A bar table. A fan. A concrete statue.
Those are a few of the strangest things recently returned to the Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, according to general manager Tod Chambers. Since January, the more than a century-old hotel has been hosting a Historic Giveback Contest, allowing guests to turn in things that once belonged to the hotel with no questions asked.
“Through the generations that this hotel has been here, we’ve welcomed millions and millions of guests,” Chambers said. “Oftentimes those guests have chosen to take something to remember the hotel by when they leave. In conjunction with celebrating the hotel’s 125th anniversary, we thought it would be a great time to reach out to those millions of guests, potentially, and say we’d love to have some of those items back.”
Not only is there no punishment for returning swiped items, but guests returning objects will be entered to win a free seven-night stay in the Roosevelt’s Presidential Suite. The ultra-luxe week-long prize comes with a selection of spa treatments, a few experiences in the city, plus private dinners whipped up by the hotel’s executive chef — to be enjoyed at the suite’s full-size dining table, of course. The whole package notches more than $15,000 in value.
“We’ll wine, dine, and take care of you to celebrate what nice artifacts you borrowed when you were here,” Chambers said.
The program and its lavish giveaway is part of an effort to shed light on the hotel’s history 125 years after its founding. Opened in 1893 as the Grunewald Hotel, it was renamed the Roosevelt in 1923, according to the hotel's website. Fairmont bought the place in 1965, according to NOLA.com, and owned it for 40 years until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina took its toll on the Gulf Coast. The hotel closed down for two years, and in 2007, its current owners, First Class Hotels, embarked on a mission to return the place to its former grandeur. The Roosevelt made a triumphant return in 2009. Now, with the Historic Giveback Contest, the goal is to put guests’ returned objects on display in the lobby to recall more of the Roosevelt’s history.
Related: New Orleans Travel Guide
Everything from menus to matchbooks is fair game — presumably the older the better. So, if you (or your grandma) have ever stolen a cocktail glass or pocketed a plate, you’re eligible to return it and enter the giveaway. Items can be mailed to the hotel or simply left with the concierge desk. And if you’ll really miss the object you’ve turned in, the hotel has agreed to return it at the end of this summer.
So far, Chambers said the hotel has seen plenty of glasses, plates, and utensils come through, as well as an antique fan dating back to the Grunewald days. But this week, there was a table from the hotel’s storied Sazerac bar. (That’s right, a table.) The only thing stranger than that? A concrete statue.
“During a renovation period, there were concrete statues in front of the hotel,” Chambers said. “Somebody bought one of those statues at auction, and they sent us a picture of it this week.”
The owners plan to ship the statue to the hotel.
“People are upping their game now that we’re getting statues and tables back,” Chambers said.
There is one thing Chambers mentioned the hotel would really like to see: a door. Not just any door, but a door from the hotel’s historic Blue Room. Once a popular supper theater, the Blue Room has hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Louis Armstrong. Performers like these were encouraged to sign the door of the dressing room in the back of the Blue Room. But after Hurricane Katrina, that signature-covered door was nowhere to be found.
“We’ve heard it’s been in different places,” Chambers said. “We heard it was in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at one time. We checked on it, it’s not there. We heard it was in Memphis, Tennessee, in one of the jazz areas. We’ve not been able to find it there.”
Perhaps the giveback contest will open some doors for the search.
“Someone’s got it. We want it,” Chambers said.
If you’re in possession of the door, or any other hotel memorabilia, the Roosevelt is accepting items through July 1, 2019.