Of all the historic hotels in New Orleans,
Bourbon Orleans is
perhaps the most interesting. It has a unique history and a few
spirits of the past that still remain. I had the pleasure of
staying there on a press trip for Travel South recently and so
enjoyed the décor, atmosphere and comfort. The hotel is
conveniently located on Orleans St. between Bourbon and Royal.
|Bourbon Orleans, in the heart of
the French Quarter. Photo credit Bourbon Orleans
Accommodations range from roomy guest rooms
with either two double
or queen beds or one kind. Their pillow-top mattresses are an
instant invitation to dreamland or a perfect perch to watch the
42” flat-screen TVs. There is also a comfy couch to relax on.
Rooms have a wet bar with complementary coffee or tea.
Plantation shutters and a Plantation Style wide bladed ceiling
fan give the feeling of old New Orleans.
You've got your choice of complementary wired and
wireless Internet and a safe to lock away your valuables.
|One of the hotel rooms. Photo
credit Bourbon Orleans
If you want to move up, literally, try a
Bourbon Balcony on the third floor of the hotel.
You'll have a two level floor plan, with a spacious
living room and large wet bar downstairs.
You can step through
French doors onto you own private balcony overlooking Bourbon
street. The loft features a
cozy queen bedroom. You will have the same amenities as the
|Balcony suite. Photo credit
There is a heated saltwater pool nestled in
a cozy French Quarter courtyard just off the lobby. You can dine
or have a cocktail without leaving the hotel. The hotel's fine
Roux on Orleans, serves up a tasty menu of Creole cuisine.
Foster at Roux on Orleans. Photo credit Bourbon Orleans
bar, Bourbon O’ Bar, serves hotel guests a complimentary
cocktail or beverage. Bourbon
O'Bar does know how to mix up a wicked treat. The bar manager,
Cheryl Charming, aka "Miss Charming," won the coveted title
"Mixologist of the Year" by
New Orleans Magazine
for 2014 and another Bourbon O'Bar bartender, Steven Lemley, won
the title in 2013 . They offer live music Wednesday through
|Bourbon O’ Bar. Photo credit
Wandering around the lobby or public areas
of the hotel you can feel the history reaching out to tell its
tale from the profane to the profound. This was originally the
site of Salle d'Orleans,
one of the places where
wealthy Creole planters would visit to dance with and often
enter into plaçage agreements with gorgeous young quadroon
women. Among the Free People of Color in New Orleans during the
first half of the 19th century, a placée was respected as having
a "left-handed marriage."
|Perfect area just off
lobby to enjoy breakfast or just a cup of coffee.
The ballroom was adjacent to and connected
by a balcony to Theatre D’ Orleans, New Orleans most famous
opera house. Must have been very convenient when there was an
opera and a Quadroon Ball going on at the same time. Young
blades could accompany their white family to the opera and
during intermission slip over to view the African American
beauties dancing at the ballroom.
|The Orleans Balllroom now serves
different functions than it's original use.
The ballroom, also known as Orleans
Ballroom, was used for
variety of other elite functions as well. It was chosen
as the site for a gala to entertain the Marquis de Lafayette
when he visited in 1825. In 1828 the Government House burned and
the State Legislature met in this ballroom.
From 1852 until 1881 the First District Court held
sessions there. In 1866, the theater portion of the building
burned to the ground but the ballroom was spared.
It was in 1881 that the building entered
its "profound era." It was purchased by the Sisters of the Holy
Family. This was the first female-led African-American religious
order in the country, founded
in 1842 by Henriette DeLille, Juliette Gaudin and
Josephine Charles, all Free Women of Color. Although New Orleans
is best known of its Saints dressed in black and gold jerseys
and tossing a football, Henriette DeLille is in the canonization
process of the Catholic Church. If she is canonized, she will be
the first female native-born African American saint.
|Graceful staircase is
reminiscent of an earlier era
||Sign about Convent. Photo credit Bourbon Orleans
I first visited the ballroom in the late
1950s. The former ballroom was then a chapel and open to the
public on Good Friday and my mother, a staunch Catholic,
insisted we "make the nine churches," a New Orleans
tradition of walking between nine churches in honor of the
crucifixion of Jesus. Even as a child, I was struck
by the beauty and fair
complexion of these nuns. My mother then told me the story of
the old ballroom and explained why so many of these nuns were so
light-complexioned. It was an experience I have never forgotten.
The nuns remained in residence until the
1960s when they moved to the East Gentilly section. When the
Bourbon Orleans Hotel acquired the property in 1964, they were
very careful to preserve the original façade and old ballroom.
Grand functions, weddings, carnival balls and other events, are
still held beneath the Orleans Ballroom's crystal chandeliers.
As might be expected with such a checkered
history, there are many spirits still roaming the building. One
of the specters is a ghostly quadroon girl who
is sometimes glimpsed
dancing in the glow of
the ballroom's crystal chandeliers. Another female soul
sometimes seen in Room 644 of the
hotel is dressed in a nun's habit.
she is believed to be the spirit of a Holy Family nun who took
her own life.
During the years of the nun's tenure, they
maintained a orphanage and school for Black children, St. Mary’s
Academy, in the building. During the yellow fever epidemic of
1905, some of the orphans contracted the disease and died in the
building. It is said their spirits still play in the lobby and
kitchens. Workers have seen table cloths move as if someone
brushed against them. Glasses unexplainably clink together as if
in a mock toast. Some of the staff have felt their shirt tails
or aprons pulled when no one is there. Tinkles of childish
laughter is sometimes
heard. A few have even glimpsed a little girl playing with her
ball in the corridor.
|The pool is located in a
beautiful French style courtyard.
New Orleans was the site of a Civil War
battle from April 25–May
1, 1862when Union forces invaded the city by way of the
Mississippi River. (see Civil War Trails) Wounded soldiers were
often nursed in convents by nuns.
The Holy Family Convent
probably saw its share of dead young soldiers the nuns could not
save. That would explain the sighting of a Confederate soldier
roaming the hallways of the Bourbon Orleans.
Whether you are looking for just luxurious
quarters close to the heart of the Crescent City or a step back
into history, I strongly recommend the Bourbon Orleans.