Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Storyville and Architectural Archives


We gave a tour last week of SEAA and our stacks to a colleague from Mississippi, whose institution is planning to form an archive to house its own building plans. They wanted to use SEAA as a model to organize their various collections of architectural drawings to make them available for staff and other researchers to use. A highlight of the stacks tour was the scale model (at left) of the former Storyville brothel, Lulu White's Mahogany Hall and Mahogany Hall Annex, which were located at 235-241 Basin Street. The model was made in the 1960s by artist William Toye and jazz historian Al Rose, and constructed of basswood, plexiglass, and other materials.

Storyville, also known as The District, was a section of New Orleans, north of the French Quarter, where prostitution became legal in 1897. Named for alderman Sidney Story, who wrote legislation for the district, it was an experiment to limit prostitution to one area of the city. Many infamous brothels, including Lulu White's, operated successfully until 1917, when the city, spurred by demands from the Army and Navy, made prostitution illegal again. The bulk of Storyville was razed in the 1930s to make way for the Iberville Housing Project. Lulu White's Mahogany Hall stood until 1949, and the Annex stood until the 1990s. When preservationists got wind of it being demolished, a portion of the building was saved and still stands today. 

Another well-known brothel belonged to Josie Arlington (1864-1914), whose real name was Mamie Deubler, and took her professional name after her friend Tom Anderson's Storyville bar, the Arlington. There are stories that the Arlington name came after a visit to the Arlington Hotel in the spa town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. From our holdings below is an ink and watercolor working elevation drawing and the gouache presentation perspective rendering for the tomb for Arlington in Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans. Built in 1911 for John Brady, Josie's business partner, it was designed by Lorenzo Orsini for Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Company. Constructed of red Maine granite with carved eternal flames, bronze doors, and a bronze figure by German sculptor F. Bagdon. The tomb was later sold by Josie's niece, who married John Brady, to the Morales family, and Josie's remains were moved to an undisclosed location within the cemetery. Josie Arlington died on Valentine's Day 1914, which also happens to be Ash Wednesday today.



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