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Roosevelt New Orleans Tour (Part 1)

Updated on July 19, 2017

In The Family

Growing up, I was told bits and pieces of family lore regarding a hotel in New Orleans that bore our namesake. That hotel was said to be one of the finest in the area (even nicknamed "The Pride of the South"), and that the family initial that my great-great-great grandfather, Louis Grunewald, the original owner, had embellished into the entrance's marble wall still remained intact.

Perhaps the most intriguing story, however, was that of my maternal grandfather (who died before my parents met) sneaking out of his home in Georgia with a friend just to go to New Orleans and visit the Cave, the original nightclub in the basement of the hotel, during his adolescence.

For me the intrigue was such that to this day, whenever I go down to New Orleans, I refuse to stay anywhere else unless I can afford at least a few nights at my great-great-great's hotel. If I cannot afford it, I just postpone my visit... because I cannot bear the thought of not getting to stay at my family's place; it just doesn't feel right.

The Location

A marker130 roosevelt way new orleans -
130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
get directions

View From Canal Street

Full view from Canal Street
Full view from Canal Street

Brief Background on the Hotel

The Original Owner, Louis Grunewald

Louis Grunewald came to New Orleans from the tiny village of Hanhofen, Bavaria in 1852, and began his career as a music merchant in Lafayette City (not to be confused with Lafayette in Lafayette Parish), shortly before the area was annexed to the city of New Orleans. A talented musician, his early years in this country were spent establishing himself as a well-known church organist at the Catholic churches of St. Mary's, St. Alphonsus, and St. Patrick's, which all served the German and Irish communities of New Orleans' Lower Garden District.

Roughly 20 years after opening his first store on Magazine Street, he was prosperous enough to build Grunewald Hall, a multi-faceted complex that featured the world's largest piano showroom and a palatial concert hall. The hall was destroyed by fire on Halloween night of 1892, and the hotel was built on its lot just before Christmas of 1893, in time for Carnival season.

The original building boasted six floors and 200 rooms, and in 1908 was expanded with a 14-story, 400-room annex, which now serves as the main building. The expansion building was designed by Henry C. Koch of Milwaukee, who had also designed grand Pfister Hotel, where Louis Grunewald himself had stayed as a guest during his frequent visits to Wisconsin where he had many friends and family.

Louis Grunewald died in 1915, leaving the hotel to his youngest son, Theodore, who continued management until health problems forced him to sell in 1923.

Post Grunewald Years

Theodore Grunewald sold the hotel to a group of New Orleans investors, who re-named it after 26th American President, Theodore Roosevelt. The name change is thought to be in conjunction with the anti-German movement that swept the country during the first world war. At the time, many businesses with German names (Grunewald means "green forest" in German) felt such a change was necessary to remain on good terms with the general public.

The new owners partially demolished the original building, and built a new tower the same height as the annex. This presented the opportunity to provide more accommodations and amenities.

The hotel was again sold to hotelier and barber shop manager Seymour Weiss in 1934, and then to the Swig Family, who owned the Fairmont San Francisco, in 1964, after which time the it became part of the Fairmont chain.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the property suffered significant damage, and the Fairmont corporation lacked the funds to cover the extensive repairs needed.

It was sold once again in 2007 to First Class Hotels. Sam Friedman, son of the late State Senator Sylvan Friedman of Natchitoches Parish, of the Dimension Development Company of Natchitoches, Louisiana, announced the $100 million project of refurbishing the hotel to be part of Hilton's Waldorf Astoria line. It re-opened on October 23, 2009.

Embellishment Lit Up At Dusk

O'Keefe entrance on Roosevelt Way. This is the first thing you see upon checking into the hotel. The current owner brought back the embellishment of our family name above the front awning (which had been cemented over after the family sold it).
O'Keefe entrance on Roosevelt Way. This is the first thing you see upon checking into the hotel. The current owner brought back the embellishment of our family name above the front awning (which had been cemented over after the family sold it).

G for Grunewald Lines Marble Entrance Wall

G for Grunewald lining either side of the marble entrance.
G for Grunewald lining either side of the marble entrance.

Embelishments In Entrance

The complete experience is not possible without all the detailing, no matter how tiny or insignificant it may seem. This is the grand doorway into the entrance, which leads to the block-long lobby.
The complete experience is not possible without all the detailing, no matter how tiny or insignificant it may seem. This is the grand doorway into the entrance, which leads to the block-long lobby.

Lobby Facing Front Entrance

Lobby Tile Mosaic, Lights & Chandeliers

Tile mosaic throughout lobby.
Tile mosaic throughout lobby.
Crystal chandeliers.
Crystal chandeliers.
Source

Lobby In More Detail

Since I have now covered the basis of the lobby, I am now going to take you through it in more detail.

The lobby covers an entire city block, spanning from Roosevelt Way to Baronne Street. I will attempt to pan around as if you were walking through from the Roosevelt Way entrance, facing the direction of Baronne. I will take you through everything that would appear on your right side as you walk through, and we will go out the door on the other end. In Part 2 of this photo tour, we will come back through the back entrance on Baronne Street and we'll see the other side.

We will go inside any nooks, shops, and restaurants when able.

Blue Room Entrance

Unfortunately we cannot go inside the Blue Room (night club) at this time, but here is the entrance. It is directly above the original night club, The Cave, which was said to be America's first.
Unfortunately we cannot go inside the Blue Room (night club) at this time, but here is the entrance. It is directly above the original night club, The Cave, which was said to be America's first.

Teddy's Cafe

Entrance to Teddy's Cafe.
Entrance to Teddy's Cafe.
Come sit down!
Come sit down!
Treats and sweets.
Treats and sweets.
It's rather small and expensive, but it really is the best cafe mocha ever, made with authentic PJ's coffee from right here in New Orleans.
It's rather small and expensive, but it really is the best cafe mocha ever, made with authentic PJ's coffee from right here in New Orleans.
Banana's Foster truffles, Fleur De Lis shaped.
Banana's Foster truffles, Fleur De Lis shaped.
Crescent City Cookie.
Crescent City Cookie.

Reception Desk

A replica of former governor Huey Long's suggestion box is on the far left (the original was kept in a safe in his favorite suite). The box was a campaign chest for the Long organization, containing deposited funds from local corporations.
A replica of former governor Huey Long's suggestion box is on the far left (the original was kept in a safe in his favorite suite). The box was a campaign chest for the Long organization, containing deposited funds from local corporations.

Sazerac Bar

Sazerac is said to have been America's first cocktail, with origins in antebellum New Orleans.
Sazerac is said to have been America's first cocktail, with origins in antebellum New Orleans.

Fountain Lounge

Closed up for the night!
Closed up for the night!

Escalators to Second Floor, Spa Entrance

Domenica Italian Restaurant

The Domenica is located all the way at the end, on Baronne Street. Domenica means "Sunday" in Italian.
The Domenica is located all the way at the end, on Baronne Street. Domenica means "Sunday" in Italian.
The Domenica is owned by chef & restauranteur, John Besh. Besh was born in Mississippi and raised in Southern Louisiana. He is known for his efforts in preserving the culinary heritage of New Orleans cuisine.
The Domenica is owned by chef & restauranteur, John Besh. Besh was born in Mississippi and raised in Southern Louisiana. He is known for his efforts in preserving the culinary heritage of New Orleans cuisine.
Closed for the night.
Closed for the night.

We've Reached the End of the Block

That concludes our tour of the right side of the block-long lobby heading towards Baronne Street. To move on to part two, which covers the right side of the lobby from the Baronne Street entrance towards Roosevelt Way, please see Part 2 in the link below.

© 2017 Ehren E Grunewald

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