The Audubon Hotel
“The sleaziest hotel on the most beautiful avenue in the world.”
The Audubon Hotel in the 1940s. The Bamboo Lounge and Bar operated on the ground floor, earning a reputation befitting their usual rowdy crowd. In 1949, it was included on a list of locations deemed off limits to members of the military due to “conditions that are detrimental or inimical to the welfare of service personnel.”
The Audubon Hotel opened in April of 1924 at 1225 St. Charles Ave. with rooms to rent for $10 per week. From the start, most people staying at the Audubon were long-term tenants, often conducting dubious business enterprises from their hotel rooms.
Residents of the Audubon were notorious for showing up on police blotters, most often for petty crimes committed all around the city. Theft and prostitution in the hotel were not uncommon, and often involved hotel employee participation. Hotel upgrades and changes in ownership over the ensuing decades did little to change residents’ habits and rap sheets or attract a higher quality clientele.
Perhaps the most distinguished regular resident of the Audubon was a dog from Chicago named Jeff, who wintered at the Audubon in the late 1930s thanks to his $30,000 trust fund. During his 1939 visit, his caretaker noticed he was having some issues with his sight. A visit to a dog eye specialist confirmed that Jeff was nearsighted, and he was fit with a pair of specially made doggy glasses, adding even more distinction to one of the Audubon’s most well-behaved guests.
In 1996, John Spradlin and Clinton Peltier assumed management of the hotel, cleaning up the upstairs rooms by moving out some of the petty criminals and embracing instead an artsier but still transient clientele, renting out rooms at $110 per week. They renamed the Bamboo Lounge on the ground floor to simply: The Audubon Hotel. Self-describing and celebrating it as “the sleaziest hotel on the most beautiful avenue in the world,” they transformed the lounge into an all-night eclectic dance club and art space, while still keeping the day-drinking regular crowd of older long-term residents and neighborhood characters.
The bar briefly transitioned into a trendier, fancier club in 2001, but closed in early 2002, followed quickly by the hotel itself. The building remained empty until 2016, when it was fully renovated and reopened as a hostel.