WHERE I’M WALKING: The 300 block of Elmira Avenue in Algiers Point, on the west or odd-numbered side of the street, between Pelican on the north and Alix on the south. The block is steps from the levee and just around the corner from the former Belleville School, renovated (at long last) to an elegant assisted-living facility.
WHY I’M HERE: It’s always a visual and architectural delight to visit Algiers Point, New Orleans’ most historic West Bank neighborhood. Although the area was founded as a town in 1719 before its annexation by New Orleans in 1870, much of its architecture dates to the late 1890s, when it was recovering from a devastating fire that destroyed many of its homes.
In addition to the neighborhood’s architectural and historical charms, I have another reason to visit: Wednesdays on the Point (www.wednesdaysonthepoint.com), the series of free weekly music concerts staged at the Algiers ferry landing through Aug. 27. The events start on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and end in time to catch the pedestrian ferry back to the east bank.
SEEN ON THE STREET: I choose the 300 block of Elmira because it’s an easy walk to the ferry landing and because of the exceptional appeal of the central group of houses on the block. The collection — in a rainbow of hues — includes a sidehall house (I would say “sidehall shotgun” but purists would object) and four double shotguns. Only the sidehall features truly delectable features, but this is a case in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
HOMING IN: The Eastlake detailing on the sidehall is so luscious that I resent the intrusion of the palm that partially blocks my view of it. The details represent a textbook array of Eastlake features and include turned columns, open friezes with turned spindles and piercework panels, sunburst-patterned spandrels, running trim, cornices over the windows and door, and drop-lap siding.
The home’s charm has been maximized by its fanciful paint job. I would hate to be the one on a ladder working with a tiny brush, accenting the center of the frieze spindles in deep coral to painstakingly outline bands on the columns in moss green, but I tip my hat to whomever did it. It makes a fabulous visual spectacle.
The paint scheme on the Neoclassical Revival double on the right is far more restrained, as befits the style. I search for the right word for the body color: Not pink enough to be mauve and not blue enough to be lavender. Round Tuscan columns and a demi-lune window in the gable are two distinguishing characteristics, but my eyes travel to the filmy white sheers attached near the top of the columns, ready to be closed to provide relief from the sun. Residents have added an assortment of bird feeders and lanterns to the small tree in the center of the front yard, contributing to the home’s appeal.
As I walk on, I notice that the next two doubles share a variety of features. Both have hipped roofs and box columns, ensuring that their facades bear a likeness to one another. The same color artist whose talents endowed the first two houses with so much appeal was clearly at work again here. The first house is tan with terracotta shutters and accents on the caramel-colored door. Small panels (not original, likely, but appealing) have been added to the fronts of the box columns, giving them dimension and offering another opportunity for a color accent. Columns on the second house have the same applied panels, painted a darker version of the body color. On both houses, louvered shutters on the windows, drop-lap siding and half-glass doors attest to the homes’ late 19th or early 20th century origins.
The last of the five is a bracketed double shotgun painted pale blue with white trim and dark blue accents in the milled brackets. I am especially curious about this house because it occupies what I know from photos used to be a parking lot on the Belleville Elementary School site. Was the house moved to this location or built new?
HEARD ON THE STREET:
Deanna Wallace pulls up in front of one of the doubles with a car full of groceries. Before shopping, she spent the morning volunteering at the LA-SPCA.
“I used to study geology — that’s why I have all of those rocks on my porch — but then I got interested in vet tech work instead,” she tells me.
Deanna is a little worn out by the morning’s activities, but her sons and two neighbor boys swoop in and begin carrying bags inside for her.
“I couldn’t ask for better neighbors,” she says, and I can see what she means.