cheaper to Build Houses of Brick Than of Lumber." The Times-Picayune (17 February 1918): p. 42.

To read more, see New Orleans Silica Brick Company Prospectus. New Orleans, c. 1915. Martin Shepard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Louisville & Nashville Railroad 1916

In 1916, one could take the train from New Orleans to Pensacola. Solid steel Pullman trains operated daily between New Orleans and New York. The Louisville and Nashville R.R. had its ticket office at 201 St. Charles Street, its depot at the foot of Canal Street. Its many trains offered stops at Seashore Camp Grounds, DeBuys Heartsease, Anniston Avenue, East Pass Christian, Menge Avenue, West Pass Christian and Clermont Harbor. On Sundays and Wednesdays, a passenger could travel between New Orleans and Ocean Springs for $1.00 round trip.

Image above: L & N R.R. Local Time Tables and Commuter Rates to Gulf Coast Points. Issued June 1916. Martin Shepard Office Records, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Graveley's Arch

In 1930, a Tulane University civil engineering graduate named Eugene Cenas Graveley († Costa Rica 1943) patented a welded steel roof construction method. He founded a company based on the technique and established offices in New Orleans (2126 Poland Street),  Houston and Orlando.

He stressed that his arch construction method was particularly well suited to the tropics:

"This is the only type of Construction which has withstood the TROPICAL HURRICANES 100% unhurt despite the centers of two in one month (including the most destructive one on record) passing through a nest of our Buildings."(1)

He recommended its use for auditoriums, gymnasiums, churches, dance pavilions, theaters, movie houses, railroad stations, hangars, automobile garages, dock sheds, cotton and sugar houses, machine shops, and warehouses.

His earliest buildings were automotive garages in Louisiana, with the first -- a S. Rampart Street structure designed by New Orleans architect Martin Shepard for the Rhodes Undertaking Company -- requiring a tie rod. After stress tests conducted on his building sites and at Princeton University boosted Graveley's confidence, his designs abandoned tie rods altogether.

If  you want to see a Gravely Arch in New Orleans, visit United Machinery at 2530 Canal Street. The extant structure is what remains of the engineer's Felix Garage, shown above.

(1)The Arch Construction Co., Inc. The Resurrection of the Oldest Type of Building Construction: The Arch. New Orleans: Eugene Graveley, 1929. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. NEW! View full document via the Internet Archive's Building Technology Heritage Library here.

Images from publication cited above.