First comes the wedding, then the honeymoon. And since we already covered Scarlett's wedding day toilette, it's now officially Honeymoon Week here at How We Do Run On. On Monday, we brought you a look at some classic Creole recipes for Rhett and Scarlett to enjoy, and now we're back with more honeymoon goodness for you--in the form of a luxurious and historic New Orleans hotel where the new Mr. and Mrs. Butler could have stayed.
The St. Charles Hotel would have been an excellent choice for our newlyweds, as it was heralded as one of the finest hotels in the United States in its heyday. And like Rhett and Scarlett too, it held its roots in the antebellum aristocracy, but embraced the modernity of the vibrant post-war South. First erected in 1834 at a cost of $700,000, the grand structure took three years to complete and featured a portico of marble columns and sweeping marble steps. But its crowning glory was its rotunda, complete with a dome 46 feet in diameter that was considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The hotel soon became the playground of the wealthy planter elite and a place for them to conduct their business affairs, earning the hotel the moniker of "The Exchange Hotel." Over the years, the hotel played host to a number of prominent guests, including Charles Dickens on his trip of America.
But the good times could not last forever. Sadly, a 1851 fire destroyed the building and its famed dome. The hotel was rebuilt within a year in the style of the original building, with one regrettable difference: the stunning dome was gone. The second version of the hotel (seen in the picture above) is the one that would have hosted Scarlett and Rhett, and they likely would have found it very well-appointed:
"This house, which fronts on St. Charles street, and occupies about three- quarters of the large square bounded by St. Charles, Carondelet, Common and Gravier streets, is one of the handsomest hotel structures in America. Those who have traveled much assert that the front, with its massive columns, many windows and imposing cornice, is unequalled for beauty and grandeur by any in this country. The magnificent furniture, commodious rooms, and sumptuous table of the St. Charles enjoyed a wide reputation in antebellum days, which has been well maintained since the war, under the able management of Col. Robert E. Rivers."
--excerpted from The Illustrated Visitors Guide to New Orleans (1879)
The hotel later remodeled its interior in the summer and fall of 1878, and held a grand re-opening in November 1878 that showed off its "new furniture... and all the modern improvements, including a steam elevator" as described by the Illustrated Visitors Guide to New Orleans. And see? That's just in time for Scarlett and Rhett to have patched things up and taken a second honeymoon to New Orleans to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.
Okay, my bout of starry-eyed romanticism is now over and our post draws to its end. A the third and final renovation of the St. Charles hotel took place in 1896, when its outmoded antebellum columns were scrapped for a new swanky structure built in the style of the Italian Renaissance. Unfortunately, the historic building was demolished in 1974, but its legacy as one of the most beautiful hotels in New Orleans' colorful past lives on.
|(Edited) image from Souvenir of New Orleans, "the city care forgot" (1917)|