I went to see the Christmas decorations in the new Roosevelt Hotel and was disappointed to see that everything had changed. Can you tell us about the time when the old Roosevelt was in business?
You are not the only person who has complained about the change in the hotel lobby's Christmas decorations. Many were expecting the lobby of old with the canopy of angel hair and the Christmas ornaments and decorated trees.
The original Roosevelt Hotel had this name from 1923 to 1965. Before that, it was the Grunewald Hotel, and in the 1960s it became the Fairmont Hotel. But at all times it was quintessentially New Orleans. Throughout the rich history of the Roosevelt Hotel, it was visited by presidents, royalty, movie stars, musicians and athletes.
It also housed one of the best nightclubs in America, The Blue Room, a truly classy venue for dining, dancing and listening to performers like Frank Sinatra. Going to The Blue Room was a special treat for anyone, but especially for kids who got to sit up front near the entertainers.
The Roosevelt was Huey Long's favorite hotel in New Orleans, partly because of the Sazerac Bar with its Ramos Gin Fizzes. Long was elected governor in 1928, and one of his projects was to build a highway from Baton Rouge to New Orleans that cut nearly 40 miles off the journey. It also shortened the time it took the governor to get to the Roosevelt Hotel and a Ramos Gin Fizz.
For ordinary folks who never saw Huey Long, The Blue Room or the Sazerac Bar, there was the annual tradition of walking through the block-long lobby during the Christmas season. It was magical, even for adults.
The Christmas decorating tradition at the Roosevelt dates to the 1940s, when the hotel created an angel hair lobby by covering the ceiling with white angel hair, glowing lights and hanging ornaments — and filling the lobby with Christmas trees, toys, wrapped presents, elves, angels and a child-size gingerbread house.
When the hotel reopened as the Roosevelt, many people were eager to revisit the lobby. In the new Christmas display, the angel hair was replaced by a canopy of white birch branches decorated with lights and flocked, decorated fir trees.