New Orleans’ historic Hotel Monteleone is investing millions in a refurbishing project.
By Kat Zeman, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
One of the last family-owned and -operated hotels in the country, Hotel Monteleone commands attention. Both a historic and literary landmark that dates back more than 125 years, the iconic hotel is a mixture of modern marvels and reminders of a bygone era.
“We provide the historic ambiance that people expect in the French Quarter,” Vice President and COO Ron Pincus says. “You can’t get that from a new big-box hotel.”
The hotel has been featured in more than 150 books, served as a filming location for more than a dozen movies and TV shows and provided a playground for the rich and famous.
Rooted in the heart of the city’s historic French Quarter, Hotel Monteleone has survived thanks to its ability to adapt. Since 1990, the Monteleone family has invested more than $140 million into renovations and improvements – and is planning to start a major refurbishing project next year.
“The family has been committed to improving the hotel and bringing it back to its former glory,” Pincus says. Once upon a time, Hotel Monteleone was famous for offering its guests services and features that they couldn’t get elsewhere. “In 1926, we had ceiling fans and a radio in each room,” he adds. “It was considered extravagant. In 1930, the hotel became the first in New Orleans to have air-conditioning.”
The hotel took a slight detour in the ’80s and early ’90s when New Orleans became a tourist hotspot and new hotels started popping up in New Orleans. Since Pincus was hired in 1990, he has been spearheading the hotel’s renovations and improvements.
Hotel Monteleone is planning to spend between $30 million to $40 million to refurbish its 600 guest rooms. The three-year project is likely to start in fall 2019.
“For the past year-and-half, we have been designing model rooms,” Pincus says. “We can’t expand the rooms, but we can better utilize their space. We have been experimenting with designers and architects to keep the historic aspects of the hotel but create a room that is more efficient.”
The hotel built several model rooms on its property and has been testing the best ways to refurbish and remodel. Someof these room upgrades will include new lighting, furniture and fixtures, and new bathrooms with freestanding showers.
Hotel Monteleone has achieved fame, acclaim and recognition on a number of different levels over the years. In 1999, the hotel was designated an official literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association. The Plaza and Algonquin hotels in New York City are the only other hotels in the United States that share this honor.
Also in the ’90s, the hotel achieved an AAA Four Diamond Rating. Only about 6 percent of more than 27,000 AAA-inspected and -approved hotels make the list. It also became the first independent hotel in the country to receive a J.D. Power and Associates award for outstanding customer service.
In the 2000s, the hotel achieved membership in the Preferred Hotels & Resorts. “That’s a big deal,” Pincus says. “It’s been one of my goals for a long time.”
Aside from its elite status, the hotel can also claim a number of famous guests. Liberace and Louis Prima performed there. Writers Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Truman Capote once called Hotel Monteleone their home away from home.
A few resident ghosts have take up digs at the historic hotel as well. The earthbound apparitions apparently fancy the 14th floor, where they mingle with guests on occasion. The International Society of Paranormal Research once spent a few days at the hotel and claims to have made contact with a few.
“The 14th floor is supposedly haunted,” Pincus admits. “A lot of people request rooms on that floor because of it. Some told us they have seen a ghost sitting on the edge of their bed. Of course, everyone in New Orleans drinks a lot. That may explain a lot of this.”
Hotel Monteleone is home to the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge, a long-time favorite New Orleans hotspot that has been named as one of the Top 20 Bars in the World by Vogue Living magazine. For decades, the whimsical revolving carousel bar has been luring guests to take a spin on its circus-inspired Merry-Go-Round. 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.
The only rotating bar in New Orleans, it features live entertainment and signature craft cocktails. Built in 1949, it was renovated about five years ago but retains its original charm. “It looks like a carousel that you’d see in a movie,” Pincus says. “We added more bar space to it where we host live music and that has been extremely appealing.”
During the renovation, the hotel also added a restaurant near the famous bar. A blending of cultures, Criollo embraces Louisiana cuisine. Its European influences, namely Spanish, Italian and French, are coupled with prominent contributions of Caribbean and African heritage.
Criollo is stocked with Louisiana and the Gulf South region’s bounty of fresh, home-grown products from land and sea. Its ingredients-driven seasonal menu is designed to offer creative dishes inspired by culinary traditions and an appreciation of today’s contemporary tastes.
“Between the Carousel bar and Criollo, we have again become a very strong local attraction and regained our prominence among hotels in New Orleans,” Pincus says.