On this day in 1818, Henry Howard was born in Cork, Ireland to Thomas Howard, an Irish builder. Henry studied at the Cork Mechanical Institute where he studied “Algebra, Mechanics, Six Books of Euclid, mensuration, trigonometry, use of globes, land surveying, bookkeeping, English grammar and arithmetic” (Brantley, Henry Howard, pg. 19, see note below). Thomas Howard died when Henry was only sixteen, and by the time he was 18 years old, Henry was in New York City, working in a factory making frames. He had hoped to apprentice under an architect in New York, but two factors barred his success. A recent fire in 1835 had burned down 674 buildings leaving the architects scrambling to rebuild leaving little time to take on students, and anti-Irish prejudice meant that architects that did in fact have time were more likely not to take him on. He moved to New Orleans in 1837, to join his brother Benjamin, a real estate speculator. Henry started work as a carpenter and stair builder.
In 1839 he married Caroline Richards and together they had 11 children. In 1843 he apprenticed in the Dakin architectural firm, and just a year later he opened his first office, located at 97 Common Street in New Orleans. The first architectural drawing attributed to Henry was created in 1842, for Thomas Connelly. This was a Greek revival styled double gallery home, with 4 bays on each level and 5 columns that stretched the height of the two stories. The double storied columns would be a recurring feature in many of his plantation homes.
In 1845 Henry was commissioned to make the plans for Arthur M. Foley’s plantation house in Napoleonville, Louisiana. The design of this home led to more assignments in the area which caused Henry to leave stay in Lafourche Parish for the next two years or so. In this time he designed Madewood and Woodlawn for different members of the Pugh family, the Donaldsonville Courthouse, Bocage, Belle Alliance and Evan Hall Plantations.
He moved back to New Orleans and his career took off as he began designing homes for the wealthy folks living in the Garden District.
(Stay tuned for part 2 of his story. If you can’t wait, be sure to check out knowla.com’s entry about Henry Howard and Robert Brantley’s 2015 release: Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect. Happy Mardi Gras! )