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Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans

    Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans
 in New OrleansHistory: 
    Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans
 in New Orleans


The Omni Royal Orleans' is a momument built as a symbol of Creole pride. After the Americans purchased New Orleans as part of the Louisiana Purchase, the Creole population suddenly found themselves on American soil. Prior to the Louisiana Purchase, the Creole population had been living under alternating French and Spanish rule, but had developed a French cosmopolitan society that was far ahead of American cities at the time.

New Orleans, which had previously been one city, became divided between the Anglo-Americans and the Creoles with Canal Street in the French Quarter as the divider. When an American built a grand hotel with a rotunda dome in the American zone on Canal Street and the French Quarter, the important Creoles in the community got together and decided that it was time to construct a "European Grand" hotel of their own.

In 1938, the contract was signed and the hotel was called The City Exchange after a popular coffee shop that stood in that same area. The coffee shop was a popular place auction site in which stocks, real estate, and slaves were were bought and sold from about noon to 3:00 PM. The Creoles wanted to continue this tradition, but with in the spelendor of their own grand hotel.

Jacques Nicholas Bussiere De Poilly was brought on board to reproduce the aura of the Rue de Rivoli, one of Paris' most famous and most fashionable streets. The Omni Royal Orleans, nicknamed by the Creoles, the "Saint Louis", opened its doors in early summer of of 1843 to 600 guests on its three floors and elegant ballrooms.

Legend has ruminated that the term "free lunch" began here at the Omni Royal Orleans. Noontime drinkers would be given soup, beef or ham, a potato, or oyster patties along with their beverage of choice as an incentive to keep drinking. Thus, the phrase, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." came about because there are always strings attached, whether its a higher price for each drink, or the estimation that a person will drink more quantity if free lunch is included.

Gumbo, the thick Creole soup made of seafood and okra is rumored to have been invented at the Saint Louis/Exchange/Omni Royal Orleans by a Spaniard. Another term to come about through this hotel, is the word "cocktail." The Saint Louis served a beverage in an egg cup, or "coquetier," which Creole patrons had no trouble pronouncing, but American customers constantly mangled with their mispronunciation and it eventually became "cocktail."

In 1841, a fire destroyed the hotel, which at this point was called The St. Louis Exchange. It was quickly rebuilt using De Poilly's original plans and went on to host some of French New Orleans' most lavish banquets and balls until the Civil War, where it was turned into a military hospital.

Around the turn of the century, the building was sold back to the state and it closed its doors. As the French Quarter decayed, so did the St. Louis hotel. Tours were led through the decrepit interiors until the great hurricane of 1915 blew it into a pile of rubble.

After World War II, a group of individuals started discussing rebuilding the old St. Louis in an effort to revitalize the declining French Quarter neighborhood and preserve the charm for future generations. After close to ten years of discussions, architects Arthur Davis and Samuel Wilson Jr. were brought on board to design the interior and exterior, respectively. Careful replica designs of the old St. Louis won over the commission and the building was resurrected.

Surprisingly, the hotel was immediately successful, hosting the local social elits, famous entertainers, and of course, infamous politicians. Some of the those "to see" include: Luciano Pavarotti, Muhamad Ali, The Rolling Stones, Jane Fonda, Richard Nixon, Patti LaBelle, Paul Newman, and even Lassie, the dog. To this day, the Omni Royal Orleans is still a place "to see and be seen."

Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2010, dates back to 1843.

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