By John Hanley
Ten years ago, prominent and respected architect Baton Rouge architect A. Hays Town passed away. His memory, however, lives on in the Old State Capitol new exhibit revisiting all of the work and beauty that Town added to capital city.
“We have a number of images from the book Louisiana Houses of A. Hays Town; examples of items he liked to include in his designs, blueprints, [and] drawings; miniatures of some of his buildings, personal antiques he collected, as well as a few of his tools,” said Lauren Davis, the curator for the exhibit.
Davis says his designs sparked her interest when she saw the aforementioned book in the Old State Capitol’s gift shop, and from there, she brought the exhibit to life.
“I personally love Town’s style, particularly the way he incorporated salvaged, historical items and features into his homes and made traditional architecture popular again when so many people were moving away from it in the mid-20th century. I also knew that he had recently been nominated as a master architect with the National Register of Historic Places in both Louisiana and Mississippi, so it is timely that we have the exhibit,” she said.
Town himself is celebrated as a local architect—and deserving of an exhibit—for several reasons. According to Davis, not only did he spend almost 80 years as an architect, but he also designed over “1,000 buildings in Louisiana and across the South,” including work at LSU, Southern, government buildings, and businesses. He developed a signature “Town Style,” found in residential houses and neighborhoods across the South, and brought about in part the Louisiana Colonial Revival style.
Davis stressed his importance and prowess as an architect during his own time and continuing today: “Town was truly a master architect whose work has been recognized by his peers in addition to political and business leaders and clients. [The Town Style] set him apart from the majority of architects working in Louisiana as well as Mississippi during the middle of the 20th century. Through his remarkable ability to incorporate traditional design elements with modern, his eye for detail and proportion, and his desire to harmonize exterior landscapes with interior views, he helped encourage the resurgence of Louisiana’s vernacular architectural traditions.”
Davis says the exhibit will offer insight into the life and work of Town that may not have been as available or visible before. She also hopes the exhibit will revamp some interest in his legacy as well.
“A. Hays Town is fairly well known in Baton Rouge and Lafayette in particular, but his work hasn’t been extensively studied,” she said. “We hope that this exhibit and the recent national register nomination by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana will encourage more research into this work and legacy. We also want people to be able to recognize his work when they see it.”
The exhibit began on June 16 with an opening reception on June 17 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public, and will feature several showings of the documentary about A. Hays Town, 1000 Homes: The Legacy of A. Hays Town, as well as free food and drink. Signed copies of The Louisiana Houses of A. Hays Town by Cyril Vetter and Philip Gould will also be available for sale. The exhibit will run for the rest of the summer, from June 16 to September 5, and is free to the public for anyone that wants to learn to recognize and appreciate the legacy of A. Hays Town.