New Orleans Historic Hotels: Rathbone Mansions

There’s always a party in the Crescent City, but if you’re looking for a moment of peace and comfort with a historical flair and Southern hospitality, look no further than Rathbone Mansions – two pre-Civil War buildings that hold more history than some cities. Only a ten-minute drive and quick ride on the tram, the mansions are located on Esplanade Avenue in the neighborhood of The Treme Historical District. Treme is the birthplace of jazz and home to the oldest black neighborhood in the USA, one in which Black people were able to own their own homes back in the 19th century. Founded and run by Kristen Aul, a Louisiana native and historian, she manages the Rathbone Mansions so folks of all backgrounds can come and enjoy the magical flair of New Orleans in a leisurely home-away-from-home!

Upon arrival I parked in the front which was shocking, considering that in New Orleans, just like in New York, it can be difficult to find parking. At the Rathbone Mansions it was no issue as I unloaded and headed over to check-in. The iron gates and sprawling porch made me feel as though I traveled back in history to the times of my grandmother. Adolph Gauche built the mansion for Belle Elizabeth Aubert, his mistress and a free woman of color, and the first Black woman to own her own home. I was quickly reminded that I was in 2023 as air-conditioning blew into my face (a must for the Louisiana heat).

The lobby was gorgeous with vintage accents and quaint decorations that felt lived-in and cozy. I headed over for a cool cup of water, and before my very eyes there was a woman with a short brown pixie cut and warm eyes. “Kristen?” I inquired between sips and she introduced herself and gave me the information for my room.

“You’ll be upstairs in 2C, the Duke Ellington Suite.”

I arrived at 2C, punched in the code, and was greeted by the old-world glamour of New Orleans.

I made my way to the lush queen size bed that had crisp linens, and fluffy pillows, and promptly fell asleep. I had a long five-hour drive and needed some quality beauty sleep. Once I woke up, I forgot where I was and then remembered: Oh right, New Orleans!

I looked to my right and saw an old-school vanity that made me feel like an absolute princess with the cute sitting stool and three-panel mirrors. I unloaded my makeup and skincare bag onto the vanity, creating a little haven for perfumes and potions. Once organized, I headed to the bathroom for a quick shower to refresh. The bathroom felt like stepping into history with a clam shell sink and old-timey bathtub. I scrubbed, lathered, rinsed, and felt renewed.

My curiosity got the best of me as I wandered onto the balcony and took in the chill energy around me. I sat out there for an hour or two, reading reviews for restaurants and air-drying my curls.

I headed down the street to grab a bite at Lil Dizzy’s and took a walk as jazzy tunes filled the town. People-watching is in my nature (as a New Yorker) and there was no lack of interesting folks going about their lives in Treme. Murals on buildings, children playing games, and men and women chatting between drinks; it reminded me that we all enjoy our lives near and far.

When I needed a moment to slow down, I headed to the pool that overlooked palm tree-lined skies. Gentle waters surrounded me as I floated away into a state of bliss. Before I left, I chatted with the owner Kristen about her journey of being a hotel owner. She told me stories of being in the tourist industry, the state of New Orleans, and the beliefs of the supernatural that were interwoven into the fabric of the city. My time at Rathbone Mansions was one of historical discovery and relaxing joie. Book a stay the next time you find yourself in the city of jazz!