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Saturday, September 29, 2012

8200 block of Nelson Street & Arts Market

Stephanie Bruno was in NorthWest Carrollton again.  Thanks Stephanie!

Northwest Carrollton, 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 neighborhood is one of four Carrollton Historic District areas that converge at the intersection of Claiborne and Carrollton, the other three being Fontainebleau, Central Carrollton and Palmer Park. Northwest Carrollton is primarily residential but benefits from its proximity to commercial assets on thoroughfares such as Claiborne and Earhart Boulevard.

The area was developed in the early 1900s and showcases a variety of houses built in styles reflecting that era, especially Craftsman. When traveling through Northwest Carrollton, look for old-fashioned corner stores-turned-residences that appear every few blocks. Many still have intact awnings over the sidewalk.

THE BLOCK: The 8200 block of Nelson Street on the odd-numbered, or north, side, between Dublin Street on the east and Dante Street on the west. It's just a block from verdant Palmer Park, where the "fall kick-off" of the Arts Council's monthly Arts Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
THE HOUSES: Nine, including three large two-story houses, most of which appear to date from the early 20th century and have Craftsman styling. One is a double shotgun, but others
are bungalows.
When the Golden Rain trees start to bloom yellow, I know that autumn weather is almost here. It's been playing hide-and-seek with us for the past couple of weeks, but temperatures have already moderated to the extent that a late morning or early afternoon visit to the Arts Market of New Orleans at Palmer Park sounds inviting.
Ever curious about neighborhoods surrounding and bordering such events, I set out earlier in the week to find a good block to recommend for Street Walking en route to or after the market. The 8200 block of Nelson Street fills the bill just fine.
craftsman-details-on-nelson-streetClever Craftsman details highlight to houses on the 8200 block of Nelson Street.
Anatomy of the block
I pass up the multi-level house at the corner of Dante and Nelson in favor of the house to its right, a Craftsman bungalow in dusky shades of taupe with purpley-pink trim. The description sounds awful, but that's because I can't come up with just the right words to convey the hue of the body and trim colors. In person, the colors work very well together.
The house has an asymmetrical facade with the entry porch situated to the left and a bank of windows on the right. The front-gabled roof over the porch intersects a side-gabled roof over the main body of the house, presenting the multiple rooflines indicative of the Craftsman style. Three short, interconnected square posts rest atop brick pedestals and support the porch roof, another Craftsman configuration. Post brackets in the front gable eave, a decorative gable vent cover and exposed rafter tails under the side eaves contribute to the composition.
Two features in particular attract my attention: The low, shed-roofed dormer in the side-gabled roof and the detailing of porch posts. The profile of the dormer is so low that it looks like a sleepy eyelid with just enough energy to lift itself above the roof line. The posts impress for the horizontal wood bars pegged into them, connecting one to the other.
The house I encounter a few paces farther along is partially obscured by ebullient vegetation, but that is part of its charm. I usually complain about not being able to see the facade when unruly plants block the view, but here the peek I get at the porch detailing and gable decor gives me a satisfying taste of what the house is about (plus I am enchanted by the 12-foot-tall red hibiscus that so cheerfully complements the butter-yellow facade.)
Without trespassing, I can enjoy another variation on the theme of clustered-posts-atop-masonry-pedestals. The difference here is that the element that interconnects the three posts is at the top, rather than part way down, and cut in a distinctive stepped pattern. Details in the front-facing gable are plentiful, but easy to miss if you aren't on foot because all are painted the same color. The elaborately configured gable includes a band of stucco with applied wood timbering in the portion closest to the gable peak; lower, a band of clapboards inset with an understated rectangular gable vent, and below that a wide skirt board above the columns.
An appealing Craftsman double -- all in white -- follows, but it's in the shade so I pass it by. Then I walk past what I think is a new house and then reach a peach-colored bungalow with a low-pitched porch roof. Enough modifications have been made to the facade that I am not sure at first if the house is old or new, but a glance down each side convinces me it is the former. Like the house with the red hibiscus, this one has bamboo matting rolled up close to the porch ceiling, ready to be unfurled against the afternoon sun.
A composition in black and white awaits me as I move closer to the Dublin corner. It's a white Craftsman bungalow very similar in configuration and details to the first house I visited (check out the porch posts), but black security iron and screening conceal some of the details. That's OK; I can still appreciate the intersecting rooflines, the now-familiar interconnecting posts atop pedestals, the exposed rafter tails and the clever detailing of the gable vent.
Ah! A two-story, multi-unit Craftsman house with a bounty of details and a highly unusual configuration of entry doors! I have never, ever seen three doors quite like this: One in the center that likely leads to a stair to the second level and one on either side of it, set at an angle of about 45 degrees and offering entry to the two downstairs units. On either side of the doors on the lower level of the house are banks of four casement windows: three set flat in the plane of the facade, but one angled out to meet the edge of the entry door. So interesting!
Of course there are additional Craftsman elements to admire, including the gable-fronted roof on the right intersecting the hipped roof over the main body of the house, the exposed rafter tails in the side eaves, the exceptionally stout battered wood columns resting atop masonry pedestals. But the angled doors and windows take the prize for originality.
Life on the street
About midway through my walk, I realize that there are two men on the porch behind me when I am snapping pictures.
One sits on the steps, another in a chair, both in deep shade. We chat briefly and then I move on.
Just then a car pulls up, a man gets out and then heads toward one of the houses on the opposite side of the street from the men.
"I see ya," the man on the steps calls out.
"I hear ya," the man across the street replies, and continues on his way.
R. Stephanie Bruno can be reached at

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