Drehr Place

Baton Rouge City, East Baton Rouge Parish, LA

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The Drehr Place Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Selected text, below, is from the nomination document. [1]

Drehr Place traces its origins to Alvin L. Drehr's July 1919 purchase of a forty acre plot then known as the Kugler Tract. Drehr paid $32,000 for the property, which he had subdivided into lots and began offering for sale by 1921. A deed dated that year indicates that Drehr may have first called his new addition Jefferson Place, but a 1922 plat map and a 1926 deed confirm the official name as Drehr Place. Development in the new neighborhood appears to have continued at a steady pace, with the majority of the lots being built upon by the Great Depression. Even now a few vacant lots survive, usually serving as side yards. These open spaces add greatly to the lush character of the neighborhood.

Because purchasers of Drehr Place home sites sometimes obtained more than one lot on which to place their residences, the neighborhood contains houses and plots of various sizes, especially on Drehr Avenue. This north to south running street serves as the subdivision's entrance and grand boulevard, and it is here that the majority of the district's landmark houses are found. The entrance is marked by a set of thick, slightly tapered brick pillars featuring cast concrete capitals surmounted by spherical light fixtures. With the exception of Drehr Avenue, Government, and 22nd, all of the historic subdivision's streets are named for flora. Although there is no formal park, an undeveloped quarter block owned by one of the district's families of long standing is used as such for special occasions. The neighborhood features mature plantings of trees and other vegetation, including large live oaks which, in some cases, form canopies over the streets. In some places, the original brick sidewalks are reappearing as their later thin concrete covering breaks away from the surface. Also of interest is the subdivision's system of alleyways running through the interior of each block. (The 1922 subdivision plat shows many of the blocks with the alleys in place. They continue the pattern of development in adjacent Roseland Terrace, established in 1911.)

Drehr Place is architecturally significant because the neighborhood is, in effect, a window into the past, allowing people to view and understand the appearance of a period neighborhood. Stylistically, the subdivision illustrates very well the eclecticism of the early twentieth century. Classical Revival/Colonial Revival and Craftsman/Bungalow appear in the greatest numbers, with a wide variety of examples in each category. Sprinkled into this already rich mixture are a few landmarks in more "exotic" styles such as Mediterranean/Spanish and Modernistic. Then there are striking eclectic houses which feature a mixture of styles and a handful of the ever popular English Cottage style.

The Classical Revival/Colonial Revival category accounts for over one-third of the district's contributing elements (30 houses). Examples range from a grand two story house reflective of the Italian Renaissance, to Classical Revival houses with handsome porticoes (three of which are pedimented), to a red brick Georgian Revival house, to a gambrel roofed house, to interpretations of the Mount Vernon look. In terms of size, they range from what many would call mansions (although moderate sized ones) to small cottages.

Drehr Place is also an excellent example of the bungalow period, which is finally being recognized as an important chapter in the history of American domestic architecture. The neighborhood has 26 houses which are members of the bungalow family (almost one-third of the contributing elements) in a concentrated area. Many of these are well-developed examples characterized by broad openness, elaborate transfer of weight, massing that hugs the ground, and the bold expression of structural members. Others have only one or two bungalow features (such as tapered columns) applied to buildings which, without those details, would not be considered bungalows.

Although the number of English Cottage style houses within Drehr Place is relatively low (9 out of 110 buildings, or 8%), the visual impact of these dwellings upon the neighborhood is far greater than this small number would suggest. The picturesque English look was quite popular for residences in early twentieth century America, whether they be baronial halls or cozy cottages of the type found in Drehr Place. At the up-market end were the so-called "Stockbroker Tudor" houses. For middle class America, the style was popularized through mail order house catalogs and magazines, with specific models being advertised with evocative names such as "The Devonshire," "The Sussex," and "The Dover." The style as a whole was referred to at the time as "old English" and "Quaint English Cottage Style." Drehr Place examples range from the above mentioned moderately sized, half-timbered house to small cottages sheathed in brick or stucco.

In addition to houses in the above mentioned styles, two Modernistic dwellings bring a great deal of architectural interest and distinction to the Drehr Place Historic District. Although both are restrained examples, they are important because of their rarity. While Modernistic architecture, in its various permutations, was quite popular, it was never widely accepted for houses. It just didn't fit the "cozy cottage" domestic ideal. This is particularly true in conservative areas such as the Deep South. Hence, it is surprising to see two "Moderne" houses in Drehr Place tucked in amongst traditional bungalows, English cottages, and Colonial Revival residences.

Finally, it should again be emphasized that Drehr Place is impressive in terms of integrity. Only 20% percent of its resources are non-contributing, and contributing elements are very well preserved.

Drehr Place is also a fine representative example of the type of bedroom suburb which sprang up around major eastern cities in the early years of the twentieth century. These neighborhoods were designed to give working men in the cities a more rural domestic life. Drehr Place exemplifies the early-twentieth century "garden suburb" with its small lots, liberal planting of trees along streets, and rear alleyways. In addition, the subdivision is more attractive than most because utility poles were deliberately placed (and are still located) along the rear alleyways. Thus its bucolic atmosphere is preserved and enhanced.

  1. National Register of Historic Places, Drehr Place Historic District, selections from nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.; source: www.crt.state.la.us/hp/nhl/

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
22nd Street South • Cherokee Street • Drehr Avenue • Myrtle Avenue • Oleander Street • Olive Street • St Rose Avenue • Tulip Street • Wisteria Street

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