Monday, September 29, 2014

Delving Into the Origin of New Orleans' Shotgun Houses

Blogger's Note: Shotgun houses have become intertwined with Louisiana architecture, and more specifically, New Orleans neighborhoods; so where did this thrifty and nifty building style begin?

From the article Shotgun geography: the history behind the famous New Orleans elongated house:

"Tradition holds that the name 'shotgun' derives from the notion of firing bird shot through the front door and out the rear without touching a wall. The term itself postdates the shotgun's late-19th-century heyday, not appearing in print until the early 20th century.

According to some theories, cultures that produced shotgun houses (and other residences without hallways, such as Creole cottages) tended to be more gregarious, or at least unwilling to sacrifice valuable living space for the purpose of occasional passage.

Cultures that valued privacy, on the other hand, were willing to make this trade-off. When they arrived in New Orleans in the early 19th century, for example, privacy-conscious peoples of Anglo-Saxon descent brought with them the American center-hall cottage and side-hall townhouse, in preference over local Creole designs.

In the 1930s, LSU geographer Fred B. Kniffen studied shotguns as part of his field research on Louisiana folk housing. He and other researchers proposed a number of hypotheses explaining the origin and distribution of this distinctive house type.

One theory, popular with tour guides and amateur house-watchers, holds that shotgun houses were designed in New Orleans in response to a real estate tax based on frontage rather than square footage, motivating narrow structures. There's one major problem with this theory. No one can seem to find that tax code.

Whatever their origins, shotgun singles and doubles came to dominate the turn-of-the-century housing stock of New Orleans' working-class neighborhoods. Yet they were also erected as owned-occupied homes in wealthier areas, including the Garden District.

New Orleans shotguns in particular exhibited numerous variations: with hip, gable or apron roofs; with "camelbacks" to increase living space; with grand classical facades or  elaborate Victorian gingerbread. The variety can be explained as a strategy to address market demand with a multitude of options in terms of space needs, fiscal constraints and stylistic preferences.

In recent decades, however, New Orleanians have come to appreciate the sturdy construction and exuberant embellishment of their shotgun housing stock, and now value them as a key element of the cityscape."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Southern Comfort Plantation, West Point a La Hache, Louisiana, 1834 - Part 2

Blogger's Note: Southern Comfort is such a prevalent alcoholic southern beverage, it was sent overseas to Allied troops during WWII as part of food rations.  Here is a brief history of Southern Comfort and the raised Creole cottage plantation house in Louisiana famous for appearing on the brand's label since 1934.

From the Edward Dillon website:

"With the growing success of Southern Comfort Heron hired Grant M. Peoples as his business partner, heir and successor, in 1907 and the pair kept the country well stocked with Southern Comfort.

In January 1920, Prohibition hit causing the production of Southern Comfort to cease.
Four months after the establishment of Prohibition, Heron died in St Louis.  Thankfully Southern Comfort did not.  MW Heron willed his most prized possession, the Southern Comfort secret recipe, to his protege Grant M. Peoples.

Due to Prohibition Grant M. Peoples could not do anything with the secret recipe of Southern Comfort, therefore in the early 1930’s he sold the recipe, trademarks and patents to the Francis Fowler family, an eccentric and aristocratic St. Louis family.

In 1933 Prohibition was lifted and Southern Comfort came back into production.  In 1934 the Francis Fowler family repackaged Southern Comfort by adding the flute look to the neck of the bottle and adding, the now famous, Currier & Ives lithograph to the label which shows the Woodland Plantation and the Mississippi in New Orleans. These changes were made to emphasis the heritage of Southern Comfort.

Southern Comfort is given a boost in sales in 1939 with the release of the film ‘Gone with the Wind’.  The ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ cocktail was inspired by the movie and was a mixture of Southern Comfort & cranberry juice.  During WWII Southern Comfort was sent to the military in Food Parcels. This enabled Southern Comfort to gain global recognition.

In 1979, Southern Comfort was purchased again, but this time by Brown-Forman.  At present, Southern Comfort is now available in more than 80 countries and over 2.4 million cases are sold annually."

Southern Comfort Plantation, West Point a La Hache, Louisiana, 1834 - Part 1

Blogger's Note: Southern Comfort is such a prevalent alcoholic southern beverage, it was sent overseas to Allied troops during WWII as part of food rations.  Here is a brief history of Southern Comfort and the raised Creole cottage plantation house in Louisiana famous for appearing on the brand's label since 1934.

From the Edward Dillon website:

"Founder Martin Wilkes Heron, son of a boat builder, was born on July 4th 1850 in Ireland.  Soon after his birth, Heron’s family immigrated to New York, United States.  They settled in St. Louis, Missouri, a frontier outpost dubbed 'The Gateway to the West.'

In 1870, MW Heron left the family home and made the trek down the mighty Mississippi and found himself in the growing and lively city of New Orleans.  To support himself he took on a job bar-tending at McCauley’s Saloon on St.Peter Street in the French Quarter, serving barreled whiskey.

The casks of whiskey were rough-tasting on the palate due to the long journey they had to endure and when they arrived were therefore not the smooth-tasting whiskey we experience today. MW Heron was given a $300 barrel of whiskey from the bar owner and was told to improve the taste.  It fell on Heron to ‘rectify’ this rough-tasting and inconsistent whiskey to a more palatable and smoother drink.

New Orleans being a popular and famous port at the time for its imports Heron took advantage of all the fruit and spices which traveled through.  Using a secret blend of flavors including Vanilla, Orange and Cinnamon, he experimented until he hit the ‘Perfect Combination’ in 1874 - at the time he named this custom blend 'Cuffs & Buttons.'

Fun Fact: The new blend was called ‘Cuffs & Buttons’ to rival a competitor ‘rectified’ drink called ‘Top Hat & Tails’ which was also being served in the French Quarter.  Herons concoction however was a hit, relegating its rival to a footnote in history and establishing himself as a young legend in New Orleans.

With the recent success of Cuffs & Buttons Heron wanted to enter his product in the 1885 World’s Industrial and Cotton Exposition when it came to town.  In preparation for the big event Heron decided to change the name, to give it a more distinctive feel, and to describe its heritage and taste.

This is how it became known as “Southern Comfort’, 'The Grand Old Drink of the South'
Smoother and tastier than mere whiskey it was well received at the exposition and continued to be saluted as the gentleman's drink of sophistication and refinement.

In 1900, Southern Comfort entered the Paris World Exposition and wins a Diploma and a Gold Medal for Quality / Fine Taste.  Four years later, in 1904, Heron returned to his hometown for the St. Louis World Fair and again won the Gold Medal for Quality & Fine Taste."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

19th Century "Dog Trot" Cottage is a Unique Find

Blogger's Note: A well used style of 19th century architecture in old New Orleans is the Creole Cottage. The majority of these cottages are found in the French Quarter and the surrounding neighborhoods like the Marigny, Bywater and Esplanade Ridge. Creole Cottages were usually
built close to the property line, had a symmetrical four opening facade
wall and a steeply pitched roof.

From the article "How Well do you know French Quarter Architecture"
This one-story Creole cottage on Dauphine St. has an unusual design for the French Quarter, with an off-centered carriageway cutting through the home, dividing the rooms and leading to a courtyard. At one time, it served as a morgue and funeral home, according to several neighbors. It has an off center breezeway that was characteristic of a historic style that is said to have originated much further north, in Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Scots-Irish and German pioneers made their way westward through the vast forests of the U.S., and they often took the dogtrot house type with them. Adding on a new room and extending the existing roof was the easiest way to expand a residence, and they quickly became a symbol of prosperity among Upland South farmers. Originally, dogtrots were built of logs, but balloon framing became popular as manufactured lumber became more readily available in the late 19th century.

The style usually featured a breezeway through the center of the house with rooms of the house opening into the breezeway. The breezeway provided a cooler covered area for sitting. The combination of the breezeway and open windows in the rooms of the house created air currents which pulled cooler outside air into the living quarters efficiently in the pre-air conditioning era.

Note from Preservation Resource Center Blog
Over 70 dogtrots once stood in New Orleans, and in neighborhood sections of Mid City alone there were 55. Rows of urban dogtrots once lined Iberville, Bienville, North Miro, and Conti Streets. They provided housing for working and middle class New Orleanians beginning in the mid-to-late 19th century. 

Fun fact: The "Dog Trot" style got it's name because the pioneers could hear their dogs walking back and forth in the breezeway.

The Old US Mint, New Orleans, 1835

Blogger's Note: Built in 1835, and the only US building in America to have served both as a US and a Confederate Mint, the Old US Mint in New Orleans is a building with a lot of history. Here is a brief history of the role the US Mint in New Orleans played in building a foundation for our country.

The Old US Mint building, found at the corner of Decatur and Esplanade near the French Market, was erected in 1835 as a branch of the United States Mint. The New Orleans Mint once turned out coin at a rate of $5 million a month, and the coinage was identified by a small "O" on the face of the coin.

President Andrew Jackson signed legislature establishing the US Mint in New Orleans in order to help finance development of the United State’s western frontier.   Gold funneled through New Orleans from the Mexico border, and coinage was struck to be sent to the ever-expanding American West.  Without the US Mint in New Orleans, our nation would not have been able to keep up with this increasing western demand.

The Mint operated from 1838 to 1862. During the Civil War, the Mint was captured and used to coin confederate currency. When federal forces captured New Orleans in 1862, William B. Mumford was hanged in front of the Mint for tearing down the United States flag. After the Civil War, the Mint was put back into operation from 1879 to 1910.

When the Mint ceased operating, it remained a vacant property until 1932 when the United States Coast Guard moved in and used the building as a federal prison.  Today the Mint houses a Mardi Gras & Jazz museum, and it's grounds host many local festivals such as Satchmo Summerfest and parts of the French Quarter Festival.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Brief History of Hammond, Louisiana, 1818 - Part 1

Blogger's Note: Near the Albany Woodworks mill lies a city with a history which tells the story of a Civil War-era South.  The railroad became a major focal point of the culture and industry that built up around it.  Here is a brief history for the City of Hammond, Lousisiana. 

The city is named for Peter Hammond, a Swedish immigrant who lived from 1797 to 1870.  Hammond arrived in Louisiana through a string of daring events.  Hammond, then employed as a sailor, had been briefly imprisoned by the British troops at Dartmoor Prison during the Napoleonic Wars.  After a brief stay in the brig, Hammond broke jail.  He managed to make his way back to the sea, his ultimate destination was New Orleans.  There he left his ship, and used his savings to buy then inexpensive land northwest of Lake Pontchartrain.

Hammond was one of the first to settled the area around Hammond in 1818.  There he started a plantation to grow trees, which he made into masts, charcoal, and other products for the maritime industry in New Orleans, which he transported first down the Natalbany River at Springfield, Louisiana. The tract of land from Hammond's plantation to the port at Natalbany River in Springfield was one of the first paths to access the area.  It came to be known as Peter's Trail.

The New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad came through the area in 1854, making the city a commercial and transport center. The point where the railroad met Peter's trail to Springfield was at first known as Hammond's Crossing. Peter Hammond is buried on the east side of town under the Hammond Oak.  It is a small family cemetery containing the grave of Peter Hammond, founder of Hammond, Louisiana, his wife, three daughters, and his favorite slave boy. There is a total of 9 graves.

From the My Hammond website:

"Legend has it that the main commercial street in Hammond's proposed historic district is the original trail established in the 1820's by Peter Hammond, the area's first settler.  The Swedish immigrant may have used this trail in transporting the lumber and tar products he produced from the virgin pine forests of the area to their marketplace in New Orleans.

Peter Hammond's isolated settlement might have remained that way had it not been for the coming of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad in 1854.  Land speculation followed the establishment of 'Hammond's Crossing' as a regular stopping point of the railroad, and brought to the area men such as Charles Emery Cate, an entrepreneur originally from N. Hampshire. Cate purchased his first parcel of land in the area in the year of 1860, and moved there from New Orleans with his family in 1862.

He chose the area to settle in at the outbreak of the Civil War because it seemed to him to be a place where he could "make his Confederate shoes and for a time feel safe from the Yankees."  Due to Cate's efforts, Hammond became the shoemaking center of the Confederacy. His operation at that time consisted of the shoe factory and tannery, built on the site of the present Post Office, and an adjacent sawmill.

It was during the war that Sarah Morgan Dawson visited Hammond, and wrote in A Confederate Girl's Diary that the town of Hammond consisted of 'four buildings, one of which is a shoe factory.'  The family home was built behind the factory, on the site of the present Cate Square Park. The main house burned down in the 1880's, but the kitchen remained and was incorporated into a house which still stands on the corner of Magnolia Street and Robert Street.

 Despite the burning of the factory and loss of much other property at the hands of the federal troops, Cate continued to develop the area. In the latter days of the war he laid out streets in a grid pattern, following the axis of the railroad. He named several of the streets after his sons, and lined them with the oak trees for which Hammond became distinctive."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bananas Foster Delicious Moments in History - New Orleans, 1951

Blogger's Note:  There are many delectable dishes that were created in New Orleans, many of them savory, but this one is sweet.  Due to the historic combination of New Orleans building the largest banana port in the world and Brennan's Restaurant needing a new dish for their holiday menu, Bananas Foster was born.  A personal favorite of this blogger, we would like to share the history and classic Brennan's recipe for Bananas Foster.

(Above): Known as the biggest banana dock in the world, the Port of Orleans unloaded between 20% to 25% of all bananas imported into the United States during the turn of the century.

From the New Orleans Public Library website:

"Bananas imported from Latin America made fortunes in New Orleans and contributed substantially to the establishment of hemispheric relations. By mid-twentieth century, twenty to twenty-five per cent of all the bananas imported into the United States came across the docks at New Orleans. 

Two rival fruit importers dominated the scene: New Orleans-based Standard Fruit, founded by the Vaccaro brothers and Salvador D'Antoni, and the giant United Fruit, which established its southern headquarters in New Orleans. From the turn of the century, when banana imports first began to flow through the port of New Orleans, until the late 1960s, when Standard Fruit moved its operations to Gulfport, the banana trade provided one of New Orleans' strongest commercial ties to Latin America.

Besides providing hundreds of jobs in the Crescent City, the banana wharves were also something of a tourist attraction in the first half of the twentieth century, as this post card collage of the docks suggests. The WPA's Louisiana: A Guide to the State, published in 1941, says, 'For sightseeing value, the river front is second only to the French Quarter,' and lists 'BANANA UNLOADING, at the Thalia Street Wharf, where the United Fruit Company unloads a large share of the 23,000,000 stems brought into New Orleans yearly' among its 'chief points of interest' along the water front.

(Above): Bananas Foster is such a well-loved dessert in New Orleans, it has inspired Bananas Foster ice cream, made locally in the Crescent City.

From the New Orleans Online website:

"In the early 1950s New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America. Owen Brennan, owner of Brennan's Restaurant, challenged his chef, Paul Blange, to include bananas in a new dessert. It was Owen's way of promoting the imported fruit. At the same time, Holiday Magazine asked Owen to provide a new and different recipe to include in an article on the restaurant.

And so was born Bananas Foster, a decadent dessert named for Owen's friend, Richard Foster, a local civic and business leader. Today, Bananas Foster is served at Brennan's and other fine New Orleans restaurants. Each year, Brennan's flames 35,000 pounds of bananas for the famous dessert.

Bananas Foster (Serves 4)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 4 bananas, cut in half, lengthwise, then halved

Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a flambĂ© pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. 

When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hot Sauce, A Louisiana Tradition, 1807 - Part 4

Blogger's Note: There are many choices for a Southern palate when it comes to hot sauce in Louisiana.  Here is a tribute to some old favorites, and to the surprising new trends in food condiments that are cropping up in all of the high-demand kitchens in the Crescent City.  Enjoy!

From the Cosmic Chile website:

"A sauce made in the Louisiana tradition generally uses three key ingredients: hot peppers, vinegar and salt.  According to Hormel Foods, Louisiana hot sauce is defined as 'a hot sauce made with red hot peppers, vinegar, salt and special spices.'

Of course, there are variations. Many of Louisiana's hot sauces are made with cayenne peppers, but McIlhenny has come out with different hot sauces made from different chilies including habanero and chipolte, smoked jalapeno peppers.

One of the first growers of Tabasco chilies - so named for the region in Mexico where they reportedly came from - in the United States was Colonel Maunsel White, a prominent banker and Louisiana legislator. He grew the hot peppers on his Deer Range Plantation just before and during the Civil War.

Folklore has it that the Colonel made the first Louisiana hot sauce, and soon gave the recipe and some chilies to his friend, Edmund McIlhenny." 

This accounts for chilies being introduced to Louisiana, and how hot sauce was originally concocted, but where does the famous Louisiana Hot Sauce fit into this narrative?

From the Bruce Foods website, maker of Louisiana Hot Sauce:

"ORIGINAL Louisiana Hot Sauce, from Bruce Foods in New Iberia, LA is the original cayenne pepper sauce of Louisiana with an eighty year reputation for quality and perfection that no other hot sauce can claim. Although Bruce Foods’ Louisiana Hot Sauce was the first hot sauce to use the state’s name, over the years the name Louisiana Hot Sauce has become a generic term requiring the creation of special markings to denote our Brand from its many imitators.

The Brand now uses the word 'ORIGINAL' in its name, along with the famous Red Dot on the label. What makes the Brand so special besides being first is the fact that it continues to use the time-honored techniques that have distinguished Cajun cooking since the Acadian settlers first arrived in Louisiana in 1755."

Continue Article: | History of Hot Sauce - Part 1 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 2 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 3 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 5 |