Growing up in Louisiana, the sight of a residence designed by architect, A Hays Town was not rare. I even had an aunt who worked for years as his personal secretary. The lumber mill across the street, where my father worked, did the millwork for all the Hays Town designs. But as with many youngsters, I had other things on my mind and took little notice of such during my years of growing up.
A Hays Town was a remarkably prolific architect, who started his career designing government and commercial buildings in Mississippi and Louisiana before turning his full attention to the design of private homes. More than 1000 of his homes remain today, in addition to the government and commercial work from earlier years. As a Louisiana son, his designs are strongly influenced by not only the south Louisiana culture he grew up in, but in the very landscape that defines the area. One of the distinctive Hays Town characteristics is a house that seems to rise out of the landscape, a design incorporating native plant materials into its basic parts. There is a quality of benign neglect in much of his work—studied decay, incorporating the effects of aging, mold, algae, and mildew into the shape, color and texture of materials. The houses make lavish use of cypress and heart of pine, two woods native to Louisiana.
Looking at a home designed by Hays Town will reveal elements of classic Louisiana—full-length shutters, dovecotes, thirteen foot ceilings and brick floors with a special beeswax finish. A familiar design reflects the old Acadian cottage with a raised front porch and exterior staircase. More often than not, the architect carried his influence inside, selecting materials, colors, furnishings, sometimes even recommending a dog to complement the design.
Most of his homes now wear a bronze plaque: A HAYS TOWN, ARCHITECT
Mr Town died in 2005, age 101.
All five photographs are from the book, The Louisiana Houses of A. Hays Town, and are by Philip Gould.
From the top…
1. Witter House — classic Louisiana setting with a raised porch.
2. Sherar House — familiar Louisiana columns fronting open porches.
3. Laborde House — unseen here are the wide steps leading to the raised porch.
4. Strawitz House — old brick and aged wood, with the large window looking out.
5. Bonnecaze House — to my eyes a breathtaking design of the traditional 19th century look; the signature porch, this time with whitewashed brick and beams. And notice the old brick building with dovecotes.