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The Old Cosmopolitan Hotel
|Like many locations in a city as old as New Orleans, the venerable building
pictured above (in the 100 block of Royal Street) has more than one layer
of interesting history. Its first prominent link to history can not only be
remembered, but seen, just a few blocks away, in the Cabildo, where
a death mask of Napoleon remains on display.
|The Cosmopolitan Hotel, 1890's
|The bronze mask, one of only 4 in existence, was a gift to the city from Dr.
Francois Antommarchi. Dr. Antommarchi was one of Napoleon's doctors
during his exile on Saint Helena, his only French doctor and the one he
is said to have most trusted.
|Upon Napoleon's death in 1821, Dr. Antommarchi took a plaster cast of
Napoleon's face, from which only a few masks were cast. In 1831, the
doctor immigrated to Louisiana and set up his home and office in the
apartment building pictured on this page. He donated the Napoleon
death mask to the people of New Orleans in 1834.
|The building viewed from two directions, as it looked
in the early 1940's. The bottom of "Hotel Astor" can
be seen on the side of the building in the picture above.
The St. Regis Restaurant occupies the ground floor.
|For years, the old Cosmopolitan was a meeting place for the political wheelers and dealers of the
city. It was said to be the scene of the making and breaking of numerous New Orleans politicians.
|In recent times, grand plans were in the works for the old hotel site. The owners intended
to renovate the existing structure and add a twenty-six story tower behind it, on the portion
of the property facing Bourbon Street. It was to become a condominium-hotel called the
Royal Cosmopolitan. But they ran into trouble with the city council concerning the waiver
required because of building height restrictions in the French Quarter and some difficulties
involving another French Quarter building they were renovating. The last I heard, the
owners had placed the building on the market. I don't know if the property has been sold.
|The old Cosmopolitan Hotel is shown in 2009, with its
bottom floor boarded in preparation for a hoped-for renovation.
|It was in 1892 when the Cosmopolitan Hotel opened its doors in the building that had once been
home to Napoleon's doctor. The hotel was popular from the beginning, modern and elegant, one
of the first hotels to provide electric lighting. Within two years time, it had more than doubled its
size by adding an annex behind the original building; the annex faced on Bourbon Street.
|In 1920, a new owner renovated the Royal Street building and renamed it the Hotel Astor. The
Bourbon Street annex of the Cosmopolitan was demolished in the 1940's. The historic old building
on Royal Street barely escaped the same fate in the 1970's. But, escape it did, and, hopefully, it
will live to see its 200th birthday in a few years' time.