Keeping it in the Family
Home for the generations
Well, my grandfather bought the house in 1932, once the streetcar line was gone.” Elizabeth Woods and her husband and children live in the same house where her father, Walter Suthon, grew up, on a quiet block of Hurst Street. And, yes, the streetcar – in this case the old Prytania carline – ran down the middle of the street until 1932.
The Prytania line, first opened in 1864, started on Canal Street, went up Camp to Prytania, turned right on Upperline St., then left on Pitt Street, up to Joseph St., where it turned right, and then left onto Hurst. By 1883, the line extended all the way up Hurst to Exposition Boulevard.
The Suthon’s new home had been built as a rental property; it was a twin to its next door neighbor -- with another twin nearby on Webster Street. The two-story house, which once had a deep front gallery on the second floor that is now enclosed, stayed in the family after its 1932 purchase. “My Dad bought it in 1962. It’s the only house I knew, and the only house my Dad knew,” Woods admitted.
Woods and her family are still in the planning stages of renovation: “making the dining room part of the kitchen and the den, opening things up.” One constant in the house: two cast iron doorstops used inside “one is a wagon and one is a ship: they are original to the house,” Woods noted.
Kermit Maronge’s grandfather bought his home, a camelback single, on Olivier St. in Algiers Point “around 1900.” There were three generations there when Maronge was a child. “A good bit of this area looks the same as it did when I was a kid,” he noted. “You walked everywhere. There were a lot of little groceries.”
“I think the Historic District Landmarks Commission is good for things,” Maronge said. “They keep things looking the same.” Since a neighbor found the site of a privy in his backyard, Maronge suspects his house had one. Some things did change: the fireplaces now work, the outside color went from gray to cream; the fence once wooden, became chain link, and now will be wrought iron.
Mary Main, at 90, lives in the house her father built in 1941, on two lots on Harding Drive, just off Bayou St. John. “My mother wanted a garden, a fireplace, and a screened porch: it’s on the front.” In World War II “my Dad was an air raid warden,” Main recalled. When the War ended “we rode up and down Canal Street in a car.” She went to high school at Ursuline Academy. “We took the Carrollton bus to get to Claiborne and then the streetcar to Nashville.”
Although it now has central air and heat, the house was originally heated by oil. ”We had a big tank in the back yard.” For cooling in summer, “my father put a big fan in the dining room window and blew it out – we opened our windows to get outside air.”
Another Harding Street resident, Gasper Schiro recalled that when they moved into their home (across from Main’s) decades ago, “we were the only people who had a house note: everybody had lived here so long!”
Keeping the house in the family is not unusual in New Orleans.