The scene was set on a balmy summer night when musician, singer and indie favorite St. Vincent captivated audiences in a courtyard that once saw Saints of a different genre.
It was the opening night of the Hotel Saint Vincent in June, and it looked like the A List was in full swing for one of the fanciest hotel opening celebrations the city has seen in a long time. .
The party was also a revelation: it showcased the long, winding road from the complex of buildings constructed as an orphanage just after the Civil War in its current incarnation as a 75-room hotel developed during another cultural change and economic seismic, COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saint Vincent Hotel is a project of MML Hospitality, led by Larry McGuire, Tom Moorman and Liz Lambert, whose expertise in developing hotels and restaurants – in transformation, could be a better word – is seen in Austin. , Texas, where the company is based.
The group worked with local developers Jayson Seidman and Zach Kupperman, who are co-owners and developers. They are co-founders and developers of The Drifter in Mid-City, and Seidman is co-owner and developer of Columns, a 19eThe century-designed house by Thomas Sully has become a hotel and bar that just underwent its own overhaul in 2020 and early 2021. Property developer Christian Strobel is also part of the Hotel Saint Vincent property.
The Austin-based developers said they felt right at home in New Orleans. “It means so much to be a part of New Orleans – it’s real. There is courage and humor, southern cuteness and charm, ”said Liz Lambert.
“People call you ‘baby’ and that’s so good. People help each other, ”she continued. “I couldn’t imagine a better place to host – to bring together respite from everyday life, locals and visitors, give them a place to put on a silk dress, slow down and grab an Aperol Spritz by the pool.”
Located in the Lower Garden District, the four story red brick monumental complex at the corner of Race and Magazine streets (upper town, lake side) was designed by Thomas Mulligan, whose cornerstone was laid in 1864 The building housed the Infant Saint-Vincent Asile, founded at the request of the Daughters of Charity to be an orphanage, as many children lost their parents during the civil war.
It was on the site of an old farm, and was built in three stages, with the orphanage built first, followed by a building for pregnant women, then a laundry room and a stable ( “Car house”) at the back. The federal government viewed this institution as important to post-war recovery and paid for labor costs, including those of the former slaves who worked there, according to Mary Lou Widmer’s “Margaret, Friend of Orphans”. .
The Margaret in the book was Margaret Haughery, renowned in New Orleans for her philanthropy, with much of her money coming from her bakery. She was instrumental in the initial financing of the construction of Saint-Vincent and put money aside in her will to maintain it and continue her mission after her death.
Facing Magazine Street, there are two wings connected in the middle, which are highlighted by cast iron galleries. These wings go up to Camp Street (but not all the way) and then are connected by another building, creating a courtyard. There is a gate on the Race Street side.
Changes to the exterior included gallery ceilings painted in traditional sky blue and hanging ferns were added. Bevelo gas lamps are reminiscent of the 19e-th century roots. Palm trees and a neon sign proclaiming the hotel give it a 1930s LA vibe.
It’s the interior that has seen the biggest changes, of course. Lambert McGuire Design, the sister company of MML Hospitality, turned to Italy for its design inspiration.
An art deco atmosphere begins in the lobby and check-in area adorned with vintage Murano glass chandeliers and furniture that looks like it was picked from a chic Roman villa.
The hand-painted Paradise Lounge mural by local artist Ann Marie Auricchio is a light and airy tropical scene highlighted by Bird of Paradise flowers and serves as a backdrop for hotel guests or cocktail lovers to sit down and enjoy libations. Custom tile floors are a recreation of tiles found elsewhere in the building. Right now, it looks like management is still tweaking the layout of the furniture, as subsequent visits have seen different setups.
The living room also has access to the porch and the courtyard, where there is a statue of the Virgin Mary in its own cave.
The Chapel bar is located opposite and is now reserved for hotel guests. It was, as the name suggests, the old chapel and according to tradition, it was there that single mothers dropped off their children.
Strictly for cocktails and stretched out parties, the feel here is lush velvets and rich, deep colors.
The Saltillo-lined pool and courtyard pool bar are also guest-only (for now). Look up to the back building and you’ll see a gargoyle by artist Thomas Randolf Morrison. He was there before the hotel was renovated, and he stayed, no doubt checking out the scene below.
The San Lorenzo restaurant has a coastal Italian touch in design and in the cuisine, with touches of New Orleans with a menu (as published) that includes a flounder piccata, summer truffle risotto, fresh linguine vongole and a raw sea bass that includes oysters and a snapper tartare.
Rounding out the restaurant’s offering is the Elizabeth Street Café New Orleans – an offshoot of an Austin café – which serves Franco-Vietnamese style cuisine and has a bakery.
The cafe has a direct view of the modern addition built to host special events, including art exhibits, with the developers hoping to launch community initiatives to use it.
“I am very happy that the hotel is part of the fabric of the city, for the music that will be played there, for the mothers who will be brought in for brunch, for meetings, first dates, for events, big and small. , who combine a place with a city and make it belong, ”said Lambert.
There are a variety of rooms and suites, such as the Mary Suites which face the Grotto of the Virgin Mary and Courtyard Kings which offer easy access to the swimming pools. Bedrooms are painted in a gray achieved by blending Farrow & Ball Elephant’s Breath with the company’s deeper Mole’s Breath, creating a serene canvas for artwork, decorative pieces, and beds so comfy to linger in the morning. is almost a given.
The Voutsa bathroom wallpaper is in a traditional red and pink Florentine marble binding pattern found in one of Haughery’s ledgers.
The designers loved the patterns so much that they also used them for guest dresses, as well as what the check-in staff wears as shirts or other items. And if you really like it, dresses in this design are on sale in the in-house ByGeorge store – also an import from Austin – a place to shop for clothes and luxury items.
Beauty rediscovered, memories revived
The building’s location in the Lower Garden District was part of the claim of Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, who founded New Orleans in 1718.
His property included land upstream from the French Quarter, stretching along the eastern shore to about Nine Mile Point, then called “the bend above Chapitoulas.” Nine Mile Point is now unincorporated land in Jefferson Parish between Westwego and Bridge City, across the river from Ochsner Medical Center.
On the east bank, the area includes Uptown, including the land between present-day Howard Avenue, Jackson Avenue, South Claiborne and the river, as well as the adjacent areas of Jefferson Parish,
The land was granted to him by the Louisiana Superior Council on March 27, 1719, and confirmed by the Compagnie des Indes, owners of the Louisiana colony, in Paris on February 6, 1720.
But before the East India Company could confirm it, another royal decree was published on November 7, 1719, which prohibited the governors, lieutenant-governors and intendants of the colony from owning plantations, allowing them to have only gardens. vegetable gardens.
Bienville’s way of getting around this was to lease some of the land to settlers, including Germans who had been displaced by a hurricane in 1722.
He chose the land between Canal and Felicity streets for his “vegetable garden”.
In 1726, Bienville sold 20 arpents to the Jesuits, who bought an additional five arpents through Bienville’s nephew, the Sieur de Noyan, in 1728, to create a plantation. After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the Jesuits were expelled from the region with their property and land seized and sold at public auction.
From there, the land was sold and resold as part of plantations, parts of which were subdivided into suburbs by the Creole architect, town planner and surveyor Barthélemy Lafon.
The Hotel Saint Vincent is located in what has been called Faubourg de l’Annéquence.
After opening as St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum in 1867, the building continued the mission defined by the Daughters and Haughery. Adoptions took place until the early 1980s. A quick glance on social media showed that many former adoptees returned to the building to verify it.
In 1992, Sally and Peter Schreiber purchased the building, renovating it into a guesthouse and hostel. Some may recall that it also featured a tea room.
Now travelers and those seeking a subliminal dose of freshness now adorn the porches, courtyards and rooms of the Hotel Saint Vincent. And maybe they will meet ghosts of orphans and mothers from the past, because a truly New Orleans hotel always has a fiery past.
Journalist Sue Strachan can be reached at [email protected].