Review: Checking in on the French Quarter’s First New Hotel in 50 Years
The humble One11 is the perfect destination for those who want to see Bourbon Street while still being able to escape it
The best thing about the One11, the first new hotel to open in New Orleans’s French Quarter since a city moratorium on new guesthouses was imposed in 1969, is that it’s just barely in the French Quarter.
Set in an eight-story brick building adjacent to the Canal Place shopping center — and beyond it, the Central Business District and its modest outcrop of commercial towers and casinos — it’s easy to miss on the drive in, which my taxi did, circling back around the block a couple times before we identified it: 111 Iberville St., about a 10-minute walk from Bourbon Street, which means you’re close enough to observe without ever feeling obliged to participate.
Believe it or not, 111 Iberville St. might have at one point been the city’s first official skyscraper. Built in 1884 as the centerpiece of the then-flourishing Sugar District, the edifice was perfectly positioned to receive inbound sugarcane from the steamboats puttering up the Mississippi and then send it back out — now refined — to the trains that ferried it about the country. The horns of both can still be heard today.
The One11 is one of only three surviving buildings from the erstwhile Sugar District; one of the other two can be seen half a parking lot away, where One11 owner Wayne Ducote keeps an office. Nearly everything inside has been carefully restored to preserve the building’s history, from the exposed brick to the vestigial wooden pillars that once served as supports for a complex pulley system that wielded barrels of sugar up, down and around the factory floor.
One11 general manager Lisa Miller tells me those features were integral to the city approving the hotel. The 1969 embargo on new builds came about after a number of constructions — including the famous Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street — had turned historic buildings into rubble. Ducote purchased 111 Iberville in 1993 and then spent the next 25 years currying favor with local legislators to overturn it.
He finally earned their approval thanks to a number of factors: job creation, a commitment to restoring a building in disrepair, and — vitally — the fact that One11 is offset from the bustle of the Quarter, and thus construction wouldn’t interrupt foot traffic. For many travelers (including this one), that last point is exactly what makes it appealing: you can indulge in a stroll through the Quarter while always feeling you can quickly escape it. It’s also walkable (or at least short-Uber-able) to some of the city’s other most sought-after destinations: the jazz clubs of Marigny, the columned mansions of the Garden District, the Parisian-style cafes and supper clubs of Bywater.
And that’s really how you should think of One11 — as a waypoint to rest your head while you explore a city that oozes life and energy from its every nook and cranny. The rooms (of which there are 83 total, with four suites) are comfy but spartan, appointed in a modern-industrial style befitting the history that surrounds them. My King room included an oversized shower, plush linens and a marble side table that could double as a desk in a pinch — somewhere between a mid-tier business stay and a tragically hip boutique without fully committing to either.
In the lobby, the check-in transitions seamlessly into an open-plan restaurant and bar called Batture. The dinner menu comprises light bites for snacking before you proceed on to one of the city’s countless bucket-list restaurants, though brunch is worth making time for, with a Creole Benedict (lump crab stands in for ham) and Conquistador (a bacon, egg and Manchego sandwich with a dollop of fig jam) serving as the standouts. Eat on the pool deck if you can, which is just outside but appropriately sequestered thanks to an ornately tiled retaining wall.
Just don’t linger for too long. Whether it’s a walk along the nearby promenade overlooking the Mississippi River (ideally after dark, with a thick fog rolling through) or a pilgrimage to one of the many eateries, cocktail bars or music venues that make New Orleans the cultural capital of the American South, the One11 is a hotel that encourages you to come and go as you need. When you’re ready to head home, it’ll be there, close to the action but not too close, which is a virtue in the French Quarter — and probably one that this hotel alone can claim.
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