In 1952, Charles R. Colbert was named the architect in charge of the new Office of Planning and Construction. He initiated a study of physical plant and invited local firms to submit designs for review in architectural competitions for the new schools.* Architecture firms involved in this mid-century modern renaissance include: August Perez and Associates; Burk, LeBreton and Lamantia; Charles R. Colbert; Curtis and Davis; Favrot, Reed, Mathes and Bergman; Freret and Wolf; Goldstein, Parham and Labouisse; and Ricciuti Associates.** Several mid-century school facilities were recognized by national architecture journals and organizations for their design merit. The Thomy Lafon School (1954, Curtis & Davis) received the AIA Honor Award.*** Progressive Architecture recognized the Phillis Wheatley School (1955, Charles R. Colbert). In 1957 Curtis & Davis earned Progressive Architecture’s highest honor, the First Design Award, in for the innovative George Washington Carver Junior and Senior High Schools. New Orleans mid-century modern architects were not just making headlines and history. They were creating models of a regional modernism, inventive designs which are of a place, by a place and for a place. While McDonogh no. 39 Elementary School in Gentilly did not receive any awards, it was nonetheless recognized as a model facility and was the first modern school built in New Orleans.****
satellite photo of George Washingon Carver Junior and Senior High Schools, Google Map
* The alliance between Charles Colbert of the Tulane School of Architecture, and Jacqueline Leonhard of the Orleans Parish School Board was profiled in Time Magazine in 1953. Through their efforts a plan was developed and embraced to create “ultra modern” schools in New Orleans. “Mrs. Four-to-One” Time, March 16, 1953.
** A Guide to the Architecture of New Orleans 1699-1959 by Samuel Wilson, Jr.
*** In the same year, Curtis & Davis received the AIA Merit Award for St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Elementary School. This school and the St. Frances Cabrini Church (Curtis & Davis, 1959) were demolished in 2007.
**** New Orleans Public School Review, 1950