Grey Bar

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

sc01c9a3bc_2

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.

clock2

clock1

First Wedding Cake!

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

pastery-chefs-proof-_k7u3674-w
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)

Our Name Is Going Up in Lights

Posted on: May 28th, 2009 by admin No Comments

 

lightsGeneral Manager Tod Chambers watches as Kurt Weigle, CEO of the Downtown Development District, talks about the importance of The Roosevelt to New Orleans during The Roosevelt’s champagne lighting ceremony held May 20.

Send Us Your Photos!

Posted on: May 26th, 2009 by admin No Comments

Pat Upshaw and family at the Blue Room

Pat Upshaw submitted the above photo, taken in 1957, of his family enjoying Sunday brunch at the Blue Room. “The attached picture is my favorite. I’m the boy in front. Then my mom, my brother, my cousin, my dad and another cousin. The girls came from the farm in Florida. They still remember that night.”

Have photos of yourself at The Roosevelt New Orleans?

Send them to us at history@therooseveltneworleans.com

Historic Roosevelt Hotel Cocktail Menu

Posted on: May 6th, 2009 by admin 4 Comments

Here’s more historic menu goodness from the Roosevelt hotel, with the official drink list full of classics that will, we hope, return to the Roosevelt this year along with their 21st Century concoctions. I don’t have an exact date for this menu, but presumably it predates the move of the Sazerac Bar to the Roosevelt Hotel in 1949, as you’ll note the conspicuous absence of the Sazerac Cocktail on the menu, as well as mentions of the bar.

saz3

I love the beginning … ‘Correct drinking is an art, which is gradually coming back in America, after sixteen years of Prohibition.’ It is indeed, and is once again a lost art for so many. Perhaps we need this menu introduction again, in an age where on weekend nights people stand eight deep at the bar to order vodka tonics or vodka and Red Bull.

saz2

While we see no Sazerac here, the Ramos Gin Fizz is, of course, front and center. Many classics here, with the interesting specification in many of J. & W. Bitters (made by Jung and Wolff) rather than Peychaud’s Bitters, as there were some rights issues at one point. (I’ve become hazy on the details, but Ted ‘Dr. Cocktail’ Haigh has done much research into this subject, and can perhaps enlighten us in the comments!)

There are also some odd versions here … The ‘Casino’ shown here with rum, anisette and pineapple juice bears no resemblance to what one would normally expect a Casino to be, with gin, maraschino, lemon juice and orange bitters.

saz1

Sadly, I expect room service will end up being a bit more than a nickel per drink.

We Want Your Roosevelt New Orleans Stories!

Posted on: April 21st, 2009 by admin 26 Comments

The Sazerac Bar will be returning to its former glory in The Roosevelt New Orleans, and it will once again serve New Orleans cocktail classics like the Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz (recipes below).

But even more important than the drinks are the stories that accompany them. We’re sure the new bar will generate more than its share, but we want to hear about your most memorable visit to The Roosevelt New Orleans. When were you there? What did you order? What do you remember about it?

Share your story in the comments!

Sazerac

  • 1 cube sugar
  • 1 1/2oz rye whiskey
  • 1/4oz Herbsaint
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • lemon peel, for garnish

Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube. Add the rye whiskey to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.

Ramos Gin Fizz

  • 2oz gin (Old Tom if you can find it)
  • 1oz heavy cream
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2oz lemon juice
  • 1/2oz lime juice
  • 2t sugar
  • 3 drops orange flower water
  • club soda, to top

Shake with cracked ice for at least a minute, and strain into a chilled rocks glass. Top with just a bit of club soda.

Featured in the Times-Picayune

Posted on: March 16th, 2009 by admin No Comments

The Roosevelt New Orleans was noted by Judy Walker in the Times-Picayune earlier this month.

Read the article.

Sazerac Bar Takes the Spotlight

Posted on: March 14th, 2009 by admin 1 Comment

[photoxhibit=5]

The Sazerac Bar was in the spotlight in New Orleans March 5, from dawn almost to dusk, with live television comments by general manager Tod Chambers and the third Sazerac Roundtable.

Starting off the day was Chambers’ appearance on the WGNO-TV/ABC26 morning news, where he brought the station’s viewers up to date on the reopening of the hotel and, in particular, the re-launch of the fabled Sazerac Bar. Reporter Lorin Gaudin and the morning crew interviewed Chambers as bartender Michael Glassberg prepared Sazerac cocktails on the set, carefully following the drink’s recipe. “The Sazerac Bar once again will shine with the fabulous Paul Ninas murals originally painted in the 1930s,” Chambers said, “and the bar will reclaim its place as one of America’s finest cocktail destinations.”

Later that day, approximately 45 invited guests gathered at the French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s Restaurant to share stories about the Sazerac Bar, the Sazerac cocktail and the hotel itself. Chambers, as well as director of sales and marketing Mark Wilson, welcomed guests who included members of the news media, community leaders, business owners and others who are looking forward to the June 2009 reopening.