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The New Orleans Waldorf is steeped in American History
PHOTO: A luxurious bed at Roosevelt New Orleans. (photo courtesy of Roosevelt New Orleans)
The Roosevelt New Orleans, a period storied building managed by the Waldorf Astoria, sits in an enviable block-long location in the heart of this musical city’s business district.
It is somewhat of a dreamy place: right opposite the hotel’s Neoclassical facade is the legendary Orpheum Theater, which reopened in 2016 after a ten-year renovation hiatus. Vaudeville poured from its beautiful music hall in 1921. Now, you can find local and national talent like the Spanish-born Pepe Romera gracing the stage.
What was originally the Grunewald Hotel built by a German immigrant (the tiled letter “G” is hard to miss) is now a polished hotel whose block-long building is something to love and behold. When I visited, the terrazzo marble floor lobby (restored to its period 1930’s style) which transforms to a sort of Christmas tapestry during the tail end of the year, set the tone for my entire experience.
“During Hurricane Katrina, all the windows were boarded up,” says Etienne Tardy, the Director of Sales and Marketing. “So when looters came to the hotel, they saw the plywood they assumed everything had already been taken out,” he added.
This hotel, which changed hands to the Fairmont for a brief period and then reverted to the Waldorf, has had a layered history.
Shortly after the Great Depression, the Blue Room—a winsome, chandelier-lit venue on your immediate right as soon as you enter the hotel—opened its doors in 1935 and housed the talents of stars like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey who kept the locals tapping their feet all night long.
In our era of erasing the gender inequality gap, the Roosevelt hotel’s early vision is notable.
The Sazerac bar, where the earliest cocktail in America was made eliminated the “men only” rule in 1949, after which women “stormed the Sazerac” in glee. Rumor has it that the U.S. Senator Huey P. Long used to employ seven shakers at the bar to make his favorite drink, the egg-based Ramos Gin Fizz.
One other bit of trivia I picked up when I visited was that women were not allowed to use the public restrooms in the 1930’s.
“Let me clarify, the Sazerac was made not on our property but rather on Royal Street and St. Louis,” says Tardy. “The Sazerac bar opened first on Barone Street and little by little moved it into the space at this hotel.”
The bar often gets packed to the brim, which was the case when I visited; the somewhat controversial Art Deco murals done by Paul Ninas, widely-heralded as the city’s “Dean of Modern Art,” are hard to miss: these depict life in the city at the turn of the century.
Some have petitioned for these four murals, now valued at well over $2 million, to be removed because of their somewhat controversial topics, but I really loved how they remind you of the historical progression of the city with its cotton industry, free people of color, feminist movements comingled with a superb jazz and arts history narrative.
You can also see a bullet hole in the wall near one of the murals in the back, which was thought to be the result of an assassination attempt on Huey Long. “But what I think really happened in the 1970’s was that someone dropped a gun and a stray bullet went through the wall,” said Tardy.
If you visit in time for Mardi Gras, be sure to stop at the bar and Fountain Lounge which are serving two cocktails called Vive le Reine! and Vive le Roi! complete with purple, green and gold sprinkles. Also, the food at Alon Shaya’s Domenica adds a lighter touch.
Beyond the historic hotel background, it is hard to miss the jubilant cries of parties in the background, the revelry on Bourbon Street, and see the shining mask stores glinting everywhere. Take in the delicious restaurants and the unabashed outpouring of jazz from Frenchman’s Quarter and you see why it’s not difficult to fall head over heels with New Orleans. http://www.travelpulse.com/