Above: Mike Page, nephew of Nathaniel C. “Buster” Curtis Jr., plays in the yard of the Page residence in this undated, circa-1950s photograph. [Hawk Street, 40. New Orleans, LA. Page Residence], Curtis and Davis Project Photographs, SEAA-175, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Tulane University Special Collections
40 Hawk Street
Home of Dustin Gaar & Leigh Ann Arcuri
Designed by Nathaniel C. “Buster” Curtis, Jr., circa 1948
Just one street over from his business partner Arthur Davis’ house, architect Nathaniel C. “Buster” Curtis Jr. designed his own family a home in 1947 at 44 Hawk St. in Lake Vista. The following year, he designed the house next door at 40 Hawk St. for his sister and her husband, Nellie and Richard Page. Both houses had similar one-story, rectangular plans and flat overhanging roofs that were “among the earliest of (their) kind at a time when modernism was still foreign to most New Orleanians,” according to the National Park Service.
The Curtis family moved out of 44 Hawk at the end of the 1950s for a larger home on Marquette Place, and the house was altered over the following years beyond recognition of its original design. The Page family, however, remained at 40 Hawk St. until Nellie Page’s death in 1990, and much of its original form has remained intact despite renovations over the years.
Photo 1: Nathaniel C. “Buster” Curtis Jr. and sister Nellie Page stand in front of the Hawk Street residence that Curtis deigned for the Page family. Undated, circa-1950s photo provided by Dustin Gaar and Leigh Ann Arcuri. Photo 2: Gaar and Arcuri toured the residence with late architect Wayne Troyer to help guide a sensitive renovation of the mid-century modern home. Photo by Liz Jurey
“The house (at 40 Hawk) felt very modern at the time,” said Stella Curtis Colomb, one of Curtis’ daughters. “It felt open and bright.” The Curtis children have fond memories of the Page residence, spending afternoons in the swimming pool, putting on plays using the laundry room’s folding door as a curtain and watching television on Saturday mornings when the Pages were one of the first families in the neighborhood to have a TV in their home.
“It was always a very comfortable and welcoming place because of the house and also because of the wonderful family who lived in it,” said Curtis’ daughter Nell Curtis Tilton.
Original floor plans for 40 Hawk St. show an efficient rectangular dwelling with two bedrooms on the lane-facing side of the house, living and dining room spaces on the street-facing side of the house and a large brick fireplace in the center of the wall anchoring the home. Another wing was added in the 1960s to accommodate additional bedrooms, bathrooms and living area for the Page’s children Mike and Liz. The wing is connected to the main house with a glass-walled hallway, creating a small semi-enclosed patio to the side.
Image 1: Floor plan courtesy of Tulane University Special Collections. [Hawk Street, 40. New Orleans, LA. Page Residence], Curtis and Davis Project Photographs, SEAA-175, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Tulane University Special Collections. Image 2: Nathaniel C. “Buster” Curtis Jr. and the Page family gather in front of 40 Hawk Street during the home’s construction. Undated photo provided by Dustin Gaar and Leigh Ann Arcuri.
Current owners Dustin Gaar and Leigh Ann Arcuri purchased the home in 2019, one year after the couple attended PRC’s first Lake Vista Mid Mod Home Tour and became enamored with the neighborhood’s mid-century architecture. Their realtor Shannon Hinton Kern kept a watchful eye on listings in the area and called the couple as soon as 40 Hawk St. went on the market. Late architect Wayne Troyer toured the home with them before they closed on the property.
“He shared ideas and helped us appreciate the home and its potential even more,” Gaar said. “He passed away only a few months later; we remain so grateful of his time, kindness and expertise.”
The current owners renovated the main house down to the studs, working to carefully revive its original mid-century modern design, which had been altered over the years. The kitchen was updated, new countertops were installed by L&L Custom Countertops, and drywall was removed to expose bricks in the kitchen and around the original fireplace. Folding floor-to-ceiling glass doors were installed between the kitchen and patio, connecting the indoor and outdoor living spaces on pleasant days. Geometric breeze block walls were built in the front and back yards for additional privacy, and new lighting was installed with the help of Doug Perry from Lagniappe Electric.
A wing, built after the home’s initial construction to accommodate extra living space for the Page children, is connected to the main house with a glass-walled hallway and creates a small semi-enclosed patio to the side. Gaar and Arcuri’s renovations included the installation of new period-appropriate terrazzo floors and the removal of drywall from the interior brick walls and fireplace. Photos by Liz Jurey.
The floors had been altered over the years, but Gaar and Arcuri installed new period-appropriate terrazzo that appears as if it had been in the home all along. The family placed two hallmarks in the floors as the terrazzo was poured: a brass pass from the couple’s first Jazz & Heritage Festival together and a dog tag from the family’s dearly departed pet Skippy.
With five teenagers in the house at one point, the pool, yard and living spaces have become a joyful gathering place for the family and their friends — much like the property was for the Page and Curtis children years ago.
“We both love being here, the kids and their friends like being here,” Gaar said. “Even the dog loves it, because he can see everything going on outside around us.”
Davis “Dee” Allen is PRC’s Communications Associate and a staff writer for Preservation in Print
Click photos to expand gallery. Photos by Liz Jurey.