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Center for Louisiana Studies
Professor Fred Daspit was born in a modest four-room Cajun house in St. Martinville, Louisiana, a small South Louisiana town. His interest in Louisiana architecture began as a very young man when he observed the wealth of architectural history surrounding him. Today, his knowledge of the topic is unparalleled in this field,
In 1981 Daspit began teaching a course on Louisiana architecture at the Southwestern Louisiana, As he started preparing for his classes, he found no textbook he considered adequate for the topic. A colleague suggested he write his own an idea that 15 years later has come to fruition.
Mr. Daspit involved his students, homeowners, historical societies, and scholars in "the book," as he jocularly referred to the undertaking Louisiana Architecture became. In fact the volume begins with six pages of acknowledgements mentioning individuals who contributed to the final product. Daspit explains regarding these associates, "A work of this scope would not have been possible without their interest and contributions." Together with these concerned parties Daspit built a collection of 10,000 slides covering Louisiana architecture from 1714 to 1910. The current book is the first in a planned series on the topic. The second proposed volume is Louisiana Architecture: 1820- 1840; the third will be Louisiana Architecture: 1840 to the Civil War. The second and third books are written and in the works for publication.
Louisiana Architecture: 1714 1830 begins with aboriginal structures and continues onto early constructions built by the French in Louisiana. It advances to discuss the founding of New Orleans in 1720, including such tidbits as the size of the original town, the derivation of its name (Nouvelle Orleans in honor of the French regent, le Duc d'Orl--†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢--¢â‚¬Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢--†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡--¢â‚'ƒâ€šÃ‚Â©ans), and street names taken from the noble families of France: Royal, Bourbon, Dauphine, etc.
Apparently, the first two structures in the city were a prison and a convent for the Ursuline nuns. (Even over 200 years ago, New Orleans was a town of saints and sinners.) Daspit's drawing of the 1727 convent is used as the rear dust jacket illustration. The book ends with structures in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the state capital; a glossary; maps of the Louisiana Purchase; specific city maps, including New Orleans, showing extant architecturally significant buildings; and different routes for interested readers to explore significant structures.
When photographs of historically significant properties were not available, Daspit, also an artist, created his own illustrations. Daspit included in his book every single structure in the state from the time period that he could find, with the exception of New Orleans, explaining "there were just too many."
Louisiana Architecture: 1714 1830 includes 206 of Daspit's drawings, 273 photographs, and many actual floor plans of the properties. Daspit's text includes not only descriptions of properties but also fascinating "petits cadeaux" (French for small gifts) of properties' folk legends. Regarding the Th--†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢--¢â‚¬Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢--†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡--¢â‚'ƒâ€šÃ‚Â©--†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢--¢â‚¬Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢--†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡--¢â‚'ƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢tre d'Orldans (rebuilt 1819, destroyed 1866), Daspit writes, "Protestant American citizens, unfamiliar with Creole customs that considered dances and theater as suitable entertainment on Sunday, gleefully observed that God had expressed his disapproval of such irreverent activities when one of the galleries collapsed."
Daspit's treatise on the subject of Louisiana architecture is sure to become a classic in the field. His lifelong interest in the topic has now provided other would-be scholars with an abundance of information for study and contemplation.
Visitors to Louisiana will find this book a helpful resource in furthering their appreciation of the state's diverse architectural heritage. French, Anglo Americans, Cajuns, Germans, Irish, Italians, African-Americans, and Hispanics have all combined to make the distinct architectural legacy that is Louisiana.
by Priscilla St. Germain
Dewey Decimal: 720
Library of Congress: 2004115060
Book Publisher: Center for Louisiana Studies
No. of Pages: 358
Illustrations (B&W): 250
Acid Free Paper: Yes