The 1920s - Fanfare
The fanfare at the opening of the original Jung on December 19, 1907 presaged the conviviality the hotel would come to be known for throughout the following decades. Great baskets of chrysanthemums and roses, and horseshoes of poinsettias and carnations filled the lobby and mezzanine. Leon Jacobs and Alfred Danziger, who managed the hotel owned by Peter Jung, Sr., Peter Jung, Jr., and A.L. Jung, personally greeted the hundreds of New Orleanians and out-of-town visitors. Women received souvenirs of small purses made of gold cloth and boxes of candy. Music played during the celebration, which lasted from 2pm to 11pm.
The renowned New Orleans architectural firm of Weiss and Dreyfus designed the 10-story building, a mix of Renaissance and Baroque styles, located at the corner of Canal and Howard Streets. The firm, which became Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth in 1927, not only designed future additions to the Jung, but also many important structures built during the infamous Governor Huey P. Long, Jr. era, including the Louisiana State Capitol.
In 1928, a $2,500,000, 18-story addition was completed. As Mr. Jacobs was quoted in a New Orleans Times-Picayune as saying, “Our ambition and that of the three Jung men who have erected the structure, has been to make it artistic in all of its appointments, but to eliminate all possible overhead, so that prices could be moderate [$3.00 and $3.50 per day] and serve the vast number of persons who demand the maximum of service and comfort.”
The “Men of High Business Ideals” succeeded. A marble fountain in the lobby sprayed water “into a gossamer veil of untold colors and combinations.” Each of the 700 rooms had a bath and “fancy spreads with the words “Jung Hotel” embroidered on them.” Among the furnishings were novelties like an overstuffed chair, reading lamp, running ice water, a ceiling fan and Servitor, which allowed attendants to leave packages, or remove laundry from the guest room doors. There was even a telephone, so “a patron may lie in bed and talk long distance with a person in London, New York, or San Francisco with no inconvenience.”
Marble and terrazzo Turkish Baths marketed as providing a “rejuvenated peppy feeling,” catered to both men and ladies (on separate days, of course). There was also a beauty parlor, barber shop, and a copious amount of free parking.
Topping it all off was “the brightest spot in the night life of New Orleans,” the Roof Garden, which boasted the first retractable roof in New Orleans. It became the focal point of the city’s social scene, hosting ladies’ bridge luncheons of Crab à la Newburg during the day and supper-dances at night.
The 1930s - Old Man Depression Overlooked The Jung Hotel
As noted in a newspaper advertisement from this decade, “Old Man Depression Overlooked The Jung Hotel,“ which continued to offer its patrons moderate rates, quality beds and free parking. In 1936, after the death of Peter Jung, the hotel was leased to the Canal Street Hotel Corporation with the Jung estate maintaining a large interest. The guest rooms were remodeled, and a year later, the Tulane Room, large enough for 2,000 persons to “dance in comfort,” opened on the mezzanine with “the latest type of motion picture projection and sound equipment.”
As manager Arthur F. Landstreet remarked at the opening, “It is our desire to give New Orleans the type of dance music the city deserves.” Inaugural acts included George Hamilton, who composed the hit song “Betty Co-ed,” and his Music Box Orchestra, and a floor show by Jerry and Turk, a popular Jitterbug dance team. In a nod to its name, the venue held a “Tulane Night,” where Tulane University students presented their own floor show.
The 1940s - WWII
While the Jung continued to host society weddings and other events, World War II was a part of life at the hotel in the early 1940s. In honor of FDR’s birthday, the hotel put on a special two-hour floor show. When the Jung held a contest to name its new cocktail lounge—the winning name was the Cotillion Lounge—the winner received a $25 War Bond.
The post-war years marked the advent of the hotel’s radio era. On January 8, 1947, WJMR’s 286-foot antenna was positioned atop of the hotel, making it the second tallest structure in Louisiana. Operations of the first new standard broadcasting station began on January 20 with a sunrise-to-sunset schedule.
The 1950s - Hilarity Ensues
At the beginning of the decade, the Jung once again received a facelift, deeming it “the South’s largest and newest peak in New Orleans’ skyline.” With a new 4OO-room, 13-story addition, the hotel now offered 1,200 rooms and suites, two cocktail lounges, a redecorated Tulane Room, air-conditioned meeting rooms, and a new barber shop, coffee shop, and drugstore.
A highlight of the renovations was the new Cotillion Lounge, a two-level room with gold fabric walls, Swedish glass sconces in a leaf and flower design, and a plaster mermaid plaque lighted by copper sea shells.
A petite bombshell named Patrice Helene and her partner, Jan Howard, were among the first performers. As noted in a review in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “It was all very artistic until out of the clear blue sky she secured a judo hold on her swallowtail escort and flung him plumb over her shoulder. Then while the national audience was recovering its breath, she proceeded to burlesque the dance, striding across the floor with underslung derriere, mincing daintily on rubbery legs and generally throwing herself out of gear as the audience howled.”
Celebrities also frequented the Jung. In October of 1952, Hank Williams and his wife Billie Jean Jones got married in front of a live audience at the Municipal Auditorium, a scandalous affair since Billie Jean was not officially divorced from her previous husband. As Susan Masino wrote in her 2011 book, Family Tradition, “The couple planned to fly to Cuba for a honeymoon, but Hank passed out in their room at the Jung Hotel that night, thanks to plenty of champagne and medication for his back.”
The 1960s - South's Largest Convention Hotel Located in the Heart of America's Most Interesting City!
In 1962, A. L. Jung Jr.’s 11-year old daughter was photographed sitting in the cockpit of a steam pile driver, which installed the initial pile for the new two-floor addition that would include a ballroom, exhibit hall, conference rooms, and a swimming pool and patio. A postcard from this decade touted the Jung as the “South’s largest convention hotel located in the heart of America’s Most Interesting City!”
During this decade it became the hotel for major conventions as well as Mardi Gras balls, high school proms, and political and community events. In 1964, LBJ gave a controversial stump speech at a $100 per person gala while campaigning for the presidential election. In 1967, as noted on NOLA.com, trumpeter Al Hirt, who was an original part-owner of the Saints and their musical director, serenaded the new Saints mascot, a St. Bernard dog named Gumbo, at a luncheon at the Jung Hotel honoring the team coaches and players before their first season opener.
Today - The Jung and the New Orleans Hotel Collection
From 1971 to 2012 the Jung changed hands four times and was closed twice. A bright spot during this period was that the Jung was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1982. Today, as a member of the New Orleans Hotel Collection, a locally-owned company known for breathing new life into historic hotels, the Jung Hotel and Residences is poised for former glory. A 1928 advertisement for the “New Jung Hotel“ is as relevant for the latest incarnation of the Jung hotel as it was then. “There must be more than fineness for comfort and enjoyment. There must be a hospitality of spirit as well as of physical fitness. There must be a lasting welcome that makes itself felt even after you have left the hotel. Such are we trying to make the New Jung.”