Historic Name: Zemurray Gardens Lodge Complex
Address: La Highway 40
Status: National Register
Date Placed on National Register: 10/3/1983
Level of Significance: Local
Area of Significance: Architecture
Property Type: Other Rural Residence
Architectural Style: Bungalow/Craftsman
Theme: Anglo-American Architecture
The main building of the Zemurray Lodge is a story and a half, gable end house with large exterior brick chimneys at each end. Adjacent to the main house and connected to it by colonnaded galleries is a large, one story, log structure containing a recreation room with a large stone fireplace and brick chimney at the far end.
The flat roofed gallery across the front of the main house is one story in height and in two levels with two rows of cast stone columns, one at each level. The outer level is only a step above grade and the inner level is raised several feet to about the level of the first floor of the house. The inner row of columns and upper gallery level continues across the front and down the side of the adjacent recreation room. The columns are of a modified Doric style with a rather small cap molding and an unusual swelling in the shaft. These columns, which were added in a 1920’s remodeling of an earlier house, give a handsome and impressive effect and unity to the two buildings. The colonnades are a distinguished and significant architectural element of the complex. At the time the columns were added, the exterior walls of the main building were stuccoed.
In plan, the first story of the main building consists of a central hall with a large reception room on each side. At the rear, the hall opens into a stair hall, both halls and stair being designed in an “arts and crafts” style of the 1920’s, and a similar feeling is continued in the reception rooms? each of which has a large fireplace at the far end. Behind each of these rooms is a large, white tiled bathroom. The second story contains several bedrooms and baths.
At the left end of the main house is a port-cochere, above which an enclosed sleeping porch has been added. Centered on the rear of the house is another addition, consisting of a large room at the second floor level, supported on brick piers forming a screened dining area at grade level. These additions are said to have been built during the Zemurray ownership in the late 1920’s or early 30’s and designed by Moise H. Goldstein, a prominent New Orleans architect among whose works are the American Bank Building, Dillard University, several buildings at Tulane University and numerous distinguished residences. During the 1918-1928 period of the Houlton ownership, the noted New Orleans decorator and interior designer George Gallup was connected with the project for the major renovation of the buildings of Houltonwood, as the estate was then called, and probably worked with Moise Goldstein.
A separate building, behind the main house and the log recreation room, contains a paneled dining room and a large kitchen and pantry. This building of the 1920’s is connected to the main house by a covered colonnaded walk, the columns of which are similar to those of the other buildings, but square instead of round. Connected to this rear building by a modern enclosed passageway is a simple, modern residence designed by the architect John Desmond of Hammond and Baton Rouge. This was built during the later years of the Zemurray ownership. At some distance behind these buildings is a large stable-garage-service building with a two-story center element flanked by one-story wings.
Item 7 (Description) – ADDENDUM BY STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE
The Zemurray Lodge Complex consists of a four-part lodge building connected by galleries, a modern swimming pool, a large frame stable building (1920’s), two 1920’s cottages, and a live oak garden setting. The original portion of the four-part lodge building was constructed in the 1820’s; however, its present character dates from a major renovation which began in 1922. Also, at that time two dependencies were built and “attached” to the original portion by means of galleries. The fourth portion, which is connected to the other three by a covered walkway, is a 1950’s annex. The Zemurray Complex is located amid rolling piney woods in central Tangipahoa Parish near Chappepeela Creek. Despite the aforementioned two modern additions (pool and annex), the complex retains its National Register eligibility.
The main building (see map ) began in the 1820’s as a frame, story and a half, pitched roof plantation house with a central hall plan and a chimney at each end The basic form and plan of this house still remain as do the French doors and the nine over nine windows. But everything else was changed as part of a major renovation which began in 1922. This renovation gave the lodge its present character and hence it establishes the period of architectural significance for the property. At this time the old house was stuccoed over and the upper half story was enlarged with pent dormers and a rear extension over a patio (see map ). In addition, a porte-cochere was built on the west side with a sleeping porch above. A second sleeping porch was installed on the east side.
Also, two dependencies were added during the 1920’s renovation:
(1) East of the house a rustic log recreation hall was built. It appears that the half
round vertical logs on the interior supported the structure, while the horizontal logs on the exterior provided bracing. Half round logs also formed the ceiling of the hall, with a very large ridgepole at the center. All log surfaces inside and out were chinked with plaster. Heat was provided by a massive fireplace built of tiny fieldstones which appear to have been gathered locally. The rear exterior wall of the recreation hall was salvaged from an early-nineteenth century building.
(2) A single story kitchen/dining room dependency was built to the rear of the old main
house. This included a kitchen, a pantry, a dining room, and a breakfast room. Both the breakfast room and the dining room had unusually high paneled wainscotting, black and white beam ceilings resembling half timbering, and decorative, painted foliage and cartouches above the wainscotting. In addition, the dining room had a recessed, paneled inglenook which featured free-standing pillars, a Tudor arch, inset windows and an elaborate Jacobean mantel.
Both dependencies were linked with the main house by means of broad galleries which wrapped around much of the house. The concrete gallery columns were of an unusual modified Doric style with small capitals and overly wide entasis.
The interior of the main house was completely reworked with high paneled wainscotting in all the main rooms. The central hall was fitted with massive oak beams and a richly paneled staircase consisting of a bench, four landings, eight square newel posts, and balusters set in groups of three in a manner resembling Craftsman furniture. In addition, canvas was stretched along the wide frieze and flat foliated panels were painted on it. The two main downstairs rooms were treated with painted ceilings which had illusionistic panels, patera and flowers.
It is not known if the two cottages and the stables were built as part of the 1920’s renovation, but they appear to date from about the same time. They are listed as contributing elements because as dependencies they help establish the property’s identity as a country lodge.
Since the 1920’s the lodge and dependencies have not been significantly altered. However, in the 1950’s a one story detached annex was built to the rear of the recreation hall. It was connected to the lodge complex by means of a covered walkway. In addition, the aforementioned swimming pool was built. These two additions are low in stature compared with the main house. Moreover, they are only visible from the rear of the complex. The 1920’s lodge stands forth even from the rear as a clear, distinct entity and dominates these two modern accretions. The character of the area is still overwhelmingly of the 1920’s. In any case, the complex is significant for its major interiors, all of which are intact.
Specific dates 1920’s remodeling
Builder/Architect Architect: Moise H. Goldstein
Interior Designer: George Gallup
Statement of Significance (in one paragraph)
The land now occupied by Zemurray Gardens was one of the earliest settled areas in what is now Tangipahoa Parish and was described in an 1822 act of sale as “the section of land on which Nathan Joiner now lives and was originally settled by Thomas Joiner.” The Joiners are believed to have first settled it in the 1790’s. In 1828 Alfred Hennen, a distinguished Louisianian purchased 1280 acres, an area later increased by him and by subsequent owners. In 1829 Hennen built a house here, believed to be the basis of the present structure. Alfred Hennen was one of the founders of the First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans and was active in the establishment of a Presbyterian Church and school at Pine Grove near his plantation. He took part in the development of the railroad through St. Tammany Parish. He also developed the cultivation of rice on his St. Tammany property and by 1860 was the third largest rice producer in Louisiana and the owner of 117 slaves in the parish. Hennen was a prominent member of the legal profession in Louisiana, beginning his practice in 1807 when he first settled there.
After the death of Alfred Hennen in 1870, the property was acquired by his daughter, Cora, wife of John A. Morris. Morris is principally noted as the major financial backer of the notorious Louisiana Lottery but he was notable for many other accomplishments and charitable contributions. He built the Morris and Hennen Buildings, two of the first skyscrapers in New Orleans. The Morris family were prominent socially, two of his sons serving as Rex, king of the New Orleans carnival, and his daughter Francis Isabel, as queen of the carnival in 1882, began the traditional meeting of Rex and Comus, still the climax of the carnival.
The property was bought from the Morris heirs in 1918 by the Lake Superior Piling Company of Chicago, of which Charles H. Houlton was president. He and his brother William made extensive improvements to the buildings, adding the colonnades and interior re-decorating that give the main buildings of the estate their unique architectural character. The estate was then given the name “Houltonwood.”
On October 26, 1928, “Houltonwood” was purchased by Samuel Zemurray, a Russian Jewish immigrant who came to America with his family at the age of 15 in 1892. He was perhaps the most significant of the several distinguished owners of this historic property. His fortune was based on the banana trade with Central America. He was so successful with his Cuyamel Fruit Company in Honduras that he sold it to the United Fruit Company in 1929 for $33,000,000 and eventually became president of the purchasing company. Zemurray was one of the most generous philanthropists in New Orleans donating several new buildings and making numerous other gifts to Tulane University. His former residence at No. 2 Audubon Place is now the residence of the president of Tulane. Touro Infirmary, the Community Chest, the New Orleans Child Guidance Clinic and other charities also benefited from his contributions. He also donated the land and funds to build a park in Hammond, Louisiana, Zemurray Memorial Park, in honor of his son Samuel Zemurray, Jr., a World War II casualty. Zemurray and his wife Sarah expanded the gardens of the estate, and the azalea-lined trails for which Zemurray Gardens are noted were created for Mrs. Zemurray by Howard Schilling, who was hired as Zemurray’s vegetable gardener in 1932. Zemurray Gardens, with their flowers, fountains, statues, woods, lakes and unusual buildings, are one of the notable scenic attractions of Louisiana.
Comments from State Historic Preservation Office:
Although mentioned above by Mr. Wilson (see Item 11), the entire Zemurray Gardens tract (171 acres) is not included in the nominated acreage (see Item 10). Most of the garden tract is not close enough to the lodge to be considered part of its immediate setting. Moreover, the noteworthy landscape features are, for the most part, less than fifty years old (some considerably less than fifty years old), and we do not feel a case can be made for exceptional significance in the history of landscape architecture.
Significance for the property cannot be claimed on the basis of the Hennen or Morris connection because the lodge’s present character dates from the 1920’s remodeling and hence does not reflect their period of ownership.
Significance is not being claimed for Samuel Zemurray because his contributions date from less than fifty years ago and we do not feel a case for exceptional significance can be made.
Item 8 (Significance) – ADDENDUM BY STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE
Specific date: 1920’s renovation
Architect for 1920’s renovation: Moise H. Goldstein
Interior designer for 1920’s renovation: George Gallup
Zemurray Lodge Complex is locally significant in the area of architecture within the context of the Florida Parishes. The major interiors of the lodge are in the Arts and Crafts style of the early-twentieth century. These include the central hall of the old main house, the two main downstairs rooms of the old main house, the breakfast room, the dining room, and the recreation hall with its log cabin appearance. Features in these spaces which are normally associated with the Arts and Crafts movement include the wainscotting, the painted foliage, the medieval-looking beamed ceilings, the inglenook, and the Craftsman-looking staircase. In the case of the recreation hall, it should be noted that the log cabin idiom was recommended by Gustav Stickley as appropriate for lodges and vacation cabins. As far as the State Historic Preservation Office is aware, these interiors represent the most complete and elaborate example of Arts and Crafts interior design to be found in an eight parish area known collectively as the Florida Parishes. There are thousands of surviving bungalows in the region, but few, if any, have what could legitimately be described as Arts and Crafts interiors. Most have plain interiors with perhaps a brick mantel or a few oak cabinets. Moreover, many bungalows have Colonial Revival or Spanish Mission interior details. There is no other example of Arts and Crafts interior design known to the State Historic Preservation Office in the Florida Parishes which is even comparable to Zemurray Lodge.
Major Bibliographical References
Illinois Central Magazine, August, l924,
Hennen v. Hennen. Cases in the Supreme Court, (LA) Vol. XII O.S. p. 494.
Thomas P. McCann. An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit. N. Y. 1976.
Joyce Y. LeBlanc. The Pelican Guide to Gardens of Louisiana. Gretna, LA 1974