COURT HOUSE, NEW ORLEANS, 1951
We designed a Municipal Court House and Precinct Jail for deLesseps
Story "Chep" Morrison, the reform mayor of New Orleans
(1946-1961). The site was just down Rampart Street from Our Lady
of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church. We were faced with two problems:
the footings were already in place when we started our work, and
we needed to finish the plans in a matter of weeks. The solution
was a four-story building facing Rampart Street with a curved blank
wall sheathed in glazed tile.
the sculptor Enrique Alferez to produce a sculpture for the wall
of the new Court Building. The theme of the piece was the family--a
man, woman, and child--made of cast and hammered concrete. It was
a beautiful sculpture about six feet high and fit its place on the
was installed late one afternoon some two weeks before the building
was to be dedicated and remained covered with a canvas tarpaulin
firmly tied in place. Newspaper reporters wrote articles about the
"mystery" sculpture. Its secretive appearance piqued the
interest of the citizens. The paper ran a contest offering a prize
to the one who could guess what the sculpture might be.
took place on a Saturday afternoon. The mayor was there, and the
police band played. The sculpture was unveiled; everyone seemed
pleased with it.
|Click on the image to enlarge.
Enrique Alferez (1901-1999) and his "Family Group."
Photo by Myles DeRussy,
The Times-Picayune, 22 February 1951.
Monday morning, however, the switchboard at City Hall was jammed
with callers complaining about the nude sculpture on the new building.
The churchgoers on their way to Guadalupe Church that Sunday were
horrified. The mayor, himself, called and ordered the art removed
forthwith. Someone had suggested that the artist must place fig
leaves on the figures. But Alferez, obviously enjoying the publicity,
held a press conference at which he steadfastly refused to prostitute
his art. A hubbub ensued with letters to the editor making suggestions
about the artwork or what should replace it.
We were shocked
and embarrassed. Amidst all the furor, the statue was stored in
a warehouse. People clucked at how much it cost the city when the
firemen and policemen needed raises and holes in the streets needed
repairing. An auction was held. Lo and behold, the high bid for
the piece was twice what the city had paid in the first place. It
was bought by the owner of a cheap hotel on the corner of St. Charles
and Common Streets for the cocktail lounge on the second floor.
It has since disappeared, maybe in someone's backyard.
One of the
suggestions to replace the Family Group was a statue of a woman
marine. That would probably have been better than the aluminum map
of the U.S. outlined in neon with a big red dot for New Orleans
donated by the Kaiser Aluminum Plant. We felt our building had been