The Fascinating History of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel Building

Posted on: August 23, 2011 | Posted in: News and Events


Orleans BallroomIn 1817, entrepreneur John Davis hoped to make his mark on the rich social scene in New Orleans. He did just that, opening what would become the famed Orleans Ballroom, where for the next 20 years, the city’s love affair with dancing played out. When it opened, it became the setting for the most select affairs in New Orleans. Such events held were masquerade balls, carnival balls and the famous Quadroon balls, in which beautiful fair-skinned African American women, or Quadroons, were selected to be the mistresses of wealthy Creole gentlemen. In 1827, the Orleans Ballroom became the state and house legislative meeting place. It is said, but unverified that Andrew Jackson announced his candidacy for president of the United States of America within these staunch walls.


The Sisters of the Holy FamilyIn 1881, it was no longer the swish of ball gowns that could be heard in these halls, but the swish of Nun’s habits. For it was this year that the Orleans Ballroom was sold to the First Order of Negro Catholic Nuns and partitioned for use as a convent, orphanage and school. The Sisters of the Holy Family Order was established by four women in 1842 in New Orleans.  The order is now the oldest female-led African American order in America. The Sisters of the Holy Family - ConventTheir first convent was a small building on Bayou Street, but they eventually moved to the building that had once housed the Orleans Ballroom. The old ballroom became their chapel. For the next 83 years they remained, until the need for expansion pressed them to sell the property to hotel interests.  They moved to New Orleans East, where they remain, still dedicated to the community they’ve served for so long. New additions would replace structures built by the nuns, but the Orleans Ballroom would stand and begin a life more closely attuned to its opulent beginnings…


The Bourbon Orleans Hotel TodayIn 1964, the entire block was bought by a local developer and for the past 47 years, the historic building on Orleans Street has been home to the elegant Bourbon Orleans Hotel. The hotel has been restored to reflect the architectural traditions of New Orleans and the French Quarter.  And today, this ballroom still hosts grand masquerade balls and carnival functions as well as weddings, dinners and receptions. The Bourbon Orleans Hotel is locally owned and committed to preserving the history and character of the 194 year old building for generations.


Stories of the rooms and corridors of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel being haunted are about as old as the hotel itself. In fact, the Bourbon Orleans has a reputation among locals as New Orleans’ most haunted hotel. There are said to be as many as 15-20 separate ghosts roaming the hotel and many of these are children. Ghosts, who roam the halls and rooms of the Bourbon Orleans today, lived in all different eras of this building’s history. There is the story of the confederate soldier or “The man” that dwells on both the sixth and seventh floors. The children and female apparitions found at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel are most likely from the era when the Sisters of the Holy Family operated a convent, girls’ school, medical ward and orphanage. The famous Orleans Ballroom, home to the grandest social events of the nineteenth century, is also home to a lonely ghost dancer, seen dancing underneath the ballroom’s crystal chandelier. *To learn more about the history of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel visit "The Past Whisperers" or the "History" page on the Bourbon Orleans Hotel website.