Longue Vue Gardens and House

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“Of all the arts, gardening opens the most doors. All are welcome.”

The above is a famous quote from Ellen Biddle Shipman, who was referred to as “the dean of American women landscape architects” in The Gardens of Ellen Shipman by Judith B. Tankard.  Shipman was one of the key landscapers of the Longue Vue House and Gardens. It is clear that this kind of thinking is the foundation and lasting ideology for the growth and purpose of the Longue Vue Gardens.

The Sterns and their three children built the house between 1939 and 1942 with the help of Shipman and brothers William Platt and Geoffrey Platt. Their work cemented the manor as a historical landmark within New Orleans and upheld the Sterns’ place as civic leaders. The motivation of their work was to make a home dedicated to its gardens: in each room, large windows face the many gardens, helping them remain the focus in every part of the house.

According to Longue View’s website, “Shipman, the Platt brothers and the Sterns worked closely together to create a masterpiece of utility and beauty uniting the house and gardens.”

Longue View encompasses eight acres of land, which contain a magnificent house where Edgar and Edith Stern lived, and 14 beautiful gardens decorated with 22 fountains. One is modeled after the Spanish Alhambra fountain.  

Both Edgar and Edith Stern were big believers in spreading beauty and were patrons of the arts. The couple collected numerous styles of artwork during their years in the house. Edith was particularly fond of collecting and commissioning artwork to decorate. She had two close friends, Lillian Florsheim and her son-in-law, Thomas B. Hess, to guide her on her artistic endeavors.

Her first painting was by Victor Vasarely, who turned into a close family friend. Her collection of art would eventually include works by artists like Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Naum Gabo, Robert Michel, Henri Laurens, Jaacov Agam, Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth and Jésus Soto. As a result, many rooms were dedicated to celebrating the arts that Edith cared for so much. When she passed away, many of her works went to the New Orleans Museum of Art, but some can still be seen in the house.  

Longue Vue House and Gardens has endured many trials and tribulations throughout the decades. It has remained strong despite numerous hurricanes, including as Betsy and Katrina. “Longue Vue opened its gardens to the public in 1968 and was in continuous operation until Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures which flooded the property for two weeks. The flood waters killed 60 percent of the total plant collection, including 200 trees and shrubs, all annuals and 90 percent of the perennials. By July 2006, the entire garden was re-opened to the public,” states their website.

In addition to being patrons of the visual arts, the Sterns did a lot of work for the community in New Orleans and America at large. Edgar received the Loving Cup for founding Dillard University. His wife, Edith, received the same award for founding Metairie Park Country Day School because of her desire to improve the New Orleans private school system.

Today, the estate is the setting for many television programs and movies. It has been the setting of “Claws” and multiple “American Horror Story” episodes, and also hosts special events, summer camps, kids’ programs and a creative learning space that contributes to spreading knowledge about integral parts of New Orleans history. Their newest exhibition is L’dor V’dor, an exhibition about Jewish women and their effect on New Orleans. It runs from Feb. 1 until April 29.

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