Stylistic accents stand out on a stretch of Carrollton's Dublin Street.
By R. Stephanie Bruno
THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Northwest Carrollton, part of the Carrollton Historic District and bounded roughly by Earhart Boulevard on the north, South Claiborne Avenue on the south, South Carrollton Avenue on the east and Leonidas Street on the west. The Northwest Carrollton Civic Association collaborates with other Carrollton-area neighborhood groups to stage events, such as the annual Christmas caroling in Palmer Park.
The group considers itself one of the "four corners" neighborhoods that meet at the corners of Carrollton and Claiborne and also include the Fontainebleau, Central Carrollton and Palmer Park neighborhoods.
Craftsman bungalows and raised-basement houses join a mix of early 20th-century house types and styles to define Northwest Carrollton's visual personality. Businesses along Earhart and South Claiborne serve the neighborhood's commercial needs, while Ye Olde College Inn and Rock 'n' Bowl on Carrollton number among the dining and recreational opportunities.
If you aren't sure where Northwest Carrollton is located, just look for the lion statues atop pedestals that herald the entrance to Pritchard Place, developed in 1913.
THE BLOCK: The 2700 block of Dublin Street on the even-numbered, or west, side, between Apricot Street on the north and Belfast Street on the south.
Notre Dame Seminary and Lafayette Academy can be found just across South Carrollton Avenue.
The raised-basement and two bungalows are all in the Craftsman style. Because the house at the corner of Dublin and Apricot has a highly detailed side façade, it almost looks as if the block has a total of six addresses.
Invariably I show them areas that are examples of rejuvenation as well as those that still have work to do. I make Northwest Carrollton a featured spot on my most recent tour and trumpet the neighborhood's success in bouncing back after both a hurricane and a tornado.
I deposit my guests at the bowling alley to amuse themselves, and treat myself to a Street Walk in the 2700 block of Dublin Street, where I find interesting houses and friendly people willing to chat.
Anatomy of the block
I'm not sure if the other residents of the block were just super speedy in taking down their Christmas decorations or if few on the block decorated this year, but on the day I visit, only the first house on the block (at the corner of Belfast) still wears its holiday garb in the form of red bows affixed to its ironwork.
Blue with a hipped roof, central dormer and impressive masonry columns, the house is built atop a low terrace, giving it extra height and presence. A central set of steps leads from the sidewalk to the front porch, now glass-enclosed and protected by elaborate security ironwork. The glass is a little too reflective for me to get a good look at the front façade details, but the view from the sidewalk suggests a pleasingly symmetrical composition.
A cheery yellow two-story duplex next door exhibits an array of Craftsman features: Exposed rafter tails, deep eaves, angle brackets, multipaned gable windows, latticed gable vents, full-length battered wood columns on the second floor and shorter ones atop pedestals on the first.
The third house on the block is a Craftsman-style raised-basement house. This one looks especially tall, and I think I know why: Whereas the ground-level ceilings of raised-basement houses are usually a couple of feet lower than those above, here it looks as though the ceiling heights are equal on the two floors. The monumental central stairway adds to the vertical illusion, balanced only in part by the low-pitched horizontal lines of the side-gabled roof. That roof dormer? Low and wide, another stylistic accent.
I walk a few steps farther toward Apricot Street and stop in front of the next house, a spacious Craftsman bungalow with a full-width front porch, low-pitched roof and pairs of short columns atop brick pedestals supporting the leading edge of the roof. Like the first house on the block, this one sits atop a gentle terrace. And just like the raised-basement house, this one has a low, wide roof dormer, maybe even a mega dormer compared to its more understated neighbor.
As I walk toward the fifth house -- the one with the pretty garden and LSU flag -- I notice something embedded in the sidewalk. It appears to be a half-dozen or so coins set in the cement, all in one line. As I look closer, I see that they are foreign coins, maybe a lira, a franc, or something similar. Who set the coins in the sidewalk here? Why did they do it and when? I add this to the list of Street Walk mysteries.
The last house on the block with a Dublin Street address is a sassy Craftsman bungalow with tan weatherboards, white trim and terra-cotta accents. Even though the front porch has been enclosed with jalousie-style windows, the house still has plenty of personality, thanks to its intersecting roof gables, siding pattern (alternating wide and thin), gable vent details and post brackets. Big masses of fluffy blooming alyssum in the front garden tumble over granite boulders (perhaps ballast stones?) used for edging, adding to the house's allure. As is often the case with Craftsman bungalows, the sides of this house are as architecturally detailed as the front, yielding three vistas for consideration.
Life on the street
Cedric Todd is sitting in a car parked at the curb in front of the raised-basement house, chatting with a family member. When he asks what I'm doing, the explanation inevitably leads to a chat about the neighborhood and the block.
"This is our family home," he tells me. "It belongs to my daughter."
As Todd and I talk, another car pulls up, and Maxine Rixner and Derek Rixner, his sister and nephew, respectively, exit.
When Todd asks Maxine Rixner, "What you cookin' today?" she answers, "Great Northerns," and then offers me a brief lesson in beans.
"Great Northern is white bean, like a Navy bean," she tells me. "But the Navy bean is small and the Great Northerns are big. You cook 'em up pretty much the same way you cook red beans."
Derek Rixner joins the conversation and claims to have stuffed a flounder, but Todd laughs him off.
"The only things he knows how to cook are eggs and French fries," Todd says.
The conversation goes on long enough for Todd to ask me which Bruno I am related to, and when I tell him the bar, we discover one of those ancient connections everyone in New Orleans seems to have to one another if we dig deep enough.
In this case, the connection is the corner of Maple and Hillary streets, where Bruno's Tavern is located, where Todd worked at Maple Hill restaurant in the early '70s, and where Maxine Rixner's in-laws lived when they would supply mint to Bruno's for its cocktails.
We talk about X-Ray Cleaners and the Applewhites, Amy's Sno-Crème (which was where Fresco is today) and the Betz Funeral Home.
By the time I leave, I feel like I have just found long-lost family members.
R. Stephanie Bruno can be reached at email@example.com