Archive for July, 2009

The Roosevelt New Orleans Celebrates Official Opening with Ribbon-Cutting

Posted on: July 31st, 2009 by admin 2 Comments

Milestone Includes Ceremony in Typical New Orleans Style, Along with Dignitaries Present and “Past”

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At The Roosevelt’s ribbon-cutting ceremony July 30 are (left to right) former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long (played by a local actor); principal owner Sam Friedman of Dimension Development; Alan Rose with Dimension Development; Tod Chambers, general manager of the hotel; Paul Brown, president of Global Brands and Shared Services for Hilton Hotels Corporation); Jackie Clarkson, New Orleans City Council vice president); and Stacy Head, member of the New Orleans City Council.

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Also at the ceremony were former President Teddy Roosevelt, portrayed by a local actor; Tod Chambers, hotel general manager; Paul Brown, president of Global Brands and Shared Services for Hilton Hotels Corporation; Tim Benolken, senior vice president, also of Hilton Hotels Corporation; Andy Slater, area vice president of Hilton Hotels Corporation); and former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, portrayed by a local actor.

To mark its official return as New Orleans’ grand-hotel and a top American luxury property, Hilton Hotels Corporation executives along with New Orleans dignitaries including two “legends” last seen at the hotel almost three-fourths of a century ago cut the ribbon today to The Roosevelt New Orleans, a downtown landmark.

“Today represents the passion and determination of the people of New Orleans, its city leaders and our ownership to preserving the past while celebrating the future of this great city and iconic hotel,” said Tod Chambers, general manager of the 116-year-old hotel. “Ecstatic, proud and a tremendous sense of accomplishment are words that come to mind.”

Following a $145-million historic restoration that returns the Roosevelt name for the first time since 1965, the hotel is the newest member of the Waldorf Astoria Brand. “The Roosevelt holds a special place in the hearts of New Orleanians and visitors from around the world. Today is definitely a day for celebration.”

Joining Chambers to cut the ribbon was Paul Brown, president of Global Brands and Shared Services for Hilton Hotels Corporation, of which the Waldorf Astoria Brand is the luxury arm.

To be part of the Waldorf Astoria Brand, a hotel must be an iconic local landmark that radiates timeless luxury, impeccable service and world-class style,” Brown said. “The Roosevelt does just that. From its classic elegance and storied venues, such as the Blue Room and the Sazerac Bar, to its incomparably rich history, The Roosevelt is archetypical example of the type of property that characterizes the Waldorf Astoria brand.

“Today’s ceremony is another important milestone in Hilton’s continuing commitment to New Orleans and to the vibrant spirit of this community.”

Other presenters were New Orleans City Council president Jacqueline Brechtel Clarkson and principal owner Sam Friedman of Dimension Development.

Taking to the podium following a downtown motorcade in a 1941 yellow convertible Cadillac coupe once owned by the Vanderbilt family were “Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long” and “U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.” Each was portrayed by a local actor to salute the pair’s connections to the legendary hotel.

Long, a populist governor in the late 1920s and U.S. Senator in the early 1930s until his death in 1935, kept a suite at he hotel for much of his public life and was responsible for tales regarding the hotel that linger today. The name of the hotel, which opened in 1893 as the Grunewald, was changed to The Roosevelt in 1925 in honor of the former President, who also was a frequent guest and whose likeness, complete with spectacles and moustache, still marks one of the hotel’s historic entrances. The hotel bore that moniker until it was renamed the Fairmont in the mid-1960s.

Providing music for the rebirth of the hotel and of the city itself were the Rebirth Brass Band and pianist Ronnie Kole.

The grand hotel boasts 504 rooms, of which 135 are luxury suites, some named for celebrities who once visited the hotel. Other amenities include a comprehensive business center, private dining and suite butler service, an outdoor pool and courtyard, and a specialty gift shop.

The Blue Room also has been restored to its previous splendor and already is serving as a place for families and friends to enjoy good music and food and celebrate life’s special occasions. On Sunday mornings starting in October, the Blue Room will feature a grand brunch complete with delights such as mascarpone-stuffed French toast with house-made satsuma marmalade, boiled Gulf shrimp, a carving table featuring the finest roasted meats and much more.

Guests have the opportunity to enjoy a beverage in the Sazerac Bar and Restaurant, a Roosevelt landmark for decades. The Sazerac Bar serves its signature Sazerac beverage and Ramos Gin Fizz – both invented in New Orleans and made popular worldwide by The Roosevelt and by Long – among other delights. In addition to beverages that stimulate the palate, Sazerac patrons again enjoy the Art Deco-style murals by artist Paul Ninas.

The Roosevelt New Orleans also features nearly 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including three spectacular ballrooms and 23 distinctive meeting and event rooms that span two floors of the hotel.

To take advantage of any of the hotel’s offers, guests and visitors can call 1-800-WALDORF or visit www.therooseveltneworleans.com. For more information about booking any of the rooms, contact Mark Wilson at (504) 648-1200 or at mark.wilson@hilton.com.

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New Orleans Hotel Reopens Four Years After Katrina

Posted on: July 29th, 2009 by admin No Comments

New Orleans (AP) – The massive lobby, with its ornate trim, glittering Italian crystal chandeliers and mosaic floors, looks much as it did when Louisiana’s Kingfish, Gov. Huey P. Long last strolled through. Some say a box full of kickbacks and shakedown money was tucked under his arm as he made his way to his regular suite in the 1930s.

The Roosevelt Hotel has finally reopened in downtown New Orleans four years after Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to a $145 million renovation, it’s making an opulent return to its heyday, when the likes of Long, a parade of Hollywood stars and the country’s movers and shakers held court there.

The hotel was built in 1893, but the grandest period was from the 1920s and ’30s, said general manager Tod Chambers. We wanted to restore it to that era.

The Roosevelt’s renaissance is also a milestone in the city’s recovery from the August 2005 storm. Now only one major hotel, the Hyatt, remains shuttered, along with an adjacent shopping center attached to the Louisiana Superdome. The hurricane flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, crippling its vital tourist industry, but the French Quarter suffered minimal damage, and many hotels, restaurants and attractions, like the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium, reopened within months. Only a few major tourist sites remain closed, including the heavily damaged Six Flags amusement park.

But Katrina left 10 feet of water in the Roosevelt’s basement, destroying mechanical equipment, while wind-driven rain inundated most guest floors. As other hotels returned, the Fairmont, as it was then known, remained boarded up. Then in August 2007, the Roosevelt was bought by Louisiana based Dimension Development for $19 million. Dimension then brought in Hilton to renovate it and operate it as part of the company’s upscale Waldorf-Astoria portfolio.

Hilton decided to reopen the property as a 504-room, 135-suite luxury hotel under the Roosevelt name. The hotel was originally called the Grunwald, but in 1923 it became the Roosevelt, in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was during the hotel’s grandest era that Long, the governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a U.S. senator from 1932 to 1935, was a regular guest.

Historians say every state employee who received a job from Long was expected to contribute to his campaign fund, which was kept in a locked box. Without a base of wealthy political contributors, Long reasoned this was an appropriate source of funds for his political activities.

After Long’s assassination in September 1935, the box was believed to have been stolen by one of his associates. Although legend has it that the box accompanied him on trips to the Roosevelt, Chambers said it did not show up during the renovation. A replica of the box is planned for the lobby, however.

The reopening of the Roosevelt gives New Orleans about 34,000 hotel rooms, still shy of the 39,500 in use before Katrina struck, but plenty to serve major conventions and sporting events, said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Another important point is the ballroom space they bring, Romig said. That’s important for conventions that want everything in one location _ their delegates, meetings, displays and awards events.

The hotel has 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 20,000-square-foot Roosevelt Ballroom, 12,000-square-foot Crescent City Ballroom and the 7,000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Ballroom.

As important, Romig said, is the return of the iconic Blue Room _ Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Rosemary Clooney, Marlene Dietrich and Sonny and Cher all performed there.

The Blue Room, which reopens in late July with a concert by jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain, and the Sazerac Bar, have been Roosevelt landmarks for decades.

We went there after my high school prom, Romig said. There have been so many weddings there, so many special events. The hotel holds a very special place in local hearts.

A huge Christmas display, which fills the block-long lobby, is also going to return, complete with masses of trees, lights and choirs.

One of the delights of the restoration, Chambers said, was finding architectural details hidden by past renovations, including ornate plaster work under dropped ceilings and mosaic tile set in intricate patterns under heavy duty industrial blue carpeting.

And in the Sazerac Bar, the Art Deco murals by artist Paul Ninas are again on display.

Ninas, a pioneer modernist, moved to New Orleans in 1932 and painted the murals shortly thereafter.

One of the great delights of New Orleans is to get a Sazerac cocktail, which was invented in New Orleans, and gaze at those paintings, said William Fagaly, curator of African art at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Everybody in New Orleans is looking forward to doing that again.

Send Us Your Photos!

Posted on: July 28th, 2009 by admin 3 Comments

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This photo was taken in 1955 in the Blue Room after the Holy Cross High School Junior prom. On the left are Bobbie Duplantis and Carolyn Pizanie, now Mr. and Mrs. B. J. Duplantis. They’ve been married for 51 years. The couple on the right were their guests at the prom, Barbara Alario and Andrew Dufrene. The photo is now a family heirloom.

The cost for the evening was $9 per person and included a club sandwich and a beverage. The photo was $5.

Bobbie and Carolyn recently had a drink at the Sazerac Bar to celebrate his 70th birthday.

Have photos of yourself at The Roosevelt New Orleans? Send them to us!

Winding of the Clock Ceremony

Posted on: July 23rd, 2009 by admin No Comments

Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, served as the celebrity clock winder at The Roosevelt New Orleans. The ceremony, held every Thursday at 4 p.m., bestows the honor of winding The Roosevelt’s historic French clock located in the lobby of the hotel to a local celebrity or key member of the community.

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First Wedding Cake!

Posted on: July 21st, 2009 by admin No Comments

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Executive pastry chef Robert Plouffe and his team stand by their masterpiece. The cake was constructed for the hotel’s first wedding party June 27. (Pictured from left to right: Santto Cheramie, Debbie Hyde and Chef Robert Plouffe)