The Bellemont's bar and lounge has gone by other names, most recently Brella's. In 1957 it was The Planters' Room.
The black and white photos above and the other historic shots here are from Baton Rouge library archives, dug up by Becky. In the above case, an article/brochure effused praise of the rooms' Old World-meets-New World decor, murals, furnishings, the chandelier imported from Czechoslovakia, and yadda. I regret not looking behind the bar for the old mural, but didn't examine these photos til after I had visited.
There were two other pools in addition to the Pan American's private pool, which we'll look at next. Here's the one closest to the lobby, which had a glass-walled lounge, now demolished.
Description on this vintage postcard reads:
This large 75’ filtered pool is a vacation spot enjoyed by many travlers coming to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Flanked on each side by large coccus palms, the pool and its patio present a tropical atmosphere of unusual delight. Beverages and food are available from the famous Bellemont Restaurant. Pool is free to guests of the Bellemont Motor Hotel, Louisiana’s Largest and Finest. Ektachrome by Woody Ogden
There were other parts past and present including a barber and beauty shop, the Orleans Room (a polite man was having a rest in there), and the vault (demolished), but let's move on to the guest rooms, starting with the gem of the hotel.
PAN AMERICAN SUITE
On my first visit to the Bellemont in 2008, I wondered what was behind this dramatic entrance with the tattered awning that said Pan American.
The Pan American was the Bellemont's famous honeymoon suite, with a South American theme and a private pool.
The pool area had a South American- inspired tile mosaic.
It was almost entirely obscured by vegetation.
Imagine what it must have been like to stay in this suite--maybe the colors from the mosaic reflected from the pool into the living room. It seemed a terrible waste to let these Italian ceramic tiles end up in a Dumpster. I mentioned it to my artist aunt, who encouraged me to make some calls. I appealed to Abandoned Baton Rouge's Facebook fans , called two salvage organizations who were not phased, and emailed four people from Louisiana Museum of Art and Lousiana State Museum, yielding 0 response. However, Becky and her son took up the cause, spending hours clearing off the vines, and now it seems it could be saved.
Look, let's be honest. It isn't the most attractive mosaic, but it is an iconic feature of a once-beloved place and a relic of a lost time. I know of no guest accommodation this special in Baton Rouge today.
The living room's Mayan-style fireplace, pictured above, is another lauded feature of the suite. Maybe this should be saved too. A rich giant should find a different unused building, open a bar/ Latin American restaurant, throw this fireplace inside (or out) and set up the mosaic wall in the back yard. Boom: call it The Pan American.
Good-bye, Pan Am
Here are some water-damaged photo prints of the rooms and suites that I found at the front desk, showing how they looked as of February 2000. If I had to sum up the vibe in two words I would say "snuff film."
Top to bottom, we have a deluxe suite bedroom from a one-bedroom apartment, the living room of the deluxe suite, a junior suite bedroom and a deluxe suite bedroom. Oh and on the back of the prints, some black mold that I can huff if I ever miss the lung-blackening air of the Bellemont's end times (I shall not.) None of these rooms appear very deluxe to me, and so stand as another hint to the lost years of the Bellemont's decline. No Cher, no the Who. Just a hotel that, I'm guessing, if it was anything like when I visited the still-operational Kutcher's 1000+ miles to the northeast, already had some wings closed off that nobody used.
Considering the grim state of affairs depicted above, the guest rooms almost looked better when I got to them in 2012.
Well--not this one (reminiscent of the Saw films / The Filthiest Toilet in Scotland / bar restooms on the Lower East Side of NYC such as the now-closed dive Mars Bar).
For my second shift exploring the Bellemont, demo crew leader Charlie showed me around, starting in the 600-700 block of rooms in the rear of the site.
Some, but not many of these rooms have been torn down, he explained, due to the difficulty of tearing down the concrete.
Sure hope he has the safety on
Notice the rosary on the bedpost above.
In the overgrown central courtyard is pool no. 3.
Let's zoom in on the end of God's Plan for the Ages.
MAINTENANCE AND LAUNDRY FACILITIES
OH GOD THE COURTYARD
A hidden courtyard became a jungle.
The last section I looked at, to the right of the main entrance, the 200 block of rooms, appeared to date to the 70s.The central courtyard was so densely overgrown you couldn't see a foot deep into it.
Some of the rooms were not too bad.
However, I was intensely aware in that late afternoon hour that I was now exploring alone, so I was ready to wrap things up.
The urban explorer's rule is "take only photos, leave only footprints," but in this case whatever is left is headed for the landfill, so I had a few souvenirs in my bag.
I always like to get a little letterhead stationery and postcards if possible. That beautiful iron railing segment is now leaning against an even older iron railing in my fire escape garden. I found that artfully water damaged mini-photo album in the chapel, featuring snapshots from an older couple's wedding, and the Schlitz can speaks for itself.
It was the magic hour, when the sun is sinking and everything gets golden and dramatically lit and taking photos feels like cheating. But after this long day, it was check-out time.
Thanks for visiting. If you have a great story or memories from the Bellemont, I'm working on a story about it, and I'd love to hear from you. (colleenrkane at gmail dot com)