To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.
EAST ASIAN INFLUENCES How Japanese and Chinese traditions contribute to local architecture BY Winston Ho | PHOTOS BY Charles E. Leche IN 1904, Raoul Vallon, a successful insurance broker and son of a French immigrant, commissioned a new house for his family. Vallon didn’t want another Creole townhouse or Greek Revival mansion, like all of his Uptown neighbors. He wanted something different — something from another world. Vallon was friends with Lafcadio Hearn, a former New Orleans newspaper writer, and the two corresponded through letters after Hearn moved to Japan. Hearn sent illustrations and descriptions of Japanese buildings to Vallon, who then sent these illustrations with instructions to his architect Frank P. Gravely. The result was the Vallon Pagoda House at 2307 Napoleon Ave., an Uptown house in a pseudo-Japanese style. Since its construction, subsequent owners have added a pair of Chinese guardian lions to the front porch and a cast-iron gate in- scribed with circular Chinese longevity symbols. However, these additions are not part of the original structure. The original structure is Japanese in character — or at least it tries to be. The structure consists of two spacious floors over a raised basement, with a belvedere for ventilation and lighting at the summit, giving the house a roughly triangular shape. Three sets of roofs feature curved corners and wave-like red tiles. Each floor is surrounded by large windows resembling bamboo and paper windows, while the windows on the double doors are en- graved with images of bamboo and the rising sun. Even the light over the front door resembles a paper lantern. How much does this building reflect the illustrations of Japa- 28 PRESERVATION IN PRINT • www.prcno.org nese architecture that Lafcadio Hearn sent back to New Orleans? Though it appears Asian-esque and foreign to Westerners, it also appears Western and foreign to people from East Asia. The Vallon Pagoda House is an example of Orientalist architecture. Orientalist architecture is inspired by East Asian design, but it doesn’t duplicate it. Certainly, the Vallon Pagoda House is a remarkable and beau- tiful structure. Facing the spacious neutral ground of Napoleon Avenue, its exotic flavor sets it apart from anything else in the city. But the house’s red Mediterranean roof tiles, plant-like brackets and Victorian trim under its roofs, wooden hand rails around its spacious wrap-around porch, and long awnings are all common features of traditional New Orleans architecture, rather than Asian architecture. Similar features appear on other houses on Napoleon Avenue, albeit without as much flair. The Vallon Pagoda House is not a building you would ever see in Japan — perhaps not something you would see anywhere else in the world. It may be the only Japanese Creole house in existence. While Vallon wanted a house that looked Japanese, Frank and John Wong, immigrants from Hong Kong, wanted something far more ambitious for their local restaurants. They wanted some- thing that “looked Chinese,” rather than “fake Chinese.” In 1971, the Wongs founded the China Inn Restaurant in Ham- mond, which was the first Chinese restaurant in the Florida Par- ishes. The restaurant was an immediate success, and the brothers decided to build a second and much larger restaurant in Man- FEBRUARY 2019