In the Lap of History

Explore New Orleans' hotels for a slice of the past

By: R. Scott Macintosh

Time seems to have slipped over the Crescent City.

The best hotels and guesthouses in New Orleans have the distinct feeling of the past still thriving in the present.

Here are a few of the notables:

The Hotel Monteleone is steeped in literary tradition and is a true New Orleans classic. One of the last family -owned hotels in the French Quarter and one of its most elegant, the Monteleone was a favorite among some of America’s greatest writers.

In 1999, the Friends of Libraries USA honored the hotel as a Literary Landmark, one of only three, for its popularity with writers such as William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty and others.

The hotel is undergoing a $25-million renovation, adding luster to a true gem. The rooms and lobby are elegant; and the revolving Carousel Bar is a must-see.

Rates: $135-$400, regular rooms; $330-$3,000 for suites.

Packages: The hotel has seven, all commissionable for agents.

Two special packages are being offered this year, in conjunction with the “Treasures of Ancient Egypt” and an exhibit celebrating the Louisiana Purchase, both at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

504-523-3341; 800-535-9595.

The Columns Hotel is true to its word, offering “affordable grace, comfortable elegance.”

The European-style guesthouse was built in 1883 and is the only surviving example of the Italianate style homes of the late 19th Century.

Without a doubt, parts of The Columns Hotel are breathtaking: the mahogany staircase and stained glass windows; the elegant Victorian lounge; the beautiful balcony facing the streetcars shuttling down St. Charles Ave.

But a few of the guesthouse rooms are in disrepair, with poor plumbing and water-stained ceilings.

Yet, even that is a part of the charm.

Its location in the Garden District and proximity to the streetcars make it a great spot for getting around.

Rates: Normal rates, outside of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, range from $110-$180.


The Melrose Mansion is a pristine restored Victorian mansion on Esplanade, at the eastern edge of the French Quarter.

It has an immaculate interior and a décor that mixes antique furniture with fantastic reproductions.

High ceilings, large windows and the attention to architectural detail evoke 19th century New Orleans but the Melrose Mansion is decisively modern.

Once owned by a New Orleans club owner who let the girls in his conga line stay there, it still appears more like someone’s home than a bed and breakfast.

Wine and cheese is served in the evenings and breakfast can be served in the rooms, in the parlor or by pool.

504-944-2255; 800-650-3323.

Rates: Master suites range from $300-450; junior suites range from $225-$275; Napoleon suites run $325-$375.