Some people dedicate themselves to making a difference, and Louis Mason, Jr. and his wife Daisy were two such individuals. Mr. Mason was a successful businessman and humanitarian. He used his business acumen to build Rightway Enterprises. This company ran eight businesses, including a medical center and stores, and employed forty workers. Mr. Mason belonged to numerous civic and social organizations and later served on the Selective Service Board. This community leader actively supported the YMCA and the Boy Scouts and his Rightway Enterprises even sponsored a basketball league. When a number of families were dropped from the welfare rolls he distributed food baskets as part of the “feed the babies” campaign.
This dreamer had a vision for a site of land where the Ole N’Awlins Potato Chip Factory stood. (That potato chip factory was a successful minority-owned business and a great story in its own right.) Mr. Mason imagined a first class motel where African-Americans would be welcomed. He envisioned a showplace that would bring even more jobs into a strong community.
They were “dancing in the streets” on August 19, 1962, when over 6,000 people, some of the out-of-town business leaders, gathered to cheer the opening of the Mason’s Motel. Newspaper accounts marvel at how vibrant and attractive the building was. The architecture was 1960’s modern and is now considered classic. The Floridian Patio drew particular praise. The banquet room could accommodate seventy people and remains an important part of the facility. Each of the twenty-five rooms, including two Bridal Suites, featured wall-to-wall carpeting, air conditioning and a spacious bathroom. The rooms were tastefully decorated and included paintings of French Quarter scenes on their walls. A television, a music system and a coffeemaker came in each room.
The empowerment of the 1960’s brought opportunities as well as challenges for businesses. As a 1963 newspaper write-up of the Nationwide Hotel Association meeting in New Orleans mentions, black owned hotels had to try harder and offer more to keep their market share. As general chairman of this conference, Daisy Mason understood this and she and Louis Mason strove to make their motel the best it could be. The single occupancy rate started at $12.00 a day. For this rate the guest received a level of comfort and convenience that would be considered luxury. This establishment provided amenities not available at all inns. An early brochure touts the 24 hour maid and bellhop service as well as same day valet service. The front desk offered concierge quality information and assistance. (The same early brochure refers patrons to such local favorite restaurants as Dooky Chase and Chez Helene.) Additionally, Mason's Motel arranged catering for events in the banquet room.
The good times rolled as Mason's Motel hosted such luminaries as Mary Wells, The Drifters, the Marvelettes and Martha and the Vandellas. Comedian Slappy White was also guest of Mason's Motel. Mr. Mason later built a second motel on Claiborne Avenue where the entertainers would perform while staying at the original location on Melpomene Street (now Martin Luther King Blvd.).
For years the motel served as a solid member of the business community and a beacon for African-American travelers, but changes were on the horizon. The economy shifted and social attitudes changed. Many businesses experienced tough times. By the 1980's different factors influenced the Mason family to sell. The proud lady entered a new era as Brandy s Motel. Brandy was a fine girl , but the times were different. The business remained open until 2005. On August 29, 2005, an unregistered guest named Katrina tore through the area and wrecked havoc on the entire city, including this motel. The building took on five feet of water and the roof suffered major damage. Thus ended one era.
One day in early 2007, a group of local investors drove by this site and noticed a small For Sale sign. They all thought it was an interesting property with potential. A couple of the investors had worked as managers with the W French Quarter hotel and thought it would be great to renovate it to its original glory. As they learned more, they became enchanted by this motel and her history. They assembled a partnership which embarked on repairs and renovations that would restore this landmark to her former glory.
It has taken over a year to rehabilitate the grand lady. Workmen made structural repairs and performed renovations on the electrical and plumbing systems. The cable television wiring was also upgraded. Improving the outdoor lighting and security was a major priority. Lovingly restored terrazzo sidewalks greet visitors on the outside and painstakingly redone bathroom tiles await them on the inside. The front desk and lounge areas shine with new countertops.
This motel is part of a larger renewal of the neighborhood and the city at large. It seems fateful that this motel and her palm tree survived the hurricane. This palm tree is a living symbol of a never-say-die spirit. Crescent Palms is the perfect symbol for rebirth. The tradition of excellent service continues. The vintage neon sign still beckons weary travelers. Echoes of laughter, music and historic footsteps still resonate throughout this property. Once again, guests are cordially invited to come and write new chapters of history.