Although there are a number of hotels which claim to be associated with museums that have opened over recent years, notably in North America, many of them are not, in fact, part of the museum they are close to. Some visitors may like the idea of staying at a hotel that is in some way affiliated with the museum they have come to see but, until now, being able to book a room has often been limited to staying at one that shares a common name or that is in the same district. This has now changed in New Orleans thanks to the development of a hotel and conference suite that is part of the globally renowned National World War II Museum.
One of the leading museums in the USA that is devoted to military history, the National World War II Museum is located in the downtown area of New Orleans, the most populous city in the state of Louisana. As such, it is almost ideally suited to the opening of a hotel and many museum and gallery professionals will be keeping a close eye on the project to see whether the marriage between the hotel and the museum sectors turns out to be a success.
A Multi-Million Dollar Project
The Higgins Hotel and Conference Center was officially launched on Friday 6th December after an extensive remodelling and renovation programme costing in the region of $66 million. The project followed an already large expenditure of improvements to the museum’s site which has seen several new additions in the last few years. These include a very large parking garage which was erected next to the new hotel site. Then there was the $10 million of funding that was secured for the museum’s so-called Canopy of Peace, the architecturally stunning awning which provides protection from both the wind and the rain for visitors to the museum’s various buildings.
In addition, the museum splashed out on the construction of two new buildings for its campus, both located on sites on nearby Magazine Street. If that was not enough for a museum sector expenditure programme, the establishment has also splashed out in the vicinity of $3 million to put up a new pedestrian bridge which allows safe passage over one of the city’s streets. As such, even the multi-million dollar project to construct a hotel complex to run alongside and with the museum should be seen in the context of considerable investment into the whole campus as a visitor destination in its own right.
A Genuine Museum Hotel
The Higgins Hotel is situated on the museum’s campus and is not merely close by. The site chosen is in the Warehouse District and the construction of a purpose-built accommodation facility with 230 guest rooms began in 2017. The development also features four separate dining spaces and a trendy bar that is situated on the hotel’s roof, affording great views over the museum’s campus. In addition to the hotel, there is a conference centre which covers an area of about 1,700 square metres. The hotel, which is currently operating as part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, has now opened all of its facilities to the public, both those visiting the museum as well as people looking for a convenient place to stay in central New Orleans.
The Design Ethos
The design for the hotel was drawn up by Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe and Associates, an architectural firm based in Florida. The team there were tasked with designing a hotel with a distinctive look that would be in keeping with the period that the museum is devoted to. As such, their plans included numerous details that would not have looked out of place in the 1940s. Many of the design touches drew inspiration from the wartime period and the distinctive design styles of the previous decade, such as cues that have been taken from Art Deco buildings.
In terms of the interior design, the museum’s board wanted a similar look that would evoke the 1940s, too. As such, a sympathetic design company, Kay Lang + Associates, was appointed to work with the museum’s own staff to create a hotel interior which not only looked right but which could borrow some artefacts from the museum’s own collection to make the who effect much more authentic.
Some of these items were not simply lent to the hotel in order to create the right feeling among visitors but had a genuine historical value in their own right. For example, a piano belonging to General George S Patton, one of the most flamboyant military commanders of the entire war, has been installed in the hotel. The Higgins Boat Trophy has also been put on show in the hotel complex, an artefact that was given to General Arthur Trudeau for his innovative military work at Amphibian Command. The National World War II Museum also handed over a portrait of Andrew Jackson Higgins to the hotel, painted in 1943. He was a boat designer and manufacturer who was based in New Orleans during the Second World War. Higgins came up with many military vehicles that were used in the war by the Allies including, perhaps most famously, Higgins Boats, or landing craft, which were used extensively on D-Day during the liberation of France in 1994. The museum’s portrait of him is particularly apt since the hotel has been named after him.
The Wider Commercial Relationship
Although the development is one that will see a commercial marriage between the hotel sector and the museum, the project was part of a wider construction programme in New Orleans. Approximately $370 million had been spent in the downtown area already to expand some of the public spaces there, including a 2,900 square-metre building named the Hall of Democracy which opened its doors for the first time in October 2019. This structure includes a new retail and exhibition space plus classrooms and a library. Work is currently ongoing to complete the project which includes a so-called Liberation Pavilion, a space that will be devoted to the immediate post-war period following the liberation of Europe.