New Orleans has long been a marvel of architectural diversity, from its ornate uptown mansions, to the Spanish architecture in the French Quarter, to Neoclassical buildings like Gallier Hall in the CBD. That building’s namesake, James Gallier Sr., has often been revered as one of the city’s finest architects.

And now, a new exhibit at The Historic New Orleans Collection (533 Royal St.) champions one of Gallier’s chief contemporaries: Henry Howard (1818-1884).

Howard, though historically elusive, is one of the most prolific and influential 19th century architects in New Orleans history. The exhibit, An Architect & His City: Henry Howard’s New Orleans, was conceived as a follow-up to a recent THNOC book, Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect.

The exhibit in THNOC

Jackson Square; between 1857-1861; probably salted-paper photoprint by Jay Dearborn Edwards

'The Great Yellow Fever Scourge'; wood engraving from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Sep 28, 1878

“The exhibition was designed as a sort of companion to the book,” said John Lawrence, Director of THNOC programs. “We wanted to show visitors the canvas on which Henry Howard’s architecture was built.”

The exhibit explores Howard’s professional career, while also giving visitors a sense of what life was like in New Orleans just before and after the Civil War.

Howard’s relative obscurity in the world of architecture scholars stemmed from his need to pawn off many books and other possessions later in life due to his health and poverty.

“Howard died a poor man,” said Mr. Lawrence. “He sold his drawings and plans to sustain himself.”

As a result, the exhibit relies heavily on other New Orleans artifacts of the era, including directories, sketches from other architects, maps, and photographs.

One of the most impressive components of the exhibition is a wall of mid-19th century maps of New Orleans. Made during a period spanning 1841 to 1867, the maps create an impressionistic view of a city experiencing rapid population growth and the annexation of neighboring parishes.

We wanted to show visitors the canvas on which Henry Howard's architecture was built. John Lawrence, Director of THNOC programs

Despite epidemics and recessions in the 1840s and 1850s, New Orleans expanded on a massive scale in the antebellum years, becoming the cultural and cosmopolitan hotspot of the American South. Howard had a large influence on that expansion, gaining a reputation as a precise, multi-talented architect throughout New Orleans and surrounding regions.

Part of what makes Howard’s artistic approach so New Orleanian is that he never pigeonholed himself as a master of any one method of design; rather, he drew inspiration from all types of architecture.

His hodgepodge style allowed him to take on a great number of projects of varying complexity and size, from clients all across the city.

“Howard first gained notoriety as a precise builder because he could build staircases,” said Mr. Lawrence. “And staircases were among the more complicated features to build at that time. He had several partnerships and a reputation for professionalism. Some clients had exotic tastes that Howard rarely fooled with.”

Another compelling facet of the exhibit is Robert Brantley photographs of Howard’s architectural works that still stand in the city today. These simple photographs show us just how surrounded we are by Henry Howard’s vision of the city, even a century and a half after he died.

The exhibit is now open runs through April 3rd, 2016. In February, The Historic New Orleans Collection will also have a symposium on the architecture of New Orleans.

For more information about THNOC and the Henry Howard exhibit, go to their website.

Photographs courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Our Local Publisher Partners

The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.


WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



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