New Orleans architects explored bold new ideas and designs in the years following World War II. On June 21, the Modernist Block Tour will visit four of these homes – some of the best remaining examples of the International Style in the city – for a rare peek inside privately-owned treasures during the Mid Mod NOLA summer series. Get your tickets to this tour today!
28 Tern Street – Mossy House
Architect John W. Lawrence, of Lawrence, Saunders and Calongne and former dean of the Tulane School of Architecture, designed 28 Tern St. for Mr. and Mrs. Wiley Mossy in 1955–56. The current owners, Ellen Johnson and Dr. Ronnie Swartz, purchased the house in 1986 from one of the Mossy children, beloved New Orleans preservationist Mary Lou Christovich.
Today, the house is furnished with period pieces from the 1930s to the present, collected by Ronnie during his time as a medical resident in New York City, as well as from throughout the couple’s life in New Orleans.
The story of the house begins with the physical lot. Lawrence pragmatically used the lot shape and size to design a residence with two distinct wings, a recreation wing for the kitchen, den and living rooms, and the other wing for sleeping quarters. Connecting the two is a hallway composed of glass walls that serves as the fulcrum of the home and entices one equally to both wings in a romantic tug-of-war of light, materials and design. The hall also provides a view of both the internal courtyards as well as the Lake Vista gardens, situated beyond an Arthur Silverman modernist tower sculpture.
As described by Architectural Record in November 1959, “[the objective of the architect was] the creation of a variety of interior and exterior spatial sequences and experiences, retaining always a consciousness of the relationship of house to site.” From the street side of the home, a tall iron grille located under a flat-roofed carport attracts viewers, yet protects a private courtyard and patio area. A water sculpture by Lin Emery greets all guests who enter.
The main recreation wing is the embodiment of Mid- Mod architecture. Two parallel, freestanding partitions provide the structure for kitchen cabinets as well as for the travertine fireplace and hearth, at all points unencumbered by exterior supports in a Le Corbusier style.
Overhead, a high-pitched roof with skylights provides light to accompany that of the floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the room. The long kitchen, complete with original appliances, fixtures and accessories, and accompanying counter provide an open concept for interaction both with the inhabitants of the living room, and also with the outside courtyard.
Adjacent to the kitchen, a Paul Laszlo buffet stands behind a Bauhaus-style horsehair covered sofa in the living room. Opposite the kitchen partition, the travertine fireplace and dining area look out at the terrace. In the cabinet adjacent to the fireplace, original period McIntosh Laboratory audio equipment remains connected throughout the home.
The opposite wing houses the living quarters and study area. A hallway runs the length of the wing replete with specially designed closets, while well-placed skylights and full-length glass panels provide an abundance of natural light. In the master bedroom, a stunning cabinet and bed commissioned from Tulane School of Architecture’s Byron Mouton adds form to function.
Photos by Liz Jurey
Mid Mod NOLA – Modernist Block Tour
Thursday, June 21, 6:00pm – 8:00pm in Lake Vista
Advance sale tickets: $25, $20 for PRC members. $30 on day of tour.
Read more about the other homes on the Modernist Block Tour: