NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Proudly adorned with the classic elegant decor of the 1920’s and 30’s, The Roosevelt New Orleans stands tall rich in history and beauty. Fit for a king, which is why the “Kingfish” himself Huey P. Long stayed there so much when he was Governor, which might also explains some of the hotel’s hidden mysteries.
“The story goes that if you were a state employee that you had to pay money into the ‘deduct box’ in order to be a state employee, well, the ‘deduct box’ from what we understand was actually the vault that is right beyond me right now,” says General Manager Tod Chambers.
“This is steel, steel right, you’re coming into a vault, this is steel. Within that vault is an actual working jail cell. Now, use your imagination as to what that jail cell was used for because I don’t certainly know but why would you have a jail cell inside this enormous vault that was the ‘deduct box’ that you would pay your duty into if you were a state employee,” asks Chambers as he walks into the room. Now it is used for office space and storage but no one really knows it’s original purpose.
“Luckily, the jail cell does not lock because you can imagine what might happen if we were able to lock people in there or if employees could lock other employees in there or if our guests found out you could lock someone in there, so no, it does not lock… You know Seymour Weiss the GM and Huey P. Long the Governor at that time were extremely, extremely tight and it’s possible that he said ‘Look GM I need to have a jail cell to collect my deduct money from the employees of Louisiana’ and he built it for him because they were very friendly and apparently they were as ‘thick as thieves’ as the statement might go,” says Chambers.
Another legend has it that Huey P. Long built Airline Highway so he could get from the statehouse to the back door of the hotel as quickly as possible.
“During that time of course, this was all things social, all things political all happened at The Roosevelt because Governor Long spent his time here. This was the hub of politics in Louisiana.”
The most popular story of Huey P. Long and the hotel is set in The Sazerac Bar.
“Someone tried to assassinate him here in The Sazerac Bar, the gunshot hole is right up there. The story goes that that was the one that missed and that, in fact, he was shot on the Statehouse steps the next day. You should ask any of our bartenders how often people talk about ‘where is the gunshot hole,’ I mean it’s asked to them probably dozens of times a week. People know of that time period who are from Louisiana and who come to visit New Orleans they want to come in to again celebrate the history of our city,” says Chambers.
And there’s so much history to be seen both on display and hidden for only the keenest eyes to find.