John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The Grand Palace Hotel on Canal Street will no longer house rats, bedbugs and "black goo."
The Grand Palace Hotel may have once been grand, but in recent years it became something of a toilet.
Opened as the Claiborne Towers in 1951, the 1,000-unit building on the upper end of downtown's Canal Street cycled through a bevy of unsuccessful identities: apartments, office space, housing for senior citizens, a hotel again. Then it grew into sort of a greenhouse for fungus. In 2003, former Palace guests and employees sued the owners for alleged exposure to hazardous mold.
The next year, according to the authoritative Blake Pontchartrain at the Gambit, "Expedia.com and Hotels.com removed the hotel from their websites... after many visitors complained about rusty water coming from the faucets, dirty carpets and rodents." Want to read some of those icked-out reviews? Yahoo! Travel still has plenty up:
Yahoo! Contributor: "If anyone has ever seen the beginning of Terminator where the cyborgs have demolished Earth - this is what the New Orleans Grand Palace looks like. It's filthy and smells musty.... Elevators don't work so you get a discount price to walk up the stairs to your room. Let me tell you...that was great - walking in the stairwell of the Bates Motel. There are no phones in the rooms. Some of the locks on the room doors were broken - room doors wide open. People (vagrants) roaming the halls."
NIUgirl: "There's an episode of The Simpsons where Bart stumbles upon a real estate auction and ends up buying a building for $1. This is that building!! Yes, there is so much to do in New Orleans that you won't be in your room a lot, however, if you are like me, when you ARE in your room you want to be comfortable. Well you will not be comfortable here. I didn't even go into the room all the way when I turned around and told my husband that I could not stay there. We were refunded our money and immediately left the premises. Yuk!"
(Another) Yahoo! Contributor: "The first room we were in had black "stuff" spewing up from the bathroom floor drain, paint chips all over floor, windows very dirty, looked like a dried blood stain on sheet, furniture not dusted, and hard driedup wad of gum was stuck to the wall.... A man was stuck in one of the elevators for at least 10 minutes."
Adam: "Water didnt work....at all. We didnt even get dirty water or black "goo" like the other lucky guests -Air conditioning didnt work...at all. -No towels...not like we needed them. -TV didt work. -Windows wouldnt close, so it sounded like we were sleeping under the highway.(remember this for later) -Lights in hallway flickered. I seriously didnt think i would survive through the night, so I didnt even sleep."
(Yet another) Yahoo! Contributor: "Unless you want to pretend you are in the Shining, do not stay here. It may seem cheap but the 10 dollar difference between this hotel and its neighbours nearer the river is not worth it. honestly, no water no electricity, not cleaned for months, no sheets their was mouldy food in the fridge and the place had an infestation."
Another: "Our room is filthy, rat holes, the red carpet has a lot of stains, the water is brown, the sheets are stained with holes in them, the comforter has pubic hairs all in them also with stains, the furniture is barley standing, our head board has been ripped from the wall, the bathroom is NASTY, pipes are stuffed up, toilet paper was used, they had soap from Days Inn LOL, the fire detector was HANGING from the wall! The coffee maker cord was chewed up by some kind of animal, the refrigerator was also nasty with stuff growing in it, the air didnt work it was being used to house our rat. The gym is a joke, everything in the hotel is nasty, dirty, and is life threatening."
And another: "One major event that happened to me was a drunken man enter my room while I was undressed walking to the restroom. When I called front desk they were unconcerned about my welfare and more worried about making sure the man came downstairs to get other room."
Although this crapulent, filth-encrusted hellhole seemed to be indestructible, it finally met its match in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. The building was shut down for good and salvage workers gradually stripped it down to its frame. That didn't stop the Palace from continuing to serve as a destination spot for graffiti artists and squeaking rat mobs, however. Oh, and fire: Lots and lots of fire.
If you wanted to experience a night at this abandoned New Orleans treasure, you're out of luck. On Sunday, demolition teams strapped about 400 pounds of explosives to the hotel and took it down in one fell swoop. The implosion was necessary to make way for green space and a University Medical Center, scheduled to open in 2015 as part of the city's burgeoning "biomedical corridor."
Anybody who's spent a sleepless night at the Palace fending off rodentia and boozy intruders will no doubt love watching the smoky footage from this weekend. Here are a couple of the better videos out there:
Looking at the demo from about 24 stories up (skip to 1:50):