Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
The Central Business District
“The American Quarter—or the Central Business District, as the kine have long since renamed it—is my domain, but I do not consider it my home. It is true the district has many museums, art galleries, and civics centers. It is not bereft of culture as some of its most ardent critics would claim. Yet I find it little different from the financial districts of other American cities. I can watch the St. Charles Streetcar roll down Canal Street on a balmy summer night as palm trees sway against the breeze, and some part of my mind will remain unable to do aught but contemplate that streetcar’s terminus in the Vieux Carré—or its previous point of disembarkation in the Garden District. The American Quarter, on some level, shall always be a waypoint to me; an acquaintance whose familiarity is only owed to a mutual association with older and dearer friends.”
“But perhaps these are simply the prejudices of one who is old and set in his ways. I have never grown entirely accustomed to the presence of Americans in our city.”
—Philip Maldonato, regent of the Central Business District
The Central Business District (the CBD) is the hub of the American commercial sector, established after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Once the Americans took over officially, city planners aimed to create an American commercial sector, and this district (along with its sub-district, the Warehouse District) is the result of those efforts. A pleased Prince Vidal welcomed a whole host of merchants, bankers and manufacturers into the city, and in short order their entrepreneurialism transformed the area into a bustling port. In its earlier incarnation as the Faubourg St. Mary, the “American Quarter” eventually become the city’s nexus of commerce and attracted a network of banks, government buildings, private offices and warehouses, all centered around the central locus of Lafayette Square. In those days, Canal Street was the dividing line between the American and French parts of the city, and it still marks the boundary between Downtown and Uptown.
Officially, the CBD is the territory east of Claiborne Avenue to the river, bordered by Canal Street to the north, and the Ponchartrain Expressway to the south. Toward the lake is a host of modern buildings, built on an old African American neighborhood called “Back o’ Town.” (This was the location of Black Storyville, an extension of the seamiest red-light district of the day.) Prince Vidal spared little expense in bringing those desirable elements to the fore in this, “his” district, while sparing an equally small amount of expense in the crushing of those intrusions he would not tolerate. Over time, the prince and his mortal cohorts (both known and unknown) pushed, bought and bulldozed their vision into reality. Tonight, the CBD is the site of several important structures, including City Hall and the Louisiana Superdome, host to several Super Bowls.
As important as it is, the entire CBD couldn’t possibly be the personal domain of a single vampire, but Vidal’s grip on the district certainly comes close. He allows all Kindred to move through it freely, and even grants them feeding rights here, but is otherwise stingy with how and when other vampires interact with the area. Contrary to popular belief, Vidal has a haven here—inside an office building on Lafayette known as Perdido House. Both he and his seneschal (who also serves as the district’s regent) are known to have free rein in the area when it comes to feeding, but prefer to make their more permanent havens in more hospitable environs elsewhere.
• Philip Maldonato (unknown clan/Lancea et Sanctum, Camarilla Status •••••)
• Marcel Guilbeau (9th-generation Ventrue/Invictus, Camarilla Status •••)
• Anthony Brodowski (10th-generation Ventrue/Invictus, Camarilla Status •)
• Caroline Malveaux-Devillers (10th-generation Ventrue/Lancea et Sanctum, Camarilla Status 0)
• Christopher Guilbeau (10th-generation Ventrue/Anarch Movement, Camarilla Status 0)
• Gwendolyn Wade (13th-generation Toreador/Lancea et Sanctum, Camarilla Status 0)
• Jocelyn Baker (11th-generation Toreador/Lancea et Sanctum, Camarilla Status 0)
• Rocco Agnello (10th-generation Gangrel/Lancea et Sanctum, Camarilla Status ••)
• A number of further Kindred dwell in the parish, mostly Sanctified and Invictus.
• Numerous further Kindred hold feeding rights in the district thanks to its proliferation of bars and after-evening establishments.
Locations of Note
• 2 Canal Street
Headquarters of the World Trade Organization in New Orleans.
• City Hall (Elysium)
This 11-story international style low-rise serves as New Orleans’ city hall and houses a labyrinth of other departments and offices that run the city’s mammoth bureaucracy. Its interior is characterized by weird yellowish lighting and a funny smell typical of the building’s age (it was originally built in 1958). The building is slated for demolition to make way for a park, but its demolition keeps being postponed.
• Gallier Hall (Elysium)
Former city hall, built in 1845 and retired in the 1950s. It is currently a convention center, reception hall, home of the Ty Tracy Theatre, and venue for special civic functions such as mayoral inaugurations. The remains of particularly distinguished citizens sometimes lie in state here following their death, as a sign of deep citywide respect.
• The Giani Building
Originally designed by New Orleans native architects Thomas Sully and Theodore Toledano, and built in 1889, the Giani Building was a staple of the Central Business Distinct for many years, the first high rise built along Canal St and a major center of business. Eventually, as the building (or rather buildings, for originally it was three separate structures) aged they fell out of use, and by the time Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005 it was largely abandoned, deemed too expensive and impractical with its ancient design, wiring, and other impediments. While the hurricane did no favors with the exodus it prompted from the Crescent City, the subsequent renewal brought about by the rebuilding of New Orleans eventually gave birth to plans—and funding—needed to renovate the Giani Building into something new: a combination first floor retail development and high class apartment building downtown, within walking distance to the French Quarter (a meager block away) and with amenities such as an upper deck lounge, pool, and deck. Renovation began in 2014 and finished in mid 2015.
Today the Giani Building is as much a symbol of the New Orleans that was as the New Orleans that is: a renewal of the past and a step into the future. The building boasts more than forty apartments across six floors (the first floor is exclusively retail, management, and the lobby) and caters to wealthy up-and-coming professionals that lack families (most of the units are one bedrooms) and enjoy the proximity to many of the signs and sounds of the city’s major attractions. Much of the interior was gutted during the renovation, with new wiring, piping, and ventilation installed throughout as part of a massive (and expensive) project in part funded by ‘historical preservation’ funds designed to preserve the look and feel of the city as a whole. Sharing a street corner with three major hotels, the Giani Building, once a ‘high rise’ and beacon of development, is today dwarfed by it neighbors. Despite that, it brings something that its towering peers cannot match: history and authenticity, complete with its old second story wrap around balcony for festival times. It has also, if tales are to be believed, fallen heavily under the influence of a darker force of late that brings a gravitas all her own to the luxury property.
• Harrah’s New Orleans
Upscale casino hotel. Harrah’s is a 26-story marvel with 450 rooms and suites, offering sweeping views of the city skyline and Mississippi River. Beyond the 2,100 slot machines, 90 table games, and poker room in the casino itself, numerous bars, restaurants, shopping stalls, and even a bowling alley nestle themselves in their own shadowy nooks nearby. Less spoken of, however, are the criminal elements that lurk in the casino’s back rooms, skimming off its profits and keeping things “running smoothly”. Harrah’s New Orleans has a glamorous veneer few want to see past.
• Hotel Storyville (Elysium)
• Le Pavillon
Historic 219-room hotel on Poydras Street, notable for its baroque Old World decor paired with modern amenities. Adjacent to exclusive whiskey bar, Clemens’.
• Louisiana Superdome
Sports complex and home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. It garnered international attention when it housed thousands of refugees (in miserable conditions) who couldn’t leave the city during Hurricane Katrina.
• New Orleans Civic Theater (Elysium)
The city’s oldest performance theater, built in 1906.
• New Orleans Public Library
Main branch of the city’s public library system.
• Orpheum Theater (Elysium)
Historic performing theater.
• Perdido House
Any Kindred who has been a resident of New Orleans for any length of time has probably heard of Perdido House. The name is actually a minor misnomer, for the building is truly no house, but a 40-story office building on Lafayette Street in the middle of the downtown core. Those who know of Perdido House at all know that it (and everyone within it) is the sole purview of Prince Augusto Vidal. Most know that Vidal uses it to maintain a web of offices that house the affairs of his domain and, that on the rare occasions when one is summoned to meet with the prince, one is typically summoned to Perdido House.
Over time, and especially of late, Perdido House has come to be the very symbol of both Vidal’s power and his ire. The hoary Ventrue has only occasionally been seen outside the building since Hurricane Katrina, and often uses it to host important Kindred functions and Sanctified rites. These occasions invariably include the public executions of Kindred criminals, and many have come to associate Perdido House (perhaps rightly so) with fear and foreboding.
• Piazza d’Italia
Postmodern urban plaza and monument to New Orleans’ Italian-American community.
• Plaza Tower
Second-tallest building in the city, notable for its distinctive “mushroom shape” design. It has sat vacant since 2002.
• The Roosevelt New Orleans
504-room luxury hotel.
• Tulane Medical Center
Tulane Medical Center opened in 1834 as a small medical college with only seven doctors, all of whom shared the vision of ridding the South of the “peculiar diseases which prevail in this part of the Union”. Yellow fever and malaria bred TMC out of necessity, and the hospital was founded as the 15th teaching hospital in the United States. The school was brought into Tulane University’s fold 40 years later and remains so to this day.
• University Medical Center
Level I trauma center and teaching center recently opened in 2015.
• Whitney National Bank
Local headquarters of Hancock Whitney (formerly Whitney Bank). Founded in 1883, it is the oldest continuously operating bank in Louisiana and a major player in the Gulf South banking industry. Whitney branches are distinguished by a characteristic clock, sometimes known as a “Whitney clock”. The distinctive clock is used by the Bank as their symbol.
• The Windsor Court
Once a beacon of old New Orleans wealth and charm, the Windsor Court Hotel played host to royalty, ambassadors, and heads of state (including a U.S. presidential visit in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina). Large and opulently furnished rooms with a distinct French-inspired Creole feel in the heart of the Central Business District, only a few blocks from the French Quarter.
The hotel fell on hard times in the fall of 2015 and was rocked by a number of scandals (including allegations by a woman who claimed to have been sexually assaulted on the premises). Several of its employees went missing, including its former head of security. The departure of its owner and long-time night manager, socialite and philanthropist Gregory Smythe, caused the hotel to lose much of its prestige. Absent his presence, the area’s competitive real estate market and the hotel’s relatively small footprint next to industry giants led many to fear the Windsor Court Hotel was not long for this world.
Those fears proved well-founded. In late 2015, the building was extensively damaged by arson at the hands of a family member to the assault victim. Repairs were deemed too costly to be worthwhile in the aftermath of the hotel’s declining prestige, and the building was subsequently demolished. Its former land currently sits vacant, but that is not likely to be for long given the still-excellent location.