A. Hays Town Architectural Exhibit

A friend sent me this article in the new-to-me Acadiana Advocate newspaper announcing an architectural exhibit focusing on the work of A. Hays Town, specifically his later “Louisiana Style” period after he moved back home from practicing in Jackson, Mississippi to Baton Rouge. Now showing at the Hilliard Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the exhibit, which includes six scale models of his houses, will run through the end of the this year and may warrant a road trip by MissPresers.

Town, who was born in Crowley, grew up in Lafayette and later established his practice in Baton Rouge. He died at age 101 in 2005.

. . . .

Emery said she is fascinated by how prevalent Town is in Louisiana, a region that keeps culture tied to place.

“He carries the same weight as Frank Lloyd Wright here,” she said. “He contributed to a culture for a very long time. It’s why he’s so relevant. His houses persist.

Read more . . .

Before he perfected his Louisiana Style, he created some pretty great Modernist landmarks here in Mississippi, such as Bailey Jr. High School in Jackson, Church Street Elementary School in Tupelo, Bowmar Elementary in Vicksburg, Columbia High School–I could go on and on.

Church Street Elementary (1936, Overstreet & Town, archts.)

After he moved back to his native Louisiana, he still kept his hand in Mississippi and gave us some of his trademark residential designs, especially in Eastover here in Jackson. In fact, a tour of Town’s houses in Fondren and Eastover might provide a nice Mid-Century Traditional counterpoint to the Mid-Mod tours we’ve recently enjoyed.

Kane Ditto House (1983, A. Hays Town)

Here’s some information about the Lafayette exhibit:


Jun 15, 2018 — Dec 29, 2018

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the original Art Center of Southwestern Louisiana, the Hilliard Museum is pleased to present an exhibition that marks the legacy of its designer, famed Louisiana architect A. Hays Town. The exhibition will be guest curated by architectural historian, Dr. Carol McMichael Reese, Professor in the School of Architecture at Tulane University, where Town studied.

. . . .

The focus of the exhibition will be Town’s residential architecture, for which he gained national renown. It will also showcase the evolution of Town’s work over more than 70 years of practice, from the Modernist designs of his earlier commercial and civic buildings to his later iconic residences, which were inspired by the historic architecture of the American South. A rich assemblage of drawings, furnishings, photographs, architectural models, and archival records will introduce visitors to his design approach, as well as his impressive career.

In his single-family houses, Town integrated historic motifs from a variety of cultural traditions, drawing upon French, Spanish, and Caribbean building techniques and details. He achieved sensuous patinas of age through his use of recovered materials from demolished buildings—including cedar beams, heart-pine flooring, and imported marbles—as well as antique furnishings and decorative fixtures. He arranged principal rooms to emphasize views toward the landscape and often worked with clients to design their gardens. His beloved and often imitated homes are evocative of the archetypal residential architecture of Creole Louisiana, indeed, a Louisiana Style.

Read more at http://www.hilliardmuseum.org/exhibits/a-hays-town-exhibit

Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Preservation People/Events, Recent Past


14 replies

  1. This is definitely road-trip material! The article in the Arcadiana Advocate is a must-read for additional information.


  2. and, i wish, for myself, that the real road trip wasn’t so far—upstate ny to lafayette is not ‘around the corner! but, yes, a mspres blog on the show would be great–with photos of the installation, etc, if possible?

    thanks for the information; haven’t read the newspaper article—is it really ‘arcadiana’ rather than ‘acadiana’? yes, the acadian country can be an ‘arcady’/’arcadia’ to some, but?

    was priviledged to have met mr town on several occasions, atteneded some of his lectures, and have visited a number of his houses. yes, he did create something of a ‘town style’—some of which, personally, i didn’t care for–but, yes, his houses are certainly comfortable and remain very livable. it would be interesting to have an exhibit comparing/contrasting ‘the best’ of town vs ‘the best’ of say, koch and wilson…. (and, glad we have had the koch and wilson/same wilson blog on misspreservation not long ago.

    no mention of a catalogue in above blog nor in the press release from the school–anyone have any info on this?


  3. yes, it is ‘acadiana advocate’.


  4. and, my spelling isn’t perfect, either— added an extra ‘e’ to attended, above! just planning my day and in a rush to get this sent!


  5. i have just read the newspaper article, and, yes, ms pres readers should do the same. interesting info on town, of course, but also on the background of the exhibition. definitely a ‘town can do no wrong’ article and show! the organizing ‘curator’, prof carol reese, of tulane, makes a statement to the newspaper reporter that town was ‘the most important louisiana architect of the 20th century’ which is certainly debatable, and, in some ways, scary…


  6. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.js
    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsTown’s Louisiana Style houses significantly influenced the broader residential design market in the Jackson Metro area. Fifteen or twenty years ago his name was the trendy buzzword used by many clients, home buyers and home builders to describe, generally, what they wanted in their house. Many who invoked his name, of course, didn’t really even know who he was… but they knew they were supposed to like that type of house. My favorite example of this phenomena was seen in an advertisement for a house that had been renovated to incorporate some French Acadian (Country French in the vernacular) elements. The realtor described the house as being in the “hayestowne” style.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. thanks very much for this malaprop, ms/mr? newman; i will add it to my collection, which includes ‘peer mirror’ and ‘feinting couch’.

    the town-designed former art center at southwestern la u–the 50th anniversary of which seems to have sparked this exhibition–is described as ‘based on the 1812 hermitage plantation at darrow, la’–so, it’s the typical louisiana transition federal-greek revival boxy house, with an encircling modified tuscan colonnade, all
    under a dormered hipped roof–but, as many of you know, the characteristic colonnade at hermitage wasn’t added til later–1830s, perhaps–to an earlier house—.

    but, for future generations, it will present some problems, for, there is a bldg attempting to be a louisiana plantation house of a form that wasn’t really used in that area—and not in much of a ‘real plantation landscape’ anyway! furthermore, in the near or not-so-distant future, will this kind of public structure be a part of the controversary that has raged recently over the confederate memorial monuments all over the south? it certainly represents a repressive regime to those that were enslaved… of course, at the time it was constructed, 50 years ago, it was not an unusual design choice for the committee—‘build us something nice and gracious’ for our art center, and mr town was happy to oblige.

    definitely don’t want to start any unpleasantness on our blog, but i want our gang to think about how times have changed. residential buildings copying la or ms(say, natchez) houses are one thing, public buildings that copy such? h-m-m-m-m.


  8. am continuing my research on hays town, and, in particular the ‘hermitage’ derived structure at lsu, lafayette. i will ‘backtrack’ (popular nowadays, huh?) by saying that i learned today that when the building was constructed 50 years ago, it was on a semi-residential lot adjoining the campus, given by the principal donors; so, yes, while the creation of a full=scale plantation house on an urban lot, in an area that never had such buildings originally, was odd, it wasn’t as bizarre as plopping it down in the middle of the campus, surrounded by 20th century buildings of many different styles

    on the other hand, when the adjoining hilliard art museum was constructed in 2004 by a new orleans firm, its design was a mix of bauhaus and international styles, it scale was large, and it was sited very close to the town plantation house. to my mind, the juxtaposition is unsuccessful–each building has its own merits, but, here, the mixing of the two is unfortunate, if not disastrous.

    in one( perhaps-pre construction) rendering i found on the net, there was a proposal to build a circular pool around the plantation house as a part of a very ‘modern’ landscape design: odd, to say the least and a breeding ground for mosquitoes(and alligators?); interestingly, the pool created a disneyland effect for the plantation house–as if it were an exhibit! fortunately, i don’t think the pool was constructed–at least i can’t find it in any net views. (google ‘hilliard art museum, lsu, lafayette’ to see for yourself.)

    moving from the semi-ridiculous to the more- ridiculous, what if the 2004 art museum had been sited primarily underground(of course, impossible in lafayette!), and, the above ground entrances, etc were in the form of subsidiary structures typical of louisiana(and, for that matter, ms) plantations—‘evergreen’ or the lost ‘uncle sam’? quite the ‘old south’ disneyland, huh?

    regardless of my ramblings, i am delighted that the exhibit was created, and i hope someone from our group makes a trip to lafayette to see it, returning with a full report; in the meantime, i will try to find out if there is a catalogue.

    have a good weekend, friends!


  9. So, should A. Hays Town–working with Overstreet in 1938– be credited with the Streamline Moderne design of the 1941 WPA Brooksville High School in Noxubee county? When WPA funding ended in 1942, the school was only two-thirds complete. Bilbo was able to secure FDR’s personal pledge to see that the construction project received funding to completion in 1944.

    At present, P. J. Krouse is being given credit for the design.


    • The MDAH database (https://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/prop.aspx?id=36899&view=facts&y=728) indicates the building was finished in 1942, at which time Town had been in Louisiana for three years. It also says that Krouse is an attribution, meaning there’s some evidence but not strong enough to be considered “documented.” I assume if there was some evidence for Overstreet, the database would name him as attributed.


      • There are 52 pages in Senator Bilbo’s Brooksville School file at the McCain Library.
        There are copies of letters and telegrams related to the Brooksville School WPA project which was cancelled due to the funds running out midway during the construction.
        For additional funding, the WPA required that the local school board submit a supplemental request to restart the project which became W. P. A. Supplemental Project No. 41076-S1 and required that the district put up $12,000 additional money. A total of $58,000 had already been spent.
        That request was submitted but the Washington office returned the application as Not Approved and suggested that $15,000 be put up by the district.
        What is revealing as to when the Brooksville School project was started, and as to where A. Hays Town was employed at the time, is a letter submitted
        to Senator Bilbo by the president(J.L. S. Peterson) of the Bank of Brooksville dated 02MAY1942:

        As you know, this original project was started in 1940, ran out of money and was shut down in the fall of 1941, the undersigned as a citizens committee went to work in January of this year, trying to get the building completed.

        The last entry in Senator Bilbo’s Brooksville School Project file is a photocopy of the Western Union Telegram from his office dated 18MAY1942:
        Please to advise that Brooksville School Project received presidential approval today.
        The first graduation class from Brooksville School occurred in the spring of 1944. Interesting to note that all WPA funded projects for the Nation ended in June of 1942, including the WPA’s Forrest county library… the book inventory was transferred to the American Legion Hut on Green Street.
        In the study of the concrete construction projects on this blog, I don’t recall any mention of the methodology of “poured in place.” In the Brooksville School project there are six photos of the construction in progress before the initial funding ended. I cannot picture how these “pourings” occurred. It all looks like the pourings were done in horizontal layers followed by a WOC period for concrete to set in place before another layer of rebar and concrete was poured in place. That would explain why the project ran out of funds.
        Maybe I can e-mail Mr. ELMALVENY a cellphone photo?

        BTW, N.W. Overstreet’s mother was a native of Noxubee county.


  10. How many Hays Town houses are in Jackson Ms? Where is the Kane Ditto house?


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