Longue Vue and the Ellen Biddle Shipman Design Legacy
The Sterns worked with famed landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman (1866-1950) to produce an oasis of elegant beauty as their family home. Named “Dean of Women Landscape Architects” by House & Garden magazine in 1933, Shipman worked at Longue Vue between 1935 and 1950, in close collaboration with owners Edith and Edgar Stern. She earned the confidence of the Sterns to the extent that they took her advice and replaced the original 1920s family home with a new house, completed in 1942 and designed to match Shipman’s gardens. Shipman hand-picked the new architects: William (1897-1984) and Geoffrey (1909-1985) Platt. She participated in the Platt brothers’ selection of exterior facades, and she personally designed the home’s interiors down to the smallest detail. This extraordinary connection of house and gardens resulted in one of the most noteworthy American estates of the 20th century. Today, Longue Vue is the only extant example of Shipman’s holistic interior-exterior design concept.
Together, Ellen Shipman and Edith Stern also supported and enlisted the help of famed botanist and author Caroline Dormon to choose plant material for Longue Vue’s Wild Garden, which is known for its extensive collection of plants indigenous to Louisiana, including its seasonal Iris Walk and Camellia Walk.
Following Edgar’s death in 1959, Edith maintained the property on her own and continued to activate it as a headquarters for garden clubs, cultural events, and political activism. She opened the gardens to the public on a regular basis beginning in 1968 and began to convert the house into an historic museum in the late 1970s. She moved into an off-site apartment to make way for public access, leaving nearly all of the original furnishings and decorative arts collection. Longue Vue opened as an independent non-profit museum in 1980, several months before Edith’s death – allowing her to realize her vision.
Longue Vue and the Stern-Rosenwald Philanthropic Legacy
Longue Vue House and Gardens is a historic museum with strong ties to the civic and cultural history of 20th-century New Orleans. Edgar Bloom Stern was a businessman from New Orleans, the son of German immigrants. Edith Rosenwald Stern was from Chicago, the daughter of renowned business guru and civic philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. The couple met in 1920, were engaged and married in 1921, and began developing the Longue Vue property on eight acres at the edge of New Orleans that same year. Here the Sterns raised their three children – Edgar Jr. (1922-2008), Audrey (1924-1974), and Philip (1926-1992); entertained celebrities and politicians from across the United States and the world; and pursued a range of civic and artistic causes. Edith and Edgar were intimately involved in the design of this unique estate, in collaboration with a creative team that included naturalist Caroline Dormon, architects William and Geoffrey Platt, and pioneering landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman.
In addition to the physical beauty of the estate, Longue Vue carries an extraordinary family legacy. Edith and Edgar Stern were raised with the Jewish principle of Tzedakah: Instead of “charity,” Tzedakah honors “sharing,” pointing to the reciprocal benefits of philanthropy in place of a benefactor-beneficiary one-way transaction. This captures perfectly how Edith and Edgar lived and gave. They invested time a resources in Dillard University, Flint-Goodrich Hospital, the Pontchartrain Park subdivision, Newcomb Nursery School, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and Metairie Park Country Day School, among many other causes. They addressed access to education for African-American students. They addressed equity in healthcare and housing. They sought to support free creative expression. They also worked to advance voting rights, transparency in government, and to share their evolving understanding of and concern about the evils of racist structures and systems.
Upon Edith’s death in 1980, their private residence became a nonprofit historic house museum, open to the public – and the wide range of causes Edith and Edgar addressed became a gift and a challenge to those of us tasked with continuing their legacy. Today, we host programs, exhibits, and events that address our century’s pressing issues, including environmental responsibility, broad access to quality education, and most recently, public health, safety, and equity. We believe that Longue Vue is uniquely positioned to serve our community by engaging these topics in a controlled, open-air, and inspiring setting.