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ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN GROWTH IN NINETEENTH CENTURY NEW ORLEANS* Robert A. Sauder Although the significance of analyzing rural folk housing has been apparent since the publication of Kniffen's original work on the subject in 1936, the use of urban house types and building styles as a tool of geographical analysis has appeared only recently in American geographical literature. (1) Lewis and Zelinsky indicated the importance of such studies by suggesting that an analysis of older dwellings is one of the better ways of mapping the historical geography of cities. (2) Because historical maps illustrating occupancy patterns at different times in older American cities are relatively scarce, this method of analyzing urban places may have considerable utility. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how the spatial pattern of urban house types and building styles reflects a city's cultural heritage and its patterns of growth through space and time. New Orleans was chosen for study because of the city's diverse cultural background and its abundant supply of nineteenth century dwellings. Traditionally the construction of houses in New Orleans has been expensive because high land was limited to the natural levee and to build in the backswamp required expensive drainage techniques. Old homes have not been recklessly discarded, therefore, and much of nineteenth century New Orleans is still intact. New Orleans' nineteenth century architecture reflects general national stylistic trends including Greek Revival, High Victorian and Late Victorian, thereby facilitating dating. Considerable architectural uniqueness also exists, for New Orleanians have incorporated a degree of regional variation to suit their culture and environment. Even though most of the nineteenth century city is characterized by a stylistic mixture representing different time periods, the prevalence of certain house types and styles in the older neighborhoods reflect who settled where and when (Fig. 1). * This study was supported by a grant from the Graduate Research Council, University of New Orleans. Dr. Sauder is Assistant Professor of Geography at The University of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA 70122. 94 Southeastern Geographer house TYPES AND STYLES IN NINETEENTH CENTURY ,NEW ORLEANS 795-1830 Creole Cottage Creole Townho 1830-1860 Creole Cottage and Creole Townhouse with Creel- Revival Detail 1830- 1860 Greek Revival American Row House and Pillared Dwellings Source: Field Work p!|1 1860-1880 ltolianate Mansion •^and Shotgun Roberts |.ff:ì 1880-1900 Late Victorian Shotgun Figure 1. Different housetypes reflect the city's diverse cultural heritage, whereas the architectural styles illustrate periods during which different sections of the city were developed. The regions of housetypes and building styles are based on a visual impression derived from field research. Although convenience dictates the construction of clear-cut boundaries, in reality there is generally a gradual transition from one region to the next. THE FRANCO-SPANISH OLD TOWN AND CREOLE EXPANSION . The French colonial town of New Orleans was established in 1718 on a sharp bend of the Mississippi River at a place where the natural levee was approximately 15 feet above sea level (Fig. 2). The old town, the Vieux Carré, was laid out in the form of a parallelogram consisting of 66 squares, and for nearly 100 years the settled area of New Orleans was essentially contained within this parallelogram . When settlement did expand outside the original town limits it remained on higher ground close to the river; not until the first decade of the twentieth century was the technology developed to efficiently drain the swamps adjacent to the town. Because of the limited amount of high ground in the city, the tendency was toward small individual lots and compact construction. Early construction in the Vieux Carré followed French colonial habits, even into the Spanish era which endured between 1769 and 1803. (3) Few eighteenth century buildings remain. Most early structures were destroyed by two disastrous fires in the late 1700s, Vol. XVII, No. 2 95 K E PONTCHARTRAIN NINETEENTH CENTURY NEW ORLEANS: RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS AND ANNEXATIONS X Figure 2. Nineteenth Century New Orleans: Residential Neighborhoods and Annexations . By 1874 the boundaries of New Orleans had reached their current limits. but relic features of the colonial city were preserved in the buildings and living arrangements that were incorporated into the later town. (4...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-6929
Print ISSN
0038-366X
Pages
pp. 93-107
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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