1111 Gravier St
We've partnered with The Troubadour Hotel to bring you a Room + Ghost Tour Package in New Orleans. For more information, please visit their website.
A fabulous rooftop bar, elegant dining room, and chic guest rooms make The Troubadour a fantastic stay for those wanting a premium experience on their visit to New Orleans.
But don’t let the shiny new inviting hot spot fool you. This is New Orleans. Everything has a past in The Big Easy, especially the ghosts.
New Orleans’ Central Business District has been the home of innovation and million-dollar deals for centuries. Originally called Faubourg St. Mary, it once was the home of the Poydras Market (1838), an open-air market with hundreds of open stalls under one pavilion.
“Making groceries” was a trip to Poydras Market for fresh produce, seafood, spices, and coffee. Though not always clean or safe (it was the 1800s, after all), it was always crowded.
And as the city grew, so did the CBD. By the middle of the 1900s, most businesses were operating out of the Central Business District. The CBD was the Bohemian French Quarter’s more serious cousin.
In the 1970s, one of the city’s only highrises was in the CBD. The Rault Center was a 17-story building with offices and apartments. It stood on Gravier St, near South Rampart… and is now the swanky Troubadour Hotel.
The Rault Center holds a grim chapter in 20th century New Orleans. A tragedy that left the building vacant for decades, until The Troubadour.
The Lamplighter Club on the 16th floor of The Rault Center boasted a membership of New Orleans royalty. The owner of the Saints and a few of his players were members of the exclusive club, as well as oil executives and society’s elite.
Local celebrities would congregate at the Lamplighter, which offered its members a restaurant and lounge, private dining and meeting rooms, men’s and ladies’ health clubs, swimming pool, ski club, Saints football tickets, and other than exclusive activities. A membership at the Lamplighter was coveted.
The afternoon of November 29th, 1972, the Lamplighter was full and buzzing. People were hobnobbing over cocktails in the private lounge when a fire began to engulf the 17 story building’s top three floors.
A few hours earlier, a maintenance worker discovered a small fire on the 16th floor and quickly extinguished it. But there was another one hiding and gaining strength.
With no automatic sprinkler system, the fire escalated, cutting off access to the stairwells. The top three floors became an inferno.
Just below the Lamplighter Club was the Lamplighter Beauty Salon. As the smoke grew thicker and the flames raged hotter, five women appeared in the salon’s broken-out window. The fire was closing in on them. They were trapped.
Get us out of here! It’s starting to burn again…
Firefighters stretched their ladders, hoping to reach the women. The ladders were too short. The women were forced to make a decision that may or may not save their lives. Would they jump out of the 15th-floor window? Or stay inside with the ruthless flames?
An eyewitness, Sondra Holliday, told the Times-Picayune, “The girl in yellow was screaming, ‘Get us out of here! It’s starting to burn again. Then she fell, and the other four jumped one after the other.”
They plummeted nine stories, hitting the roof of the six-story Travelers Building next door. News cameras rolled, and bystanders watched in horror and disbelief.
William McCrossen was the Assistant Fire Superintendent at the time; in an interview, twenty-five years later, he was quoted as saying, “It was one of the low points of my career. It’s devastating to see bodies out of a window, and there you are, helpless, unable to do anything about it...I can still kind of feel the thud when they hit the roof.”
Jacqueline Mailho, Norris Farley, and Jannas McBeth died instantly in the jump. Wilma Williams died weeks later in the hospital, never regaining consciousness after the jump.
Natalie Vrbaskovich Smith was left with two broken legs, a broken back, and a shattered pelvis. Amazingly, she lived to be 81 years old, passing away in 2014.
The poor women on the 15th floor weren’t the only ones trapped and in the blaze. Eight men who had been inside the Lamplighter Club were stuck on the roof of the building. The floors below their feet were engulfed in flames.
That’s when John Lockwood, a pilot for Offshore Helicopters who was transporting a businessman to New Orleans, saw the men atop the inferno. His passenger was a member of the Lamplighter Club.
Lockwood took his helicopter closer and saw the severity of the fire and the challenge he now faced. There were eight men, but he could only carry three at a time.
Lockwood delicately brought his helicopter down on the burning building roof and told the men the limitations. They worked out who would be rescued first, and the first group of three climbed in.
Lockwood dropped them on the lawn of City Hall and headed back over for the next three. Another helicopter was en route and rescued the final two men.
After all of the men were rescued, Lockwood picked up two police officers and a firefighter to inspect the building from the air. They circled The Rault Center, looking to see if there were any more people trapped inside the burning building.
As they completed their rounds, the roof of the building collapsed.
Six people perished in the tragic fire: The women from the Lamplight Beauty Salon, maintenance man Charles J. Michel, and New Orleans Public Service employee Lloyd Caldwell.
It’s been decades since the Rault Center building was the gem of the New Orleans’ CBD. But now, The Troubadour has breathed new life into the lonely structure, and not a moment too soon. But has the building truly moved on from its tragic past?
New Orleans is known for many things, Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, fantastic food, and ghosts. Hauntings are a way of life in the Crescent City.
We know that when tragedy strikes, there tends to be some residual energy left behind. And with construction comes the stirring up of those energies. Old walls can get knocked down and new walls built, but what rests within may not want to be removed.
Does The Troubadour share its beautiful space with the past? Of course they do! And we think it’s wonderful. A beautiful room, delicious restaurant, gorgeous rooftop bar, and ghosts… it doesn’t get any more New Orleans than that.
The Troubadour Hotel is located at 1111 Gravier St a few blocks from the Cotton Exchange. For more information on the hotel or to book a (potentially) haunted room, please visit their website.
Let us know if you spot any specters!