Iconic landmark to return as hotel

A historic St. Charles Avenue hotel used most recently as housing for the elderly can return to its use as a hotel, the City Council decided Thursday.

The council voted 6-0 during its regular meeting to allow the change in operations for The Pontchartrain Hotel.

Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell was not present at the meeting.

While the building, located at 2035 St. Charles Ave., can once again house short-term guests, the majority of the space will still be used for apartments, said Richard Ganucheau, an official with The Pontchartrain.

Ganucheau could not say how many rooms would be used for hotel guests but said the goal is to house people who can’t find places to stay when hotels in the French Quarter and Central Business District reach capacity.

“We just wanted the opportunity to take advantage of that,” he said after the vote.

A side effect of the council’s decision also allows The Pontchartrain to return to its origins as an apartment hotel.

E. Lysle Aschaffenburg built the 14-story Spanish Colonial Revival structure for that purpose in 1927.

Stars including Richard Burton and Mary Martin stayed at the hotel, and prominent New Orleanians such as Sears and Roebuck heiress Edith Stern and Frankie Besthoff, whose family cofounded the K&B drugstore chain, lived there.

The well-known Caribbean Room, decorated with pastoral murals, was frequented by Walt Disney, Charles Laughton and Tennessee Williams.

The Pontchartrain remained in Aschaffenburg’s family until the mid 1980s.

The building’s current owners decided to do a complete renovation of the building in 2009, reducing the number of rooms from 118 to 82 and reopening The Pontchartrain as housing for the elderly.

It will mostly continue to serve that purpose, even with the permission to once again serve as a hotel, Ganucheau said.

Since The Pontchartrain is once again a hotel, it also can offer live music in its Bayou Bar, something that was recently prohibited.

The city last year began to enforce live-music permits, and the Bayou Bar went silent.

The new zoning allows the bar to once again to host live music.

Ganucheau said no work will need to be done on the building since it was renovated so recently.