1857 -On St.Charles Street in the "American sector" of New Orleans,

two identical Greek Revival brick townhouses were built about 1850

on adjoining properties. Their addresses would eventually stabilize

as number 822 (left) and number 826 St. Charles (right). They both

happened to be up for sale in 1857 when this auction watercolor

drawing was made. It showed facades of exposed brick, in the American

east coast fashion. The modest ornament had a nice detail: the

"denticulated cornice" (row of tiny rectangles like teeth) above the

doorway was echoed at the top of each building.

                  1993 - Both buildings endured vigorously into the 1990s, gaining character and individuality with every decade. Sometime in the 1860s, shortly after they were built, both acquired cast-iron balconies (called "galleries" in New Orleans) on the front and side. Number 822 (left) kept its, but 826 (right) moved on to other additions in three directions-an attic-story upward, an annex to the side, and expansion of the ground floor out to the sidewalk. Meanwhile 822 added a full story on top. After a few initial decades of stable (separate) ownership and occupancy, each building began to experience rapid turnover of owners and rental tenants. By 1936, both facades had been coated with stucco, scored to look like stone masonry. A 1970s photo of 826 showed a barbershop in the ground floor. Since that photo, the building acquired shutters (presumably influenced by the old auction drawing), lights on top, a metal railing for the annex deck, and French doors on the ground floor. In both buildings only one thing seems to be perpetually renewed no matter what: those original denticulated cornices.


Both buildings grew.

They diverged.

Their skins changed markedly.


Both had rapid turnover of tenants.

Brick construction helped them last.

Window openings stayed the same.