THE MAN WHO DESIGNED NEW ORLEANS
Henry Howard was born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1818, to Thomas and Margaret Howard. His father was an architect. By the time Henry Howard immigrated to the United States in 1836, he had already begun formal training in the profession, studying at the Cork Mechanics Institute. His move was motivated by the wish to study with an American architect, but he ended up working as a framer. After arriving in New Orleans in 1837, he worked under Edward Sewell as a stair-builder and joiner.
In 1843, Howard became an apprentice to James Dakin, who along with his brother Charles Dakin, James Gallier, and Edward Sewell, was among New Orleans’ most prominent architects of the first half of the 19th century. Through Dakin, Howard was able to refine his drafting skills and gain entry into the sphere of professional architectural practice. In 1844 he received his first commission, a two-story frame house in what was then the city of Lafayette, now the Garden District of New Orleans.
From 1845 on, Howard’s career flourished, beginning with commissions for the Woodlawn and Madewood plantations in Bayou Lafourche, Louisiana. Graceful and austere, these houses built for the Pugh family show Howard’s skillful handling of the Greek Revival. Returning to New Orleans after two years spent in Bayou Lafourche supervising construction, Howard’s practice grew, and he designed buildings both public and private, including, notably, plans for the Pontalba Apartments flanking Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
In 1853, the city government of the town of Carrollton, upriver of New Orleans and a popular vacation destination, planned to erect a new courthouse and jail. The commission was awarded to Henry Howard, who designed an imposing two-story Greek Revival building, to be built on a large lot adjacent to the railroad depot, in the center of town. The builders were Crozier and Wing. The courthouse commission was indicative of Howard’s significance as a civic architect, and he went on to design courthouses for several other Gulf Coast towns, including the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse and the Talladega Courthouse, both constructed in 1881.
In 1857, Howard designed the Belle Grove Plantation, which marked the beginning of his transition from the Greek Revival to the Italianate style. After spending the Civil War years in Columbus, Georgia, Howard returned to New Orleans and continued his career, designing both residential and commercial buildings. The extent and variety of Howard’s work can be viewed here.
Henry Howard died in 1884.
Brantley, Robert S. and Victor McGee. Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect. New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2015.
Ferguson, John C. “Henry Howard.” In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published July 29, 2011. http://www.knowla.org/entry/499/. Accessed October 30, 2015.