Just south of the French Quarter lies The Eliza Jane, a modern boutique hotel in its sophomore year. As with most buildings in the city, the location is steeped in New Orleans history. Formerly a collection of warehouses in the 19th century, the space served as HQ for a bitters factory and The Daily Picayune, whose legendary owner Eliza Jane Nicholson was the first woman in the country to publish a major newspaper and is now the namesake of a hotel.
Born in 1843 to a well-off Mississippi family, Eliza Jane did not fit the mold. To her parents' great displeasure, she desired a career. Oh, the scandal! Eliza Jane moved to New Orleans and started submitting her poems to The Daily Picayune; it wasn't long before she was brought on as the publication's literary editor.
The paper's owner, Colonel Alva Holbrook, fell for Eliza Jane and they soon married. Holbrook sold the paper and subsequently bought it back after the new owners drove it into the ground. Whilst in the process of salvaging the publication, Holbrook passed away, leaving Eliza Jane at the helm to bring the near-bankrupt paper back to profitability. A true feat given the precarious times as New Orleans was recovering from the effects of the Civil War.
Reconstruction lasted until 1877, and "it was a period of great upheaval socially, politically, and economically," explained Amanda McFillen, The Historic New Orleans Collection's associated director of museum programs. "Also, the hot summers regularly brought outbreaks of yellow fever which took a huge toll on the population."
Not one to cower, she took charge. On March 26, 1876, Eliza Jane announced on the front page that she had taken over ownership and began to make significant changes to the daily, to appeal to a wider audience. She added a society column, a children's section, expanded coverage of the local arts scene, and a subscription to the Associated Press for current international news. She would also instate the Weather Frog, a beloved lagniappe of the paper which is still intact today.
"Writing was a life-long creative pursuit for her and something she was proud of," said McFillen. "She also was an incredibly savvy entrepreneur who led a failing newspaper from the brink of collapse to the most successful newspaper in the region," said McFillen.
Eliza Jane soon remarried. She wed her business manager, George Nicholson, and together they ran the paper. McFillen said that Eliza Jane surrounded herself with loyal, smart, and hardworking colleagues. During her tenure, she advocated for women by hiring them (a practice that was rare at the time), mentoring them, and paying the same wages as their male counterparts. The duo ran The Daily Picayune for 20 years until their deaths by influenza in 1896. The paper remained locally owned into the 20th century.
Leslie Oliver, director of sales and marketing at The Eliza Jane, said that the hotel's design team was inspired by the buildings' original occupants. The Daily Picayune inspired many of the hotel's details from the blue paint which resembles the original ink color and literary touches, like fully-stocked bookcases and antique typewriters in the lounge, where you can enjoy a drink from the lobby bar, The Press Room.
"All of the vintage objects throughout the hotel were locally sourced in New Orleans from various antique stores and handpicked by the Stonehill Taylor design team," Olivier said. The New York-based design firm managed to couple the rich heritage of the warehouses by uniting them, leaving ample space for 196 spacious, modern rooms and amenities. Guestrooms feature tufted, ink-colored leather headboards, which complement the eclectic accent furniture and other accessories throughout. There are 50 suites – most of which contain the hotel's original brick walls and ceiling beams – a fitness center, and close to 2,000 square feet of event space.
The hotel is also home to Couvant, a French brasserie conceptualized and managed by Makeready, a Dallas-based group. The restaurant offers a variety of seating from the cozy banquettes to a petit oyster bar, and private parties can opt for the secluded dining room. Fare is sophisticated yet approachable and accompanied by a strong beverage program. Beyond the restaurant sits their newest addition, Bisous Wine Garden, an interior courtyard hideaway featuring unique wines and light bites.
The Eliza Jane officially opened in March 2018, 141 years after Eliza Jane Nicholson announced her ownership of The Daily Picayune. The hotel, which is a member of Hyatt's Unbound Collection, celebrates the city's rich history through an immaculately designed getaway, replete with touches of our undeniable charm.
This article appeared in the September 2019 issue of Adore.