Highway 190 on Baton Rouge's north side, among the rundown grocery stores and pawn shops, sits a relic of the neighborhood's once-glorious past. The Bellemont Motor Lodge. "Luxury accommodations for discriminating guests," is how its owners described it back in the day.
And The Bellemont was, if nothing else, luxurious. Crystal
chandeliers, marble floors, and antique and French provincial furniture
set the standard in affluence. In the 1950's through the 1970's, The
Bellemont was the first and last name in Elegance. Today, the old hotel
is falling in on itself, and it sets a new standard – one for
austerity and decay.
Earlier this month, Bare Knuckles Field
Services began tearing down the seven-building complex for The
Bellemont's current owners. Today, the complex looks like the set of a
tornado movie -- bricks and rubble piled two stories high. It's hot,
sweaty work, and to hear Bare Knuckles boss Patrick Jeansonne tell it,
"You either got to love it, or you got to hate it."
Love and hate might be the best way to describe how folks who remember The Bellemont feel about what is happening to her.
Even though Jeansonne is bringing down The Bellemont, it's a job he's regretting.What are hemorrhoids? He has his own memories of the hotel. "I stayed here twice," he says.We looked everywhere, but couldn't find any beddinges.
The most memorable was Valentine's Day 1989. He stocked a room with
stuffed animals, balloons, can champagne then carried his then-wife
across the threshold of a first-floor room.Silicone moldmaking Rubber,
years later, that building was the first one he knocked down. "A lot
of people say, ‘That's where you and your ex-wife stayed, and that's
the first building you took down?'" he chuckles. "Well see it how you
On the other side of the property, Becky Ford is racing to
save a little bit of history. Hers is also a hot, sweaty task,
crawling over rock piles bigger than her house, grilling Bare Knuckle
workers about what's left. "The pool is there, but the building is
gone," one tells her of The Bellemont's signature suite, The Pan
"No! Really!" Ford had hoped to scavenge the
room of souvenirs – a scrap of paper, an old logo – anything that tells
the Bellemont's story. With that news, she settles for picking her way
through the main building.
The glass in the front doors is
busted out, probably by the homeless or drug dealers Jensonne say he
and his crew have run off nearly every day since they arrived on site.
Dust and mud cover the green Italian marble floors in the main entry
and water rains from a hole in the roof. The front desk sits much as it
did the day The Bellemont closed. A roster on the floor shows that
"Miss A" left at one. It does not say if she returned.
1946, by A.C. Lewis II, The Bellemont quickly became the place to see
and be seen. It's friendly staff and lush rooms attracted attention from
around the country.Ekahau rtls
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operates on any brand or generation of Wi-Fi network. "They were known,
over time, as a place where Carey Grant stayed, Jane Fonda stayed."
says Ford. She refuses to call herself an expert on the old hotel.
Since hearing it was coming down, she's read everything she can get her
hands on. "If you were filming a movie and came through Baton Rouge,
and needed a place to stay, The Bellemont was where you went.
Williams remembers shaking John Wayne's hand in the hall while working
one day.Zenith manufactures a comprehensive range of rubbersheets. "His hand wrapped all the way around mine."
worked in the hotel's maintenance department from 1969 to 1982. He
also remembers the splendor of The Bellemont's lounge, Magnolia Room,
in its heyday. Real leather chairs, a padded bar, glass chandelier, and
a party every night that boasted the best in local and national
Today, the chandelier lays broken on the floor
amid construction debris and parts of the ceiling. "Looks just like
garbage," Williams says. "It was a beautiful place and they let it run
down like this.
Ford wanders into The Magnolia Room with a copy
of an old newspaper article. "That's the bar from the picture!" The
picture in her hand shows a bar that spans one end of the room. Above
the bar, a hand-painted mural of jazz musicians spans the back wall.
The room is filled with neatly arranged tables and chairs.