A surprising development in New Orleans

Charles brings the news that the motel at the far (lakeside) end of New Orleans’ MLK has been rehabbed, and is now evidently a working business: The Crescent Palms. The surprisingly interesting back story of the building can be found on the motel’s site, here.

According to this history, the original version of the motel was opened in 1962 by Louis Mason, Jr. “a successful businessman and entrepreneur.”

This dreamer had a vision for a site of land where the Ole N’Awlins Potato Chip Factory stood. (That potato chip factory was a successful minority-owned business and a great story in its own right.) Mr. Mason imagined a first class motel where African-Americans would be welcomed. He envisioned a showplace that would bring even more jobs into a strong community.

They were “dancing in the streets” on August 19, 1962, when over 6,000 people, some of the out-of-town business leaders, gathered to cheer the opening of the Mason’s Motel. Newspaper accounts marvel at how vibrant and attractive the building was. The architecture was 1960’s modern and is now considered classic. The Floridian Patio drew particular praise. The banquet room could accommodate seventy people and remains an important part of the facility. Each of the twenty-five rooms, including two Bridal Suites, featured wall-to-wall carpeting, air conditioning and a spacious bathroom. The rooms were tastefully decorated and included paintings of French Quarter scenes on their walls. A television, a music system and a coffeemaker came in each room.

The site says that guests in the motel’s heyday — when segregation was almost certainly a major factor in New Orleans life — included Mary Wells, The Drifters, and Martha and the Vandellas.

Mason and his wife sold the place some time in the 1980s. The site says it was still open under a different owner as late as 2005.

Not sure how the surrounding area looks at the moment, but you can get a sense of how it used to look by way of this picture of the motel in 2003 — remember, that’s before Katrina. Was it really still open when this picture was taken?


Motel, originally uploaded by R. Walker.

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