With Poydras the Parrot
photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Dear Julia and Poydras,
I have seen pictures of Horticultural Hall, the magnificent glass-enclosed conservatory that was built for the 1884 World’s Fair at what is now Audubon Park and never cease to marvel at its elegance and beauty. I heard it was demolished after the great hurricane of 1915 but do you know exactly when it was torn down?
Horticultural Hall wasn’t demolished “after” the 1915 hurricane – hurricane-force winds blew the building completely apart the evening of Wed., Sept. 29, 1915. It was never rebuilt.
Within the span of nine years, Horticultural Hall was threatened at least three times by high winds and tropical storms. The massive glass-enclosed wood frame building, which measured 600-by-190 feet, had a near miss in early Oct. 1906 when a tornado struck the park, uprooting a mature oak but sparing Horticultural Hall. Three years later, on the morning of Sept. 20, ’09, the building sustained a direct hit from a tornado which tore away the structure’s Magazine Street side. Horticultural Hall was rebuilt, but was lost forever in the ’15 hurricane.
Horticultural Hall was erected for the 1884 World’s Fair, which was officially known as the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition at New Orleans. It is shown in its heyday in this Thomas Hunter lithograph from the Library of Congress.
I read somewhere that Huey Long had a house at 14 Audubon Place. When I was a student at Newcomb in the 1970s, I walked down that street and the No. 14 lot was vacant. I’m wondering if you can tell me what happened to Long’s house. I know another was built there after I saw the vacant lot. Can you satisfy my curiosity?
You had the right address but the wrong street. Huey P. Long did indeed have a residence at 14 Audubon, but it was Audubon Boulevard, not Audubon Place. In 1932, Gov. Long purchased the home from its original owner, Simon J. Shwartz. After Long’s assassination, his widow sold the residence to the State of Louisiana, which initially used it as a memorial to the colorful politician.
In Jan. 1978, the state appeared to classify preparations for the mansion’s sale as “crisis spending.” On Jan. 10, The Times-Picayune reported the state legislature’s Interim Emergency Board approved, as part of more than $600,000 in emergency spending, the Office of Facility Planning’s request for $8,000 to appraise and nationally advertise for sale Huey P. Long’s former Audubon Boulevard residence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that $8,000 would be about $28,800 in today’s funds.
Huey P. Long’s former residence at 14 Audubon Blvd. returned to private residential use and ownership in 1979. The Emile Weil-designed home, which was built in ’24, still stands and is an officially designated city historic landmark.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
There is a strange piece of concrete on the downtown lake side on St. Charles Avenue at Marengo Street. I cannot imagine what it is or what it was used for. It appears to be the tip of an obelisk. Moreover it’s placed in an awkward manner at the intersection. Please do whatever you can to solve the mystery of the top of an obelisk. I am trusting in Poydras’ ability to find answers to mysteries.
Poydras did some aerial reconnaissance based on your directions but reports he found no concrete obelisk at the downtown lake corner of St. Charles Avenue and Marengo Street. He believe you must have meant the downtown river side of that intersection, in the block bounded by St. Charles Avenue and Constantinople, Pitt and Marengo streets.
There are actually four such little obelisks in that block, all of which are on the St. Charles Avenue side of the residence at 4036 St. Charles Ave. Perhaps you missed the other three because they are obscured by shrubbery. Because of the height and location of the four obelisks, they appear to have been end points of a now-vanished low wall running along the front of the property. An early photograph of the residence appears in the Friends of the Cabildo’s New Orleans Architecture: Volume VII: Jefferson City and confirms the existence of a low wall or high curbing with taller end pieces that appear to correspond with size, appearance and locations of the surviving mini-obelisks. Renowned architect Emile Weil designed the home, which was completed in 1902 for Maline Godchaux Lehmann (d. ’11), widow of prominent dry goods merchant Abraham Lehmann.
I am quite sure your obelisk was straight when installed but it should be noted that it may have settled unevenly over the years. It should also be noted that a mature oak tree, which was planted after the house was built, is in the immediate vicinity.
Win a chappy’s restaurant gift certificate
Here is a chance to eat, drink and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for one of two $25 gift certificates at Chappy’s Restaurant on Magazine Street. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Cynthia Derby, Metairie; and Tony Clesi, New Orleans.