Imagine waking up in a beautiful mansion, with stained glass windows above a noble staircase, a grandiose front porch, and charming architectural details. Now imagine it’s your job to care for the mansion and its guests, while sharing the wonders and beauty of New Orleans’ famous Garden District with visitors from around the world.
This isn’t a fairy tale - this is a day in the life of Melinda McSpadden, Innkeeper and partner of the Sully Mansion. Melinda sat down between welcoming guests to talk about her position as the face of the recently rebranded Sully Mansion.
Did you ever see yourself as an Innkeeper?
I always dreamt of having my own small B&B at the beach or somewhere tropical-- but never in my wildest dreams did I think that dream would actually become a reality.
What has been useful experience to prepare you for this unique role?
My goodness-- every moment leading up to today. In 1994, I came to New Orleans from art school in Savannah to work as a personal assistant for a local, very successful artist. To supplement my income, I had to wait tables, which lead to a string of service industry jobs: a waiter, a bartender, a restaurant manager, a hostess, you name it. Then, I landed my absolute favorite previous job, Concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. I loved it! Unfortunately, my job was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina, but I was very lucky and able to return to New Orleans. Since then, I've worked as a catering sales manager, a bar manager at a music club on Frenchmen Street, and a supervisor on the "Club Level" at the prestigious Windsor Court Hotel-- which was very much like having my own little B&B within a hotel. Needless to say, I've racked up a ton of hospitality skills that I've been able to utilize as Innkeeper here at the Sully Mansion.
What's one excursion you recommend to every guest?
A great introduction to New Orleans and Sully Mansion is with a walking tour of the Garden District and Lafayette No. 1 Cemetery.
The Sully Mansion boasts a location in the heart of the Garden District, only a block from the world famous Commander’s Palace restaurant and steps away from the iconic Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Designed by architect Thomas Sully, in 1890, the inn is often featured on walking tours through this historic neighborhood.
What is your favorite thing about the Garden District?
It's so green, lush and clean. Everything is perfectly picturesque; something's always in bloom. It's such a pleasure to walk my dog around the Garden District in the gentle, early morning sunlight and look at all the beautiful blossoming plants.
Tell us a bit about your adorable dog.
Henri is a rescued Cavalier King Charles spaniel. He stole my heart about eight years ago with his big brown, puppy-dog eyes and I've been smitten ever since. He'll cast his spell on you, too, if you give him pets under the chin or TREATS.
Speaking of treats, do you have a favorite dish from Commander's Palace?
Jazz Brunch in the courtyard at Commander's is one of my favorite things. It's a quintessential New Orleans experience. You shouldn't miss the Turtle Soup-- they finish it with sherry!
We hear you are preparing for a wedding here this weekend, a lot of work must go into the event.
Yes! We are currently prepping for the wedding, welcoming guests, and making sure to have everything ready for the couple and their families. Weddings here are magical, because the space creates such a romantic and lovely atmosphere for the ceremony and reception. A special part of being the Innkeeper here is to assist the wedding planners and caterers as we make someone’s wedding a truly special and memorable day.
Melinda brings more than just her hospitality experience to Sully Mansion, she is also the resident artist. We asked her about her costuming, a perfect art form for a place like New Orleans, where having a variety of costume choices ensures you’ll be well-dressed during year round celebrations and festivals.
What are some of your hobbies when you aren’t busy tending to the inn? I make costumes.
I love to come up with fictional characters and then make them into 'one-piece' costumes. I start with a bodysuit and then get to work with fabric paint and hot glue. Once they're finished, you just step in, zip up, and BAM-- you're instantly transformed into a dragon or a bird. Just with one zip. I've been making these characters for about 20 years and several have appeared on magazine covers and in coffee table books.