Grand Isle’s mission to preserve history: how locals are working to save the historic Oleander Hotel

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Restore Grand Isle, with the support of the Town of Grand Isle, is making moves to preserve the history of the town and increase tourism– beginning with a mission to save the historic Oleander Hotel on the island.

As a beginning to the project to create a historical district in Grand Isle, Restore Grand Isle is working to acquire and restore the Oleander Hotel to use as a visitor’s center, museum, art collective, coffee shop, and hotel for everyone to enjoy. As stated on their Facebook page, “[The Oleander Hotel] will serve as a centerpiece of the island and help Grand Isle to continue to recover and rebuild following Hurricane Ida. Construction on the Oleander Hotel began in 1928 and was completed in 1931, the same year automobiles first accessed the island bringing electricity, radios, and telephones. The building is an important part of our history that needs to be saved.”

Ronnie Sampey, the President of the Grand Isle Garden Club and the Founder and President of Restore Grand Isle, began spearheading the project to save the Oleander Hotel as the start of a much bigger goal. “There are over 17 buildings on Grand Isle that are over 100 years old,” explained Sampey. “Our ultimate goal is to take the hotel, along with the 16 other historic buildings on the island, and create an official historical district on Grand Isle. Right now we don’t have any kind of official tourism office in Grand Isle, and we want to create something that visitors can enjoy that showcases the incredible history of the island.”

Sampey explained his personal connection to Grand Isle, and his passion for preserving the history of the island. “My grandmother built a house on Grand Isle in 1938, which was damaged in Hurricane Flossy in 1956,” said Sampey. “I have been coming to visit Grand Isle with my family since I was an infant, and have been a resident for 21 years. I have been a part of this community for my whole life and I know how much history there is here to protect– for example, there is a home here that is still standing built in 1863, with all its original furniture. It is so important to preserve and showcase these incredible structures.”

Restore Grand Isle has already taken steps to make this happen, meeting with local and state officials to gain support for this project. “We have been told that if we can acquire the hotel, the Louisiana Historical Society would be able to help us fund the money to restore it,” said Sampey. “So we need community help to raise enough money to purchase the hotel so we can get the ball rolling. This will be the beginning of something great for the community.” Sampey explained that Restore Grand Isle is looking for donations from anyone wishing to help, big or small. Those interested may donate here. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this project, please contact Sampey directly at (985) 226-3766.

For more information about the project to save the Oleander Hotel, please visit Restore Grand Isle’s official website or contact Sampey above. Don’t miss this opportunity to help preserve Grand Isle’s rich history!