New Orleans’ Hotel Monteleone

The oldest hotel in the French Quarter is the Hotel Monteleone, with its ornate baroque facade, which was built in 1886 in the Beaux-Arts architectural style. It remains one of the few longstanding family-owned hotels in the United States.

Antonio Monteleone arrived in New Orleans from Sicily in 1880 and set up his cobbler's shop on Royal Street. In 1886, he bought a small hotel on the corner of Royal and Iberville Streets and merged it with the Commercial Hotel. Since then, the Hotel Monteleone has expanded five times. In 1908, when 300 new rooms were added, the hotel's name was changed from the Commercial Hotel to the Hotel Monteleone. When Antonio Monteleone died in 1913, his son Frank assumed the management and added 200 more rooms in 1928, just before the Great Depression. One of the few family hotels to survive the Depression years, the Hotel Monteleone remained unchanged until the fourth expansion in 1954 when the original building was demolished for a new building that contains guestrooms, ballrooms, dining rooms and cocktail lounges. In 1964, the fifth and final major expansion added more guestrooms, and a Sky Terrace with a swimming pool and cocktail lounge.

The hotel's famed grandfather clock still chimes in the lobby surrounded by shimmering chandeliers, polished marble floors and gleaming brass lamps. The legendary Carousel Bar & Lounge revolves every fifteen minutes and the elegant Queen Anne Ballroom hosts fashionable parties and memorable events. Some of Americas most renowned authors including Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Truman Capote were frequent visitors.

References to the Hotel appear in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tatoo and Orpheus Descending; Rebecca Wells' Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Little Altars Everywhere; Richard Ford's A Piece of My Heart; Eudora Welty's A Curtain of Green; Gerald Clarke's Capote: A Biography; Earle Stanley Gardner's Owls Don't Blink; Ernest Hemingway's Night Before Battle and Harry Stephen Keeler's The Voice of the Seven Sparrows.

More recently, famous authors like Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose and John Grisham have made the Hotel Monteleone their home when visiting New Orleans. In June of 1999, the Monteleone was designated an official landmark by the Friends of the Library Association. The Plaza and Algonquin in New York are the only other hotels in the United States that share this honor.

The Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge is the only revolving bar in New Orleans. The 25-seat bar turns on 2,000 large steel rollers, pulled by a chain powered by a one-quarter horsepower motor at a constant rate of one revolution every 15 minutes.  During the 1950s and 1960s, the Carousel Bar was the site of a popular nightclub, the Swan Room, where musicians such as Liberace and Louis Prima performed. The Carousel Bar celebrated its 60th anniversary in July 2009.

The Hotel Monteleone is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the Preferred Hotel Group and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Excerpted and expanded from my book "Built To Last: 100+Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi", AuthorHouse 2013.

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