Mid-Century Modern Hammond Walking Tour
Mid-Century Modern architecture (or “Modern” architecture) is characterized by an emphasis on:
1. Form over ornament
2. Decorative exposition of building materials and structure
3. A methodical use of space.
In new and rapidly developing post-WWII cities like Palm Springs, California the Mid-Century Modern style proliferated easily. However, in an older state like Louisiana, that same housing boom yielded a rise in suburban living, but not the same amount of high style Modern architecture. That is why the building stock of Hammond stands out among its contemporaries. The density of local Modern architecture is rare.
That density is thanks in large part to the local architect, the late John J. Desmond. Born in Denver, CO John Desmond graduated Hammond High School in 1937. He went to Southeastern before transferring to Tulane University, where he received his architecture degree. After then earning a masters at M.I.T. and working for one of the premiere Modern architecture firms in New York (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), Desmond returned to Louisiana to work for A. Hays Town in Baton Rouge.
A. Hays Town (1903 - 2005) was a prominent mid-century architect with a classical style. Desmond, more in tune with the Mid-Century Modern subtler sub-category called “New Formalism” than Town’s classical references, moved back to Hammond in 1952 to open his own architectural firm.
Desmond’s architectural influence is still felt in the community and, due in large part to his Hammond tenure, we have a truly unique portfolio of Mid-Century Modern architecture worthy of national recognition. These structures can be spotted exposing structural elements as decoration, originating “open concept” interior design, having a low, horizontal building emphasis, and using materials that were new technology in post-WWII America - like wood paneling, concrete slab, and large sheets of glass.
What makes Desmond’s work particularly notable is that he adapted Mid-Century Modern trends to Southern Louisiana by incorporating features and materials popular in regional architecture. Desmond’s early career Hammond buildings can be described as “Acadian Modernism” because Desmond expertly fused Acadian design elements with the clean lines and broad forms of Modernism in his residential and commercial architecture.
Two of Desmond’s buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017 - The Miller Memorial Library and the First Christian Church. This walking tour seeks to continue preserving Hammond’s Modern legacy through similar recognition.
Please remember that these buildings are private property and be respectful of homeowners' privacy. Enjoy the Modern architecture around you - in Hammond and elsewhere - and help us promote its importance as a historic national movement!