New Orleans is a steeply storied town — the central star of tales filled with equal parts strife, struggle, intrigue and opulence. While modern references to the Crescent City include its destruction and subsequent resurgence from Hurricane Katrina and, of course, its annual Mardi Gras revelry, its history is perhaps its most fascinating trait.
Few hotels better personify the city’s background in quite the way Le Pavillon does.
Nestled into the central business district along Poydras Avenue, Le Pavillon was once called the Hotel Denechaud. In the 19th century, Poydras was merely a canal leading into a basin ripe for goose and snipe hunting, but by the 1890s, civilization had begun its occupation of the area.
In 1899, La Baronne Realty Company acquired the hotel, and up sprung the New Hotel Denechaud, expanding from its old location nestled into the corner of Carondelet and Perdido Streets.
Almost instantly, the hotel garnered international attention for its luxury and refinement; per the property’s owners, “In the hey day of grand hotels, the Denechaud was one of the grandest….Through wars, prohibition, the Great Depression, and the advent of the horseless carriage, the Hotel sustained and enhanced its reputation as one of the finest in the world.”
In 1970, the property was renamed “Le Pavillon” after ownership changed hands and massive renovations were completed, bringing in stair railings from The Grand Hotel in Paris, chandeliers from Czechoslovakia and columns from Italy while installing a brilliant rooftop pool overlooking both the city itself and the Mississippi River.
In 1988, a guest took a seat at the bar and ordered a glass of milk in honor of a nightly family tradition of milk and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches; although his daughter was miles away, he wanted to do his part to keep up at least part of the tradition.
The barkeep on duty that night was also the kitchen manager, so he ordered up a sandwich after hours to accommodate the man’s family ritual. Since that night more than 20 years ago, the hotel has unfailingly served a gracious PB&J buffet in its lobby — complete with milk — every single evening at 10 o’clock.
Le Pavillon is a stone’s throw away from the French Quarter and stands on the St. Charles streetcar line leading to the Garden District. The Superdome and central business district are all within a brief walk from the hotel’s front steps. In 1991, the U.S. Department of the Interior placed it on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo credits: author’s archive