Dear Julia, I was told there was a female De La Ronde who built the first hotel in the French Quarter who was also active in the theatre, perhaps? Are you familiar with this story? Betty Calzada, New Orleans
Ranking something as “first” can be historically tricky. It could have been that someone rented rooms way back in the early days, called it a hotel, but it did not last and thus got lost in the records. Of those for which there is evidence of their existence, and that still do exist, the title of being first goes to the “Maison De Ville” located at 727 Toulouse Street. Built in 1788 the hotel’s main structure rode the wave of the renewed New Orleans that arose from the ashes of the devastating Good Friday fire of that year. Four “slave quarters” that were constructed in 1750 survived the fire and would later be developed as guest rooms. Those rooms and the Old Ursulines convent are thought to be the oldest surviving buildings in the Quarter.
As for the De La Ronde name, there was a very prominent family that lived in St. Bernard Parish where the De La Ronde plantation stood, at what would become a site in the Battle of New Orleans. War and hurricanes took their toll on the old plantation. A few architectural ruins are left. There are also a few stately oaks that have managed to survive despite the invasion of chemical clouds from the stacks of nearby refineries.
Sorry, Poydras and I have been looking and have not been able to find anything about the “Female De La Ronde.” (To the surprise of most academics a recent study by the University of Oxford concluded that Poydras and we do not know everything. We begrudgingly concede the point but ask that any of our readers who have information about Lady De La Ronde let us know.) Her story seems plausible. She was rich, the French Quarter was nearby and the early population included well educated imports who would have appreciated a theater, especially if none other existed. We should mention that the DeVille Hotel did have its brush with fame. Tennessee Williams is said to have done some of his writing, most notably “A Streetcar Named Desire” there and a part of the site was once the home of Antoine Peychaud who invented the bitters that are now a major part of classic cocktails, including the native Sazerac. (A new courtyard bar there is called “Peychaud’s.) Books and booze can make a proud legacy. A theater link is even better. Hi Julia, It is time to face the issue, what is your favorite flavor at Hansen’s snowball stand? Fred Rouzan, Metairie
Anyone who would ask me that question would know that I have long considered Hansen’s to be unquestionably the world’s greatest snowball stand. The late couple that founded the business, which was originally run beneath a mulberry tree, did so to make money for raising the kids. Ernest Hansen created a machine that made the finest snow south of the Rockies and Mary Hansen never bothered with commercial syrups. She made her own. Her menu consisted of tart flavors and the creamy type. My Favorite pick is Mary’s “Tart Lemonade.” It is flavorful but with a kick, nor like the sweet flavors found in other commercial brands. (Add a splash of tequila and you’re heading for Margaritaville). Poydras likes the coconut flavor topped with crushed pineapple. More proof that, as Plato once said, “you can take the bird out of the tropics; but you can’t take the tropics out of the bird.”