Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Imagining the Atlantic World and Colonial North America circa 1730

Robert de Vaugondy map of North America originally drawn ca. 1730 via Voyager Antique Maps (sorry, this item is sold!)
How was being wedged between empires responsible for making New Orleans a liminal place?

Abbé Antoine-Francois Prévost's Manon Lescaut (1731)

What was "disorder" and why were people so worried about it in France?

We could also begin to construct a list of the ways in which New Orleans constituted the "modern," and by extension, "dangerous."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hachard and the Ursulines

One of our readings this week is a selection of letters written by a young French woman named Marie-Madeleine Hachard who came to early New Orleans to join the Ursulines. There are few orders more intimately connected with the history of the city than the Ursuline nuns. Their school, currently located at the intersection of Nashville and Claiborne Avenues (right around the corner from Loyola) is the longest continuously operating women's school in the United States.

I think we may wrap up our first field trip outside the Ursuline Convent, the oldest structure standing in the French Quarter. Here is a video, perhaps a little amateurish in execution but earnest in its presentation, that gives a taste of the historical wealth located on site. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Of Elevations, Portages, and the Challenges of Building in Colonial New Orleans

Let's consider the geographer's method of evaluating "site and situation" for New Orleans. After Katrina renewed the discussion of coastal wetland protection, the Times-Picayune produced this simple but informative animation about the creation and destruction of Southern Louisiana's coastline.

Here is a link to the original plan for New Orleans, rendered a century later.

A third-generation rendition based on Pauger's Map of New Orleans
 We'll consider the New Orleans "site vs. situation" argument as well. But to do so, we must first walk through the geographical reasoning offered for the location of the city.

The NOAA map of Katrina flooding in 2005 reveals the continuity of the elevation dilemma
This map depicts the 1849 crevasse mentioned by Peirce Lewis. Note that it depicts flooding due to backwater. We'll talk about that a bit.

A useful map that I found on the website Statemaster.com which seems to be a clearninghouse of public-domain information on individual states.
To get an idea of some of the "2.0" building techniques in New Orleans, here are a couple pictures of what was once the Old Spanish Custom Collector's House at the corner of Grand Route St. John and Moss Street. Built in 1784, it's original brick-in-post construction was recently made visible during an ongoing renovation. The house sold a few years back at auction to Lyndon Saia, whose family started the Saia Trucking Company in Houma, La in 1924.

Mr. Saia also wrote some really interesting blog entries about the renovation. Worth a look!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Finding New Orleans

We start off Powell's work by examining the competing visions for harnessing the assumed strategic and economic advantages of the Mississippi River and how they juxtaposed against the geographic and geopolitical obstacles that stood in the way of permanent settlement.

It is certainly interesting to consider that the Spanish were vaguely aware of the Mississippi no later than the doomed expedition of deSoto in 1541-2. We might consider why Spain, as entrenched as she was in the New World by 1600, did not pursue avenues to the North with more alacrity. Indeed, the Spanish had been well-established in present-day Mexico for a century by the time of the LaSalle Expedition in 1682. (note the link to KnowLa, a valuable online resource.) Incidentally, I remember going to a program held in my little town about a group of college students who, with their professors, reenacted the LaSalle Expedition. This is a 1977 People magazine article about the trip! Some of the language is interesting, to say the least!

John Law's encampment at Biloxi (1720) via Wikipedia.
If we think of the lower Mississippi River as a blank canvas for western-style settlement, then it is worth considering the aqueous landscape that surrounds it and the approach that a mariner might take towards evaluating topography. Yet as Powell will argue in chapter 2, events do not always unfold for the most logical or practical reasons.

My iPhone photo of the city from the Industrial Canal is not the best photography in the world, but it does convey the flatness and wetness of our landscape.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Different ways to think about New Orleans

If you are new to New Orleans - or even if you are not - you will hear terms used to describe different parts of the city that may be unfamiliar or unclear to you. This phenomenon is not unique to New Orleans. But it is worth looking at some of the parallels and differences when it comes to orienting yourself in the city and understanding its geography.

Below you will find a collection of maps that will define the urban space of New Orleans in different but not necessarily mutually exclusive terms.

The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center probably has the most exhaustive, precise, and up-to-date neighborhood map available (as well as other demographic data.) Many of these boundaries, however, are relatively recent creations. In some instances, the City of New Orleans government made up neighborhood names to define areas that traditionally had ill-defined boundaries.

For many years, and in parlance more common in certain social and economic circles and neighborhoods, the political boundary of wards mattered the most. Compare this map with the one above.

Compare these conceptions of neighborhood with this interactive map from the Preservation Resource Center (and note the tab for architectural styles.)

From the roof of Loyola's West Road Deck - Shot with a superzoom so everything is a little flattened!

1. Plaza Tower (1969) 1001 Howard Avenue. Close to what was once the terminus of the New Basin Canal (completed in 1838), which is located across the street roughly where the Greyhound and Amtrak terminal stands today.
2. One Shell Square (1972) 701 Poydras. Tallest building in New Orleans. Was the tallest building in the South until the building of the Atlanta Peachtree Westin in 1976.
3. St. Patrick's Church (1838-1840) 724 Camp Street. Church of the "old Irish" in New Orleans from before the potato famine.
4. St. John the Baptist Church (1869-1871) Calliope and Oretha Castle Haley Drive. Another German and Irish Church. The area is not the greatest today.
5. World Trade Center (1967) At the foot of Canal Street at the river. A matter of debate as to what it will become. Like the Plaza Tower, it is empty.
6. Hilton Riverside (1979) 3 Poydras - the foot of Poydras and the river. Once the site of the Poydras Market from the 1830s to the 1930s - which was a bit like the French Market... when the French Market was a real market.
7. Guste Apartments (1964) Simon Bolivar and MLK (formerly Melpomene). Once the site of the infamous Melpomene housing project. Designed in 1964 as government housing for elderly.
8. Union Bethel A.M.E. Church (Founded 1866) 2321 Thalia Street. Martin Luther King spoke here during his 1961 visit to New Orleans.
9. Ochsner Baptist - Napoleon & Claiborne Avenues.

Towards the Crescent City Connection from the West Road Deck roof.

1. First Street United Methodist Church (1894) - On the site of a much older church established for slaves and free people of color. Established own congregation in 1866.
2. Ernest Morial Convention Center
3. Crescent City Connection
4. The Pontchartrain Hotel (see below).
5. 2633 Napoleon Avenue (office tower). Located near Ochsner Baptist.
6. All Nation's Fellowship Evangelical Christian Church. 2524 Napoleon Ave. (Formerly Napoleon Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church - built in the 1920s)

Looking toward the Power Plant from the West Road Deck.
1. Old Power Plant (on the river) Most recently the site of Buku fest.
2. St Mary's Assumption (1858) 2030 Constance St. Old German Catholic Redemptorist Church (next door to St. Alphonsus). Located in the heart of the old Irish Channel neighborhood. Note, St. Alphonsus has an event on March 11 which would count as an enrichment activity.
3. Domino Sugar Refinery - next to the Chalmette Battlefield - in the great hazy distance in St. Bernard Parish.
4. Trinity Episcopal Church (1853-1866) Jackson Avenue and Coliseum Street.
5. The Carol Condominiums (1970s) 2100 St. Charles Avenue.
6. The Pontchartrain Hotel (1927) 2031 St. Charles Avenue. Once the stop of the rich and famous. Fell down on its heels for a while. Big ideas about reviving it today.
7. Our Lady of Lourdes (1905) Temporarily Holy Rosary Academy High School. Damaged in Katrina and sold.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Katrina Flood Map

This is the NOAA Katrina / federal flood map. We'll use it to consider topography.