A Legendary History
Many hotels believe they’ve got a memorable past. But it’s few who can say their history is rooted in legends. And it’s even fewer who have had 80 miles of highway built, just so the governor could get his favorite drink. The legend of Huey P. Long and the Airline Highway is just one of so many that define our brilliant foundation in the early 1900s.
The Roosevelt Hotel and the land on which it sits are filled with history. In the 1830s, the era was home to the State Capitol, Charity Hospital, Christ Episcopal Church, and the mansions of famed Louisianians of French and Spanish descent. That period culminated in 1893 with the opening of the lavish Grunewald Hotel, built by Bavarian-born businessman Louis Grunewald to replace the Grunewald Hall performing arts center. It was so successful, that by 1900, they began acquiring the adjoining property. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 1907, a 400-room, 14-story annex opened to chimes and whistles.
From the Barbershop to the Boardroom
At the age of 20, Seymour Weiss moved to New Orleans to take a job as a clerk in a shoe store. In 1923, he began his rapid ascent within the newly renamed Roosevelt from barbershop manager, to assistant manager, to general manager. By 1931, he had assumed principal ownership of the hotel. Under his leadership, The Roosevelt flourished financially and in reputation, establishing itself as one of the South’s premier hotels.
It was during his time as hotel manager that Weiss struck up an unlikely friendship with Huey P. Long’s funds manager, business partner and occasional style consultant. In fact, Weiss became the Kingfish’s right-hand man during Long’s years at The Roosevelt. Even after his assassination, Weiss remained a loyal friend and supporter by chairing the Huey P. Long Memorial Commission.
Where Legends Came to Play
Located among the flurry of excitement on Canal Street, the Grunewald quickly established itself as a centerpiece of the city’s acclaimed entertainment scene. The Cave, with its grotto-like atmosphere, filled with architectural rock formations, nymphs and gnomes, was regarded as one of the country’s first nightclubs, and kept revelers up all hours, dancing to the sounds of Dixieland jazz.
Though the famous basement nightclub closed when the Grunewald era ended, the tradition of entertainment lived on at The Roosevelt’s new venues – The Blue Room and The Sazerac Bar. Famous, infamous and anonymous alike all flocked to The Roosevelt for live performances or to grab a drink at the legendary bars.
It was during The Roosevelt years that we became known as the beacon of luxury in the South. As a revolving door of the time’s most famous faces – Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and Jack Benny, to name a few – we’ve established a legend that continues to this day.
Soon after The Fairmont’s closing in 2005, the historic property was purchased and plans were made to return it to its original magnificence and former name – The Roosevelt. Now, after a $145 million restoration, it has been reborn with all the grandeur of old New Orleans and the modern amenities that exceed the standards of today’s luxury hotels.
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