|Tag(s):||Town Home, gentrification, Urban-Life/Boosterism, Architecture, Arts/Leisure|
|Course:||“History of Urban and Suburban America,” Furman University|
|Rating:||5 (4 votes)|
The thirteen sisters of Julia Street started a new trend. These "sisters" were a row of thirteen side-hall style town houses that spanned the 600 block of Julia Street in New Orleans. Upon their construction by the New Orleans Building Company in 1833, they were among first rows constructed in the side-hall, or London-plan, manner most commonly seen in Philadelphia and Baltimore. The exteriors combined traditional Creole features with emerging Greek revival design aspects to create a transitional style later mimicked by similar rows of houses. Each doorframe consisted of a unique design of elaborate fanlights above the doors, ionic columns, and neoclassical infusions that created a unique look for each dwelling place amid the sea of red brick. Additionally, the Julia Street town houses were sold with a blank interior that attracted the wealthy who desired the flexibility to modify their own homes to best suite their needs and display their affluence.
Row houses provided one of most efficient housing solutions for urban areas like New Orleans because they maximized land use by utilizing a narrow lot. The side-hall style offered a front gallery that joined the two main rooms and rear passageways that connected to narrower servants' quarters. Such a design for the service wing offered a convenient housing solution for servants while maintaining the privacy of the homeowner. Before the introduction of the row house, flat and raised French Creole cottages and cabins dominated the architecture of New Orleans, making the emergence of a new style desirable among the affluent who desired innovation. Typical town houses consisted of between two and six units, giving the thirteen houses of Julia Row a distinctive architectural flair. Each of the homes sold quickly at an auction in 1833 to members of the high society of New Orleans. One home went to Henry Howard, the notable architect of the Howard Library and another to architect Henry Hobson Richardson. The use of row houses continued to spread through New Orleans as a favorable residential plan, including famous rows like the Pontalba Apartments built in the 1850s.
Over time the sisters' glory faded as residential areas moved away from the American central business district and southwest into the Garden District. Julia Row no longer offered the prestige and innovation desired by the elites and the homes were wrought with architecturally careless "improvements" made by neglectful owners who turned them into cheap boarding houses. Cracks spanned across the face of the buildings, the servants' quarters deteriorated from lack of upkeep and one eventually collapsed entirely. Recently, efforts have been made to restore what had become subpar property and create a high-end, artistic community teeming with art galleries and young energy. The New Orleans City Planning Commission has been leading the gentrification endeavors to transform what had become the warehouse district into a neighborhood of museums and galleries to appeal to young artists, tourists, and history buffs. The first to be revamped was at the corner of Julia and Camp Street, and the others quickly followed. The Riverfront Streetcar also runs through the area booster visitation through providing easy access for both locals and tourists. Although the demographic has shifted with time, Julia Row persists as a trendy destination for the culturally inclined.