Cary Long with Margaret Stones in Goudeau
Gone but Not Forgotten: Ten years after his death, Baton Rouge antiquarian Cary Long is sorely missed. The hub for Cary’s community of friends and collectors was Goudeau Antiques, his shop at the corner of Perkins Road and Terrace Street.
Last April, an estate sale at the Sevenoaks Avenue home of Cary and Zelda Long marked the end of an era. Zelda died on January 1 of this year, nearly ten years after Cary, who passed away in May 2003.
The sale, which included items from an 1880s bamboo sideboard in the Japanese style to tiny Steele Burden ceramics, attracted buyers who were seeking mementos of a couple who had left a mark on the lives of collectors of Louisiana art and artifacts.
The hub for Cary’s community of friends and collectors was Goudeau Antiques, his shop at the corner of Perkins Road and Terrace Street. He named it for Goudeau in Avoyelles Parish, where he spent his childhood, and for his beloved grandmother Hilda Morrow Goudeau.
There, with opera blasting in the background, he framed pictures, caned chairs, and made miroirs mosaiques (tiny mosaic and mirror pieces applied to picture frames). Outside the shop, he tended a courtyard garden of tropical plants. At home, he grew flowers more commonly seen in English gardens. He was a notable cook who served meals on Haviland Limoges with old French silver and damask napkins.
The only Louisiana agent for famed botanical artist Margaret Stones, Cary also sold and promoted the work of local artists Don Wright, Joe Poche, and Emerson Bell, with whom he had a long, occasionally rancorous, relationship (Bell persisted in calling him “Mr. Goudeau”).
The shop’s eclectic selection ranged from a huge Louisiana cypress armoire that Cary nicknamed “Big Red” to brass candlesticks, French glassware, and Newcomb pottery. One of the first dealers to carry Newcomb, he spent hours studying the marks on the pots and was instrumental in “cracking the code” to determine what the marks meant.
Born in 1943, Cary was only fifty-nine when he died in his sleep of a heart attack. Shocked and saddened, friends and customers (who were by and large the same) found solace at a memorial service at the Lacour House in Pointe Coupée Parish hosted by Pat and Jack Holden. Scores of people drove over from Baton Rouge, and points beyond, to honor his memory.
His friend H.P. “Pat” Bacot delivered a eulogy noting Cary’s many talents, his wicked sense of humor, and his random acts of kindness. “None of us really knows the extent of his charitable acts,” Bacot said. “Cary was self-effacing and did nothing in expectation of recognition.” For several years he gave a cash prize to an LSU theater student he believed possessed real talent. “These prizes were given anonymously in the name of an old friend bearing the striking name of Desdemona Treadway,” Bacot said.
George Karam, M.D. saw firsthand what he calls Cary’s “nurturing” impulse. Karam became a customer after going to the shop seeking help in repairing chipped glassware. Struck by the collection of treasures, he made weekly visits, often with his four young daughters in tow.
An infectious-diseases specialist who taught in the LSU system, Karam also took medical residents to the shop to buy birthday and anniversary gifts for their spouses.
“Cary was wonderful to them,” recalls Karam. “He would give them his undivided attention, find something in their budget, and give them an affordable price.”
But Cary went way beyond helping select gifts. Over dinner one night, he inspired Paula Garvey Manship to fund an endowed chair for medical education. Her $600,000 gift was matched by $400,000 from the LSU Board of Regents.
“Cary and Zelda were so influential on our residency program,” says Karam, who holds the Paula Garvey Manship Chair. Karam spearheaded the LSU Medical Education Building and Innovation Center, which will open this August at the corner of Brittany Drive and Hennessey Boulevard.
On the second story of the four-story building will be what Karam calls “an outdoor teaching terrace with a pergola.” Landscape architect Suzanne Turner is designing it around a 750-pound indigo kettle, circa 1810, that Karam bought from Cary and Zelda’s son Starr, who lives with his family in Los Angeles.
“We’ll honor Cary and Zelda with a plaque to tell the story of their role in making the initial contact for the chair,” says Karam. “Cary saw that these residents were really good people, and he went out and campaigned for them.”
Cary’s nurturing impulse extended to young collectors who didn’t have the cash to match their tastes. Larry Ruth was one of them.
“The first time I went to the shop I was in my early twenties, but I appreciated art and antiques,” says Ruth, an advertising salesman. “I thought it was the most amazing shop I’d ever been in.
“You could get something really great for under fifty bucks. He had everything from birdhouse gourds to really fine pieces of Newcomb pottery. When I finally bought a piece of Newcomb, I took him a payment every two weeks when I got my paycheck. But even though I was still paying on it, he insisted that I take the piece home. That was the Goudeau Antiques layaway plan.”
Cary and Ruth also bonded over a mutual love of plants. “He had a Brazilian plume flower [Justicia carnea] in the shop courtyard with a white flower,” recalls Ruth. “I had never seen one with white flowers, only pink. He broke off two or three cuttings and wrapped them in a damp paper towel and told me how deep to plant them.
“Another time he gave me some cotton seeds. I planted them and they grew brown cotton. When I harvested it, I took it in to show him, and he was so impressed. He introduced me to a lady customer: ‘This is Mr. Ruth; he’s a cotton farmer.’”
A.E. Probst also benefited from Cary’s green thumb and encyclopedic knowledge of plants.
“He had a pair of lusters that I wanted,” recalls Probst. “They were glass candlesticks with prisms and emerald glass, circa 1840. I wanted them, but I couldn’t afford them. He told me to take them home and to come to his house the next Sunday to work in his garden. Every Sunday for a year, I went to his garden. We’d weed, plant seeds. It was a great experience for me. I learned so much.”
At the time of his death, Cary had nearly completed an addition to his 1940s house that doubled its square footage. He had added a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and two screened porches. “When you talked to Cary you never knew what to expect,” says Sid Gray, who worked on the addition. “Together we picked out some unusual materials, like cypress paneling for the walls. He was very sensitive to color.”
“Cary loved color,” agrees Probst. “He loved that blue-green he called Paris green. He said that was the color Louisiana houses and shutters were painted around 1820 or 1830. When he bought shutters that color, he would strip off the dry, cracked paint, crush it up into powder, pound it to dust, mix it with turpentine and oil, and repaint the shutters with it.”
Karam is the proud possessor of a set of double doors from Goudeau Antiques. Cary had painted them blue-gray with pea-green inset panels. Each door has six panes of wavy glass.
“I built a room in my attic that is a combination chapel, office, and reading room,” says Karam. “I told Zelda I’d like to have something from Cary for it and asked her to sell me the doors. She said, ‘I’d like to give them to you.’”
Cary’s eye for quality was nonpareil. He could go to an estate sale on the last day, in the last hour, and walk out with an item nobody else had noticed.
“Cary could go into a garage with the lights off and come out with a treasure,” says Probst. “He could reach in and say, ‘This is a hand-blown eighteenth-century wine glass.’ If there was something good, he was going to find it.
“His memory was superb, and he had great intuition. He was able to hone in. Cary taught me a lot. He did that with everybody he knew. I remember him telling me, ‘You know how to build a collection.’ That is because he taught me how.”
David and Lubna Culbert had more than seventy pieces of art framed by Cary and bought notable pieces of furniture from him, including an eighteenth-century French table with cabriole legs.
But perhaps the most important piece of furniture in the shop was one that is universally referred to as The Therapy Chair. A wingback chair slip-covered in a floral print, it was a place for visitors to plop down and unburden themselves as Cary listened. Karam remembers that a chance to sit in the chair was highly prized. “When you went in the shop and no one else was there,” he recalls, “you thought you had won the lottery.
“Cary was wonderfully nurturing,” sums up Karam. “His shop was more than a shop; it was an important place to learn lessons about life.”
Ruth Laney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.