Longue Vue House and Gardens' deep Roots in the
By MG Calla Victoria
I spent a wonderfully relaxing Saturday at the stunning Longue Vue House and Gardens, which is a rare jewel in New Orleans' crown and a national landmark. I volunteered there a few Saturdays ago as the Master Gardener on-duty during their Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Plant Sale. While there I met Principal Ava Lee of First Line Schools who was there on a retreat. I just happened upon her as she was taking in the serenity of those amazing surroundings.
Principal Ava Lee
Being an avid gardener of course I was in heaven is such lavish surroundings, especially as the gardens were designed by legendary landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman, my inspiration as a Master Gardener. Known for her formal gardens and lush planting style, Shipman was hailed as the Dean of American women landscape architects and was the first female landscape architect in America. During her 35 year career (1912-1947) Shipman designed over 600 gardens across the country. In 1934, the founders of Longue Vue House and Gardens Edgar and Edith Stern, commissioned Ellen Biddle Shipman to design their entire multi-garden landscape. Aside from her landscaping accolades Shipman was a pioneer for women's rights as she hired only female workers back when no one would hire women.
Being an African-American it was amazing to be in a place that was so integral to New Orleans' black community. It was the philanthropy of Edith and Edgar Stern that founded Dillard University in New Orleans in1930, the private historically black liberal arts college. The Sterns also funded Flint-Goodridge Teaching Hospital for African-Americans which was erected in 1931. Flint-Goodridge was the only private hospital in New Orleans that admitted blacks under the care of their own physicians, and the only hospital that granted black physicians staff privileges. Black physicians from all over the country came to study at this hospital. Flint-Goodridge Hospital no longer exists however the building that housed then the largest African-American owned business in the state of Lousiana still towers magestically in uptown New Orleans on Louisiana Avenue between Freret and LaSalle streets.
The prestigious African-American subdivision Pontchartrain Park was developed in by Longue Vue's founders Edith and Edgar Stern. Pontchartrain Park represented the Stern's commitment to civil rights, equality, and quality in the building environment. Pontchartrain Park became the pre-eminent planned community for affluent, middle-class, and professional African-Americans with modern homes anchored by a the Joe Bartholomew golf course. But in order to establish Pontchartrain Park, the Sterns also had to develop Gentilly Woods, which was then a white subdivision as whites pushed back against the project touting "separate but equal." Today Gentilly Woods, like Pontchartrain Park, is predominately black; and Longue Vue House and Gardens has maintained its relationship with both neighborhoods now forming the Pontilly (Pontchartrain Park and Gentilly Woods) Neighborhood Association and initiating Rainwater harvesting programs there.
So if you just want to contemplate nature in an elegant space, study the landscape designs of a legend, or volunteer your time giving back to an organization that has given so much to us; look no further than Longue Vue House and Gardens. https://www.longuevue.com
Pretty little Alexa Chandler ready for the Easter Egg Hunt
This article also published in Data News Weekly on March 23, 2013 and online at their website @ www.ladatanews.com.