Favorite Building Friday!
This week to celebrate our annual French Quarter Fest, we headed back down to New Orleans’ most famous neighborhood to pick out a new house to showcase on our Favorite Building Friday segment. Away from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street, tucked away at 707 Dumaine Street is the de La Torre House. The de la Torre House doesn’t make many Favorite New Orleans Houses Lists and I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that most visitors to the city don’t even notice this home, they just walk past it on their way to Bourbon Street.
But it is worth a quick pause…
The de La Torre House is a Creole Cottage. These buildings are characterized by standing 1.5 stories tall, lift off the ground by about 1-2 feet, are constructed out of bricks and plaster, and (typically) have steep side gabled roofs that hang over the sidewalk. I say typically because one of the most interesting features of the de LA Torre house is its roof. There is no slope – it is a flat roof, and is surrounded by what appears to be a parapet made out of clay half barrel tiles. This building was created at the end of the Spanish era in 1800 and the Spanish designed flat roofs as an extension of their living space. It wasn’t uncommon for inhabitants of the home to spend time on their roof, enjoying the river breeze. Flat roofs were abandoned as city precipitation levels average about 60 inches a year, leading to water pooling and leaks. This building is one of the few buildings in the area that has kept its original roof. The architect of this special Creole Cottage is none other than Barthélemy Lafon, best known for surveying and planning the Lower Garden District, less known for later dabbling in piracy. Either way, he designed a neat building that I always point out to my guests on my French Quarter Walking Tour.
The exterior of a Creole Cottage may look similar to a Double Shotgun house, but there are a couple very important differences. As mentioned above, Creole Cottages have side gables and roofs that slope toward the sidewalk. Double Shotgun houses can have a hipped roof, that is not as steep as the Creole Cottage roof, or they may be front gabled with an overhang to shade the porch. A Creole Cottage is a square (two rooms behind two rooms) and a Double Shotgun house is a rectangle with two rooms in the front, and extending 4-6 rooms deep. Creole Cottages date from the late 1780s (post fire) to the 1880s. Double Shotgun houses range from the 1840s into the mid1900s. Creole Cottages are constructed out of bricks and plaster, whereas the later Shotgun homes are covered with wood siding. Both house types can be found in the French Quarter, striking a diminutive pose among all the two and three story townhouses.
- “Dictionary of Louisiana Biography.” Louisiana Historical Association. Accessed March 29, 2018. https://www.lahistory.org/resources/dictionary-louisiana-biography/.
- Heard, Malcolm. French Quarter Manual : an Architectural Guide to New Orleans’ Vieux Carré. New Orleans : [Jackson, MS] :Tulane School of Architecture ; Distributed by University Press of Mississippi, 1997.
- Vogt, Lloyd. Historic Buildings of the French Quarter. Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub., 2002.
- Vogt, Lloyd. New Orleans Houses: A House-Watcher’s Guide. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publ. Company, 2003.