Many will recognize the 1950s ranch-style home at 1424 Fourth St. as the former rectory for Trinity Episcopal Church. As a rectory, the house has been a gathering spot for many in the community since 2000. New owners, Annie and Jeff Strain, their five children, and two basset hounds (check them out on their Instagram account, @cornstalkhounds) relocated to New Orleans after 18 years in Seattle to be closer to family near Louisiana. They purchased the home from Trinity this year after falling in love with the home’s breezy interior, subtle yet meaningful craftsmanship, and dappled light that streams in from the historic oaks in the gardens.
While settling in over the summer, the Strains swiftly and elegantly transformed the former rectory into a home of their own by personalizing the house’s color palette and hardware. The updated home includes a nursery, children’s rooms, and a music room in addition to a master suite, the original kitchen and living spaces. Tour-goers will want to pay particular attention to the use of charred shou sugi ban paneling in the entry way, which was made using the ancient Japanese technique of partially burning wood for weather and insect resistance.
In the course of their improvements to the garden, the Strains discovered the crisscrossed pattern of a preexisting garden 18 inches below their grounds. This hidden garden is a glimpse into the history of the home as an original portion of the lot next door, 1448 Fourth Street. Colonel Short’s Villa, designed by renowned architect Henry Howard, was constructed 1859-1860 for Colonel Henry Short and his wife Margaret Ford on a larger parcel than seen today. The home’s lot underwent subdivision in 1948, and the 1424 parcel was established by March 1949.
By 1950, Alfred Jay Moran and his wife Marjorie Leverich purchased 1448 Fourth Street, and Alfred Jay Moran’s parents, Alfred Moran and Minter Jay, purchased the vacant lot at 1424 Fourth Street. The Moran family commissioned local architect Paul G. Charbonnet, Jr. to design a home for the 1424 parcel that was constructed by the end of 1950, and remains largely intact today. Charbonnet, Jr. was a prolific architect of the era with homes through New Orleans and Old Metairie; another of his homes, 1224 Second St., was featured on PRC’s 2013 Holiday Home Tour.
On the 2017 Holiday Home Tour, the Strain’s large-format photographic collection and photo-mural installation in the main stairwell truly sets their home apart. Each room — including staircases, hallways and bedrooms that seem to go on and on (the depth of the house is magically disguised from the street) — is covered with extraordinary varieties of photos and art. Among the collection are examples of photojournalistic work, pre-drone aerial photography, and early digital photographic explorations in pixel crunching. The large photography collection of established European, North and South American photography includes works by Margaret Bourke-White, Cheyenne Randall and Richard Sexton, and has recently expanded to include works by emerging local talent such as Helen Reed, Tammy Mercure and Patrick Melon, who is a recent graduate of NOCCA. One of the most striking photos in the home, which greets you from the living room as you first enter the home, is by Melon, and shows, close up, a man holding a snake in a second line. The photo juxtaposed next to the glass wall that stretches across the living room, which acts as a large picture window to the outdoor pool, is a thrilling combination of mid-century modern and contemporary design — which is a wonderful, refreshing visual.
See this home and six other stunning Garden District homes at the PRC’s Holiday Home Tour on Dec. 9 & 10. Click here to purchase your tickets today!
Photo Gallery (click images to expand)
Photos by Sarah Essex Bradley