Posted by Brad V at 7:00 PM
I tell the story of the rare and eccentric Nineteenth century style and my successful search for it here in New Orleans after the break.
You may have heard of Greek Revival or Gothic Revival architecture, but Egyptian Revival, as a style, was far more rare here in the United States during its first heyday from the 1820s to the 1850s. Louisiana has a few examples, which is more than many locales in the country can claim. The style drew heavily on ancient Egyptian temples and pyramidal forms, as well as distinctive lotus-topped columns and "cavutto" cornices.
One of the more well known examples in New Orleans is the modified Egyptian Revival elements of the U.S. Customs House on Canal Street, constructed between the 1840s and 1880s. The four facades of the large building, now home to the Audubon Insectarium, each feature four fluted pillars topped by unique lotus-styled capitals, evoking the Temple of Luxor:
Here's the story of one of the finest examples, located at 2200 Rousseau Street down in the Irish Channel here in New Orleans - along with an artist's rendering of what it looked like in the 1840s (records show an old jail built in 1836 was converted into a courthouse for Jefferson Parish by James Gallier in 1843). A Richard Fletcher altered the building again in the 1890s, and a few sources seem to indicate that the Egyptian facade did not come into being until the 1890s or 1905.
Here's a classic shot of the building when it was used as a district police station ostensibly in the 1890s:
It once looked like this in about the 1950s.
Then it looked like this in 1979, badly mutilated with the addition of a large, central garage door.
It looked like this right after Katrina.
And now it looks like this (it's presently the den of the Knights of Babylon, a Mardi Gras krewe):
In New Orleans, there's also the Cypress Grove cemetery gateway from the 1840s done in vaguely Egyptian pylons, as well as a few tombs in the various above ground cemeteries. There's also an old lighthouse down in Berwick Bay, Louisiana that's supposedly done in the Egyptian Revival style. And a storefront out in New Iberia from around 1904, a later wave.