Some might call A. Hays Town the premier southern architect of the twentieth century, but while that may be the case, too few outside of architects and Louisiana natives are familiar with the name. My own introduction to Town and his work was boosted by my growing up in Baton Rouge, where the sight of his designs was not rare. I can even add that my father worked at a lumber mill that did the millwork for most Hays Town designs, and my aunt worked for years as his personal secretary. But teenagers have other things on their mind and take little notice of architecture. It is my regret that I never took advantage of proximity to gain better understanding of a major architect. As Cyril E. Vetter writes in The Louisiana Houses of A. Hays Town, ‘Like jazz and jambalaya, Hays Town’s houses contribute to the sui generis nature of Louisiana life.’ The distinct nature of Louisiana life is clear, but I missed a valuable part of it in those youthful years when architecture was overlooked by young eyes mostly interested in fun. Though a couple of weeks late, think of the photographs below as commemoration of the architect’s death in January 2005, age 101.
Mr Town often recommended that clients supplement his design with a dog, preferably a German shepherd.
The photo above shows a view across the front lawn of the A. Hays Town home on Stanford Avenue in Baton Rouge. Since the architect’s death it has been the home of his son, A. Hays Town Jr. Stanford Avenue is located in an old section of Baton Rouge near Louisiana State University, and the house is diagonally across the street from one of two lakes. Not visible in this photograph is the second story located farther toward the back of the house.
In this photograph, looking through a brick arch we see into the backyard and garden. Directly in front is a small outbuilding used as a toolshed. The pigeonnier in the left background serves to evoke an earlier time. The architect added a pigeonnier to a number of his designs, but the homeowners most often used them for storage.
This offers a look at the back patio and a worktable with rocker under the deep gallery. From this view it is easy to see how the architect used native crepe myrtle trees to add twisted lines among the straight lines and angles within the patio.
Through the archway at the end of the patio above are again the irregular branches of crepe myrtle, this time framing another small outbuilding. The walls are made of crisscrossed lath and serve to house a statue. Notice the green algae growing on weathered gray roof shingles—illustration of how Mr Town incorporated the effects of nature into his design.
The photograph here shows two sets of antique doors the architect found while traveling in France. He shipped them home and installed them opposite each other across a hallway.
We see in this photo what the architect called the “morning room” with its window wall providing a sight line to a small statue outside.
Many might consider the study to be the most beautiful room in the house. A note about the artwork: All of the artwork in the house—a quite valuable collection—is carefully guarded by temperature control as well as protection from direct sunlight.
This photograph gives a look into the “Spanish room” which Mr Town added on to the house in the 1970s. He used it primarily as a home office for client meetings.
This offers a glimpse of the formal living room, and very likely a room not often used except on the occasion of parties and other gatherings. There is a formality, unmistakably a beautiful formality, but one that doesn’t encourage relaxed living.