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In a city offering more than 37,000 hotel rooms in the metropolitan area alone, it pays to stand out. Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, located in the Warehouse Arts District of New Orleans, hopes to do just that — and not just because of its name.
Located about three blocks from the French Quarter, Old No. 77 began as a coffee warehouse in 1854. Two name changes and $15 million in renovations later, the hotel has opened under a new brand. The renovations expanded the hotel’s room count to 167, and Old No. 77, formerly Ambassador Hotel, reopened on June 1 under the management of Provenance Hotels and Lodging. Exposed brick and pipes, original wood floors and other rustic details honor the hotel’s history. After it was used as a coffee warehouse, E.J. Hart & Company converted the property into a chandlery, a general wholesale business that sold items to ships visiting the New Orleans port.
Hints of the property’s unique past are still present. A concierge, coffee bar and communal table wired for Internet use make up the lobby, but a small area off to the side has been developed into a modern chandlery, according to John Price, No. 77’s general manager. The space also doubles as a street-facing art gallery.
Chef Nina Compton, a former contestant on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” and a Saint Lucia native, helms the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Compere Lapin, a name that reflects the mischievous rabbit of Caribbean folktales. The menu — a fusion of New Orleans’ culinary styles — honors the chef’s island roots, and the central bar offers a hip place to enjoy cocktails, along with a neighboring raw bar for Gulf specialties.
“It’s got great Caribbean flare,” Price said of Compere Lapin. “A little Creole, a little Cajun.”
Because there are several buildings that make up the four-story hotel, the interior is a patchwork of rooms, each decorated with custom furniture and paintings purchased from students at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), a pre-professional arts training center for teens.
“We looked at hundreds of paintings the students had done,” Price said. “Some of the artwork had been the first these students have sold.”
Rooms also have copies of UMBRA, an annual publication created by NOCCA’s creative writing students, as well as bars stacked with local items such as Zapp’s Chips, Zydeco power bars and Swamp Pop sodas.
Although some interior rooms lack windows, it doesn’t detract from the hotel’s unique ambiance.
And, in any case, “no one comes to New Orleans just to stay in their rooms,” Price joked.