If it’s your first visit to The Big Easy—some call it New Orleans—a stroll through the Central Business District might clash with the notoriously rowdy reputation of a city whose oft-repeated motto, “laissez les bon temps rouler,” quite literally translates to “let the good times roll.” Things are a bit quieter on this side of town. Tree branches noticeably lack in dangling knots of colorful beads, and footways are largely unimpeded by bachelorettes wielding passionfruit-hued Hurricane cocktails. What you will find firmly embedded into the paved sidewalk along one-way Baronne Street is a duded-up, metallic manhole cover that indicates your arrival at the NOPSI Hotel.
Like much of New Orleans’ eclectic cultural coating, the NOPSI’s heritage is intimately bound to the city’s archetype as a Southern symbol of periodic rebirth and revitalization. Although the hotel began welcoming guests to indulge in its 217-room luxury accommodations, trio of in-house dining and drinking joints, and 14,000-plus square feet of event spaces back in July of 2017, you have to dig a little deeper into the building’s history—over nine decades, that is—to fully understand why NOPSI continues to be held dear within the NOLA community.
By 1927, the mainstream Jazz Age was in full swing and America was yet to face the Great Depression’s economic plunge. That same year, a nine-story brick edifice took shape against the NOLA skyline. New Orleans Public Service Incorporated (NOPSI for short) served as the hub for the city’s utility and transit operations, a physical location where streetcar-line systems were overseen and residents could pay their electric and gas bills. The headquarters moved to nearby Loyola Avenue in 1983, and the formerly glorious structure remained silent and shuttered until current renovations began in 2016.
Standing in its pristinely restored lobby is not unlike paying a visit to the utility company decades ago. The terrazzo stone floors are original, with special care given to maintaining authenticity in the tile work’s minor patches of wear and tear. Exquisitely domed ceilings soar some 20-feet-high, braced by sturdy columns trimmed in ornate moldings. One major improvement? The addition of the underCURRENT Bar & Patio, a 1920s-style drinkery serving small plates and classically crafted cocktails, including the French 75 and Sloe Gin Fizz.
Intentionally eschewing the typical New Orleans color combination of green, gold, and purple, the NOPSI’s interior has been dressed in neutral tones of beige and brown, ushered into an understated decadence with accents of royal and powdery blue. Shades of the NOPSI’s former self remain a key draw of the property’s personality through themed artwork and public-service memorabilia incorporated into the design aesthetic.
NOPSI’s ground level is also home to Public Service, a casual, contemporary establishment run by the hotel’s executive chef, Neal Swidler. Outfitted with a full bar and an assortment of high tops, cozy booths, and seated dining tables, Public Service embodies the spirit of New Orleans cuisine with fresh gulf seafood creations and traditional dishes that will satiate your Cajun cravings. The NOPSI’s rooftop oasis—aptly titled Above the Grid—offers guests gracious after-supper views of the surrounding cityscape—best enjoyed with a curated libation in hand, of course. Like they say, “laissez les bon temps rouler.”
The NOPSI Hotel, 317 Baronne St, New Orleans, Louisiana. (844) 439-1463, nopsihotel.com