Where I’m walking: The 1100 block of North White Street in the Faubourg St. John neighborhood, on the west or odd-numbered side of the block. On the north is Bell Street; on the south, Orchid. I’m no more than a half-dozen blocks from the Fair Grounds and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Why I’m here: There are plenty reasons to visit any time of year: The oaks on Ursulines, restaurants and markets on Esplanade Avenue, the bayou and its offerings. Jasmine and angel trumpets are blooming, scenting the air, and a dazzling collection of historic houses is on display. For housewatchers, the setting is ideal. But this is fest time, y’all, and that’s why I choose to visit this week.
Seen on the street: I pick the 1100 block of North White Street for my walk because I am intrigued by the eight houses I find. All are shotgun houses — long and narrow. Some were doubles that have apparently been converted to singles. Four are nearly identical in terms of roof details and bracket types; two more are decidedly Craftsman. And one — well, it’s impossible to tell.
Homing in: I begin my walk at the intersection of Orchid and North White on the south and walk north toward Bell and Esplanade beyond. A handsomely detailed Craftsman camelback occupies the corner lot. It possesses an entire range of textbook Craftsman details, including exposed rafter tails, post brackets in the gable, a long gable window that emphasizes the horizontal, battered columns atop brick half-columns … the list goes on. The rich blue of the body and bricks contrasts with the white columns and red accent, making for a colorful presentation.
The neighbor to its right is the one of indistinguishable style, although I spot a short run of exposed rafter tails on the sides. Was this a Craftsman house originally, now with the front porch enclosed and details removed? It is completely white — even what looks as though it could have been a gable window has been covered with white weatherboards. I wish I could have followed this house through time to understand where it started and why it evolved the way it did. There is something about its striped metal awning and the exuberant angel trumpets in the front yard that I find endearing.
A fine Neoclassical style double (perhaps turned into a single) follows before I encounter the quartet of look-alike bracketed Italianate shotgun doubles. There is enough variation in gable size, windows, and ornamentation to make me question whether they were once identical or simply similar. Usually the giveaway is the millwork pattern of the brackets — those on each of the houses appear to match perfectly.
The first in the row is painted a warm gold hue with gray trim and red accents. The arched window tops are a hallmark of the Italianate style and the half-glass front doors continue the theme. The doors are especially distinctive, owing to the small panes of stained glass in them, repeated in the transoms. Plantings in the garden tumble out over the steps in an inviting fashion.
The arched tops of the windows and doors on the house to the right make it akin to the gold house, except with floor to ceiling windows instead of the shorter variety. The paint scheme — all white with blue trim, decking, and steps — changes the home’s personality so that it has a decidedly streamlined and modern flavor.
I skip the peach house with green shutters to consider the café au lait house that follows. I peek around the crape myrtle in the front yard to see jigsaw millwork in the gable, the only house on the block to have it. I realize as I stand there that the house is the most complete of the quartet — five brackets (there are just two on some of the four), cornices above the windows and louvered shutters covering the openings.
Heard on the Street: “May I help you?,” someone asks as I stand there, studying the last of the bracketed doubles.
It’s Alie Watson, who has just arrived with Graham Gibby and 3-year-old son, Hap. The crew lives in a stunning home across the street from the houses I’ve been studying.
“I’d like to talk more but we’re on our way to a pirate themed birthday party,” says Alie over her shoulder as she tries to wrangle Hap into the house to change. But he has a different idea.
“My mom has a mermaid on her car,” he tells me, gleefully, pointing down the block. Then, “Come see the gnomes in the mint.”
I beg off, hoping not make them late for their afternoon event, but Hap persists. He disappears for a minute and comes back with two tiny ceramic gnomes.
“See the gnomes? One big and one little. Like father and son,” and he runs inside.
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about homes and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.