Have you written a book about New Orleans? If so, I would like to get it.
There were two octagonal houses built by a steamboat captain for himself and his daughter, next to the levee on Douglas Street maybe in Marigny. Do they still exist?
There may come a day when I decide to write a book about our wonderful city, but for now I'm happy sharing what I know with all the folks who read Gambit Weekly.
The remarkable twin steamboat houses located at 400 and 453 Egania St. do indeed still exist. In fact, they were designated by the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission in 1977.
Between 1905 and 1913, Milton P. Doullut, a steamboat captain, built the first house at 400 Egania. This original residence was actually closer to the river, but when the levee was moved back, so was the house. The second house at 453 Egania was not built for the captain's daughter, but his son Paul.
These two fascinating houses have achieved fame internationally and appear in European publications to the delight of architectural historians. The architecture of the houses has two distinct influences. One powerful and obvious inspiration came from the steamboats the captain piloted. There are deep "decks" that encircle the houses, narrow inner hallways, and large, open pilothouses that provide views of the river. You will also notice the round smokestacks replacing the chimneys and both round and square portholes on the main level. A great deal of tin was used in the constructions of the buildings, both inside and out. This was another steamboat influence as well as the woodwork on the galleries.
But the architecture of these unusual homes had another influence: the Japanese exhibit building at the World's Fair in 1904 in St. Louis. This accounts for the concave roofs at the second levels and above the pilothouses and also for the glazed tile covering the Ionic columns. In addition, the houses have -- as you would imagine -- many characteristics of Louisiana plantation homes.
Although the houses are no longer identical -- years and hurricanes have brought about changes -- they are still a "must see" for anyone interested in New Orleans architecture.
Can you tell me why we can no longer enjoy and participate in the Bastille Day Celebration, the grand Prix du Mardi Gras, or the Celtic Festival in City Park?
Maybe you were out of town last July and missed the festivities to celebrate Bastille Day. There was a commemorative ceremony sponsored by the Council of French Societies of Greater New Orleans that included a wreath-laying, an invocation in French, and the singing of the French and American national anthems. You probably also missed the annual Bastille Day Waiters' Race on Canal Street and the French country picnic on the sidewalk.
And did you know that the Celtic Nations World Cup Regatta and Festival has moved back to Madisonville, the town where it all began in 1991. The festival was held for six years at Marconi Meadows in City Park, but returned to Madisonville this year on a smaller scale. However, there was still food, drink, music, and currach races for all to enjoy. And Madisonville is not that far away.
The Grand Prix du Mardi Gras, however, is no more. The first two years, 1991 and 1992, had very poor attendance, and the local promoter said that it was a very difficult event to put together. Both of these races were held in June, and the weather didn't cooperate; it was hot and rainy. Sounds like typical Big Easy weather for June. In 1993 the race was forced to cancel due to "hard economic times and inadequate sponsor funding," and in 1994 the race was not planned at all.
The race returned in 1995. The promoters made changes to overcome past problems such as traffic disruptions and moved the event to October for better weather. The race took place in spite of threats from Hurricane Opal, but afterward CBD retailers and hotel operators complained that business was hurt.
There was talk of moving the race to the lakefront, but it all came to nothing.