The new book by A. Hays Town Shows How Revered Architect Turned Mid-Career to Home Building in Louisiana | Education
Carol McMichael Reese’s “Hays Town and the Architectural Image of Louisiana” offers important information on the “how,” “where” and “why” of an architect whose work remains valuable in and around Lafayette and throughout the Louisiana he loved.
Its pages include brilliant photographs and copies of blueprints relating to some of Town’s residential masterpieces, many of which are in or around Lafayette. It gives readers an insight into the city’s architectural preferences for building homes inspired by lush landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. These are the how, where and why.
Additionally, the book, published by UL Press through the Hilliard Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, also provides the “who” – ideas from family members and municipal residence owners in Louisiana. – about their friend “Hays” who planned their homes with them, shopped with them in New Orleans antique stores, and continued their warm friendships long after the construction competition.
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The book will be released on Saturday at the annual Jingle Bells sale at the museum, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The book follows the 2018 exhibition of Town’s work at the Hilliard Art Museum and builds on research done for it. In a sense, said LouAnne Greenwald, director of the Hilliard Museum, the closures imposed by COVID-19 gave the author and her team the opportunity to compile the book, a companion to the exhibit.
Author Reese, art historian in Tulane whose teaching career includes time on the east, west and Gulf coasts, provides ample information about Town’s entire career and focuses on his work. residential architect. The exhibit marked 50 years since the opening of the Art Center for Southwest Louisiana in 1968, which was housed in the city building at the corner of Girard Park Drive and East St. Mary Boulevard, a gateway to the University of Louisiana on the Lafayette campus. It is now part of the Hilliard Art Museum.
Around the time Town created this first museum building – the second, an exhibition hall, was also planned – he moved from his long and successful career in commercial and institutional architecture to the second part of his career, which mainly focused on residential architecture.
For the Lafayettes and Acadians, Town’s influence is still vibrant. His long, mutually beneficial relationship with businessman and philanthropist Maurice Heymann dates back to the 1920s. It was then that Town, who earned an engineering degree at Lafayette before studying architecture at Tulane, shares with Heymann his vision of a second business center in Lafayette.
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It was a cheeky thought: in the 1920s and 1930s, the city was too small for Town to have its own office and business – less than 20,000 people – but large enough for two shopping areas, the second of which was Town. suggested that it would be located east of campus and west of Pinhook. Over the next few years, Heymann bought this property, which he first used as a nursery and where he later developed the Oil Center – with Town as an architect.
Consider Town’s impact on East St. Mary itself: he designed Heymann’s house in the mid-1930s, the Oil Center from the 1950s, and the museum, based on a plantation house, in the years 1960. His workload reflects a long life – he died in 2005 at age 101 – and a range of interests and talents. In an interview with Reese, Steve Dumez, design director of the Hilliard Art Museum, spoke of âmultiple arcsâ in Town’s career: a business practice followed by a residential practice with very different styles. Usually, said Dumez, architects have a single arch.
It hardly seems possible that the architect of the Bailey Middle School in Jackson and the Iberia Parish Court Building in New Iberia – modernist or art deco, an architect called them – created houses with brick floors and old cypress trees, recovered beams and antique furniture. But Town also participated in the Historic American Buildings Survey, a Great Depression-era federal program that documented historic buildings, which later inspired Town’s practice.
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Baton Rouge architect Kevin Harris said in an interview that Town views the entire house – exterior, furnishings and landscape – as his job responsibilities. He ceaselessly tinkered with the colors of the paintings, the materials, sometimes tearing entire walls or fireplaces that did not suit him.
Harris recalled in one of the book interviews how he accompanied Town on a walk from his Stanford Avenue home to LSU Lakes. They walked to a pole planted near the lake; Town lifted it up and on a string was a moldy picture frame intended for part of the furniture in the house.
âDo you think he’s ready already? Town asked Harris.
“What do you mean?” Harris asked.
“I don’t think so either,” Town replied, throwing the frame back.
He was a part of who Town was, but he was also the man who loved dogs and took his grandchildren to meetings with clients. Everyone called him “Hays”, this little man with a huge career – he may have designed a thousand houses. He was the man who designed houses until he was 90, who got up at 2 a.m. to work and didn’t care about clothes and everything he built.
He had easy access everywhere: he would take new clients to old clients and ask if he could visit the house – right away. Of course he could. He would shop with customers at antique stores in New Orleans, then walk with them to Galatoire, with no reservations required.
âA. Hays Town and the Architectural Image of Louisianaâ gives Louisianans easy access to A. Hays Town, a treasure in itself according to friends and clients, who were often one and the same.