The Hotel Monteleone
This city does tourism like no one else and whether you’re staying with friends or in one of the numerous hotels in the french quarter and beyond, the southern hospitality will make it difficult for you to leave the Big Easy. One place that I recommend if you want to enjoy New Orleans in the lap of luxury is the Hotel Monteleone; The largest hotel in the French Quarter.
Antonio Monteleone was an industrious nobleman who was operating a very successful shoe factory in Sicily when he heard great things about America. The call of adventure motivated him to pack the tools of his trade and head for “the land of opportunity.” Antonio arrived in New Orleans circa 1880 and opened a cobbler shop on Royal Street, the busy thoroughfare of commerce and banking in America’s most European city. At the time Royal Street was indeed the grand street of the “Vieux Carre,” as the French Colonials sometimes called the new town.
In 1886, Mr. Monteleone bought a 64-room hotel on the corner of Royal and Iberville streets in New Orleans’ world famous French Quarter. The setting was ripe for Antonio to spread his entrepreneurial wings when the nearby Commercial Hotel became available for purchase. That was only the beginning of an amazing historical landmark that is one of the last great family owned and operated hotels in the city. Since 1886, four generations of Monteleones have dedicated themselves to making their hotel what it was and still is — a sparkling jewel in the heart of the French Quarter. There have been five major additions to the Hotel Monteleone. The first was in 1903 when 30 rooms were added. The next addition occurred in 1908, during a time of financial panic in the United States; when 300 more rooms were added. 1908 was also the year that the name of the hotel was changed from the Commercial Hotel to Hotel Monteleone. In 1913, Antonio Monteleone passed away and was succeeded by his son Frank who added 200 more rooms in 1928, a year before another horrible crash in the U.S. economy. The Hotel Monteleone was one of America’s few family- owned hotels to weather the depression, and remained unchanged until 1954. That year the fourth addition required the razing of the original building and the foundation was laid for a completely new building that would include guest facilities, ballrooms, dining rooms and cocktail lounges. In 1964, under the direction of Bill Monteleone, who took over after his father passed in 1958, more floors, guestrooms, and a Sky Terrace with swimming pools and cocktail lounges were added.
With its’ 126-year history and wonderful French Quarter location, the Hotel Monteleone is the best place to begin experiencing New Orleans. After all, it has been said that “the French Quarter begins in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone.” Located within the hotel Monteleone is one of the French Quarters most prestigious destinations, The Famous Carousel Bar. A long-time favorite New Orleans hotspot and the city’s only revolving bar, the famous Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone has lured guests in to take a spin on the 25-seat, bright circus-clad Merry-Go-Round; the only carousel you have be to 21 years of age to ride! It overlooks famed Royal Street through large fan windows and has long been a favorite of both locals and tourists.
Installed in 1949, the 25-seat bar turns on 2,000 large steel rollers, pulled by a chain powered by a one-quarter horsepower motor. Patrons circumnavigate at one revolution every 15 minutes, but the ride doesn’t end there. Since 1949, some of its riders’ most creative ideas, inspirations and business deals have been shaken and stirred to fruition here, not to mention some of the best spirits. Two famous drinks were first concocted by Carousel bartenders: The Goody and The Vieux Carre Cocktail (*see below for recipes). In the early days of the Carousel Bar, the hotel was the home to the famous Swan Room, a nightclub where celebrities such as Liberace performed. It wasn’t unusual for the performers to join their friends for a nightcap after their shows. The bar was renovated in 1992 when the current carousel top was added. In 2011, the Hotel Monteleone started an extensive renovation and expansion of the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge. The Carousel Bar area now has a soothing slate color on the walls adorned with antiqued mirrors as well as new furniture and wooden floors. While the authentic Carousel top and the hand-painted chairs around the revolving bar remain the same, the bar now has more lighting underneath the Carousel top and a new pewter bar surface.
The Hotel expanded the lounge area and opened up the room with coffered ceiling designs and customized crown molding, circular glass chandeliers and expansive windows along Royal Street. Soft white walls complement the French limestone floors while the new furniture adds a pop of color with golden yellows, soft pinks and powder blues. An additional crescent-shaped bar and more seating provide ample room for thirsty patrons to mix, mingle and enjoy the free live musical entertainment. William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty and Winston Groom are among the famous authors who have enjoyed drinks in the Carousel Bar & Lounge. Today, the Carousel still attracts celebrities, including some recent sightings— Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Dennis Quaid, Nicolas Cage, Quentin Tarantino, Stephen Baldwin, Michael Jordan, Greg Allman and Sally Struthers. In addition to live musical entertainment, the Carousel Bar & Lounge also offers a small “bar bites” menu, featuring dishes as Blue Crab & Crawfish Beignets and Mini Monte Po Boys. Food service is available from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
The Hotel Monteleone has the distinct honor of being dedicated as a Literary Landmark by the Friends of Libraries USA. Over the years, the hotel has housed numerous celebrities including many famous writers such as: Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, and Truman Capote. Interestingly, the Hotel Monteleone is actually featured in stories by both Welty and Ford and Truman Capote claims to have been born while his parents were staying at the Hotel Monteleone. There are countless other stories that continue to make the life of the Hotel Monteleone quite an interesting and intriguing one.
Special thanks to the Hotel Monteleone for providing imagery and information