Wed, Aug 29, 2012
The new Saint Hotel in New Orleans shows how being wonderful can entail so many sinfully good things.
As a pilot for American Airlines, David Mark Wyant had seen his fair share of hotels. And, during each stay between those long hauls, he couldn’t help but wonder about what worked and what didn’t, what he liked and what he abhorred.
Without even realizing it, Wyant began formulating a vision for the perfect boutique hotel. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had grown up in the hotel industry, the son of hoteliers. With an old innkeeper’s soul, he had been born with hospitality instincts. So as time passed, he amassed a compendium of ideas to bring his dream lodge to life. All he needed was a superlative place in the ideal city.
He discovered it in New Orleans on Canal Street in 2010. “The first time I saw the Audubon Building, I knew I had found the right spot,” he says of the abandoned Beaux Arts structure he stumbled across on the threshold of the French Quarter. He undertook months of research in the Library of Congress, determined to bring the exterior back to its formal glory.
Honoring the historical gravitas of the architecture (think painstakingly detailed reconstruction of elements such as the original iron awnings and tin tiles), Wyant simultaneously envisaged chic contemporary interiors.
Just opened in January, The Saint Hotel (thesainthotelneworleans.com; from $189) is the triumphant result of Wyant’s ruminations and hard work. Eccentric, edgy, this hotel has the Big Easy talking fast and furious—and that’s no small feat in a city known for its own particular brand of Southern vernacular. Wyant boldly channels New Orleans’ heady past, then translates that to a newfangled vibe.
Enter the spacious lobby with its high ceilings, golden bell-shaped chandeliers, columns and faux-leather-croc antique trunk-styled reception desk, and you’ll understand. It is Creole done differently and creativity born from tradition. This is Blanche Du Bois meets Harry Connick Jr., mingled with Blue Dog painter George Rodrigue’s sensibility. It’s a muffuletta, a plate of eggs Sardou and a Sazerac cocktail rolled into one.
The hotel’s eight floors house 161 rooms, complete with Egyptian cotton sheets, white lacquered furniture, indigo accents and posh Niven Morgan toiletries (made in Louisiana). Managing to feel cozy and urbane at once, The Saint has nooks and crannies so tempting, you may choose not to take that de rigueur ramble down boozy Bourbon Street at all.
Instead, tuck into Halo, the rooftop bar, where you can wash down such enticements as lobster corn dogs with some excellent martinis. Jazzy types will prefer the Louis Armstrong, flapper-era bordello mood of the Burgundy Bar. And, then there’s Sweet Olive, where local favorite chef Michael Stoltzfus (of Coquette fame) tenders his signature interpretation of New Orleans contemporary cuisine.
Sinfully well done and smartly priced, this little black dress of a hotel may be called The Saint, but it knows how to party and then some.