Historic hotel gets new life in Covington

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COVINGTON, La. (AP) — The historic appeal of this St. Tammany Parish city should get a boost later this spring with the reopening of the Southern Hotel, a century-old building that's been empty for years but recalls Covington's days as a vacation destination.

The New Orleans Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/1qX116J) the hotel is set to reopen June 1 after a $9 million renovation.

Mayor Mike Cooper said the 42-room hotel is sorely needed. Covington has only a few bed-and-breakfasts, and when those are full, visitors must stay at hotels along Interstate 12 or strip-mall-lined U.S. Highway 190.

The Mission-style hotel at Boston and New Hampshire streets first opened in 1907. Covington's piney air and springs were thought to have restorative properties, and the town counted on a stream of visitors from Lake Pontchartrain's south shore.

One of the most colorful and oft-repeated bits of Southern Hotel lore — that Gov. Earl Long stayed at the hotel during a 1959 court hearing to determine whether he was sane — is, unfortunately, bogus.

The hearing took place across the street in what was then the courthouse, but apparently Long never stayed a night in the Southern Hotel.

"I wish it was true," co-owner Lisa Condrey Ward said with a laugh.

In the 1980s, the building was bought by St. Tammany Parish and was used as a courthouse and for offices. In 2003, with the completion of a new justice center a few blocks away, the property was declared surplus and was sold at auction.

It was vacant for years, then went on the market in 2011.

It was then that Ward, her husband, Joseph and other relatives bought it for $1.75 million with plans to turn it into a hotel.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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