C1 Director of New Work Ilana Brownstein headed down to New Orleans in advance of the Boston opening of Tennessee Williams’ Green Eyes, and brought back this photo journal of Williams-associated landmarks. (All photos are by Ilana Brownstein and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.)
Tennessee Williams was a long-time resident of New Orleans, moving there first in 1939 on the remains of a $1000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. He lived in a French Quarter attic apartment at 722 Toulouse St, part of a property owned by the Works Progress Administration that housed other writers and artists working for the Federal Writers Project.
The building is now part of the Historic New Orleans Collection and preserves the property as it existed after its sale from the WPA to a philanthropic high society New Orleans couple, Kemper and Leila Willaims (no relation to Tennessee). Sadly, Tennessee’s apartment was demolished, but the courtyard it overlooked — and in which his autobiographical play Vieux Carre is set — still exists. Williams called it “a poetic evocation of all the cheap rooming houses in the world.”
Critic Jenny Sandman notes that in Vieux Carre, a character called The Writer arrives at 722 Toulouse, and becomes caught up in the lives of the other tenants. “It appears at first that the house is a den of iniquity; but later he realizes, ‘There’s so much loneliness in this house you can hear it.'”
Later, Williams took up residence at 1014 Dumaine Steet, at the edge of the French Quarter that butts up against the historic Congo Square (now part of Louis Armstrong Park). One of his favorite restaurants, Marti’s (now shuttered), was directly across the street, and operated as his “de facto home dining room,” according to Poppy Tooker in the excellent cookbook Dinner With Tennessee.