The New Orleans Corner Store

Oct 1, 2015

How is the humble, sociable, often derelict, and now endangered corner store so vital to the city’s culture?

In the initial installment of this series on the built character of New Orleans, I looked at instructive ways that common New Orleans house types — the shotgun, the Creole townhouse — engage the street. So well established are these types, so ubiquitous and familiar, that their profound contribution to the public realm is easily overlooked; and the elements of that contribution are so thoroughly synthesized that they hardly seem intentioned, at all. Indeed, such absorption of intention into everyday operation may be a defining quality of a type. It is certainly an argument in favor of honoring typological traditions, because the useful intentions they preserve are ones we might not even notice, except when they’ve been neglected.

If such a seamless resolution of form and use and construction is something we expect of a type, then what are we to do with those crazy corner stores, corner bars, corner restaurants? Seen all over New Orleans (outside the French Quarter and the CBD), they form an easily recognizable family. Resolved, they are not.

In fact, their lack of resolution is their most obvious characteristic. Whatever the actual construction sequence may have been, each appears to be simply a house — a shotgun, a cottage, or something less distinctive — the street corner of which has been cut away in the dumbest possible fashion to make a doorway at a 45-degree angle. Perhaps an awning has been tacked on, or the walls around the entry painted a contrasting color. It’s the sort of thing a child with an X-Acto knife would do to a shoebox. Can we even call such a thing a type?.... Full Article HERE

IMAGE - Constance and Thalia streets. [photo by Infrogmation via Flickr]

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