The History of the St.Christopher Hotel
The award winning St. Christopher Hotel is a unique structure with an interesting history. It all began on June 30th, 1882, when noted philanthropist, Paul Tulane, who established the University that bears his name, donated the land on which the St. Christopher Hotel is situated to the Administrators of the Tulane educational fund. With the help of renowned architects Sully and Toledano, an impressive structure was designed and constructed to house the Dwyer Brothers Wholesale, dealers in dry goods, a local company which helped establish New Orleans as the trade capital of the South. However, construction of the tallest building in New Orleans from bricks and huge heart of pine timbers was no easy task in 1882. According to the transcripts of construction reports to the Administrators, the project was delayed due to incessant rains and “unforeseen accidents”. Upon completion in 1883, Dwyer Brothers took occupancy of their prestigious company headquarters in the tallest building in the city of New Orleans. This was a fitting complement for the company that was the largest trading company in the South.
Dwyer Brothers conducted their business for many years until Jaubert Brothers, another local company that also operated a dry goods business from the property, purchased the property on June 7, 1937. Early pictures of the building show that Jaubert Brothers erected a bridge across Common Street to connect to their operations at 200 Magazine Street (the building now occupied by Pelham Hotel). Jaubert Brothers operated their business until it closed its doors around 1978. The building was vacant for 25 years during which period it suffered substantial damage from a leaking roof that eventually collapsed and became totally useless. The moisture and exposure to the elements attracted termites and caused rot, which accelerated the structural damage. The building was in such deplorable condition that it was cited by the City for neglect and was almost demolished. The fact that the building did not collapse is a testament to the excellent workmanship and conservative construction practices utilized in the original construction.
In 1996, local investors purchased the run down building and saved it from certain demolition. After receiving recognition from the city and National Park Service as a historic structure, an extensive renovation was initiated to convert the neglected warehouse to a beautiful hotel. Many construction issues had to be overcome in the process in order to undo years of neglect. The original 8-story building now has 10 stories made possible by removing the original 3rd floor and inserting 2 floors in its place. Also, added within the enormous ceiling height on the 1st floor was a mezzanine with an open balcony and wrought iron railings overlooking the interior fountain courtyard, which is a characteristic feature of New Orleans architecture.
In order to preserve the historic character of the property, the original columns and brick walls are left exposed throughout the property to highlight the exquisite workmanship as it was done over 120 years ago, without the benefit of modern machinery or modern cement mortars. The high ceiling heights have also been retained where possible and all of the original windows have been meticulously restored. The building once again stands as an important example of New Orleans turn of the century architecture.