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Saturday, April 30, 2016

#2444 - Victorian Lounge, The Columns, New Orleans - 3/16/2014

The Victorian Lounge, The Columns Hotel, New Orleans
When a visitor is ready for a break from the raucous bars of the Quarter and jazz clubs of the Marigny, it is a good time for a visit to what is, in a way, the most classic of New Orleans bars -- the Victorian Lounge in The Columns Hotel. It is best reached by catching the Saint Charles Avenue streetcar, said to be the oldest operating streetcar system in the world, running since 1835 -- just a couple years after the mansion now called The Columns was constructed. It's recommended to buy an all-day pass, jumping on and off to more closely admire some of the city's mansions, or to check out a bar or restaurant. Definitely recommended is a stop in the upper Garden District to visit The Columns.

The current hotel was originally constructed in 1883, designed by the famous architect Thomas Sully as the family home of cigar magnate Simon Hernsheim. This was at a time when 80% of men smoked cigars, New Orleans led the country in cigar production, and Hernsheim's factory was the largest in the world, rolling imported Cuban tobacco into 40 million cigars a year from it's massive five story factory on the corner of Magazine and Julia Streets. (1)  Five years later Hernsheim would commit suicide, consuming "cyanide of potassium” to end his grief "resulting from the death of his wife and other family troubles." (ibid)

After the mansion was severely damaged in a 1915 hurricane it was substantially remodeled, including adding the Colonial Revival style columns that now provide its name. It was run as a posh boarding house until 1953, when it was sold and converted in the hotel that remains today. The third floor includes the "Pretty Baby Suite," a nod to memories of Louis Malle filming a twelve-year-old Brooke Shields here in his 1978 recreation of a Storyville district house of ill repute.

I could not locate a date for the construction of the lounge, in the former dining room of the Hernsheims, but a commenter on this blog post claims to have constructed it himself in 1980. In any case, today it is one of the most elegant bars in the Big Easy, with 12-foot high mahogany doors opening to a stately bar, below 15-foot mahogany ceilings, where a bartender serves New Orleans classics to a small mix of patrons, both formal and casual.

3811 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115 - (504) 899-9308
Bar Est. 1980? - Building constructed: 1883
Web site: thecolumns.com - facebook
Articles ranked: sucktheheads - gardenandgun - neworleansbar.org - nola - triparchitect - yelp - tripadvisor

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