How many hotels leave such an impression that 80 miles of highway are built just so the governor can get a drink? The legend of Huey P. Long and Airline Highway is one of so many that defined The Roosevelt’s brilliant 40-year run during the early 1900s. Though the hotel originally opened as The Grunewald in 1893 and was later renamed The Fairmont, it was during The Roosevelt years that it established itself as a beacon of luxury in the South. The hotel was a revolving door of the time’s most famous names—Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Jack Benny, Bob Hope — each adding to a legend that continues to be written today.
From the Barbershop to the Boardroom
At the age of 20, Seymour Weiss moved to New Orleans from his hometown of Bunkie, Louisiana to take a job as a clerk in a shoe store. In 1923, Weiss began his rapid ascent within The 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 a hotel manager that Weiss struck up an unlikely but enduring friendship with Huey P. Long. Funds manager, business partner and occasional style consultant, Weiss became the Kingfish’s right-hand man during Long’s years at The Roosevelt. Even after Long’s assassination, Weiss remained a loyal supporter and friend by chairing the Huey P. Long Memorial Commission.
Weiss continued his ownership and management of the hotel till 1965.
Where legends came to play.
Located amongst the flurry of excitement on Canal Street, the Grunewald quickly established itself as a centerpiece of the city’s acclaimed entertainment scene. The Cave, largely regarded as one of the country’s first nightclubs, kept revelers up all hours of the night dancing to the early 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. The famous, infamous and anonymous all flocked to The Roosevelt for live performances or just to grab a drink at the legendary establishments.
A Rebirth 60 Years in the Making
Soon after The Fairmont’s closing in 2005, the legendary 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, The Roosevelt is reborn with all the grandeur of old New Orleans and the modern amenities exceeding the standards of today’s luxury hotels.