What’s in a Name?
Long before the name Sonesta became synonymous with quality hotels, a prize-winning dairy farm in Holliston, Massachusetts proudly proclaimed that it was “Sonesta Farms”, named after its owners, Abraham (nicknamed “Sonny”) and Ester Sonnabend.
“Sonny” was an entrepreneur who purchased financially troubled companies for tax purposes, made them successful, and sold them at a profit. It was not until 1943, that Sonny (known as A.M. Sonnabend in business circles) at the age of 49 became involved with hotels as a real estate investment.
The first hotel acquisition for A.M. (and six other partners) was the Preston Beach Hotel on the north shore of Boston. Because of his business knowledge, A.M. was put in charge of managing the hotels, and they became known Sonnabend-operated Hotels. By the 1950s there were four Sonnabend-operated Hotels including the world-famous Plaza in New York.
A.M.’s sons Roger, Paul and Steven have made the hotel business their life’s work; it is also the life’s work for many of their children, who now encompass the third generation of Sonnabends involved in commitment to achieving excellence in the hospitality.
A Royal Beginning….
The Sonnabends were introduced to the prime location, which is now the home to the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans on Bourbon Street by New Orleans local, Lester Kabacoff–the developer of the Royal Orleans Hotel (a former Sonesta managed hotel located right around the corner), and the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
The Royal Sonesta opened in September of 1969, and has since become a landmark on Bourbon Street in heart of the historic French Quarter.
The site of this grand hotel enjoys a long and colorful history that dates back to 1721…
That year, French military engineer Adrien de Pauger first laid out the city of Nouvelle Orleans…New Orleans. The block of land where the hotel now stands was originally comprised of 12 lots made up of houses, stables, gardens, courtyards and carriageways.
Among the notable residents were a philanthropist, a statesman, the first postmaster of New Orleans and a Shakespearean actor. Many different commercial enterprises operated on the site over the years as well: a costume shop, a bakery, an herb garden, a vinegar factory and a winery. The American Brewing Company, makers of the popular Regal Beer, purchased the winery in 1890.
Little evidence of the brewery remained in 1964 following demolition of this large group of old buildings. Three years later, construction began on the $16 million Royal Sonesta Hotel. Local jazz great Sweet Emma cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the hotel.
In its early years, the Royal Sonesta housed “Economy Hall”, a popular jazz club where local greats such as Fats Domino and Louis Prima used to perform. Years later, the current site of the Sales and Catering Office housed the New Orleans Jazz Museum (which has since relocated to the old U.S. Mint building and is home to such memorabilia as Louis Armstrong’s cornet.)
The exterior of the hotel was designed to look like typical 1830s New Orleans row houses, a unique architectural style in the French Quarter. Inside this oasis on Bourbon Street, public areas are elegantly appointed with crystal, marble, bronze and traditional furnishings. Many of the 500 guest rooms and suites have French doors opening onto a terrace or balcony surrounding the quiet, tropical courtyard.
The hotel’s Old World style – combined with its modern day amenities and personal service – continues to attract locals and visitors year after year who seek the ultimate New Orleans experience. The Royal Sonesta Hotel – in design, in ambiance and in spirit – is dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of the historic French Quarter neighborhood in which it resides.