Thursday, March 3, 2011


"I think this is the street that the hotel was on," announced Kate.

Her internal GPS-like system had been searching for the Fairmont Hotel--the beautifully-decorated hotel that we had walked through during our Christmas visit several years ago.

"I think this is the hotel, but I don't think this was the name," she said, somewhat puzzled.

Once again, she was correct on both counts. The Roosevelt Hotel has had a number of names and during our visit had been known as the Fairmont Hotel.

The hotel was built by Louis Grunewald, a German immigrant, and opened in 1893 as "The Grunewald." In 1908, a major 400 room expansion was added. 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.

It retained its distinctive name until the hotel changed hands in 1965 and was renamed The Fairmont.

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.

Our introduction to the Fairmont came in response to several recommendations to definitely see the Christmas deocrations at the Fairmont.

Imagine entering the hotel and seeing this corridor through the lobby stretching the length of the entire block (Barone Street to University Place) with flocked Christmas on both sides of the corridor and angel hair seemingly everywhere, around the trees and forming a canopy with birch brances and twinkling lights the length of the lobby. A beautiful "snowy" scene without the wintry cold.

With the light from the chandeliers aglow, the whole scene presented a truly winter wonderland.

Many New Orleanians performed the same annual visit to the Fairmont, so it was with reluctance that we had to keep moving along the wintry scene so that everyone had a chance to complete the walk.

The tradition began at The Roosevelt in the 1930s, and The Fairmont retained the tradition until 2005, when the floods that followed Hurricane Katrina dumped 10 feet of water into the building's basement, destroying the mechanical equipment, and wind-driven rains soaked guest rooms.

The hotel remained closed until The Hilton Hotel Corporation purchased the property in 2007, adding it to its Waldorf Astoria Collection. It reopened in 2009 as The Roosevelt after completing a $145 million renovation.

"In the tradition of all Waldof Astoria properties, the Roosevelt has a special clock on display in the lobby near the University Place entrance. This monumental conical clock was once featured at the 1867 and 1878 Paris exhibitions.

"The timepiece was crafted by two of France's most important artisans of the late 19th century: renowned clock-maker E. Farcot and sculptor Albert Ernest Carrier de Belleuse. Its base, which features the clock's face and inner mechanical movements, is carved from solid onyx marble. Atop the base, a bronze sculpture depicting a robed female figure holds a scepter. Rotating soundlessly from the female subject's hand, the scepter provides consistent motion that adds to the clock's sense of grandeur and mystery. (Prior to the unique design of the magnificent clock, pendulum clocks had always swung in a flat movement from left to right, so the rotation of the pendulum was heralded as nothing short of genius.)

"From its base to the top of the bronze figure, the imposing grand clock stands at nearly 10 feet tall. Farcot, the most well-known of French conical clock-makers, established himself in 1860 and mastered his craft over a period of 30 years, helping to popularize the unique pendulum escapement, the mechanism which controls the motion of the inner wheels"

This grand hotel seemed like a perfect place for lunch.

No comments: