The Longue Vue House and Gardens are a beautiful eight-acre estate in New Orleans constructed in the mid 1930s to early 1940s. The house and the gardens were designed in tandem, creating a cohesive blend of architecture and landscaping in the style of an old English manor. Philanthropists Edgar and Edith Stern hired architects William and Geoffrey Platt to build a new house on their property and landscape architect Ellen Shipman Biddle to design expansive gardens around the house. Naturalist Caroline Dormon also cultivated wild plants in the Wild Garden. The estate is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public.
Longue Vue is a collaboration of Edgar and
Edith Stern, William and Geoffrey Platt, and Ellen Biddle Shipman, who together
created one of the finest and most well-preserved estates in New Orleans. It
was owned by Edgar Stern, a businessman, and Edith Stern, a philanthropist and
daughter of the Sears, Robuck and Company president. Both Edgar and Edith were
civically minded and gave back to the city of New Orleans, helping establish
Dillar University and the Flint-Goodridge Teaching Hospital, and passionate
about the arts and social equality.
In the 1920s the Sterns purchased what would
become the Longue Vue property, on which a Colonial Revival house originally sat.
Once they acquired more land around the house, they hired Ellen Biddle Shipman
to design their gardens in 1934, though the Sterns wished the house
complemented the gardens’ beauty more effectively. Shipman, a successful
landscape architect and horticulturalist based in New Hampshire, recommended
that the Sterns hire architects William and Geoffrey Platt to design a new
home. The original house was moved and the Platts constructed a home in the
style of an English manor, surrounded by Shipman’s lush and
beautifully-designed gardens. Shipman had worked closely with William and
Geoffrey’s father, Charles A. Platt, as both were members of the Cornish Art
Colony in New Hampshire. The Sterns named their estate Longue Vue after an inn
where Edgar proposed to Edith.
Longue Vue was designed in the Country Place
Era of architecture and landscape design, which emphasized sophistication and harkened
back to classic European and Asian estates. The three-story house includes a
basement (unusual for New Orleans) and twenty rooms decorated with antique
furniture, art, and fine dinnerware. Those indoors can enjoy views of the
garden from every window in the house, thanks to Shipman’s astute awareness of
design. All plants, walkways, fountains, and walls were carefully placed in
relation to one another and the house. Shipman collaborated with Caroline
Dormon, an acclaimed naturalist, conservationist, and author, to cultivate
native plants in the Wild Garden, the only one of Shipman’s Wild Gardens.
Dormon also helped found the Kisatchie National Forest and the Caroline Dormon
Nature Preserve in Briarwood, Louisiana, her hometown, is named in her honor.
Edith Stern spearheaded turning the estate into a museum in the 1970s. When she
sought to make changes to the house to accommodate visitors, she hired the
Platts as the architects. Longue Vue is open to the public every day of the
week and offers tours of the house and garden. In addition, there are a number
of educational programs, including summer camps for children, toddler
programs, Gardens Education, Historic House Education, and more. The house
allows people to host events and view many of the public rooms and gardens.