**Compiled for Ryan & Shane on March 9, 2016 by Micki Taylor.
History of the Hotel
- Two great fires plagued New Orleans in the late 18th century.
- On March 21, 1788 (Good Friday), a fire broke out on Chartres St. and was spread by high winds. It has been estimated that 800 to 900 homes and other buildings were destroyed.
- A jail was swept up by the fire, and it seems nobody was able to save those locked up inside.
- While it’s unknown if the land where the hotel stands today was affected, the fire did stretch to Dauphine St. along the block where the Dauphine Orleans now stands, so it is possible.
- The second fire occurred on December 8,1794, though it is unclear exactly which blocks were affected.
- Many of the buildings that today comprise the Dauphine Orleans Hotel used to be private residences, as well as a bordello.
- The hotel opened in 1969, and it displays the extravagant Creole style of the early and mid-19th century.
- In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused roof damage to the hotel; the roof has since been repaired.
- In 2008, much of the hotel was renovated -- and it’s thought that this type of construction can increase ghostly activity.
- Some of the original site’s structures still stand today. These are called the carriage rooms.
- John James Audubon (1785 - 1851), an ornithologist, stayed at the Audubon Cottages (a sort-of annex to the hotel, located at 509 Dauphine St.) while he was painting his Birds of America series, from 1821 to 1822.
- Audubon’s studio was located near May Baily’s Place, in an area that now serves as the hotel’s breakfast room.
- The population of Orleans parish at that time was only around 42,000.
- It later became a well-known bordello in Storyville, New Orleans’s red-light district.
- The original city license was issued to May Baily’s in 1857.
- At the time, it seems, protitution was legal within certain sections of the city per the Ordinance Concerning Lewd and Abandoned Women, as long as the “lewd” women and their madame:
Did not do business in a one-story house or on the first floor of any house;
Paid an annual license tax that cost $100;
Did not frequent any coffee-houses;
Did not live with any free women of color;
Did not prove to be a nuisance;
Did not call out to passersby;
Did not sit on the steps of the house with “indecent posture”. (The list goes on.)
- Today, May Baily’s Place displays a framed operating license from its days as a house of prostitution, as well as photos of the women who worked there, taken by E.J. Bellocq.
- May might have lost her father to yellow fever, possibly explaining why she went into the brothel business.
- It’s believed that he died in 1847. That year, more than 2,300 died from yellow fever in New Orleans.
- Before 1898, brothels and gambling houses were said to spread across most of the city.
- A man by the name of Sidney Story created legislation that confined the city’s “sinful” hobbies to a 16-block area.
- This went into effect on January 1, 1898.
- He probably wasn’t super happy that Storyville was named after him.
- Prostitution and gambling were, during that time, completely legal within the confines of Storyville.
- Ernest J. Bellocq photographed many of Storyville’s prostitutes, both clothed and nude, often in the places they lived and worked. His work would become famous only after his death. (Source: History Brochure from the hotel)
- The Navy shut down most establishments in Storyville in 1917, during WWI -- possibly, to avoid spreading disease among soldiers going through the port in New Orleans.
Hermann House Guest Rooms
- The Hermann House Guest Rooms, which are located across the street from the main building, were built in 1834.
- They were constructed for a merchant named Samuel Hermann, who reportedly had precise instructions for the building of his home -- down to the size of the nails to be used.
- Samuel Hermann was a Jewish immigrant from Germany, and he made his fortune in banking and brokering cotton.
- Hermann specifically wanted a home done in the Federal style, which was then popular in Boston and Philadelphia.
- He hired William Brand, an architect from Virginia, to construct his home -- and insisted that he use only the finest “brick, sand, and cypress”.
- Hermann reportedly lost about $2 million in the Financial Panic of 1837.
- As banks closed, many businesses went under, and a lot of people were forced to sell their land.
- However, Hermann’s wife was also wealthy, and his family avoided ruin.
- Still, they did end up selling the house soon after.
- It’s estimated that, between 1831 and 1865, some 60 slaves lived on the property.
- Today, the front of the house (facing St. Louis Street) is a museum (The Hermann-Grima House).
- The Dauphine Orleans controls the back carriage house -- known as the Hermann House Guest Rooms.
The Ghosts of the Dauphine Orleans
Many over the years have claimed to see a number of different ghosts, including soldiers who perhaps convalesced at the Dauphine, the women who worked at the bordello, and a forlorn bride.
The Lost Bride: (Add’l Source: Info sent from the Dauphine) Millie Baily, or Millie Berry (accounts vary), was said to be the younger sister of May Baily.
- She may have been married at some point, explaining the different last name, though to whom & what happened to her previous husband is unknown.
- The story goes that she grew disgusted with helping her sister run the brothel and planned to leave that life behind. She was set to be married in 1861 after falling in love with a Confederate soldier.
- On the day of her wedding, Millie’s fiancé was either shot during a gambling dispute or committed suicide due to a large gambling debt, and he died.
- Millie would sometimes wear her lace wedding dress around the bordello.
- She slowly lost her mind and died relatively young.
- Guests have claimed to see her near May Baily’s Place -- sometimes, looking in the windows.
- Others have said they’ve felt strange rushes of cold air while in the bar.
The Confederate Soldier: Some guests and employees say they’ve seen the ghost of a man with dark hair dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform in the courtyard.
- Parapsychologist Larry Montz and his team with the International Society for Paranormal Research reportedly uncovered the soldier’s name -- Eldridge -- while investigating the Dauphine.
- Montz investigated a sister hotel, the Bourbon Orleans, in the early-‘70s and mid-’90s. He may have visited the Dauphine on one (or both) of these trips.
- During the Civil War, soldiers were said to stay on the premises often, while convalescing.
- The ghost soldier is thought to be a Creole soldier who patronized May Baily’s.
- (Source: Email forwarded from Marc Becker, New Orleans Hotel Collection)
- Additionally, one guest reported seeing a man in a soldier’s uniform walking through Room 420 in the middle of the night.
The Woman in the Courtyard: The ghost of a woman dancing through the courtyard is frequently seen, some claim; many think she was one of May Baily’s employees.
May Baily’s Place: According to the employees, the bar is probably the most haunted area of the hotel.
- Strange phenomena, such as unexplained, loud noises and glasses crashing to the floor, have been reported numerous times.
- Some have reported ghosts that, according to their look and dress, seem to be the old bordello’s ladies of the evening wandering through the building.
- Liquor bottles have supposedly been rearranged by an unseen hand.
- This is thought to be done by one ghost, sometimes referred to as “The Courtesan”.
- Some say one of May’s employees killed one of her lovers in a room above the bar.
- One tour guide claims May Baily herself can be seen wandering through the building.
- While nobody knows when the first ghost was spotted at May Baily’s Place, according to Marc Becker of the New Orleans Hotel Collection the sightings have been going on for over 40 years.
The Carriage Rooms: The ghost of a man in his 50s has been known to haunt this area.
Suites 110 and 111: According to Haunted New Orleans, these rooms are said to be a hotspot for strange occurrences at the Dauphine Orleans, including:
- Knocking on doors, only to reveal nobody on the other side
- Heavy objects moving unseen in other rooms at odd hours
- Beds shaking in the early hours of the morning
- Eerie moaning
Some ghost hunters have reported electromagnetic activity and cold temperatures in the back of the room -- near the closet.
Throughout the hotel: Visitors to and employees of the hotel have claimed that:
- Doors lock themselves shut.
- Footsteps can be heard in rooms upstairs -- even when nobody has been in those particular rooms recently, and
- Shadows follow you.
- Haunted New Orleans tells the story of one guest who found an older gentleman inside her room, even though the room had been locked. The gentleman inquired if the guest was ok, and after being assured things were fine, he was shown out the door. The guest claimed the man then vanished in the hallway.
Eliza Riddle: “The Creature of Dauphine Street”*
- Bordellos were segregated at the time per the Ordinance Concerning Lewd and Abandoned Women, which deemed prostitution legal so long as it followed certain rules.
- Stories differ on whether Eliza was black or mixed-race.
- Eliza Riddle was said to be a thief; she was reportedly arrested 24 times between the years of 1881 and 1896.
- After stealing $500 from one of her customers, she was sentenced to ten years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary… and tried, unsuccessfully, to escape after luring her male friends to help her.
- In July 26, 1883, Eliza was convicted of stealing $500 from Frank Moyes while in a den on Dauphine St., for which she spent several years in the pen.
- She was sentenced to 10 years hard labor in the state penitentiary.
- It seems she only spent 8 years there in the end, however, according to a later article, she evidently got into a fight with a woman named Virginia Reed in 1882 and hit Reed over the head with a bottle, causing the woman to bleed.
- This was one of many possible fights with improvised weapons that Riddle got into; she also brandished a lamp at a neighbor.
- Other articles appeared about Eliza Riddle in the Times-Picayune depicting her frequent run-ins with the law.
- From June 15, 1892: One story claims that those who worked at the Times-Picayune at the time actually had bets going on when Eliza would end up in prison next.
- Her nickname may have been coined by this “minor mention” in the Times-Democrat on May 28, 1883.
- How and when exactly she died seems to have been lost to time.
- There are no birth records in Louisiana for an Eliza Riddle, making it difficult to know.
- It definitely seems as though she bounced around quite a bit (I’ve found three different addresses for her on Burgundy, and below, one on Orleans).
- At times, the reports make it seem like she may have run the “den” on Burgundy Street.
- Research note: There don’t seem to be any stories about Eliza Riddle’s spirit haunting anything or being sighted anywhere -- it’s more of a general, “It makes sense that this area of concentrated sin and vice would be home to restless spirits.”
- Research note: It’s important here that we don’t claim she lived on the premises (or call it “according to legend”) unless the Dauphine Orleans claims the White Elephant was previously on the hotel’s current premises. It seems she lived at various times on Burgandy St. and on Orleans. The closest I can confirm she lived to the hotel was then 73 Burgundy St, which today would be on the 300-400 block of Burgundy St. between Conti and Bienville -- about one-fifth of a mile away.
- It also seems the name “The White Elephant” could just be legend, as I also wasn’t able to confirm anybody ever called it that at the time.
Sidney Story: City alderman