The old saying goes that the two largest cities in Mississippi are New Orleans and Memphis, and with that in mind, I took a quick trip down to New Orleans for the Preservation Resource Center’s 35th annual Holiday Home Tour. Beginning at Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Avenue, the tour opened seven private houses in the Garden District, all located within walking distance of each other. If you’ve spent most of your New Orleans time in the French Quarter, might I suggest hopping on the St. Charles streetcar and heading uptown to the Garden District. Here, antebellum mansions vie for attention with Victorians dripping with lacy woodwork, and massive live oaks spread over the sidewalks. I guarantee your eyes will never be in danger of boredom if you spend the day walking any street in the Garden District.
After taking pictures inside Trinity Church and listening to a small chorus of about 10 people rehearsing Christmas carols (but which due to the amazing acoustics sounded like a huge choir), we ventured forth, stopping in at the “Bonus” tour at the Opera Guild Home, built in 1865 (I guess New Orleans was back on its feet enough at the end of the Civil War to build these high-end houses). Here we found out the bad news that no interior photography was allowed in any of the houses, especially disappointing because of the incredible plasterwork that we observed in almost every one. You can see some of the interior of the Opera Guild house at their website, and click on the Photo Gallery to the upper right.
Others of the houses that stick out in my mind are Col. Short’s Villa and the Harkins House on Coliseum Street, one of five similar houses in a row designed by New Orleans architect William A. Freret and known as “Freret’s Follies” because he started the development in 1861, a very inauspicious year for real estate projects in the South. Anyway, the plasterwork in the house we saw was so high-relief that it was almost completely three-dimensional. The angel trumpet cornice in the double parlor was astounding, and was painted in vivid hues of yellow, green and blue. Here I almost summoned the courage to pull out my camera and sneak a shot, but I didn’t. So all I can give you is a verbal description, which is a shadow of the real thing.
At each stop, musicians played to smooth the waits in line (and there were so many people that pretty much every stop had a wait, which is a good problem to have), sometimes a duo, sometimes a quintet but always New Orleans jazz. The weather was still fine, just before it dropped like a rock, and everyone seemed to be having a fine time along with it.
So without further ado, here are some highlights of my December day in New Orleans, including some unplanned stops along the way.
Categories: "To . . . and Back"