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Guest Historian Series: Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 148;
Hotel History: Bienville House (1835), New Orleans, Louisiana*
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
In the heart of the French Quarter between Decatur and N. Peters Street, the historic Bienville House Hotel is located. This French Quarter boutique hotel had humble beginnings, starting as Planters Rice Mill in 1835 and converting to Thompson's Rice Mill and the Southern Syrup factory. After decades as a manufacturing plant, the owners capitalized on the prime location and transformed the building into the North American Hotel. It became known as "a delightful summer residence for Ladies and Gentlemen."
New Orleans is a storehouse of memories from as early as 1718, when it was founded by Governor Bienville to become the southern outlet for the French Empire in North America. Control of the area transferred between the French and Spanish several times before being acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The blending of French and Spanish cultures along with the Cuban, Irish, Italian, Anglo, African American and the distinctive Cajun influence has created a city unlike any other in the United States. The Bienville House Hotel is one of many historic buildings in the French Quarter which has been preserved and enhanced.
Some years later, the North American Hotel owners had parted and converted the building into a Fire House. During the revival of Decatur Street, the building was renovated into 20 luxury apartments named the Royal Bienville. In the early 1970s, after almost being destroyed by a nearby warehouse fire, the building was restored to a transient motor hotel.
In 1972, the hotel was purchased by the Monteleone family who converted it into a truly distinctive establishment with the style of a French Quarter manor house. The lobby is elegantly outfitted with hand-painted murals and Old World furnishings. One of the most beautiful flagstone courtyards surrounds a crystal blue pool and wrought iron balconies grace many guestrooms. Four welcoming sundecks invite guests to relax and drink in the flavor of this most European of cities.
Surrounding the beautiful Bienville House Hotel are the antique shops of Royal Street, the late-night entertainment of Bourbon Street, the House of Blues, the intrigue of voodoo and ghost tours, the history of Jackson Square and the world-class restaurants in the French Quarter.
The Bienville House Hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.
*excerpted from my book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013)
About Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.
Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by The New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by The New York Times: "Nostalgia for the City's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's...fact-filled...Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf."
Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi is available for purchase from the publisher by visiting bookstore.authorhouse.com.