Albert Aschaffenburg, Sr. a prominent New Orleans Capitalist and Real Estate Developer, planned to build the Pontchartrain Hotel next door to the Orpheum Theater, but died in 1918 before the development got underway. His son E. Lysle Aschaffenburg, resurrected the concept in 1926, but chose a site on St. Charles Ave. and Josephine St. nearer the city's residential districts. For approximately $1 million, the building was completed in 1927 and opened as a Residential Hotel. It did not take Lysle long to realize that there was not much incentive for New Orleanians to give up their homes to live in apartments and gradually converted most the units for traditional hotel use. The Pontchartrain shortly thereafter became a preferred destination for visitors; but, it always retained a small percentage of apartments for residents on an annual lease. Lysle's son, Albert (Jr.), after serving overseas in WWII and living in New York to pursue a theater career, returned to New Orleans to join the family business and eventually take the helm of its operation. Realizing that to be considered a great hotel, a hotel must have a great restaurant, the Caribbean Room was created in 1948. Modeled after Chicago's famous Pump Room, the Caribbean Room with its classical French approach in menu and service was at first, not well received locally. The Aschaffenburg's retained the luxurious décor; but, quickly changed the direction of the restaurant to become a mainstay of local Creole cuisine with a warmer style of service. Through the years, the hotel's understated elegance and extraordinary service provided by its owner/managers appealed to sophisticated visitors that were part of the cognoscenti; but, it also was embraced by New Orleanians that felt the Pontchartrain was a physical manifestation of local traditional culture. New Orleanians were possessive about the Pontchartrain, its Silver Whistle Coffee Shop, the Caribbean Room and the Bayou Bar and in turn the hotel reflected their collective personality. Running the hotel became more of an avocation than a vocation for the Aschaffenburgs and Lysle often said (tongue in cheek) it was the easiest business in the world because your guests will tell you exactly how things should be done. Noted guests of the Hotel Ponchartrain include Cole Porter, Charles Laughton, Evelyn Waugh, Lord Litchfield, Mary Martin, Richard Burton, Joshua Logan, Henry Kissinger, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Rudolph Nureyev, James Beard, Tennessee Williams, (Staggs, 2005) Jose Ferrer, Rita Hayworth and Aga Khan (Frommer, 2007), The Doors (Densmore, 1990), and George H. W. Bush. Williams worked on his classic play Streetcar Named Desire while staying at the Pontchartrain Hotel. (Staggs, 2005)
The Aschaffenburg family sold the Pontchartrain to a real estate concern in the late 1980s During the 60 years of the Family's ownership and management the Pontchartrain and its Caribbean Room received many honors - top rating in the Guide Julliard de Paris, Harpers & Queens 200 Best Hotels in the World, The IFMA Gold Plate award, Nation's Restaurant News Hall of Fame, a charter member of Preferred Hotels Worldwide and it was a perennial Holiday Magazine award winner.
The 80-year-old hotel building closed for extensive renovations in July 2007. In July 2008, it was reported that the building would be converted into a residence for retirees. But, in August 2013, the Pontchartrain reopened as a hotel and its historic Bayou Bar reopened in February 2014.
The Pontchartrain Hotel was acquired by AJ Capital Partners in November 2014, with Cooper Manning as a part-owner, and underwent another more ambitious renovation aimed at restoring it to its former level of elegance and re-emphasizing its historic character, while updating its style in its 106 guestrooms and suites, to appeal to a younger generation of travelers. The hotel reopened on June 17, 2016, and its Caribbean Room, Bayou Bar, and Silver Whistle coffee shop have been reopened, but with a contemporary flair that still evokes the nostalgia of the original restaurants. Celebrity chef John Besh and his staff have been chosen to run the Caribbean Room and all of the hotel's dining operations. Additionally, a new rooftop bar has been created on the 14th story of the hotel overlooking the downtown skyline Mississippi River. AJ Capital Partners is a Chicago-based team of hospitality and real estate investors who develop, own and operate commercial and hospitality assets and businesses in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The company was established in 2008.
Awards and accolades
- Louisiana Landmarks Society 2017 Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation
- Named one of Travel and Leisure's 2017 The Best New Hotels in the World
- New Orleans Eater Eater Awards 2016 - Design of the Year, Caribbean Room
- History, 2006
- LaRos, Greg (July 8, 2008). "Pontchartrain Hotel being converted into senior apartments". New Orleans City Business. Retrieved July 17, 2008.[dead link]
- Mora, Kate (July 16, 2008). "The Pontchartrain Hotel to return to its roots". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved July 11, 2008.[permanent dead link]
- "Pontchartrain Hotel revives Bayou Bar, considers return of Caribbean Room". NOLa.com. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- Maloney, Ann (June 14, 2016). "Caribbean Room, Bayou Bar reopens at Pontchartrain Hotel on June 17". The Times-Picayune /NOLA.com. © NOLA Media Group. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
- "The Pontchartrain Hotel sells to Chicago investment firm with plans to restore old world charm". NOLa.com. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "See the view from John Besh's upcoming rooftop bar at Pontchartrain Hotel". NOLa.com. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "Ben Weprin is behind some of Chicago's most stylish hotels. Here's his latest obsession". ChicagoBusiness.com. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "2017 Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation". Louisiana Landmarks Society. April 2017.
- "2017 The Best New Hotels in the World". Travel and Leisure. March 2017.
- "Eater Awards 2016". Gwendolyn Knapp. November 16, 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pontchartrain Hotel.|
- Hogan, C. Michael and Marc Papineau, Earth Metrics Incorporated, Phase I Environmental Site Assessment for the Pontchartrain Hotel, New Orleans, Louisiana, Report Number 10456, March 19, 1990
- Bernhard, Travels Through North America, During the Years 1825 and 1826, p 53, G. & C. Carvill, New York (1828)
- Staggs, Sam, When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of "A Streetcar Named Desire", p 13, St Martins Press, New York, (2005)
- Densmore, John, Riders on the Storm, Delacorte Press, New York (1990)
- Frommer, New Orleans Travel Guide (2007)