Mardi Gras is one of the most storied, celebrated, raucous, and wild holidays in the world, and nowhere in the world does it prouder than New Orleans. The official start date is, of course, Fat Tuesday, but parades in the city kicked off the festivities long before today. In honor of the celebration's rich NOLA history -- Mardi Gras has been a part of New Orleans culture since the 1730s, and its Carnival was first referenced in 1781 -- we're taking a tour of seven historic New Orleans hotels that have rich and storied pasts.
This grand, historic hotel is located just behind St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, giving guests the option of a raunchy walk down Bourbon Street, or an elegant afternoon in Royal Street galleries. The hotel nimbly straddles both worlds, and maybe the afterworld as well — ask the bartender to see the digital photo of a nun’s ghost, sighted in a hotel hallway. The spirit is supposedly one of the Creole nuns who ran a convent and orphanage on the site until the 1960s. More than a century earlier, war hero Andrew Jackson announced his run for president in one of the hotel’s ballrooms.
Place d’Armes Hotel, located right on the famous Jackson Square, is a popular spot on haunted walking tours. The historic townhouses, centered around a pretty courtyard, that make up the hotel don’t show any signs of the ghastly fire that took the lives of several students and teachers when their school burned down on this site in the 1800s. But footsteps, children’s laughter, and the sound of furniture moving in unoccupied rooms are just the beginning of reported paranormal activity here. Resident ghosts include a young girl who asks where her grandmother is before vanishing into thin air, and an elderly bearded man dressed in old-fashioned clothes who gives a friendly nod of acknowledgment before he disappears.
With a grand lobby, classic rooms, a rooftop pool, a historic restaurant, and wonderful service, The Roosevelt attracts a varied crowd of celebrities, well-heeled couples, and business travelers — just as it did when it opened over 100 years ago. Built on the site of the former Grunewald’s Music Hall, the hotel has not surprisingly hosted many musical greats — such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles. And former U.S. senator Huey P. Long infamously loved the Ramos Gin Fizzies from the hotel bar so much, that he paid for the bartender to fly up to New York City to teach the mixologists at his hotel residence there how to make the cocktail.
This upscale, mid-sized hotel in the Central Business District (CBD) drips with an opulence — from the chandeliers to the marble floors in the entranceway to the large oil paintings — that harkens back to its glamorous past. One of the first skyscrapers to grace NOLA’s skyline, the hotel was built in 1907 on the site former plantation, and rumor has it that spirits still haunt its hallways. Today, decor throughout is of a classic style, and there’s a lovely rooftop pool with views of the city.
Opened in 1886, Hotel Monteleone is one of the few remaining family-owned and -operated hotels in New Orleans. (The current owners are fifth-generation.) It also has one of the richest histories of all the hotels in the city. Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway were all notable former guests — and the latter was often spotted at the Monteleone’s legendary Carousel Bar, which slow-spins cocktail drinkers past a bank of windows facing Royal Street. Truman Capote also frequented the bar, and claimed that he was born at the hotel; in truth, he was not, but his mother did stay at the hotel while pregnant. As with many NOLA hotels, Monteleone apparently plays host to several resident ghosts as well.
This perfectly adequate mid-range hotel in the Central Business District, a block from the Charles streetcar line, has more history and character than nearby chain hotels. A historic landmark, the hotel is carved from the city’s earliest Whitney Bank branch. Its single restaurant occupies part of the old bank, which has kept its grand marble pillars, gold-barred teller’s windows, and an original mural (depicting, of all things, a bank robbery) painted along the back wall. Hand-numbered prints with money and banking themes frame the hotel hallways.
This classic, 111-room New Orleans boutique hotel is a well-maintained historic property in the French Quarter, just a block from Bourbon Street. Rooms are elegant and charming; some have details such as exposed brick, whirlpool tubs, or balconies. The hotel’s current breakfast room is where John James Audubon stayed while painting his Birds of America series, and the Dauphine’s on-site bar, May Baily’s Place, was once one of the city’s most well-known brothels. Jilted prostitutes and Civil War soldiers reportedly haunt the property but, like most neighborhood hotels, the Dauphine Orleans Hotel has plenty of pleasant, non-haunted spots, such as its lovely private courtyard.
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