Home of Booth Pohlmann & Dr. Kenneth Sumner
by MaryNell Nolan-Wheatley
THIS TENDERLY DECORATED house is intimate and refined, though the unassuming homeowner, Booth Pohlmann, is likely to describe the space as comfortable and functional. Pohlmann and his partner Kenneth Sumner purchased the house in 2005, just before the floodwaters of Katrina reached but did not cross the front and rear property lines, thanks to its location on the Esplanade Ridge.
The previous proprietor shied away from major structural alterations to the house, avoiding even modern amenities like central heating. As a result, Pohlmann and Sumner discovered an array of original architectural gems, such as a complete inventory of fully operable historic windows, doors, and fireplaces, as well as original hardwood floors. With no major repair work to tackle, Pohlmann and Sumner’s interior changes were mainly cosmetic, adding a master bathroom in the bedroom and marble flooring to the enclosed side hall and refinishing the interior woodwork that, according to an advertisement for the house in a 1927 newspaper, was originally painted ivory. Pohlmann and Sumner found and electrified an original gas chandelier, which now hangs in the dining room.
The home’s art selection illustrates the owners’ unique tastes. This is perhaps best exhibited in the library, which was originally a nursery, located at the end of the side hall just before the kitchen. The room contains a mix of antiques, art, crafts, and heirlooms such as two cherished sets of antlers dating to 1912, which Pohlmann rescued from his grandmother’s house. Images by Louisiana photographers including Debbie Caffery and Frank Relle create atmosphere and a sense of place.
Only a few changes have been made to the building’s floor plan over the course of its history, the most recent being the 1988 kitchen additon.
The home has received attention as the house where Estelle Musson Balfour, the cousin of Edgar Degas, lived. While the chain of title leaves Estelle’s exact connection to the property a mystery, the narrative continues to attract curious visitors. Her story, and particularly her legendary love for flower arrangements, which she organized by texture due to her blindness, as the inspiration for the front garden. Pohlmann described the garden’s aesthetic as “freeform,” like a painting that changes every year.
Doesn’t this house sound great? You can see more of this house and many more during the Preservation Resource Center’s Shotgun Tour of Faubourg St. John homes on Saturday, March 31st from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The headquarters for the PRC’s Shotgun Tour of Faubourg St. John will be at the PITOT HOUSE at 1440 Moss Street on Bayou St. John.
The tour is just…
$16 for PRC and Louisiana Landmarks Society members
$20 for non-members
$10 each for groups of 10 or more
All tickets are $25 at the Pitot House on the day of the tour so get your tickets early!
Ticketholders will receive discounts from area businesses including Bayou Beer Garden, Cafe Degas, CC’s Coffee House, Cork & Bottle Wine Shop, Fair Grinds Coffee House, Liuzza’s by the Track, Lux Day Spa, Pal’s Lounge, and Swirl Wine Bar & Market.
For more information call (504) 581-7032 or visit prcno.org
SPONSORS of the PRC Home Tour
Abry Brothers, Inc.
Cork & Bottle Wine Shop
Louisiana Landmarks Society
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Soprano’s Meat Market
Uptown Insurance Agency
Tour Headquarters: PITOT HOUSE
Built in 1799, the Pitot House is one of the oldest Creole country house buildings in New Orleans. It is traditional stucco-covered, brick-between-post construction with a double hipped roof and wide galleries. The house is named for James Pitot, the first mayor of incorporated New Orleans, who lived here from 1810 -1819.
Now open for tours and special events, the house was restored in 1960 by the Louisiana Landmarks Society, which uses the building as its headquarters.
Shotgun House ticket holders will have the opportunity to visit the historic Pitot House.