Mount Everest


Mount Everest, another of the 8 murals done by Xavier Gonzalez in 1938 for the New Orleans then-named Shushan Airport, depicts the first flight over Mount Everest, Nepal.  The Houston-Mount Everest expedition was led by Air-Commander P. F. M. Fellowes, and was carried out by two “specially built Westland planes, powered with supercharged Bristol Pegasus radial motors” (Save the Murals, Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport).

On April 3 [1933] the conquest of Everest was made by the two aeroplanes of the Houston, Mount Everest Expedition, with the marquis of Clydesdale as chief pilot. Flying to a height of 30,000 feet, clearing the summit of Everest, by a bare margin of only 100 feet, the planes carried pilots and camera men to their goal.

The arerial conquest of Everest was no job of simple flying. The altitudes that needed to be reached were in themselves a terrific problem. The snow-plumed crest of Mount Everest rises to a height of 29,141 feet.  To clear this summit safely and allow for the danger of down draughts, the planes had to have a ceiling of 33,000 feet.  They actually reached 34,500 on one of the flights, six and one-half miles.  They had to be able to climb fast because of the limited amount of life-giving oxygen that could be carried. (Exeter: Thrilling story of flight over world’s highest mountain. The Portsmouth Herald, October 19, 1933, p. 7)

Erika Katayama’s (2009) Master’s thesis in art, Louisiana State University recounts:

…Gonzalez envisioned imagery outlining the development of aviation and its influence on modern civililization in eight wall murals mounted on the mezzanine.

Gonzalez was selected for the task of creating a series of murals for the Art Deco terminal building in a competition…By all accounts, Shushan and the architects gave Gonzalez comfortable leeway on how to interpret the theme of aerial transportation’s increasing influence on humanity. (p. 8-9)


Pretty far cry from Icarus flying too close to the sun and melting the wax in his wings, isn’t it?


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Land of the Mayas: Gonzalez Mural in New Orleans Lakefront Airport


The “Land of the Mayas” mural depicts a Sikorsky plane flying over the Pyramids of the Magician in Uxmal, Mexico. Igor Sikorsky, originally from Ukraine, established the Sikorsky Corporation in 1925, in Connecticut.  Sikorsky is likely most remembered for developing the helicopter, but he also built a range of small planes that would see service in airlines as well as the military.  The Sikorsky amphibian ranged in models, but the twin Wasp-motored amphibian S-38 is probably depicted.  The S-37 design, developed in 1927, was sold later to Pan American Airways International and was used to scout future air navigation routes.

Too much stress cannot be laid on the important part played by aviation in these explorations, as without airplanes some of the finest pyramids and temples would have remained buried in impassable jungles. (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport)



“House of the Magician” in 1913, Douglas C. McMurtrie, Public Domain photograph retrieved from Wikipedia



The mural also includes depictions of a stela, the upright stone slab, used as a gravestone or other type of memorial, a papaya tree, maguey plant, and a hut and other plants.  The maguey is a member of the agave family and is also called a century plant.


Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Flight Over South Pole


Second only to Lindbergh’s epic in firing the enthusiasm of the public were Admiral Byrd’s achievements at the South Pole. In this panel, the big triple-motored Ford monoplane “Floyd Bennett” is shown taking off from the ice for a flight over the Pole.

In the ice-locked harbor on the edge of the forbidding Ross Barrier lies the “City of New York”, the three-masted rigger which carried the expedition as near to the Pole as the great barrier permitted.

It is the beginning of winter, and the Aurora Australis, glowing like a prismatic fan, spreads across the horizon. (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport)

The second in the series of posts about the Gonzalez murals in former Shushan Airport, Admiral Byrd’s Flight Over the South Pole, like the others, had been covered by rice paper to protect it from the 1964 remodeling project that encased the entire airport, including the murals, in steel and concrete and wooden panels.  Elise Grenier, who holds a master’s degree in art history from LSU and diplomas in art restoration from Italian universities, has restored artworks in historic buildings in Louisiana and in Italy, and owns an art conservation company in Baton Rouge, and one in Florence, Italy.  Of the restoration process, Grenier said

It’s like surgery.  You don’t know what’s ahead.  The most important phase is testing to determine materials, what they can withstand during restoration and what the issues are.  When the treatment is correct and successful, it is a wonderful feeling. (John R. Kemp, 2016, Xavier Gonzalez: Restoring a Golden Age in Aviation in New Orleans,


According to Grenier, Gonzalez “wanted to capture the beauty and safety of flying, which was still very new to most people.”

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Flight Over Rio


Earlier in the year, I introduced the former Shushan Airport of New Orleans, and its magnificent restoration following a make-over in the 1960s to serve as a concrete and steel nuclear fall-out shelter, and the final insult of Hurricane Katrina and the surge waters from Lake Pontchatrain–where the airport sits on an area of in-fill.

Funded in part by programs from Roosevelt’s New Deal Administration, the one-of-a-kind Art Deco airport (and one of the few Art Deco airports remaining) featured a series of murals by New Orleans artist Xavier Gonzalez.

Removed from premises during 1960s renovation, [Flight Over Rio] found at the Louisiana State Museum, returned on permanent loan.  Mural was restored at one point prior to return. (from the poster depicted above)

Flight Over Rio is one of eight murals painted for the project.  The oil on linen canvases measure approximately 134 inches wide and 106 inches high, and are adhered directly to the plaster wall with an adhesive–“marouflage.”


The murals, created in 1938, are located on the mezzanine floor to correspond with the ground floor compass, which indicates points of distance from New Orleans to the various airports, which represent historic flights to locations by “aviation pioneers” in the 1920s and 1930s.

Flight Over Rio depicts the flight of Italian Commander Francesco de Pinedo in the Italian seaplane “Santa Maria.”  The mural pictures the “double-boat monoplane” flying over the Avenido Rio Banco with the Sugar Loaf Peak in the background (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport).

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Suzassippi and Rio will be back soon


Yep, been in Texas again.  Rio shares our week and sends his love with a video, which you can see over in Lottabusha County.

Posted in Texas | Tagged | 6 Comments

Christmas Eve Brunch from France

Last week on Chez Le Rêve Français Amanda made a beautiful post about how to make a French Yorkie Scramble.  Although I have heard of Yorkshire pudding, I had not a clue as to what it was, or how to make it.  Fortunately, Amanda not only provides great pictures (check it out, her result is beautiful!), but also a printable recipe with the steps.

So, who fancies this on Christmas morning, then? (Amanda)

I do!  I do! (Suzassippi)

Well, at least I fancied it on Christmas Eve brunch.  While I knew that “pudding” in England did not mean what people in the States usually think of as pudding, I had never eaten it, or seen one.  Turns out, it is a bit like a “popover” or as Rand so thoughtfully describe it, “Tastes like bread to me.”  Personally, I found it quite easy to make, and quite tasty to eat.

I looked up the history of the Yorkshire pudding and discovered it was historically served prior to the meat course, with gravy on it as a way to extend the meal content, and use of the drippings (fat from the roasting meat) which was not only a main source of energy in the diet, but also was quite tasty.  Originally, it was made by pouring a batter (flour, milk, eggs) into the hot drippings below the roasting meat.  Amanda’s recipe called for placing the batter in a Yorkshire pudding tin, but since I did not have that, I substituted a muffin tin.

The trick is to have the oil (or drippings if you wanted to be historically accurate) very hot, which reminded me of making cornbread in an iron skillet.  The result is a moist bread-like fluffy pudding which is then split to hold the eggs and bacon.  It reminded me a bit of the savory French toasts I learned to love in South Africa.

So, on this sunny and warm Christmas morning in Mississippi, I send greetings and appreciation to all the wonderful bloggers in other countries, other states, and other universes who add to my life pleasures in so many ways.

Posted in Food and Wine | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Looking up: The past is the future


Originally opening as the Shushan Airport in 1934, the recently restored Lakefront Airport terminal is almost too much to take in.  Abe Shushan was part of the driving force behind the development of a new international airport for New Orleans as “the Air Hub of the Americas”.  While Shushan would go on to prison for fraud, and the airport would be stripped of his name due to the embarrassment, the terminal still tells a tale of the beginnings of the flight industry and service to the flying traveler.

While there are certainly plenty of ground level details to take in, it is a good day to be looking up–but take care–extended viewing may cause a crick in your neck.


Throughout the terminal building, there are any number of features that draw the eyes upwards, capturing the details that were iconic to Art Deco and its exotic appeal.  Though the excesses of Art Deco would shortly give way to the more austere and stripped down Art Moderne of the depression-era architecture, the New Orleans International Airport was stunning.  After the recent restoration of a facility that time and Hurricane Katrina had tarnished about as much as Abe Shushan’s reputation, it is all the more remarkable.  A 1964 renovation for the purpose of protecting the airport in the event of nuclear attack had enclosed the balcony area and covered the tiles and other details that are now visible again.

Vincent Caire, program specialist and historian with the Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority and Alton Ochsner Davis, senior architect with Richard C. Lambert Consultants, were the two leaders of the restoration of the terminal building.  The restoration uncovered the original aviation murals by artist Xavier Gonzalez.  Come back soon to see them!

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, New Orleans | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

New Orleans’ 1934 Shushan Airport


With the completion of the Shushan Airport, New Orleans takes its place among the great air transportation centers of the world. (Description of the buildings at Shushan Airport, Board of Levee Commissioners of the Orleans Levee District, 1934)

Architects Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth designed the modern airport buildings to complement the plan of the airport itself–constructed on “reclaimed” land from the shoreline of Lake Pontchatrain.

The airport buildings are of fire-resistive construction, being built entirely of concrete, steel, and tile.  The exterior treatment is expressed in a light tan artificial stone with fine exposed aggregates of crushed marble and rock.  The style is a free interpretation of modern tendencies, in keeping with the spirit of aviation and the airport itself, marking as it does the latest developments in port facilities. (Description of the buildings at Shushan Airport)

Aluminum was utilized both exterior and interior of the terminal building, for decorative as well as safety features, such as around the observation decks and loggias.  Development of aviation was represented in the sculptural designs.  The “outstanding feature” was said to be the control tower (partially visible in the photo below).

placed on the field side of the building, at the apex of the oblique taxiway angle, and is set well forward of the building proper so as to offer an unobstructed view of the field and of the full length of both taxiways.  The control room forms the crowning element of the tower, being constructed entirely of glass set in an aluminum framework.  The glass employed is a special heat resisting product, bluish green in color, which insulates this room again exterior heat and softens the excessive glare. (Description of the buildings at Shushan Airport)

Over the main entrance doorway is a great symbolic figure, representing the materialization of man’s dream of himself as a flying mechanism.

Throughout the building, while the depiction of flight is most prevalent, there are representations of earlier forms of transportation.  The Works Progress Administration would subsequently add to the beauty of the airport with murals, fountains, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool, as well as landscaping.

Shushan was renamed New Orleans Airport in 1939.  Following the conviction and imprisonment of Shushan for embezzlement and fraud, the polity determined to remove any references to him from the airport.  The victim of a horrendous 1960’s era “renovation” in which the murals were covered over and panels covered the Art Deco artwork,  the terminal suffered further indignity as a result of Hurricane Katrina.  It recently reopened following a restoration to its former glory…minus the name Shushan of course.

Lakefront Airport, as it is now known, is a full-service airport.


Posted in Art Deco architecture, Louisiana, Works Progress Administration | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

E. F. Young, Jr.: Meridian Entrepreneur


In addition to his manufacturing company, E. F. Young, Jr., Meridian, Mississippi’s only Negro manufacturer, owns and operates a beauty and barber shop with which is also conducted an efficient beauty school where barbers and beauticians are trained.  He is referred to by Meridian residents as their leading citizen and they will soon hold a mammoth celebration in his honor to mark the tenth anniversary of his chemical discoveries(The Pittsburgh Courier, 22 June 1940, p. 23)

Mr. Young began experimenting with chemicals in his home kitchen in 1931, and in 1933, applied for a patented trademark.  The success of his hair treatments and facial products for African American women and men led to his establishing the E. F. Young Manufacturing Company.  Advertisements featured a profile image of Mrs. Young.  Products included hair pomade, skin bleach cream, pressing oil, facial soap, shampoo, deodorant, and hair dressing.

Young opened his “$100,000 hotel” November 16, 1946 (The New York Age, 16 November 1946, p. 2).   By then he also had opened a second company in Chicago.  E. F. Young, Jr.’s hotel was one of two listings of accommodations for black travelers in Mississippi under the years of segregation and Jim Crow laws.  In addition to Victor Green’s travel guide, publications were also later completed by Conoco, Afro-American Newspaper Press, Nationwide Motel and Hotel Association-Southern Division, GO Travel Guide by Amoco, and the U. S. Travel Bureau Bureau’s Directory to Negro Hotels and Guest Houses. The first travel guide for black travelers was named The Hackley & Harrison’s Hotel and Apartment Guide for Colored Travelers: Board, Rooms, Garage Accommodations, etc., in 300 Cities in the United States and Canada, and was published in 1930.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Historic Black Business Districts, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Looking beyond where you were looking


I have been planning a post on the E. L. Young Hotel in Meridian for some time now–ever since I took the photographs back in August.  The Young Hotel was part of the research on the Victor Green travel book–accommodations for black travelers during the segregation years.  As I was sorting through the photographs this morning, finally thinking I had enough time to get this together, my eyes saw something I had not taken note of during all the time I have been processing and working with these pictures for the research project that was completed back in September.

In the photograph below, I noticed for the first time the building across the street, its once corner entrance, and the obvious facade change on the bottom floor.  I can change course quicker than a dachshund on the hunt at the slightest hint of a potential chase down the rabbit trail.corner-building-across-from-youngPart of the historically black business district, the building is a “c. 1870 stucco-clad storefront with brick veneer” which originally had a canted entry (Linda Ford, 2004).  The second floor features arched windows and stone sills, and pilasters. 2419-5th-streetLooking beyond at the attached building, one sees the upper floor of a similarly styled building which was described as “parapet with raised brick panels, diamond patterns, cornice” (Ford).  The first floor featured arches along the arcade, and a denticulated stringcourse of bricks.  Beyond those two mentions in the nomination form for the historic district, and the brief information in the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, I have found nothing.  That probably means I need to put the badger dog back on a leash and do something that might have an outcome other than a dead end.406-25th-avenueAfter all, this is Meridian.



Posted in brick work, Historic Black Business Districts, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , , | Leave a comment