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Rotating Rounds

The Carousel Bar keeps turning

The Carousel Bar as it looked from 1949-1992. The Monteleone Hotel was designated a Literary Landmark in 1999, owing to the large number of authors who visited and wrote in and about the hotel. Many of those authors were known to frequent the Carousel Bar too, including Richard Ford, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Sherwood Anderson, and Truman Capote (who often stretched the truth by saying he was born at the Monteleone, when really his mother just went into labor with him there). These days, it’s not unusual to see Hollywood royalty making the round at the Carousel, too.

courtesy of The Monteleone Hotel.

The Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter opened on September 3, 1949. Local newspapers touted it as a “really new and delightfully different cocktail hour experience,” as the revolving, circular bar was a first for New Orleans.

Patrons were encouraged to sample the Carousel, a new cocktail created for the new lounge, and to “measure the time of their ’rounds’ of drinks with exactness” to the bar’s 15-minute revolution. The bar and seats (but not the center) turn on 2,000 large steel rollers, pulled by a drive chain powered by a one-quarter-horsepower motor. Regular maintenance has kept the mechanism working for over 65 years.

The original interior, designed by Glenn Flanders of St. Louis, Missouri, complemented the carousel/carnival theme, featuring shiny red and black leather upholstery and wooden horses on the walls. A wall mural of a carousel was painted with phosphorescent paint and had black lights focused on it; the 3-D effect it gave was described as “unusual (and) brilliant.”

Newspaper ads made clever use of the rotating bar, creating slogans such as: “The revolving carousel bar is the perfect place to unwind… slowly” (1969) and “Slowly carouseling … continually changing your point of view” (1976).

The Carousel Bar was not just known for its pretty and unique look; it has also been home to a number of great bartenders and the creation of classic drinks like “The Goody” and the “Vieux Carre.”

A renovation in 1992 transformed the Carousel Bar into what we see today. The current gilded and mirrored carousel top was added then, as were the animal-motif embroidered chairs.

A more recent renovation in 2011 opened up the back of the lounge to connect it with another bar and provide more room for sitting, meeting up with friends, and live musical entertainment.

 

 

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