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Natchez, Mississippi – Stanton Hall

2 Aug

Stanton Hall

Stanton Hall is Natchez’ largest antebellum mansion.  Grand in scale but beautiful and approachable and friendly.  One can come within a block of the home and not know that it is there and then once it is found one wonders how in the world could they have missed this place?

When the mansion was first built, by Frederick Stanton, it was named Belfast.  Yes, Mr. Stanton was born in Ireland but I am not prepared to say that is the reason he named it Belfast.  In walking around the wonderful structure the cost of building such a structure comes to mind and why was it built in Natchez?  Cotton is the reason.  Stanton Hall is a testament to the importance of cotton and to the wealth that cotton brought to the area.

Stanton Hall is also a testament to the skill of the architects and craftsmen that built the mansion.  The house is monumental in many respects but the small details, such as decorative carvings, demonstrate the master skills of the builders.

The home encompasses 11,000 square feet on the two main floors.  Ceilings are 17 feet high and the doors stand at 10 feet tall.  I was wondering too how many people it would take to keep such a place going – not only the house but the grounds?

Yes, Belfast, or Stanton Hall, is a grand monumental place that once expressed the great wealth of the cotton economy, the South, and Natchez.  Yet by the 1930s this magnificent place was empty and in desperate need of repairs.  In 1938 Stanton Hall was purchased by the Pilgrimage Garden Club.  Since then it has been under their maintenance and is open to the public.

Frederick Stanton built this magnificent home in 1857 but in 1858 Stanton died.  Since then the cotton dominated economy has died. If not for the Pilgrimage Garden Club it would not have lasted 75 years.

New Orleans, Louisiana – Metairie Cemetery – Lucien Napoleon Brunswig

26 Jul

Entrance Brunswig Mausoleum

Metairie Cemetery, in New Orleans, is one of those fascinating places that will capture your imagination even if you don’t have one!  The tombs are very interesting and many are great examples of various types of architecture, which always provides for a great cemetery visit.  On the other hand the tombs hold individuals and many of those individuals led distinguished and productive lives. Their stories are sometimes lost amongst the grand views of the tombs.

One of the most visited and photographed places in Metairie Cemetery stands near the rear of the older part of the cemetery.  The outstanding Egyptian influences of the Brunswig Mausoleum are very worthy of attention. The pyramid mausoleum  has attracted visitors for over a century.   A woman and a sphinx figure stand on either side of bronze gates that seal the tomb and they have been photographed a million times. Those figures have become synonymous with the tomb , but  what about the man that lends his name to this well known tomb – that man was Lucien Napoleon Brunswig.

Lucien Napoleon Brunswig was born in Montmedy, France, in 1854, and was educated at the  College of Etain. Apparently Brunswig thought his future lay in the United States and he came to the U.S. in 1871.  He found work as an apprentice to a U.S druggist. In 1875 Brunswig opened his own drug store in Atchison, Kansas. After a year of business he sold his drug store and moved to Fort Worth, Texas.

In Fort Worth Brunswig opened a new drug store that not only sold retail but also dealt with wholesale pharmaceuticals.  Within 5 years the business was producing $350,000 in annual sales.  Business took Lucien to many places and one of those places was Independence, Missouri.  There he met and married  Annie Mercer. The newly married couple made their home in Fort Worth and they soon added children.

In 1882, George Finlay, the owner of a well-established wholesale drug firm in New Orleans invited Brunswig to join him as a partner. Brunswig sold his Fort Worth business and joined Finlay in the firm of Finlay and Brunswig.  In 1885 Finlay died and Lucien Brunswig took over the entire wholesale drug firm which then became L. N. Brunswig and Company. In 1887 he took on a partner by the name of F.W. Braun.

Lucien and Annie had 5 children – 3 girls and 2 boys.  The year of 1892 became a pivotal year for Lucien N. Brunswig.  That year marked the death of one of his young sons – a son who also bore the name of Lucien N. Brunswig.  This death was a terrible blow to Annie Brunswig.  The child’s death was too much for her to handle.  She declined in health and within a month she too was dead.

Lucien Brunswig moved on with life. Prior to the death of his wife and child Brunswig had been looking toward the west.  In 1887 Braun was dispatched to Los Angeles, California, and within a year a prosperous business was established.  In 1890, while Brunswig was still in New Orleans, he sent Braun to San Diego to set up a branch office.  In short order another prosperous branch office was operating under the name of F.W. Braun.

Braun believed that the future of his company was in the west.  In 1903 Brunswig, and his family, which included his second wife and another child, moved to Los Angeles so he could preside over the company.  In 1907 Bruswig bought out Braun and the business was renamed Brunswig Drug Company.  At this time he also sold his company in New Orleans.

Established in Los Angeles the Brunswig Drug Company grew at a phenomenal rate.  The company became the leading pharmaceutical distributor in the western U.S.   The company also eventually expanded to many countries in the Pacific realm.  His company also took on new products such as cosmetics.  The business would boom during World War 1 due to its geographical location.

In 1917 Brunswig found himself too old for military service in World War 1 as he was 63.  Still he went to his native France and served 8 months for the “Friends of France.”  On his return from France he continued to be involved with helping those that had been impacted by the war.  This was just the tip of the iceberg in his service to his local community and to his country and to his homeland.  While in Los Angeles Brunswig served as Director,  Bureau of Americanization; Director of a number of Franco-American Relief Societies during World War 1; Chairman, Pacific Coast States American Field Ambulance Service; Chairman, Pacific Coast, Fatherless Children of France;  Chairman, American Committee for Devastated France; President, Alliance Francaise;  President, Lafayette Society of California; Delegated by the Minister of Public Instruction in France to co-operate in the scholarships for young French students to American Universities and Colleges; Director of the College des Etats Unis, in Paris; and he served as Chairman for the Sunshine Houses of France for the U.S.A.

While he lived in New Orleans he served as a Police Commissioner in New Orleans from 1895-1899; Vice-president, Anthenee Louisianais; Member, Louisiana Historical Society; President, French Society; and served as Vice-President for the Board of Trade.

While in Los Angeles he also co founded the Pharmacy Department at the University of Southern California.  He traveled extensively in Europe and to other places in the world.  While traveling he amassed a personal library of over 6,000 volumes.  Some of these were original transcripts obtained from monasteries in Europe and he even collected an original transcript from William Penn.  Brunswig donated over 1,000 volumes from his collection to the University of Southern California.

Lucien Napoleon Brunswig died in 1943 and his body was interred in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. But what happened to his Drug Company?  In 1969 Brunswig Drug Company merged with Bergen Drug Company to form Bergen-Brunswig.  This company in turn merged with the AmeriSource Health Corporation in 2001 to from AmerisourceBergen.  Last year AmerisourceBergen ranked 24th on the Fortune 500 list and employed 10,000 employees.  Sales for the Corporation were $78 billion.  What a testament to Mr. Brunswig!

Today we marvel at the structure in which Lucien N. Brunswig is interred but very few of us know anything at all about his life.  Indeed the tomb now houses his body but no tomb could ever house his accomplishments in business nor his service to his fellow man.  The next time I am in Metairie Cemetery I will make a point to visit the tomb of Lucien Napoleon Brunswig.  This time I will not go to view his tomb but rather to pay my respects to his life.  What a man!

New Orleans, Louisiana – Garden District – E. Burton White, Jr. House

1 Dec

At one time this house was known as the E. Burton White Jr. home. It is located in the historic Garden District of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Garden District has a very interesting history and it is always a pleasure to learn more about this historic and unique treasure.  It is always a pleasure to stroll this area of town and to photograph the beautiful homes and yards. It is as much park like as it is residential.

New Orleans is a very historic city and the Garden District certainly contributes to that designation. Because of the old system of filing many legal transactions by the notary it can be challenging to discover the important things about a structure or about a person.   I think that most of the homes in the Garden District have stories to tell and it is always interesting to know some of the history.  If one sees a beautiful home it feels good to know the name, if it has one, or maybe the families that have lived there.

I’m not interested in a detailed history of most homes but I always like to know a little information about any building that I photograph. I have purchased several books on the Garden District, and New Orleans, but even with those it is difficult to learn the history of one of the homes.  Somehow I discovered that one of the beautiful homes, in the Garden District, that I had photographed was called “The White House.”  It could be called something else these days or in times past but there is a description of this home in “The Great Days of the Garden District,” by Martha and Ray Samuel. The information was published by “The Parent’s League of the Louise S. McGehee School.” In this booklet the structure is referred to as the “E. Burton White, Jr. House.”  So the home is/was known for one of its owners – not the color of the house.

E. Burton White, Jr. appears to have been a medical doctor in New Orleans.  I have found information on him by doing searches on the Internet.  From what I have found he is now deceased but I have found other sources that do not make this clear.  At the time that the Garden District book was written Dr. White was the owner and resident of the house. The “White House” which is not the color white is good enough for me.

The above publication says that records of 1877 show the house advertised as a “raised cottage facing Chestnut Street.”  In 1878 a renovation took place in which the entry of the home was moved to First Street and the cottage was raised even higher. A new first story was constructed and the old first floor was moved to the second story and a new facade was constructed.  Bays were added to both floors.

The original construction of this structure is believed to have taken place in 1849. It was a typical Louisiana cottage with a gallery across the front, having a wide center hall with two large rooms, on either side, and two additional bedrooms in the “attic like” second floor.

Sometime after the 1878 renovation the house was converted into three apartments. When the publication was printed in was stated that the present owners were in the process of converting the structure back to a single family dwelling.

Today the home is a beautiful structure that adds its character to the Garden District.  It is hard to picture this home being located anywhere else! Oh, if you have a few million bucks to spare you can purchase this house – it is for sale. It has five bedrooms and five baths and is 6,751 square ft. in size.

Port Gibson, Mississippi – Windsor Ruins

29 Oct

Twenty-Three Columns Are All That Remain of the Grand Plantation Home Windsor

The first time that I visited Windsor I turned off of Highway 61 near Lorman, Mississippi, and drove straight to the place.  On another visit I decided to go the back way from Port Gibson.  I thought I would never find the place and perhaps end up hopelessly lost.  After driving through the thick woods and all the ravines filled with kudzu it became more of a maze than a trip. If I had driven off of the narrow road and into one of those kudzu covered ravines chances are I would still be there.  If lucky, the cold weather might have knocked the leave off of the kudzu enough for someone to spot a vehicle wrapped in those tenacious vines.  In my estimation there is a chance that Jimmy Hoffa is there – someplace on the back roads, toward the Mississippi River, in a kudzu covered ravine west and south of Port Gibson.

One thing about Windsor is that it makes a person wonder why in the world it was built in the middle of nowhere.  There are places located in the middle of nowhere all over the place but not many as wondrous as Windsor.  Those large palatial columns are just standing there.  It is sort of like a story book setting.  When it was built, back in the late 1850s, it was located near the Mississippi River and near a narrow road known as the Rodney Road.   The soil in the area is loess.  That means in was brought to the location by wind.  The loess layer is very thick and the loess formation that Windsor was built on extends from Memphis down to Baton Rouge on the east side of the Mississippi River. How it got there is somewhat of a mystery.  Perhaps during the an ice age most of the fresh surface water was tied up in glaciers and westerly winds just pushed the soil westward as if it was a great dune.  In any case it does erode very fast when exposed to the rain and so the giant ravines have formed and reformed over the ages making it very difficult to traverse.  After the ice age the waters began to flow and perhaps a large stream worked its way around the loess and eventually became the Mississippi River.  The ridge tops of the loess formations are flat and fairly fertile and they make good places for winding roads and the soil is also fairly fertile so it would be possible to grow cotton in the area, however, the other side of the river is much more fertile as it was continuously replenished by yearly floods.

Well that is it for the geology of the area but to me it is a part of the story of Windsor, or at least a part of the story that I am interested in.  Those  interested in architecture will love the ruins of Windsor and those that like plantation homes can only imagine how great the home was that once stood between the columns.  Those that are interested in history will perhaps relate the land and columns back to the historical events that took place here about 150 years ago.  That is what I wish to discuss after the obligatory brief history of the home.

These Fluted Corinthian Columns Appear Almost in the Middle of Nowhere, Mississippi

Windsor was built as a plantation home for Mr. and Mrs. Smith Coffee Daniel, II.  The plantation consisted of about 2,600 acres and was completed in 1861 just in time for the War Between the States.  Twenty-nine columns were constructed of bricks, made at the site, that supported the magnificent structure.  Each Fluted Corinthian Column was 45 feet in height and was covered in mortar and plaster. The fluted columns had iron Corinthian capitals and were joined at the galleries by an ornamental iron balustrade. The completed structure was a marvel in that it contained its own school, commissary, Dr.’s office, dairy and kitchen under one roof. On top of the house was an observatory. Each of the 25 rooms had its own fireplace and the home contained indoor bathrooms with running water that was supplied by a water tank in the attic.  This was the state of the structure on the eve of the most important event in American history.

Capturing the Mississippi River strategically was the top priority of the Union, so it wasn’t long before the war came to Mississippi.  As the war continued Vicksburg became the key to victory but the Union Army was on the western side of the river.  Grant had to cross the river.  On the night of April 30, 1863,  troop ships were loaded with soldiers and a journey down the river commenced.  The first planned stop for a possible landing was Grand Gulf but the Union gunships could not silence the guns at the confederate stronghold so General Grant proceeded south to Bruinsburg. There was a road (Rodney Road) near there that could be used by troops headed east.  Thus began the largest amphibious landing of American troops in military history prior to D-Day. On April 30 and May 1, 1863, over 17,000 troops landed at Bruinsburg and headed east on the narrow and winding road.

There was still a considerable “unknown” that General Grant had to deal with and that was the location of the Confederate Army.  As the troops were landing in Bruinsburg General Sherman feigned an attack on Vicksburg and the confederate forces stayed at home.  The Union troops at Bruinsburg immediately began a hasty advance along the road that passed in front of Windsor.  Grant had to get his troops into strategic positions and capture strategic locations such as bridges quickly.  If the large confederate force at Vicksburg moved against him all could be lost.

When walking around the large columns at Windsor one hardly thinks that Union Soldiers were resting and crunching on their hardtack on the grounds.  Union forces took control of the house and when the ensuing battles with confederate troops took place the plantation was used as a hospital and the observatory became a place to observe troop movements.  Prior to this the confederates had used the observatory to monitor Union ship movements on the river and to signal confederate forces on the other side of the river.

The Original Corinthian Metal Caps Sit Atop Columns Made of Bricks That Where Manufactured On Site

Each time I visit Windsor I think about the advancing Union forces and their dash inland and the ensuing fights at Port Gibson and other locations.  General Grant went on to destroy Jackson in order to protect the rear of his army when he advanced on Vicksburg.  That turned out to be one of the most important decisions of the Civil War.  If Grant had decided to go directly to Vicksburg he would have certainly been destroyed by a waiting confederate army. Instead he protected his army by taking Jackson and then set in for a siege at Vicksburg.  Lots of history in the middle of Nowhere, Mississippi.
But try as I may to remember all of the history that is close by I have to admit that the ruins of Windsor captures my mind in a mysterious way and makes it impossible to think of troop movements and the like.  Windsor is a place unto itself –  a place to experience awe and mystery.

Windsor did not come to ruins because of the Civil War. The house survived until 1890 and hosted a number of people and events over the years.  One visitor was Mark Twain and he even used the observatory on top of the home to observe the Mississippi River.  On the 17th of February 1890 some work was being done on the house by carpenters.  There were some visitors that day and apparently one of them left behind a lighted cigar or cigarette and it fell into some wood shavings on the third floor.  The family was returning home from a trip to get the mail when they saw the flames. Windsor burned from top to bottom.

The haunting columns are all we have of the structure today.  Twenty-three of them remain.  Those columns have not only witnessed history but they have become part of history.  It is a mysterious place and is hard to comprehend.  I have taken picture after picture and can’t capture the essence of the place.  There is just too much here for the senses to take in and process at one time.  There are so many questions that can’t be answered.  If fact they can’t even be verbalized so one is left with their feelings.  You can feel the history, the architecture and the grandeur but you cannot explain it to others – it is just one of those places that impresses you and stays with you but you can’t really say why!

Jackson, Louisiana – Old Centenary College

14 Sep

The West Wing Dormitory of Old Centenary College in Jackson, Louisiana.

The towns of Jackson, Clinton, and St. Francisville no longer reflect their past glory but still there are many clues to that heritage that can be found in both East and West Feliciana Parishes.  Thankfully the residents of these small towns have pride in their heritage and have taken the lead to preserve those elements that have linked each generation of people who have lived there.

One of the most enduring structures is the west wing dormitory of Old Centenary College  in Jackson, Louisiana.  Many that grew up in the recent past near Jackson may remember this structure as an old ghostly looking building.  It was the old spooky building out by the baseball fields.  Today it has been restored to its 1837 condition.

The west wing dormitory is all that survives of the original 3 room educational complex  There was an east wing dormitory and a magnificent center building in which classes were held.

The main or center building and the east wing dormitory have been lost to time.  The remaining west wing dormitory is two stories high and one room deep with a free-standing colonnade encompassing the long south front and east and west ends.  The second story rooms are reached by means of a continuous balcony with three sets of exterior stars along the front.

The college first began as the College of Louisiana in 1937 but it came into the hands of a Methodist College in 1845.  Centenary College, previously located in Mississippi, moved to the grounds in 1845.  Centenary had been founded in Mississippi in 1839 on the 100th anniversary (or centenary) of the founding of the Methodist society by John Wesley.

Centenary grew rapidly and reached its peak enrollment of 260 just prior to the Civil War. The war not only took all of the students but it also took a toll on the buildings and grounds.  After the war Centenary was in constant repair and the student body did not regain its previous numbers. Jackson could not regain its former vitality. The college survived until 1900 when at that time a new home was sought.  A 40 acre site in Shreveport was offered and in 1906 Centenary moved to its present location.

After the college’s departure, the campus sat unused for fifteen years. In the mid 1920s it was used as a tuberculosis hospital. But by 1935, the campus was in a state of extreme disrepair, and on the brink of condemnation. The three buildings had three different owners, two of whom chose to sell the rights for demolition. The East Wing and Center Building were both demolished, and the salvageable materials from them sold for scrap. There were many buildings constructed in that time from Jackson to New Orleans whose materials included those of the Main Academic Building.

The West Wing remained standing because its owners had come up with a way to make it far more lucrative than just knocking it down. From 1938 to 1965, the West Wing Dormitory was low-income housing. The campus itself was used as a trailer park. To this day, there are visible remnants of the residences that were there during that time.

In the 1970s, the only use the campus saw was a baseball field, which happened to be on the site of the College’s baseball field more than 80 years earlier. In 1977, not long before it was to be demolished, the West Wing was saved due to the efforts of many influential citizens in and around Jackson. The State of Louisiana purchased and restored the West Wing, Professor’s Cottage, and surrounding 43 acres. The West Wing was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and Centenary State Historic Site was born.

New Orleans, Louisiana – In A Different Light

10 Sep

Royal Street During a Light Rain

New Orleans is probably one of Americas most photographed cities.  It certainly makes up a great number of my images.  One of the most difficult things that I encounter is ending up with a bunch of images that rarely captures the beauty and excitement of the French Quarter Streets or Canal Street – the River you name it.  In this series of images, taken at different times, I decided to pump up the saturation, chroma and whatever else I could manipulate in order to make the mood different.  I have overdone it in some of the images but again the colors make me feel good about the picture.  It helps me to see what is there and not to concentrate on what is not there.

The image above was taken on Royal Street after a light rain had started falling.  It was a nice image but just sort of gray.  So I decided to play around with the sliders in Photoshop and in Capture NX.  I liked the result.  The Royal Street image and all the ones that follow are simply produced by adjusting the saturation and chroma of the images.

Late Afternoon Lights on Canal Street

The image above was snapped on Canal Street and I was lucky enough for two streetcars to show up.  As luck would have it I was already soaking wet and just after taking this picture I walked over to the Walgreens at Baronne and Canal and bought a much-needed bottle of water.  Upon exiting the store I stepped into a crater on Baronne Street and fell.  I broke my fall but not that of my camera.  The lens hit the street and broke into a number of pieces.  I also soaked up all the water and essence that Baronne had to over.  This year I will go back and get some of the pictures that I intended to take that night.

An Image Taken From A Small Boat in the Mississippi River

This too was a gray toned image in the original image.  After pumping up the saturation a little the tones in the buildings started matching those found in the water.  A small ship is passing New Orleans headed downriver early in the morning.

The colors in this image turned out completely different.  At first it appeared to me that the image was taken at about the same time as the other but as it was we were running up and down the river quite a bit that day.  This does show how much lighting and colors can change dramatically while one is out and about taking images.

Adding saturation and playing with the color added a lot of drama to the clouds.  The off set was the color of the water that resulted.  I guess I could change it if I wanted to but all in all I enjoy looking at the image as it is.  The colors and the clouds gives the image a “depth” that it would lack otherwise.

Well, after any photo excursion it might be better to look at some pictures and to see what you can do with them.  When I first saw these I was disappointed but after a year it was fun to play with them and see what resulted.  They indeed give one an opportunity to see the same old stuff in a new light.

Clinton, Louisiana – St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church – “Carpenter Gothic”

7 Sep

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (1871) is a Good Expample of a "Carpenter Gothic" Church in Louisiana

When one passes through Clinton, Louisiana, it is easy to miss the many historical and architectural jewels that this town has to offer. There is the historic courthouse in the center of town that catches everyone’s attention and other buildings that can be seen along the traveled highways through town.  It only takes a few minutes to get off the beaten path and to turn up some sights that one would never expect to see.

The Marston House, churches, old schools, Sillman Institute, The Confederate Cemetery and other places are there for those that do a little exploring.  One unique church has been providing “atmosphere” in Clinton since 1871.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church sits atop a small hill. Although it is in a small built up area St. Andrews commands the view and gives the impression of an isolated rural church.  The church even retains the original stained glass.  It is very beautiful in its rural setting with blooming trees and flowering bushes and tall pines dotting the grounds.

St. Andrew’s can best be described as an example of “Carpenter Gothic.”  “Carpenter Gothic” was popular in America, especially for rural churches in the middle of the 19th century. Popular is a relative term in that the style was not used that much in Louisiana.  Perhaps there are a half dozen examples in the whole state.

St. Andrew’s Church expresses itself quietly and beautifully in its setting.  Completely made of wood,  its light members and vertical proportions, in addition to being Gothic, are considered to be in keeping with wood construction..  The structure presents itself in the proper proportions and in no way does it suggest a massive and heavy style.

A visit to the grounds of this church is a “spiritual” experience.  Not spiritual in the religious sense but in the sense that the mind and heart are indeed brought to a higher level and all it takes is to roam around the grounds – one doesn’t even have to think about things – which is a hard thing to do when you visit here.