The Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center is reopening the infamous tunnel that former Gov. Huey P. Long used to sneak into the property, once again as a private meeting and dining space.
The Tunnel is set to open in mid-November as an exclusive private event and dining space, with room for 30 to 35 guests. Prism Hotels & Resorts, which manages the downtown Hilton is spending $250,000 to $300,000 to renovate the space.
“This is a little gem sitting in Baton Rouge that has been untouched for several years,” said Jamie Turnage, a hotel spokeswoman. “It’s got a great history to it.”
The tunnel runs under Lafayette Street. It was built in 1931 to connect the Heidelberg Hotel with the King Hotel across the street. The Heidelberg’s kitchen took care of room service for the King and employees used special wheeled service tables to bring meals to the property.
It wasn’t only hotel employees using the tunnel. Long used it to sneak into the Heidelberg without the press seeing him.
The Heidelberg reopened in 2006 as the Hilton Capitol Center. The tunnel was reopened as a private dining space, but closed after about a year.
The space closed because there was a problem with water getting into the property, Turnage said. For more than a decade, the space had been used as storage, she said.
But the hotel’s owners decided to fix the problems and waterproof the tunnel, allowing it to once again be used as meeting space. The response to opening the tunnel has been positive, Turnage said.
“People are very excited to see it open again,” she said.
The space will include a replica of a 1930s railcar, similar to one Long would travel around Louisiana in, a small stage and a cocktail area. BJW Construction of Baton Rouge is the designer and builder. The Hilton’s kitchen staff will take care of providing food for the tunnel.
While the space is primarily set up as a private event space, the Hilton is considering opening it up to the public. “We’re testing the waters, but it is up in the air,” Turnage said.