Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

The Roosevelt Hotel's Heyday Was in the 1920s and 30s When It Was Home to the Rich and Famous; New Orleans' Grandest Hotel Is Restored to Its Former Glory Four Years after Katrina Hit

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

The Roosevelt Hotel's Heyday Was in the 1920s and 30s When It Was Home to the Rich and Famous; New Orleans' Grandest Hotel Is Restored to Its Former Glory Four Years after Katrina Hit

Article excerpt

THE massive lobby, with its ornate trim, glittering Italian crystal chandeliers and mosaic floors, looks much as it did when Louisiana's Kingfish, Governor 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 New Orleans four years after Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to a $US145 million ($A172.7 million) renovation, it's making an opulent return to its heyday, when the likes of Mr 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 centre attached to the Louisiana Superdome.

The hurricane flooded 80 per cent of New Orleans, crippling its vital tourist industry, but the French Quarter received 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 damaged Six Flags amusement park.

But Katrina left three metres of water in the Roosevelt's basement, destroying mechanical equipment, while wind-driven rain inundated most guest floors. As other hotels returned, the Roosevelt, owned by the Fairmont hotel chain, remained boarded up. Then in August 2007, the Roosevelt was bought by the Hilton Hotel Corporation for $US19 million ($A22.6 million), and added to 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 honour of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was during the hotel's grandest era that Mr Long, the governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a US senator from 1932 to 1935, was a regular guest. …

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