I heard we have some statues here in New Orleans by the same man who created the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Is this true? Where are they?
New Orleans Art Lover
Dear Art Lover,
You heard right, but you have to know where to look. The man who created the famous seated statue of Abraham Lincoln was Daniel Chester French, a sculptor born in New Hampshire in 1850. He studied sculpture in New York, Florence and Paris and produced his first famous work -- The Minute Man -- in Concord, Mass., in 1873-74. The seated figure of Lincoln was produced between the years 1918 and 1922.
We in New Orleans are lucky to have four statues created by Daniel French. It's really too bad that they are on the top of a building -- the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at 600 Camp St. Their lofty perch makes them hard to admire without binoculars or unless you happen to be in one of the taller buildings nearby.
The statues of copper and bronze called The Ladies represent History, Agriculture, Industry and Commerce. Each one stands on a balustrade on a corner of the building, and each holds an open globe surrounded by zodiac signs. French added a southern touch of palm and banana fronds to the base of his Italian Renaissance-style statues.
The three-story building itself was designed by James Gamble Rogers of New York and completed in 1915 at a cost of $2 million. Initially it was used for a post office and weather station, as well as a courthouse for the Court of Appeals and the federal District Court. And when Hurricane Betsy destroyed McDonogh 35 High School in 1965, the courthouse was used for five years as a substitute schoolhouse. The Court of Appeals had moved out when renovations were needed, and after a 10-year stay in the French Quarter, returned in 1973.
The building was renamed in 1994 to honor one of the great men of New Orleans and the nation: Judge John Minor Wisdom. He had received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 for his landmark civil rights decisions.
My family is from New Orleans, and I have some old letters dated 1909 and addressed to my grandfather as manager of the Harmony Club. The address is St. Charles and Jackson. What was the Harmony Club?
The Harmony Club, organized in 1861 by a group of young Jewish men all under age 30, had the following objectives: to promote sociability among members and to encourage their cultivation, enlightenment and amusement.
Membership, though exclusive, grew rapidly, and in 1871 the club absorbed the Deutshe Company, a similar group although one composed of somewhat older men. The organization became one of the wealthiest clubs in the city, established an excellent reputation, and kept moving to new and larger accommodations. In 1891, they moved into their new clubhouse at 144 Canal St., between two other exclusive clubs, the Pickwick Club and the Boston Club. The new accommodations were fabulous due to the prosperity of its 200 members.
The move to the St. Charles Avenue and Jackson Street location came in 1897. The three-story building was described as a "social palace." The clubhouse was formally opened with an inaugural ball on March 1. Of course, the newspapers presented readers a detailed description of the building and the splendid event that included the viewing of the Krewe of Proteus parade followed by the ball and a midnight supper. "The function was a most brilliant affair and the elite of Jewish society was present in full force and arrayed in its most ravishing robes."
In 1917, the Harmony Club sold the building and for seven years held meetings in a hotel suite until they leased the second floor of a building on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Common Street. The beautiful building was sold again in 1923 to Standard Oil of Louisiana. A picture of the building appeared in the paper in July 1963, just before it was leveled to make room for a 12-level, multimillion-dollar apartment house.