Luxury, glamour and excitement returned to the New Orleans meetings market with the re-opening of a 116-year-old historic hotel, the Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel. The famed downtown landmark has been shuttered post-Katrina, but after an extensive $145-million restoration—and becoming the newest member of Hilton Hotel’s Waldorf Astoria Collection—the 504-room venue, which includes 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, held an official ribbon cutting ceremony in July.
Like the city and the hotel itself, the ribbon cutting was colorful and entertaining and rich in history. Alongside hotel staff, Hilton officials and city leaders were President Theodore Roosevelt, for whom the hotel was renamed in 1923 and Huey P. Long, Louisiana’s populist Governor & Senator from the 1930s, famous for, among other things, promising a chicken in every pot. Local actors of course portrayed the two historical figures—New Orleans may be the only city with celebrity look-a-likes for both our 26th President and "The Kingfish."
A downtown motorcade brought the officials to the podium at the hotel. President Roosevelt and Governor Long rode in a 1941 yellow convertible Cadillac coupe once owned by the Vanderbilt family. Providing music for the rebirth of the hotel and of the city itself were the Rebirth Brass Band and pianist Ronnie Kole. The celebration was well deserved, not only because the possibility of saving the structure was in doubt just a few yeas ago, but its restoration and reopening is another milestone reached by city regaining its former meetings destination stature.
"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."
Also joining in the festivities were Jackie Clarkson, New Orleans City Council Vice President, Stacy Head, New Orleans City Council Member, Sam Friedman, Principal owner of Dimension Development, who own the hotel, and Paul Brown, President of Global Brands and Shared Services for Hilton Hotels Corporation. Hilton will manage the hotel under its Waldorf Astoria Brand, the company’s the luxury arm. The re-opening of the New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel not only is a renaming—the hotel became a Fairmount Hotel in 1965—but a re-branding. The New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel is one of the very luxury meeting venues opening this year.
"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. The Roosevelt is archetypical example of the type of property that characterizes the Waldorf Astoria brand."
Brown added, "Today's ceremony is another important milestone in Hilton's continuing commitment to New Orleans and to the vibrant spirit of this community."
Considered a "Grand" hotel, the Roosevelt boasts 504 rooms, of which 135 are 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 venue is also a meetings destination. Its 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space features spectacular ballrooms— the spacious 20,000-square-foot Roosevelt Ballroom, the 20,124-square-footRoosevelt Ballroom, the 12,204 square feet Crescent City Ballroom and the 7,000-square foot Waldorf=Astoria Ballroom—and 23 distinctive meeting and event rooms that span two floors of the hotel. The Huey P. Long Executive Boardroom, the hotel’s premiere meeting room features 570 square feet of space and 10-foot ceilings, as well as the newest telephone, audio/visual and touch-screen lighting control technology available.
"The Roosevelt New Orleans will offer state-of-the-art technology designed to accommodate meetings of all sizes," said Mark Wilson, Director of Sales and Marketing. "By offering unique and flexible meeting and convention space, The Roosevelt will enhance New Orleans’ ability to host events of all sizes and be a driving force for convention and catering business."
One of the venues famed spaces, the Blue Room, has been restored to its previous splendor. In the golden era of supper clubs from the 1930s to the 1960s, the Blue Room played host to some of the best-known names in entertainment and big bands – including Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Marlene Dietrich, and Sonny and Cher – as well as to elaborate floor shows. In addition to being available for special events and offering regular entertainment, on Sunday mornings, 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, and a carving table featuring the finest roasted meats.
Another landmark within the landmark is the Sazerac Bar and Restaurant, a mainstay of both the city and the hotel decades. The Sazerac Bar serves its signature Sazerac beverage—a cocktail that dates back to pre-Civil War New Orleans—as well as another Big Easy favorite, Ramos Gin Fizz. In addition to classic cocktails, the Art Deco-style murals by artist Paul Ninas and woodwork have also been restored to their previous luster.
"The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel again is the prime destination for travelers and locals because of its reputation for glamour and excitement," said Chambers. "We hope our guests are as excited as we are and that they find that we've not only restored The Roosevelt to its original luster and brought back its fabled splendor, but that we've also introduced the kind of luxury that marks every Waldorf Astoria Collection property worldwide."
The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel was built by Louis Grunewald, and opened in 1893 as "The Grunewald". After various expansions it was purchased by a group of New Orleans investors and renamed "The Roosevelt Hotel" (in honor of late former president Theodore Roosevelt) in 1923. U.S Senator and Louisiana Governor Huey Long had a 12th-floor suite as U.S. senator, Long used a suite at the Roosevelt as his Louisiana headquarters and effective residence when he was physically in Louisiana. The Roosevelt was acquired by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in 1965. Although officially renamed The Fairmont (at first the "Fairmont Roosevelt", later the "Fairmont New Orleans"), for decades the hotel continued to be called "The Roosevelt" by many locals, visitors and New Orleans aficionados.