There’s a place in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, that encapsulates the city’s charm, history, and vibrant spirit.
A place whose halls have echoed with the laughter of Southern authors, the musings of Hollywood stars, and the whispers of countless visitors.
That place is the Hotel Monteleone, a landmark steeped in history, culture, and a little magic.
A Chronicle of Resilience and Expansion
Imagine stepping off a ship, a Sicilian immigrant named Antonio Monteleone, stepping onto the New Orleans docks in 1880.
With a cobbler’s skill and a dream, Antonio set up a shop on Royal Street, a bustling artery of commerce and banking.
Six years later, Antonio traded his cobbler’s awl for the keys to a small hotel at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets, thus beginning the saga of the Hotel Monteleone.
From its humble beginnings, the hotel expanded five times, each expansion a testament to the Monteleone family’s resilience. In 1903, the addition of thirty rooms marked the first expansion.
Five years later, 300 more rooms were added, and the hotel was renamed from the Commercial Hotel to Hotel Monteleone.
By 1928, 200 more rooms were added, just a year before the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.
Impressively, the Monteleone stands as one of the rare family-owned hotels in the country that weathered the Depression, maintaining its original character until its significant expansion in 1954.
The original building was demolished during this expansion, and the foundation for a new building was laid, complete with guest facilities, ballrooms, dining rooms, and cocktail lounges.
The last substantial expansion of the Monteleone unfolded in 1964, during which additional floors and guest rooms were introduced, along with a Sky Terrace boasting swimming pools and cocktail lounges.
Today, the Hotel Monteleone stands as one of the few long-standing, family-owned hotels in the nation, a testament to the enduring legacy of Antonio Monteleone and his descendants.
The Beauty of Beaux-Arts
When you gaze at the Hotel Monteleone, what captures your attention? Is it the grandeur of the Beaux-Arts architectural style that defines its façade?
Founded in 1886, the hotel reflects an eclectic flair, a unique blend of French Renaissance, Gothic, and American elements that has enchanted visitors for over a century.
Just imagine the grand lobby’s ornate decorations and the sweeping staircases leading to the hotel’s 570 guest rooms, including 50 luxurious suites.
As you traverse the corridors, you’ll marvel at the intricate detailing on the walls, the plush carpet beneath your feet, and the elegant chandeliers that cast a soft glow on the polished woodwork.
While the architectural specifics have evolved over the years, the essence of the Hotel Monteleone’s Beaux-Arts beauty has endured, making every stay a journey into a bygone era of elegance and charm.
A Literary Haven
Stepping into the Hotel Monteleone is like walking into the pages of a Southern novel. The hotel has served as a muse for many renowned authors.
Its Carousel Bar and Lounge have been immortalized in the works of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and John Grisham.
Truman Capote, the famed author of “In Cold Blood,” once claimed during an appearance on The Tonight Show that he was born in the Hotel Monteleone.
While it wasn’t technically accurate (his mother was residing there during her pregnancy, but she made it to the hospital for Truman’s birth), the story adds to the literary lore of the place.
This beguiling tale and countless references to the hotel in various literary works prompted the Friends of the Library Association to designate the Hotel Monteleone as an official literary landmark in 1999.
The literary connection runs even deeper with the hotel’s unique Literary Suites. These rooms are dedicated to the great literary minds who found inspiration within the walls of this historic French Quarter hotel.
Imagine resting your head in the same space where William Faulkner once penned his masterpieces or where Tennessee Williams conjured up his timeless dramas.
This sense of history and connection to the literary world makes Hotel Monteleone a truly unique destination.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge: A Revolving Wonder
One of the most iconic features of the Hotel Monteleone is its Carousel Bar & Lounge. Installed in 1949, it is the only revolving bar in New Orleans.
Accommodating 25 patrons, it revolves atop 2,000 robust steel rollers, driven by a chain linked to a small motor, maintaining a steady pace of a single revolution every 15 minutes.
In its heyday, the Carousel Bar was not just a place to enjoy a drink. It was also the site of the Swan Room, a popular nightclub where notable musicians like Liberace and Louis Prima once performed.
Today, while the tunes of such famous musicians no longer fill the room, the Carousel Bar remains a beloved spot for locals and visitors, spinning continuously as a reminder of the hotel’s vibrant past and enduring charm.
A Landmark on the Silver Screen
The hotel’s unique charm and historical significance have made it a favored location for filmmakers.
It has been featured in movies like “Double Jeopardy,” starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones, and “Glory Road,” a Jerry Bruckheimer production.
Each film took advantage of the hotel’s distinctive character and ambiance, contributing to its fame and cherished position in popular culture.
Mardi Gras at the Hotel Monteleone
During Mardi Gras, New Orleans transforms into a grand spectacle, and the Hotel Monteleone is right at the heart of it.
The hotel hosts many events and balls annually, inviting guests to participate in the city’s most vibrant and colorful festival.
From its rooms and suites, guests can enjoy the parades passing by, making it an ideal location for those wishing to experience Mardi Gras in style and comfort.
In conclusion, the Hotel Monteleone is not just a hotel but a historical monument, a literary landmark, a film set, and a symbol of New Orleans’ vibrant culture and rich heritage.
It embodies the charm and spirit of the city, and it continues to enchant guests with its grandeur, luxury, and unique rotating bar.
For those visiting New Orleans, Louisiana, staying at the Hotel Monteleone is more than just a stay; it’s an experience steeped in history, literature, and the city’s vibrant culture.