As you know, we almost never do lists, but we'll break the rule for a special occasion. To mark the launch of our new book, New Orleans Historic Hotels, here's ten facts you may not know about, well, hotels in New Orleans:
1. The first recognised hotel in NOLA opened in 1799. It was called...drum roll please...The Hotel d'Orleans. Hey guys, we need to name this place something and we open in ten minutes...any ideas?
2. In 1956, Sir Thomas Beecham (at that point the world's most respected classical conductor, essentially he was the Kanye West of classical music conducting) was ejected from the Maison de Ville Hotel by the owner for complaining about the jazz music coming over the wall from the Court of Two Sisters. He should have known better, really.
3. A box containing over a million dollars could be hidden somewhere in the Roosevelt Hotel. As Senator Huey Long lay on his deathbed, Seymour Weiss asked him where something called the ‘Deduct Box’ was, a container containing a vast amount of campaign funds, collected in cash and stored at his Roosevelt Hotel base. “I’ll tell you later, Seymour” said Long, before promptly dying. The box has never been found. Check under the bed next time you're there.
4. The oldest swimming pool in the French Quarter is in the courtyard of the Audubon Cottages on Dauphine Street. Liz Taylor stayed there a lot so she's probably had a dip.
5. Each evening at 10pm, Le Pavillon Hotel serves a complimentary supper feast of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to its guests, along with ice-cold milk and hot chocolate. This tradition was started in 1988, when a traveling salesman ordered this very thing at the bar as a symbol of sharing in his daughter’s supper even though she was at home, many miles away. The bartender that night was by chance the general manager of the hotel, and as fellow bar guests began to notice and ordered the same thing, the manager was so touched that he decided to make it a nightly service.
6. Tennessee Williams often claimed he was conceived at the Monteleone Hotel. Truman Capote claimed he was born in the hotel, though the hotel states that he wasn’t and that although his mother lived at the hotel during her pregnancy, she made it safely to the hospital in time for Truman’s birth.
7. Huey Long was a famously divisive character. In June of 1935, the Long camp had allegedly learned from a spy of theirs that a plot to kill Long was being discussed at the Democratic Conference, which was taking place that year at the DeSoto Hotel (now Le Pavillon). The surveillance operation would seem almost comic if it weren’t for the fatal consequences. Long’s aides had planted a staff member of theirs as a hotel insider, setting him up with a job as a desk clerk. This helped them gain access to all the rooms, and they were easily able to smuggle their people into suites neighboring the room where the suspected meeting was to take place. Using a long pole and a recording device, Long’s people snooped on the assassination plot, which they suspected was being hatched by New Orleans mayor Semmes Walmsley, various other high-ranking politicians and Dr. Carl Weiss, Huey Long’s eventual assassin. The hotel was thrust into a controversial limelight as the transcript was made public by Long the next day. Long was shot dead by Carl Weiss in Baton Rouge just thirty-six hours later.
8. The St Charles Hotel - which no longer exists - hosted presidents Taft, McKinley and Roosevelt, and had a dinner service so expensive it was said to be worth over $16,000 when it opened in 1837. Today that would be equivalent to $350,000.
9. Tennessee Williams wrote much of (and completed) A Streetcar Named Desire in Room 9 of the Maison de Ville Hotel.
10. In 2011, the fourth generation of family took over the running of the Monteleone Hotel. It is one of the last family-run grand hotels left in the United States.