New Orleans Architecture Foundation is holding their third annual Fall Home Tour this weekend! Tickets are $15-$30 to peek inside 7 fabulous homes in the Audubon/Uptown Neighborhood. You can buy tickets online at here. Last week I popped uptown to learn a little more about Caroline and Murray Calhoun’s home at 452 Audubon Street.
This house is a fine example of Colonial Revival architecture, a very popular American architecture style dating from 1890’s to 1940’s. This architectural movement’s rise to prominence at the end of the 1800’s coincided with the nation’s first centennial celebrations, and a new interest in historic preservation. This architectural style is a little hard to pin down because it is so diverse. The hallmarks of this style include the blending of earlier colonial (Georgian and Federal) styles with antebellum (Greek Revival and Italianate) styles found up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
On first glance, this home has a decidedly antebellum look, with its two story columns that support a triangular pediment. However, the half circle transoms over the windows and that lovely fanlight decorating the pediment let the observer know that we are dealing with something a little more modern. The first and second story windows are mismatched in a way that would not have happened in previous eras. With this house it is clear that the architect was free from the earlier constraints of symmetry and designed this home to reflect the ideals of past architecture but add a new twist. After all, it is Colonial Revival, not Colonial Copies.
This home was designed by Frank G. Churchill, native of Natchez, Mississippi. He received a scholarship to Tulane University granted by New Orleans Mayor Shakespeare, but left college early to explore painting in Cincinnati Ohio. Upon his return to New Orleans, he managed the offices of Favrot & Livaudais, a prolific architecture firm responsible for one of New Orleans’ most recognizable buildings – the Hibernia Bank Building. Later, Frank entered the firm of DeBuys, Churchill & Labouisse (1905-1912) whose most notable project is the Loyola University Complex. This home was designed by Churchill as an independent project in 1918, clearly the culmination of all he learned in those other firms.
This century old building has been home to a few different families over the years. In 1928 it was bought by Kemper Williams whose collection of art and artifacts later became the foundation for the Historic New Orleans Collection. Today this beautiful home is owned by Caroline and Murray Calhoun.
Last week I dropped in on Caroline and Murray to talk about their beautiful home. Coming into the foyer, I was met by their two adorable pugs, Millie and Mac who were just so excited to have a new guest in their home!
From the foyer, Caroline led me down the hall to the den. As we passed, I peeked to the left into the parlor. The colors in this house are muted, mostly lots of whites with touches of blues and golds. The artwork is a mix of contemporary and antique pieces. The plaster detailing in the ceiling is of a delicate design containing anthemions, little hearts and tiny flowers. It looks like cake icing.
To the right of the foyer is a delightful sunroom which also follows the design palette that appears to run through the house, or at least the downstairs. It looks like a comfy spot to relax and read a book. Love the painting of the pug in the corner! Is that one of the little dogs that met me earlier at the door?
We walked through the foyer and down the hall to chat in the office. This office was paneled with a light wood that appeared to have cheetah spots painted on it. I later learned that the wood was not painted that way, but is naturally speckled – it is called pecking cypress. It really warms up the room and creates visual interest.
From our talk I learned that the Calhouns seemed to have pretty great luck with this house. On so many occasions you hear about homes of this age being full of maintenance woes, but this was not the case for them. In the time that they have owned this house the most troubling issue was a small cast iron plumbing pipe leak and some rotting floors from a landscaping issue. Otherwise, the work that they have had to do was mostly cosmetic. The previous owners had done a few updates such as remodeling the master bedroom and removing the butler’s pantry.
“We are not ever going to change the layout, we think the architect did a good job.” Mr. Calhoun said. Music to this preservationist’s ears!
Be sure to check out this gorgeous home, and all the others on NOAF’s Fall home tour!!
Cangelosi, Robert J., Jr., Dorothy G. Schlesinger, Hillary Somerville Irvin, Bernard Lemann, and Samuel Wilson, Jr. New Orleans Architecture. The University Section: Joseph Street to Lowerline Street, Mississippi River to Walmsley Avenue. Vol. 8. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2011.
Cangelosi, Robert, Jr., and Hilary Irvin. “Uptown Architecture.” Preservation in Print, December 1983, 6-7. Accessed September 20, 2018. http://prcno.org/programs/preservationinprint/piparchives/1983 PIP/December 1983/7.html.
“Orleans Artist, Architect, Dies in Life’s Prime.” The Times-Picayune 7 March 1924.
Rylance, Keli. “Architects’ Libraries.” Architecture Research. November 08, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2018. http://southeasternarchitecture.blogspot.com/2015/08/architects-libraries.html.
And special thanks to Caroline and Murray Calhoun for showing me their fabulous home!