New Orleans architect Rathbone DeBuys has been mentioned many times over the years here on MissPres, but recently I was surprised to see we have never had a feature post dedicated to his work in Mississippi. This was something I had not discovered until I found an understandably somewhat Laurel-centric obituary of his in the Laurel Leader-Call. Here is what the MDAH HRI database has to say about Mr. DeBuys.
DeBuys, Rathbone Emile (b.1874 – d.1960)
Architect, New Orleans, LA
Born in New Orleans, trained at Tulane, graduating in 1896 with a degree in civil engineering and in 1897 with a degree in architecture. He also received a Ph.D. degree in 1897 from Yale University where he was a student in the Sheffield and the art schools. After working as an assistant city engineer in N.O., DeBuys entered architectural practice. He practiced in the early part of his career as DEBUYS, CHURCHILL & LABOUISSE (1905-1912), working later under his own name. In 1918, his office was located in the Hibernis Building. Listed in “Directory of American Architects,” Southern Architect and Building News (Apr 1920), p. 47. He married Corinne von Meysenberg in 1901 and had three children. His New Orleans buildings included Loyola University, Tulane Gymnasium, McDermott Memorial Church, and the U.S. Immigration Station. See Kingsley, Buildings of Louisiana, pp. 129, 146, 148, 452.
DeBuys had family ties to Mississippi City, he was a member of the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans, and also designed sail boats. The blog Architecture Research has a great anecdote from Mr. DeBuys himself about an alias he adopted when he was working on a steel rivet gang after he graduated from Yale. You might also remember a photograph seen here on MissPres courtesy of Architecture Research, of DeBuys’s office in the Hibernia Building. This photograph shows his wall covered in images of buildings he designed, including some here in Mississippi. Below is his Laurel Leader-Call obituary with a somewhat misleading headline.
PLANNED LAUREL BUILDINGS
With regret, friends in Laurel noted the death of Rathbone De Buys (sic), well known New Orleans architect, who designed some of Laurel’s better known buildings.
Mr. De Buys designed the Laurel Presbyterian Church and the Sunday School for the First Presbyterian Church and the Lauren Rogers Library and Museum of Art.
He had designed many other attractive buildings in Mississippi, such as the Hattiesburg Postoffice, Pine Hills Hotel at Pass Christian, Gulf Park College at Gulfport, Brookhaven Bank and Trust Company, and Y. M. C. A. Building at Picayune.
He was also a planner, having laid out the town of Bogalusa, La, in cooperation with Col. W.H. Sullivan, president of the Great Southern Lumber Company. He later designed the Y. M. C. A. and Y. W. C. A. buildings in Bogalusa. He also designed fish class sail boats.
He was a man of broad talent, having degrees in architecture, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and philosophy. He lived a long and useful life–one that can be contemplated with pride by his many friends and relatives.
Laurel Leader-Call June, 30 1960