Where I’m walking: On the odd-numbered (or north) side of the 1800 block of North Rampart Street in Faubourg Marigny, between Pauger Street on the east and St. Anthony on the west. The block is situated just a few blocks away from Frenchmen Street and its music clubs and is surrounded by a host of eateries including Langlois, the Ruby Slipper, Wasabi and Port of Call. Got a sweet tooth? Loretta’s Pralines is just a block to the east.
Why I’m here: It’s Carnival time and savvy locals know many of the best parades don’t have behemoth floats that trundle down St. Charles Avenue, but are satirical events organized by groups of friends. Tonight, ‘tit Rex and the sci-fi themed Krewe of Chewbacchus offer up their own quirky brand of Carnival frivolity. Catch them in the Marigny and check out this block of North Rampart en route to the parades.
Seen on the street: I choose the 1800 block of North Rampart for its architectural variety and the individuality of its component houses. Of the 10 houses I see, three are Creole cottages, one is a sidehall cottage, and three are shotguns. Styles range from Greek Revival, to Craftsman, to Eastlake.
Homing in: I begin my walk at the west end of the block, closest to St. Anthony Street, and pass up the first three houses to study a white Craftsman double. It exhibits a number of features that tell me it was built in the early 20th century. Most obvious, the peak of its roof is lower than that of the older house on its right, and its roof slope has a lower pitch. Combined with exposed rafter tails in the eaves and battered wood half-columns on brick pedestals, and I know instantly that I’m viewing a Craftsman-style shotgun double. The residents have made the most of the space between the two front stoops by installing a garden bed in a wooden container raised off the ground.
Contrast the low profile of the Craftsman double with the strong, vertical dimensions of the next house, an Eastlake style sidehall house. (I would say “sidehall shotgun,” but my purist friends would argue that it’s not a shotgun if there is a hallway.) This one has embellishments in the gable, turned columns, an open frieze with piercework panels and turned spindles and lacy spandrels that fill the gap between the column tops and frieze. Louvered shutters cover the recessed entry door and the floor-to-ceiling windows. Most beguiling? The frilly cast-iron foundation vents, especially contrasted with the simple geometry of the cast-iron porch railing.
I walk on to encounter an elegant cream-colored sidehall cottage with Greek Revival details. Dentils under the cornice of the recessed entry and under the roof parapet clue me to the home’s Greek Revival origins. I delight in the asymmetrically patterned panes in the pair of full-length French doors to the left of the entry, as well as in the sweeping curves of the muntins in the roof dormer. The front door has been painted a stunning shade of blue — just right for an accent that breaks the monotony of the neutral hues but not so bright as to be distracting. Elaborate and patterned cast-iron guards at the base of the tall windows serve as a welcome counterpoint to the home’s restrained Greek Revival features.
I pass up the next house, which is in shadow, in favor of the vividly colored home to its right. Painted salmon with pea green shutters, foundation and accents, the Creole cottage may be the tallest house on the block, thanks to its steeply pitched roof. The tall, narrow roof dormers and the full-length windows and doors emphasize the verticality of the house. The shutters here match those on the Greek Revival house a few steps back: Paneled on the bottom and louvered at the top, they provide an element of privacy from the prying eyes of curious passers-by.
With Carnival on my mind, I had hoped to find a purple house, and I do, in the Creole cottage to the right of the salmon-colored house. I note the green doors immediately and wish the batten shutters on the left side had been painted a rich gold to complete the Carnival color trifecta. Garish, I know, but why not? Paint is the most inexpensive way to change the look of a house. I find the two topiaries — one placed in front of each of the two half-length windows — a charming addition to the tableau.
Heard on the street: I aim my camera upward to zero in on the eave brackets of the purple house when a man exits the door on the right and bounds down the steps. He stops and looks at me hard, so I explain immediately what I’m doing. He tells me his name is Paul, and no, he doesn’t live in the purple house — although he’s owned it for 20 years. Instead, he lives in Tremé. When he tells me that building houses is his business, I ask what kind.
Paul turns way for a second and laughs.
“It’s an adult retail shop — you know, things like lingerie so ladies can feel sexy,” he tells me. I don’t know which of us was more embarrassed, but after a few awkward moments, he begs off.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he says. “I’m late for church.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Follow her on Twitter @rstephaniebruno or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.