Ritz-Carlton: The Beginning
The first Ritz-Carlton Hotel(s)
Ritz-Carlton's name is based on The Carlton in London and the Ritz in Paris and London, all of them conceived and opened by César Ritz, the Swiss hotelier.
The Ritz-Carlton Investing Company was established by Albert Keller in 1911, paying a stately sum to the Ritz Hotel Development Syndicate in London for franchising the name in the United States.
In 1911, in their opening announcement of the first Ritz-Carlton Hotel, located on Madison Avenue and Forty-Sixth Street, New York, general manager Theo Kroell and manager Albert Keller boast a breathtaking collection of asscociated hotels.
The first Ritz-Carlton Hotel(s) — 1911, The Illustrated London News
The Ritz-Carlton is "Under the same management and direction as that of the famous RITZ-CARLTON group of hotels in the leading European cities, including the CARLTON, RITZ and HYDE PARK Hotels in London; the RITZ in Paris, the RITZ in Madrid, the ESPALANDE in Berlin, the ESPLANADE in Hamburg, the NATIONAL in Lucerne, the EXCELSIOR in Rome, the EXCELSIOR in Naples, the SPLENDIDE and ROYAL in Evain les Bains, and the PLAZA in Buenos Ayres, HOTEL SCHENLEY, Pittsburgh, after February 1st 1911; CARLTON HOTEL, Montreal, 1912.
The special features of the hotel will be the perfection of service which has characterized the foreign hotels, while the charges will be based upon a moderate plane.
Request for accommodations by mail or by wireless from transatlantic steamers will have prompt attention.
Passengers will be met with taxicabs and porters from the hotel whenever required."
Louis Diat ran the kitchens and is believed to have invented the modern vichyssoise there. The hotel was expanded in 1911, adding 100 rooms, a 300-seat banquet hall, ballroom, and private dining rooms. Demolished in 1951.
The Ritz-Carlton hotels revolutionized hospitality in America by creating luxury in a hotel setting. They also introduced an European attitude to personal service:
Private bath in each guest room.
Lighter fabrics in the guest room to allow for more thorough washing.
White tie and apron uniforms for waiters, black tie for the Maitre d’ and morning suits for the management.
Extensive fresh flowers throughout the public areas.
A la carte dining and gourmet cuisine, utilizing the genius and cooking methods of Auguste Escoffier.
Intimate, smaller lobbies for a more personalized guest experience.
Other hotels followed in Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Atlantic City and Boca Raton. New York's Ritz Carlton continued to operate until World War 2. By 1940, only The Ritz-Carlton, Boston was operating. The former building of the New York Ritz-Carlton was razed in 1951 to provide a site for an office building.
Today, the most historic of the US American Ritz Carlton hotels is the Ritz Carlton in Boston "embodying the vision of Cesar Ritz, Yankee ingenuity and Boston social sensibilities".
In 1983, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC was formed. Led by president and founding father, Colgate Holmes, alongside Horst Schulze, Joe Freni, Ed Staros and Herve Humler, the company began to expand, adding new properties across the United States. Within two years, the brand had opened five hotels, including The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel and The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. This rapid expansion continued, and by the close of 1992, The Ritz-Carlton had expanded to 23 exceptional luxury hotels, earning its first Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The following year, they opened their first hotel in Asia, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong.
In 1998, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company brand was purchased by Marriott International. Since this purchase, The Ritz-Carlton has continued to grow, providing exceptional service and genuine care to their guests across the globe. In 2000, The Ritz-Carlton Residences opened their first property in Washington, D.C., followed by their first Destination Club property, Aspen Highlands, Colorado in 2001. In addition to dozens of new hotels around the globe, in 2008 the company opened the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve property, offering a private sanctuary experience in Phulay Bay, Krabi, Thailand.
Breakfast with Philip Lewis
Philip Lewis, general manager of the Randolph in Oxford, has breakfast with Adrian Mourby, photographed by Kate Tadman-Mourby
I met the general manager of the Randolph, Philip Lewis, for breakfast and a hotel tour. Philip joined in 2019 the Randolph while it was still part of Macdonald Hotels. He has since stayed on to oversee this multi-million pound refurbishment. The purchase of The Randolph by A.J.Capital/Graduate Hotels has brought a much needed injection of money into a great Oxford institution. However much it has cost – and it’s a lot - he has never been told. “Never?” I repeat. And he remains diplomatically silent on the subject.
As ever, I put to him our famoushotels General Managers’ Breakfast questionnaire:
What is your favourite breakfast?
I'd like to say the Full English Breakfast but these days I tend to go for poached eggs and bacon.
Is there a dress code at The Randolph?
Could you imagine welcoming a guest in jeans and t-shirt?
Absolutely (NB: Philip was wearing a jacket and open neck shirt whereas Michael Grange, long-term GM of the hotel in early 2000s always greeted guests in full morning dress)
What was your dream profession as a child?
I wanted to run a sweet shop. I asked my four-year daughter recently what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said she wanted to be a fairy. I'm not sure if there's much money in that! Maybe she can be a tooth-fairy.
What did you change when you took over?
Well there was this strange smell of old drains that used to come into the dining room occasionally - a lot of people mentioned it - so I asked our maintenance guy to look into it and he disappeared into the lift shaft for ages. And I thought "Have I just lost my maintenance supervisor?" Eventually he came back. He'd found an uncapped [mediaeval] sewer running under the hotel. So we concreted that over and got rid of the smell.
There was also a bedroom that lost a lot of space to a cupboard on the landing outside so I said, "Get rid of the cupboard and make the bedroom bigger." It should have been easy but this is an old building. I think it turned out to be the most expensive part of the refurbishment!
How important is the hotel's history as a marketing tool?
Very, very important. It's not just about having a bed to sleep in. People want to be part of a story.
Have you studied the history of the hotel and its related facts?
Yes. And one of the things I have found in Oxford is that everyone knows better than you. I was giving a talk recently and I mentioned a photo of a steamboat in the bedrooms. And the fact that it used to take women students at Oxford over to Ireland and someone interrupted me to point out not only the name of the boat but also the name of the captain!
What do you want to have accomplished in the next ten years?
To put the Randolph back at the top and to make it a part of the Oxford community again.
The Randolph — A Perspective of Oxford
Teaching exists at Oxford since 1096 and developed accordingly from 1167, when King Henry II banned English students from attending the University in Paris. As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford is a unique and historic institution. Its most famous hotel is comparatively young. The Randolph opened in 1866. It very quickly established itself as what it was always intended to be: a suitable place for both visiting dignitaries and parents to stay when in Oxford.
The Randolph — A Perspective of Oxford
By Adrian Mourby
As someone who spent the first night of his honeymoon at The Randolph in 2004 I soon decided that if Thomas Mann had chosen instead to write Death in Oxford, this hotel would be where Gustav von Aschenbach met his beautiful young man among the aspidistras, string quartets and potted palms. The hotel, known in the early 21st century as the Macdonald Randolph always had an air of being slightly underfunded but history abounded in every nook and cranny.
In 2015 The Randolph made headline news across Britain. Disaster had struck when a fire began in the kitchens as beef stroganoff was being prepared. Flames leapt up within the chimney stack and set alight the hotel's vertiginous mansard roofing. The city centre ground to a halt as every available fire engine tackled the blaze. Town and Gown alike were shocked when The Randolph closed for the first time in its 129 year-old history. The hotel, such an architecturally controversial structure when it opened in 1886 had become so much a part of Oxford that its loss was almost as unthinkable as the destruction of the Ashmolean Museum or the Sheldonian Theatre.
Boat Race 1866 — the Oxford University Eight Team
Big changes were coming to the Randolph however. Sadly, in 2017, Michael Grange died at the relatively young age of 61. A number of aspiring but short-lived general managers took over from him until Philip King arrived in July 2019. Soon afterwards the Macdonald Group relinquished its showcase hotel and sold it to A.J.Capital & Partners whose CEO, Ben Weprin runs Graduate Hotels, a collection of “handcrafted” hotels in university communities across the U.S. and U.K. For an entrepreneur Weprin has very distinct vision about décor. On his first tour of the hotel with Macdonald's new GM, Philip Lewis he was clearly struck by its potential. “I had no idea who he was,” said Philip Lewis. “He was wearing a baseball cap and he seemed to like everything he saw and at the end of our walk round he said “Yes I think I’ll buy it”.
Around 1910: Group of four women at a tea party within the grounds of Somerville College Oxford. Photograph by Henry W Taunt. Copyright © Oxford University Images /
Weprin has been very hands-on in the refurbishment of the Randolph. “He came and looked at the new Alice restaurant,” says Philip Lewis. “And he said he liked the wallpaper but he wanted it on the ceiling as well. Which was a shame because we’d just taken down the scaffolding!”
Graduate Hotels, who already owned a UK property in Cambridge endeared itself greatly to the townspeople of Oxford by flying its black and white Graduate flag over hotel’s entrance while reverting to the original name. The Randolph – pure and simple – is the only one of Graduate’s 32 hotels worldwide to be known by its local name rather than being The Graduate, Oxford.
The hotel’s multi-million pound refurbishment coincided with England’s many Covid lockdowns following March 2020 and the official reopening only occurred in January 2022.
“You might say we got lucky,” says Phil Lewis who has now been GM under both Macdonald and Graduate Hotels. “We only ever had enough rooms available as the market demanded. Next month (February 2022) I get my last 40 bedrooms back just as demand is increasing. Wedding bookings in 2022 are twice what they were pre-pandemic.”
The official reopening of the hotel – long delayed from a covidious November 2021in Britain - took place on Friday 21 January at the best party that Oxford has seen for almost two years – if not several decades
“It was amazing,” says Philip. “At these events it’s usual for 40% of people to cancel at the last minute. But we had 100% attendance from those who had said yes.”
As one who attended, I can attest that this was a party that brought glamour back to Oxford after 22 desolate months of successive government lockdowns. Maybe this was what it was like to step out of the austerity of the First World War (when the Randolph served as a hospital for recovering British soldiers) directly into the Roaring Twenties.
For all that the Randolph is now an Oxford institution it originally sat very uneasily in this city. There was always something audacious about its tall, mansard roofline whose very height dominated the surrounding colleges.
The Randolph has had a dramatic history over the past 136 years, turning from Oxford’s most unpopular building to one of its most beloved.
Many visitors believe it was named after Randolph Churchill, the father of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Lord Randolph, second son of the Duke of Marlborough, obtained a decent degree at Merton College Oxford. His own second son Winston was born at nearby Blenheim Palace during a ball. But it was not Lord Randolph who lent his name to the neo-Gothic hotel on the corner of Beaumont Street. In fact Randolph Churchill was said to have smashed the windows of the hotel while an uproarious, over-entitled undergraduate.
Actually the hotel takes its name from Dr Francis Randolph, a University benefactor who had been Principal of St Alban Hall (now part of Lord Randolph’s Merton College), and who died in 1796 leaving a lot of money to the University. The art gallery he funded became part of the Ashmolean Museum’s collection. Why exactly Oxford’s premiere hotel was named after the (currently) obscure Dr Randolph needs further investigation.
The reason for the initial unpopularity of the hotel that bears Dr Randolph’s name was down to its design at a controversial time in Britain’s architectural history. The Gothic Revival was taking root in academic cities like Oxford where University men were rejecting neo-classicism and wanted something more visceral - and North European. In 1863 everyone agreed that Oxford needed a superior commercial hotel, especially because the newly married Prince and Princess of Wales would surely be visiting soon and the city lacked accommodation for a royal entourage. Absolutely no-one wanted Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra to be boarding at Blenheim Palace.
So plans were drawn up by local architect William Wilkinson to erect a Gothic structure on a corner of land opposite the neo-Classical Ashmolean. (Lovers of England’s blue plaques will notice that Wilkinson’s own house is situated directly opposite the Ashmolean and right next to the Randolph in Beaumont Street).
The opening report takes up two columns of the Oxford Journal
While the architect received support from men like the great art critic John Ruskin who was keen promote Protestant Neo-Gothic architecture in Britain, his designs were condemned by many who saw this hotel as despoiling the classical lines of Beaumont Street, the “finest ensemble of gentlemen’s houses” in the city. Wilkinson’s new hotel was considered too big and too tall in the way that it towered over its surroundings. And its style was in complete contrast to the rest of the nearby buildings, a semi crescent of neoclassical townhouses that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the city of Bath.
Moreover for some people the Randolph was an insult to the museum that stood immediately opposite it: the Ashmolean was and is, perhaps the most perfect neo-classical building in Oxford. It had been completed in 1845 but in the intervening 20 years English architecture had gone off in all sorts of directions.
The Italianate perfection of the "Ashmo" was now confronted by something that resembled a French chateau, redesigned in yellow brick with a proliferation of spires, bay windows and Draculean pinnacles. While the Ashmolean hid its roof behind a parapet, the Randolph was pretty much entirely slate roof. There were many protests about the design but eventually business considerations won out and a toned down neo-Gothic Randolph (minus its central spire) was built and duly opened for business in 1866.
Post royal visit, this hotel very quickly established itself as what it was always intended to be, suitable place for both visiting dignitaries and wealthy parents to stay when in Oxford.
John Betjeman, an Oxford student and future 20th Century Poet Laureate summed up the contrasting sides of Beaumont Street very well: “This tall, vertical Victorian hotel was a Gothic answer to the Classic composition of the Ashmolean and Taylorian buildings on the other side of the road. Both buildings, despite their difference in style, were satisfactory upright terminations to the long low Georgian curve of Beaumont Street”
In 1894 the hotel proudly added an “American Elevator” and a ballroom in 1899 and, finally an extension down Beaumont Street in 1923 which the city fathers had hoped would be a little more Georgian in style but in the end the Randolph Hotel Company once again got its own way and the neo-Gothic line was extended with lots of medieval windows – and absolutely no apology.
By the beginning of the twentieth century guests could enjoy a Billiard Room, a Ladies’ Coffee Room and "a conservatory for smoking”. The hotel also advertised that it stocked “Fine Wines Imported From Abroad”. And it had good stabling (behind William Wilkinson’s house) which in due course became its garage.
From one of twelve paintings in the Randolph Hotel, Oxford by Osbert Lancaster, illustrating Sir Max Beerbohm’s novel Zuleika Dobson (reproduced with kind permission of the Randolph Hotel). The official name for such heads is “herms”; the original accounts describe these heads as “termains”; and some people call them philosophers. But Max Beerbohm in Zuleika Dobson called them “Emperors”, and that is the name that has stuck. Each head shows a different type of beard. In that novel, Beerbohm wrote: ”Here in Oxford, exposed eternally and inexorably to wind and frost, to the four winds that lash them and the rains that wear them away, they are expiating, in effigy, the abominations of their pride and cruelty and lust. Who were lechers, they are without bodies; who were tyrants, they are crowned never but with crowns of snow; who made themselves even with the gods, they are by American visitors frequently mistaken for the Twelve Apostles.”
Perhaps the guest to leave the greatest mark on the hotel was cartoonist, art critic and stage designer Sir Osbert Lancaster. His twelve illustrations to the novel Zuleika Dobson, An Oxford Romance were – and still are - hung in its drawing room (without a doubt the finest place for afternoon tea in Oxford). They were initially displayed in the new Art Deco ballroom in 1937. According to hotel legend the wealthy Sir Osbert paid for his stay at the Randolph with these witty depictions of Oxford life in the years before World War I. But that’s probably apocryphal. Lancaster was never short of money and he probably knew how much these original oil paintings would fetch if he sold them. Famous artists who have paid for their accommodation with works of art are a common myth in the hotel world, along with the ghost of a grey lady and the belief that the real Ernest Hemingway used to prop up the hotel bar. (Not a claim made in Oxford).
When World War I broke out in 1914 the hotel was one of many across Britain that gave up its ballroom and drawing room for convalescent soldiers returning from fighting in France and Belgium. In the 1920s Evelyn Waugh, who mentioned the hotel in his novel Brideshead Revisited, once shocked diners at the Randolph by intervening in a discussion on bisexuality and declaring loudly “Buggers have babies”. Kingsley Amis’s future wife Hilly earned the novelist’s admiration by sneaking into the hotel to wash her hair and underwear while staying with him illicitly across the road at St John’s College (undergraduates were not officially allowed women guests in their rooms in the 1940s). Later Amis’ friend the poet Philip Larkin and the novelist Barbara Pym – who carried out a 14-year wholly epistolary relationship – finally met for lunch at the Randolph in 1975.
But for many people, in the last decades of the twentieth century the Randolph was most closely associated with two fictional characters, Inspector Morse and Sgt Lewis who featured in novels and dramatisations by local author Colin Dexter. In both books and in the TV series Inspector Morse the taciturn detective and Sgt Lewis regularly discuss their cases in the Randolph bar where Morse claimed, “They serve a decent pint”. In several stories, crime suspects dine or stay at the Randolph. And in the novel The Jewel that was Ours (dramatised as The Wolvercote Tongue) Morse investigates the suspicious death of an American hotel guest in her Randolph room.
In 2001 the bar where Colin Dexter had often sat as an extra in the TV series Inspector Morse was officially renamed The Morse Bar. This is the part of the hotel that has changed least during the recent refurbishment though it has been repainted a darker hue of green and given more atmospheric lighting. Sardonic photos of John Thaw (Morse) are everywhere on its oak-panelled walls.
The purchase of The Randolph by A.J.Capital/Graduate Hotels has brought a much needed injection of money into a great Oxford institution. A lot of work needed doing including getting rid of an ill-judged formica canopy over reception which spoiled the dramatic four-storey rise above to the hotel’s main staircase.
The new hotel – it is fair to call it a new hotel because it has been so thoroughly redesigned –has been dramatically rethought. Above reception 30 heraldic tabards hang down Wilkinson’s cantilevered stairwell. They are based on Oxford colleges – but with an element of artistic licence.
Blue-striped wallpaper is everywhere on the ground-floor. It is a light blue stripe, more reminiscent of Cambridge’s famous blue than Oxford’s but English Heritage has been quite firm with the hotel that a Victorian colour scheme has to be followed. More contemporary touches include a photograph of Oscar Wilde in every bedrooom. The former Oxford student who fell so dramatically from grace in 1895 is now warmly re-embraced for his wit and humanity.
Two dapper gentlemen at The Randolph: general manager Philip Lewis and famoushotels author Adrian Mourby
The Alice Dining Room is decorated with new faux-naif paintings of the Oxford Wonderland heroine by the artist, illustrator and printmaker, Amy Wiggin. Long gone are the heraldic shields of Oxford colleges, introduced at ceiling height by Macdonald hotels. These days guests sit on pink banquettes on a floor of white mosaic tiles. The Alice Bar, which leads off from the dining room has a low-ceilinged, dark snug where one could imagine whiling away an entire winter drinking whisky. And beyond it lies a lofty chef’s table where the breakfast buffet is laid out.
I recently met the general manager, Philip Lewis for breakfast and hotel tour. Philip joined in 2019 the Randolph while it was still part of Macdonald Hotels. He has since stayed on to oversee this multi-million pound refurbishment.
However much it has cost – and it’s a lot - he has never been told. “Never?” I repeat. And he remains diplomatically silent on the subject.
As ever, I put to him the famoushotels General Managers’ Breakfast questionnaire, lean back and listen.
Number of rooms / Suites /
Restaurants / Bars
General Manager (2022) Philip Lewis
Feuiletton 359 — Style
Karl Lagerfeld — 'Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.'
One detour per year should be tolerable. This year I leave the beaten track of hotel history writing and turn to my second pet peeve. It is called ETIQUETTE.
DEAR FRIENDS ON ALL CONTINENTS: Let it be known all over the world: It makes all the difference. Spend a minute more per day fro grooming and you set yourself apart. We should not endorse bad style. It is inacceptable to turn out in baggy track suits and sweatpants, often joined by bare rumps displaying tattoos at pools, shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops in restaurants, noisy behaviour in public, ... It is SIMPLY BAD STYLE — and that's a breach of ETIQUETTE.
Travelling means visiting other countries, peoples and zones of etiquette. I firmly believe that it is up to the traveller to adapt to the guest country, not do as he likes. That’s the code—in general.
So let us appear at our bests! In dress, style and manners! That’s the second code.
3 points to consider:
I am a staunch defender of dress codes. Dress for the beach at the beach. Flip flops, shorts and t-shirts don’t pair with the city’s finest hotel. Never wear it after six. You must understand that you are simply a nuisance when you underdress. And don’t give me the price-tag talk. I don’t care if that super-cool-latest-fashion sleeveless t-shirt costs 250 Dollars. It’s just not right, get out of my sight! Another Karl Lagerfeld: ‘Trendy is the last stage before tacky.’
Courage, dear hosts! From my experience, a stern dress code has more PR value than a $100,000 series of adverts.
Sleeveless shirts, flip flops and rucksacks are among the things strictly forbidden at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, one of the last bastions of dress codes
‘Clothing contributes significantly to the atmosphere of each event. Guests ignoring dress codes are rude, disrespectful and reckless. At Viennese balls, for example, they are denied entry,’ says Austrian style & etiquette expert Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer.
Don’t be a nuisance.
“HALLO GRANDMOTERH, CAN YOU HEAR ME? LOOK, LOOK ...That’s the pool, here’s the sea, that’s the bar where we get drunk every night, … WHAT? No, Granny, you must hold it upright! YES. THE POOL, … P O O O O O L! NO, THAT PERSON NEXT TO ME IS NOT JOHN … I DON’T KNOW WHY HE LOOKS SO UNINVITING!”
And, inescapably, at various resort hotels, there is the daily battle for sunbeds. It is definitely bad style to block a bed and not to show up for hours, left alone not at all. So the pool attendants of the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok invented the hour glass timer. Once somebody reserves a pool bed and leaves it unoccupied, a hour glass is placed on it. After one hour the bed’s reservation time is up.
In 2018, by the way, Thomas Cook introduced a sunbed reservations system. Up to 20 per cent of sunbeds are bookable, leaving the rest free for early risers. Customers receive a plan of the pool area that includes a compass, showing where the sun falls at different times of day (25 Euro). Simply: sunbeds can only be occupied by sunbathers, not by books, magazines and towels.
The Greenbrier and its dress-code
Above - the hotel in 1913
By Stan Turkel
The original hotel, the Grand Central Hotel, was built on this site in 1858. It was known as “The White” and later “The Old White”.
Beginning in 1778, people came to follow the local Native American tradition to “take the waters” to restore their health. In the 19th century, visitors drank and bathed in the sulphur water to cure almost everything, from rheumatism to an upset stomach
In 1910, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway purchased the historic resort property and embarked upon a major expansion. By 1913, the railroad had added The Greenbrier Hotel (the central section of today’s hotel), a new mineral bath department ( the building that includes the grand indoor pool) and an 18-hole golf course (now called The Old White Course) designed by the most prominent contemporary golf architect, Charles Blair Macdonald. In 1914, for the first time, the resort, now renamed The Greenbrier, was open year-round. That year, President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson spent their Easter holiday at The Greenbrier.
Business boomed in the 1920s and The Greenbrier took its place within high society’s traveling network that stretched from Palm Beach, Florida to Newport, Rhode Island. The obsolete Old White Hotel was demolished in 1922, which led to a substantial rebuilding of The Greenbrier Hotel in 1930. This refurbishment doubled the number of guestrooms to five hundred. Cleveland architect Philip Small redesigned the hotel’s main entrance and added both the Mount Vernon-inspired Virginia Wing to the south and the signature North Entrance facade. Mr. Small’s design mixed elements from the resort’s Southern historical roots with motifs from the Old White Hotel.
During the Second World War, the United States government appropriated The Greenbrier for two very different uses. First, the State Department leased the hotel for seven months immediately after the U.S. entry into the war. It was used to relocate hundreds of German, Japanese, and Italian diplomats and their families from Washington, D.C. until their exchange for American diplomats, similarly stranded overseas, was completed. In September 1942, the U.S. Army purchased The Greenbrier and converted it into a two thousand-bed hospital named Ashford General Hospital. In four years, 24,148 soldiers were admitted and treated, while the resort served the war effort as a surgical and rehabilitation center. Soldiers were encouraged to use the resort’s range of sports and recreation facilities as part of their recuperation process. At the war’s conclusion, the Army closed the hospital.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway reacquired the property from the government in 1946. The company immediately commissioned a comprehensive interior renovation by the noted designer Dorothy Draper. As Architectural Digest described her, Draper was “a true artiest of the design world [who] became a celebrity in the modern sense of the word, virtually creating the image of the decorator in the popular mind.” She remained the resort’s decorator into the 1960s. Upon her retirement, her protégé Carleton Varney purchased the firm and became The Greenbrier’s decorating consultant.
When The Greenbrier reopened in 1948, Sam Snead returned as golf pro to the resort where his career had begun in the late 1930s. For two decades in the post war years, he traveled the globe at the pinnacle of his lengthy career. More than any other individual, Sam Snead established The Greenbrier’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost golf destinations. In later years, he was named Golf Pro Emeritus, a position he held until his death on May 23, 2002.
In the late 1950s, the U.S. government once again approached The Greenbrier for assistance, this time in the construction of an Emergency Relocation Center ̶ a bunker or bomb shelter ̶ to be occupied by the U.S. Congress in case of war. Built during the cold war and operated in secrecy for 30 years, it is a huge 112,000 square foot underground fallout shelter, intended for use by the entire United States Congress in the event of nuclear war.
Excavations began in 1958 and construction was completed in 1962. By top-secret agreement, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway built a new addition to the resort, the West Virginia Wing and the bunker was surreptitiously constructed under it. With concrete walls up to five feet thick, it is the size of two football fields stacked underground. It was built to shelter 1100 people: 535 senators and representatives and their aides. For the next 30 years, government technicians, posing as employees of a dummy company, Forsythe Associates, maintained the place regularly checking its communications and scientific equipment as well as updating the magazines and paperbacks in the lounge areas. At any point during those years, one telephone call from officials in Washington, D.C., fearing an imminent attack on the capital, would have turned the lavish resort into an active participant in the national defense system. At the end of the Cold War and prompted by exposure in the press in 1992, the project was terminated and the bunker decommissioned. According to a May 6, 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Supreme Court planned to relocate to the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C. in the event of a nuclear attack.
In the overt world above the bunker, resort life proceeded normally as Jack Nicklaus arrived to redesign the fifty-year old Greenbrier Course, bringing it up to championship standards for the 1979 Ryder Cup Matches. That course was also the site of three PGA Seniors tournaments in the 1980s and the 1994 Solheim Cup competition. In 1999, the Meadows Course evolved when Bob Cupp redesigned, rerouted and upgraded the older Lakeside Course, a project that included the creation of new Golf Academy. Sam Snead’s career was enshrined when the Golf Club was virtually rebuilt featuring the restaurant bearing his name with museum quality displays of memorabilia from his personal collection.
In a surprise announcement on May 7, 2009, Jim Justice, a West Virginia entrepreneur with a long-standing appreciation for The Greenbrier, became the owner of America’s most fabled resort. He purchased it from the CSX Corporation which, through its predecessor companies the Chessie System and the C&O Railway, had owned the resort for ninety-nine years. Mr. Justice turned his considerable energies into plans to revitalize America’s Resort. He immediately presented his vision of a casino designed by Carleton Varney that included shops, restaurants and entertainment in a smoke-free environment. The Casino Club at The Greenbrier opened in grand fashion on July 2, 2010. Simultaneously, Mr. Justice arranged to relocate a PGA Tour event named The Greenbrier Classic under the direction of The Greenbrier’s new Golf Pro Emeritus, Tom Watson. The first tournament was held July 26 through August 1, 2010.
26 presidents have stayed at The Greenbrier. The President’s Cottage Museum is a two-story building with exhibits about these visits and the history of The Greenbrier. The Greenbrier is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. It is a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Five-Diamond Award winner.
The Greenbrier’s complete history is chronicled in great detail supplemented by photographs from the resort’s archives in The History of The Greenbrier: America’s Resort by Dr. Robert S. Conte, the resort’s Resident Historian since 1978.
101 Main Street West
White Sulphur Springs,
West Virginia 24986
A Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World since 1986
The Willard Washington
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Willard Hotel (394 rooms)
The Willard InterContinental Washington, commonly known as the Willard Hotel, is a historic luxury Beaux-Arts hotel located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in downtown Washington, D.C. Among its facilities are numerous luxurious guest rooms, several restaurants, the famed Round Robin Bar, the Peacock Alley series of luxury shops, and voluminous function rooms. Owned by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, it is two blocks east of the White House, and two blocks west of the Metro Center station of the Washington Metro.
The National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior describe the history of the Willard Hotel as follows:
American author Nathaniel Hawthorne observed in the 1860s that “the Willard Hotel more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.” From 1847 when the enterprising Willard brothers, Henry and Edwin, first set up as innkeepers on the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Willard has occupied a unique niche in the history of Washington and the nation.
The Willard Hotel was formally founded by Henry Willard when he leased the six buildings in 1847, combined them into a single structure, and enlarged it into a four-story hotel he renamed the Willard Hotel. Willard purchased the hotel property from Ogle Tayloe in 1864.
In the 1860s, author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that “the Willard Hotel more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.”
From February 4 to February 27, 1861, the Peace Congress, featuring delegates from 21 of the 34 states, met at the Willard in a last-ditch attempt to avert the Civil War. A plaque from the Virginia Civil War Commission, located on Pennsylvania Ave. side of the hotel, commemorates this courageous effort. Later that year, upon hearing a Union regiment singing “John Brown’s Body” as they marched beneath her window, Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while staying at the hotel in November 1861.
On February 23, 1861, amid several assassination threats, detective Allan Pinkerton smuggled Abraham Lincoln into the Willard; there Lincoln lived until his inauguration on March 4, holding meetings in the lobby and carrying on business from his room.
Many United States presidents have frequented the Willard, and every president since Franklin Pierce has either slept in or attended an event at the hotel at least once; the hotel hence is also known as “the residence of presidents.” It was the habit of Ulysses S. Grant to drink whiskey and smoke a cigar while relaxing in the lobby. Folklore (promoted by the hotel) holds that this is the origin of the term “lobbying,” as Grant was often approached by those seeking favors. However, this is probably false, as Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary dates the verb “to lobby” to 1837. Grover Cleveland lived there at the beginning of his second term in 1893, because of concern for his infant daughter’s health following a recent outbreak of scarlet fever in the White House. Plans for Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations took shape when he held meetings of the League to Enforce Peace in the hotel’s lobby in 1916. Six sitting Vice-Presidents have lived in the Willard. Millard Fillmore and Thomas A. Hendricks, during his brief time in office, lived in the old Willard; and then Vice-Presidents, James S. Sherman, Calvin Coolidge and finally Charles Dawes all lived in the current building for at least part of their vice-presidency. Fillmore and Coolidge continued in the Willard, even after becoming president, to allow the first family time to move out of the White House.
Several hundred officers, many of them combat veterans of World War I, first gathered with the General of the Armies, John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, at the Willard Hotel on October 2, 1922, and formally established the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) as an organization.
The present 12-story structure, designed by famed hotel architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, opened in 1901. It suffered a major fire in 1922 which caused $250,000 (equivalent to $3,865,300 as of 2020), in damages. Among those who had to be evacuated from the hotel were Vice President Calvin Coolidge, several U.S. senators, composer John Philip Sousa, motion picture producer Adolph Zukor, newspaper publisher Harry Chandler, and numerous other media, corporate, and political leaders who were present for the annual Gridiron Dinner. For many years the Willard was the only hotel from which one could easily visit all of downtown Washington, and consequently it has housed many dignitaries during its history.
The Willard family sold its share of the hotel in 1946, and due to mismanagement and the severe decline of the area, the hotel closed without a prior announcement on July 16, 1968. The building sat vacant for years, and numerous plans were floated for its demolition. It eventually fell into a semi-public receivership and was sold to the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation. They held a competition to rehabilitate the property and ultimately awarded it to the Oliver Carr Company and Golding Associates. The two partners then brought in the InterContinental Hotels Group to be a part-owner and operator of the hotel. The Willard was subsequently restored to its turn-of-the-century elegance and an office-building contingent was added. The hotel was thus re-opened amid great celebration on August 20, 1986, which was attended by several U.S. Supreme Court justices and U.S. senators. In the late 1990s, the hotel once again underwent significant restoration.
Martin Luther King Jr., wrote his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in his hotel room at the Willard in the days leading up to his August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
On September 23, 1987, it was reported that Bob Fosse collapsed in his room at the Willard and later died. It was subsequently learned that he actually died at George Washington University Hospital.
Among the Willard’s many other famous guests were P.T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, General Tom Thumb, Samuel Morse, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Houdini, Gypsy Rose Lee, Gloria Swanson, Emily Dickinson, Jenny Lind, Charles Dickens, Bert Bell, Joe Paterno, and Jim Sweeney.
Steven Spielberg shot the finale of his film Minority Report at the hotel in the summer of 2001. He filmed with Tom Cruise and Max von Sydow in the Willard Room, Peacock Alley and the kitchen.
Situated just two blocks from the White House, the hotel is replete with the ghosts of the famous and powerful. Over the years, it has been the gathering place for presidents, politicians, governors, literary and cultural figures. It was at the Willard that Julia Ward Howe composed “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Gen. Ulysses S. Grant held court in the lobby and Abraham Lincoln borrowed house slippers from its proprietor.
Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge and Harding stayed at the Willard. Other notable guests have included Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, David Lloyd George, P.T. Barnum, and countless others. Walt Whitman included the Willard in his verses and Mark Twain wrote two books there in the early 1900s. It was Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, annoyed at the Willard’s high prices, who coined the phrase “What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar.”
The Willard sat vacant from 1968 and in danger of demolition until 1986 when it was restored to its former glory. A $73 million restoration project was carefully planned by the National Park Service to recreate the hotel as historically accurate as possible. Sixteen layers of paint were scraped from the woodwork to ascertain the hotel’s original 1901 colors.
New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote on September 2, 1986: Most restorations of venerable buildings fall into one of two categories they are either attempts to recreate as faithfully as possible what once was, or they are inventive interpretations that use the original architecture as a jumping-off point.
The newly rehabilitated Willard Hotel is both. Half of this project involves the respectful restoration of Washington’s greatest hotel building, a distinguished Beaux-Arts structure by Henry Hardenbergh that had been derelict since 1968, a victim of the decline of its neighborhood, a few blocks east of the White House. The other half is an exuberantly conceived, brand new addition containing offices, shops, public plaza and a new ballroom for the hotel.
Stanley Turkel: My Recent Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.
All of my following books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting [url=http://www.stanleyturkel.com]http://www.stanleyturkel.com[/url] and clicking on the book’s title:
Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009) Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011) Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013) Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014) Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016) Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017) Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018) Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019) Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig (2020)
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A HOTEL — LOST IN ATHENS
Photograph: (c) Kate Tadman-Mourby 2021
PATRICIA HIGHSMITH AND THE STRANGE CASE OF
THE DISAPPEARING KINGS PALACE HOTEL OF ATHENS
Patricia Highsmith was one of the best crime writers of the twentieth century. Her tales of Thomas Ripley have been made into several films including – most notably - The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) with Matt Damon as Ripley, and Ripley’s Game (2002) with John Malkovich in the same role). One of the most recent adaptations was an excellent Athenian tragedy called The Two Faces of January (2014) which starred Viggo Mortenson and Kirsten Dunst.
Highsmith’s 1964 book and Hossein Amini’s film both follow Chester and Colette McFarland (Mortenson and Dunst) as two Americans on the run after Chester absconds with his investors’ money. Arriving on a liner in Athens’ Piraeus port in the 1960s ,Chester hires a taxi driver who assumes that as wealthy Americans they will be staying at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Syntagma Square.
Patricia Highsmith continues: “’Well … I’m not quite sure,’ Chester said. The Grande Bretagne was unquestionably the biggest and best hotel in Athens, but for that very reason, Chester felt wary about stopping there.” In the end the couple settle on The King’s Palace Hotel, which Highsmith described as “across a street at one side of the Grand Bretagne”.
As a regular hotel visitor, I had heard that this was indeed a real hotel in Athens during in the 1960s, with a beautiful spiral staircase, but as far as I could see no such building existed opposite the Grand Bretagne today in an avenue of shops and offices.
The King’s Palace plays a pivotal role in both film and book. It is here that Chester gets into a fight with the private detective tailing the couple and ends up accidentally killing him. Chester and Colette’s flight across Greece from the repercussions of this killing goes from bad to worse and proves fatal for them both in the end.
A little research on my part revealed that the King’s Palace Hotel was built in 1954 and would have taken its name from the palace of the King of Greece (now the Greek Parliament Building) which is only one block away.
“The lobby looked first-rate to Chester,” wrote Highsmith after having visited Athens, for the first time in December 1959. “Maybe not luxury class, but first-rate. The carpet was thick underfoot, and, judging from the warmth the central heating really worked… A few minutes later they were comfortably installed in a large, warm room with a view of the white-geranium-garnished balconies of the Grande Bretagne and a busy avenue six storeys down, which Chester identified on his map of Athens as Venizelos Street.”
But things go badly wrong at the King’s Palace Hotel and, having failed to adequately hide the dead detective’s body Chester and Colette have to flee Athens overnight.
The opening of the film Two Faces of January was shot in Athens at the Acropolis and in Monastiraki in September 2012, but the production relocated sooner than intended to Turkey. Rioting in the Athens kept interfering with the sound recordist’s work. So the interior of Highsmith’s King’s Palace Hotel was created in an old Istanbul hospital which was decorated to resemble Chester’s “first rate lobby”. Ironically the production designer, Carol Spier ended up making it look like the Grand Bretagne opposite.
In 2020 however I heard news of an M Gallery Hotel that had opened on the site of the old King’s Palace. This venture was the latest by the Lampsa SA group who own the Grand Bretagne. The new hotel had opened in September 2020 but unfortunately had to close again almost immediately, in November 2020, because of a rise in Greek Covid cases. (The last 18 months have not been kind to hotels worldwide.) In May 2021 however the Athens Capital Hotel - M Gallery Collection opened again and recently I was back in Greece and able to arrange to visit.
The façade is new, dating from Lampsa’s major refurb of 2018 and there is no longer a thick carpet or visible central heating in the lobby. Once inside I was shown the old staircase which has been preserved. It is indeed spiral but elliptically so. Looking up as it swirls to the top of the hotel’s original eight floors is like is like gazing at a work of abstract art.
I was shown round by Demi Roussou, the PA to general manager, Euripedes Tzikas. Demi was very proud of the new M Gallery’s commitment both to original art and to being a hotel at which single female travellers in particular can feel at home. She explained something of the history of the building since its building in 1954. In 1974 when the Greek king, Constantine II was deposed following a decisive referendum the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) was formed here under eventual Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. Today there is a plaque near the elliptical staircase commemorating that event on 3 September 1974. Later PASOK converted the hotel into the headquarters of the country’s Bank of Agriculture. The connection with PASOK is also commemorated by the fact that today, if the hotel’s three meeting rooms are combined, they create one big meeting room that bears the name 3 September 1974.
Elsewhere the new hotel honours four Greek artists in its four executive suites. Two on the seventh floor are named after singer Maria Callas and Manos Hatzidakis, the composer of (amongst many other works) the song “Never on a Sunday”. The suites on the eighth floor are named after the Nobel prize-winning poet Odysseus Elytis and Melina Mercouri, the actor and Greek Culture Minister who in 1960 won a Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award for her role in the film Never on a Sunday.
All 159 bedrooms and 18 suites are white and modern, but comfortably so. The whole design is by hotel architect, Maria Viafadis whose other projects have included the Kempinski Budapest and Hotel Schweizerhof, Bern. Each bedroom is decorated with an original oil painting by the abstract artist Sofia Petropoulou. In total the hotel commissioned 177 canvasses from her, one for each room. According to Demi they were designed so that they could also be pieced together to create one giant work of art.
The hotel has a glorious new rooftop restaurant called Mappemonde with great views over Athens with Mount Lycabettus to the north and the Acropolis to the west --and of course of the Grand Bretagne just in front (no longer with the white geranium window boxes that Chester viewed that fateful night). You can even see the Greek island of Aegina out in the Saronic Sea.
The Athens Capital Hotel – MGallery Collection may occupy the same building as the King’s Palace Hotel but it is a world away from the under the radar bolt-hole at which Chester and Colette McFarland hid away in 1964 with such tragic consequences.
Feuilleton 391: THE WALDORF CAMPAIGN, Hotels lost in History
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
2 things this time:
1. the November jury meeting will again present several new candidates from all over the world to be included into the list of The Most Famous Hotels in the World®. Here's the complete list of all Select Member Hotels
Should you know a historic hotel missing from our list, please submit your candidate in a personal mail to me here.
We run this column out of a sense of duty, but like, no, we don't like it!
Equally fascinating is the listing of famous grand HOTELS LOST IN HISTORY:
/ and now 2.
The Waldorf Astoria New York is a member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World since the very first hour of our organisation (1986). This fall, facing its 90th anniversary in its new location on Park Avenue, the Waldorfers ask us to submit our very personal Waldorf story.
Please share your story with them for a chance to win a two-night stay at the newly restored Waldorf Astoria New York hotel upon its reopening in 2023. To upload your story, recount your fondest Waldorf memories below and submit photos, videos, scanned documents, and/or recordings.
Well -- here is our part:
New York — The first Waldorf Astoria in 1899:
SHARE YOUR OWN WALDORF STORY
Yours - as always
The Modest Mr Ritz or: Taking over the Frankfurter Hof
An excerpt from our book
THIS HERR RITZ
‘Please forgive me for telling you my honest opinion, gentlemen.’
César Ritz looked into the eyes of the directors who sat opposite him. He saw the men whose hotel he was going to rent, saw the interest. He recognised that kind of look. It was curiosity. Ritz was considered an expert. He was attuned to difficult situations. What people usually expected from him at that point was to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
‘You certainly have the most delightful restaurant,’ he paused; ‘... north of the Alps. This hall, the 32 columns – congratulations, indeed! And this winter garden is just wonderful.’
Sonnemann nodded his head. Oh, so this was a honey-dripper. That much he knew himself.
‘Unfortunately it looks like a morgue.’
‘I beg your pardon, Sir?’
Sonnemann and Ladenburg must have judged him wrongly. The small man didn’t speak too clearly with his heavy Swiss accent. He didn’t speak German very well either.
‘I can see that in London now. La même chose, the same story, you understand? The ladies love to go out; they love to show off their dresses. They want to be seen. It’s a new era. The restaurant needs to be near the street. With large windows!’
‘In the restaurant?’
Sonnemann thought that the man was joking.
‘And these rooms! Only a handful of bathtubs! This needs to be changed. Everything is very elegant here, but we are not living in 1870 any longer,’ continued Ritz, shaking his head.
César Ritz was not overly friendly with the directors of the Frankfurter Hof. But he was right. In 1892 the hotel was more than 15 years old. It required investment. Electric power and speaking tubes were not enough. Guests wanted luxury.
‘At the Savoy each suite is equipped with a bathroom. One year ago I opened up the Grand Hotel in Rome. There is electric lighting everywhere. And each room, EACH ROOM has its own bath.’
‘But isn’t this a bit excessive?’
‘No, not at all! The next Grand Hotel that might open up around the corner (he casually pointed his right hand into that direction) will have it. And then, you will be only the number two – if at all!’
‘And, by the way – your electric light.’
On March 1, 1895 the Frankfurter Hof was leased to a consortium consisting of César Ritz, Otto Kah from Baden-Baden and the brothers Otto and Ferdinand Hillengass. The Hotel Aktiengesellschaft corporation demanded an adequate rent and hoped to at least make a good return on it. The big-mouthed Swiss must now show what he was able to do.
Ritz did not disappoint them.
From our book Frankfurter Hof - available here
Hotels lost in History
- Grand Hotel Europa Innsbruck used to be regularly in the social limelight of the Tyrolean provincial capital in the heart of Innsbruck. Its Baroque Hall from 1883 was the chosen venue for functions of all kind. Bavaria's King Ludwig II described the 5-star hotel as "the most beautiful place in Innsbruck to celebrate festive events". King Karl Gustav of Sweden found in the suites of the Grand Hotel the necessary rest and relaxation between the competition of the two Olympic Winter Games from 1964 and 1976. In 2007, the Italian "Palenca Luxury Hotels" acquired Innsbruck's most important hotel. Extensive renovation and expansion works - which have already been completed in the lobby, bar and reception area - followed in 2008/09. In 2020, the hotel closed and auctioned its inventory.
- Hotel Metropole, Vienna, opened 1873; by architects K Schumann und L Tischler, famous before the war, infamous headquater of the GESTAPO during 1939–1945, destroyed by bombs in 1945, never rebuilt.
Hotel Continental, Vienna, opened 1873, is today's Sofitel Vienna - a very chic modern architecture with interesting features. Destroyed in 1945 during the battle for Vienna, between Germany's army and Russian forces. Dating back to 1591 as a coach inn "Zum goldenen Lamm" and an other part used to be the hotel "Zum weißen Schwan", merged into "Hotel Continental" for the world expo in 1873 (with 200 rooms, large ball room for 600 pax and one coffee house).
- Hotel National, Vienna; built 1848, dating back to 1687 (original name of the inn: Zum goldenen Ochsen) - picture below.
Hotel National, Vienna Architects: Ludwig Förster, Theophil Hansen. By 2017 an apartment building facing either renovation or demolition.
- Bad Ischl: Tallachini’s Grand Hotel, where Princess Sisi (later Empress Elisabeth) accepted Emperor Franz Josef’s proposal of marriage, was later renamed the Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth and is now the Residenz Elisabeth. In Summer 1908, it hosted HRH Edward, the Prince of Wales.
- Semmering: Südbahnhotel — elegant resort of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, gathering place during the 1930s, and again in the 1950s. Lost momentum as entire region was abandoned in favour of more attractive tourism destinations. Stands as a testimonial to uncreative tourism and region management in Lower Austria, commanding a stunning view over the Semmering mountains.
- Nassau: Royal Victoria. The first luxury hotel in the Bahamas, built in 1861 and closed in 1971. The abandoned building sat vacant for years, gradually being stripped, until it burned down in the mid-1990's. A parking lot replaced it. The sprawling gardens of the hotel remain, however. Link to photographs here.
Carrera, Santiago de Chile: since 1940, its opening year, the hotel was originally a luxury apartment building, and designed to be part of the new Civic Center. 1940s-60s: The guest list included a mix of socialites, jet-setters and celebrities. 1985: Pro-democracy guerillas attempted to blow up Pincohet's office from one of the most desirable rooms in the hotel (see Legendary Stories). 2001: Hoteles Carrera increased its capital through the issue of 5,358,920 shares equivalent to US$6.2mil. In December 2004 the hotel closed for conversion to government offices.
- Macau, Hotel Bela Vista
Beijing Hotel (Huafeng), Beijing
1880s-1900: The Compagnie des Wagons-Lits built hotels like the Ghezireh Palace in Cairo, the Pera Palace in Constantinople, the HÃ´tel de la Plage in Ostend (Belgium), the HÃ´tels Terminus in Bordeaux and Marseille, and the Riviera Palace in Monte-Carlo. 1900: The foundation stones of the hotel were laid 1905: The company opens the Grand HÃ´tel des Wagons-Lits in Peking. The only hotel in the Legation Quarter, it was to accommodate travellers from Europe on the Trans-Siberian Express. A 1930s guidebook says the original building stood in a large garden ornamented by stone fishponds, sole relics of ancient imperial offices. 1915: The hotel's five-story red brick building was completed. Later known as the 'old building', this structure brought the hotel very brisk business. 1917: Prospering with good management and the booming tourism industry, the hotel received an investment boost of two million silver coins which added a seven-story French-style building (today's Building B). This new structure, which is now called the 'middle building', consisted of 105 suites furnished with central heating, telephone and toilet facilities, dining halls and kitchens, a hair saloon and a ballroom with a sprung floor. Otis brand elevators took guests to the bar and open-air terrace for dancing on the seventh floor. Foreign guests described it as the number one luxury hotel in the Far East. Its opening was attended by well over 800 distinguished guests who packed the lobby and dining halls. 1920s: The Thomas Cook Travel Agency set up an office in the hotel and rented the liner Franconia to ferry tourists to China. In those days, a model of the ship was displayed in the Western dining hall and a banquet with dancing would be thrown around the model for each group of new arrivals. 1922: The Hong Kong Hotel Company acquired 85 percent of the Shanghai Hotels Limited, which held 60 percent of the share capital of the Grand HÃ´tel des Wagons-Lits. 1937: The '1937 Incident' when Japan invaded China triggered a slump in business. The hotel was taken over by the Japanese during their occupation of Beijing. 1945: After World War II, the hotel was taken over by the municipal government of the Kuomingtang, after the war. Its business remained slack for the instability of society and the lack of foreign tourists. 1949: The People's Republic of China named Beijing its capital and offered the hotel a new lease of life. State and Diplomatic functions had to be held in a place with Chinese characteristics and high popularity 1954: Completion of a new wing. 1974: The old brick building was pulled down and a new 89-metre structure put in place. At the time it was the highest building in Beijing.
- Cairo: Shepards — burnt down
- Continental-Savoy (Cairo), still standing, but empty
- Hotel Cecil, built in 1896, a large hotel in the Strand in London, England. It was named for Cecil House, a mansion that had occupied the same site in the 17th century. Designed by architects Perry & Reed in a "Wrenaissance" style, the hotel was the largest in Europe when it opened with more than 800 rooms. The proprietor later went bankrupt and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The Cecil was largely demolished in Autumn 1930, and Shell Mex House was built on the site. The Strand facade of the hotel remains, with, at its centre, a grandiose arch leading to Shell Mex House proper.
- The Grand Hotel (we have reasons to believe that it was the first in the world by this name) had opened in January 1774 (by David Low), but ceased to exist in the 1880s.
- Basil Street Hotel was an oasis of English charm, run by the same family for 3 or 4 generations, just behind Harrods. Beloved of the hunting, shooting fishing set, and home to the famous Parrot Club it closed around 2005 to be stripped and turned into offices. The collection of antiques furnishing the hotel collected by the family took days to sell.
To celebrate the defeat of Napoleon at the Prince Regent’s Grand Jubilee celebration in 1814, while Napoleon sailed for Elba, France’s King Louis XVIII took rooms at Grillon’s Hotel on Albemarle Street. Another popular hotel among foreign royals staying in London was the Pulteney Hotel, named after Pulteney, Earl of Bath, who had resided in the building before it became a hotel. It was located on the west corner of Bolton Street at 105 Piccadilly.
Excelsior Regina: today appartements; built in between 1895 and 1897 as a hotel for the royal faces and for the rich aristocracy who used to visit Nice in the late 19th century, the Excelsior Regina Palace is at present an apartment building which has lost nothing of its past architectural splendor. It is located in the hilly and tranquil Cimiez. The history of the construction of the Excelsior Regina Palace is related to the name of Queen Victoria of England who promised she would visit the French Riviera more often provided that a royal residence to match her reputation was built.
The building bristles with decorative elements characteristic of the Belle Epoque period. Lush bas-reliefs, glass marquees, picturesque attics and oriels peg out the white façade of the building. Parts of the Excelsior Regina Palace and the garden stretching in front of it, including the marble statute which depicts Queen Victoria (a monument placed at one of the garden entrances) enjoy the statute of historical monument. They were listed as such in 1992. Source: [url=http://www.nice-tourism.com/en/nice-attractions/historical-edifices-and-landmarks-in-nice/excelsior-regina-palace.html]http://www.nice-tourism.com/en/nice-attractions/historical-edifices-and-landmarks-in-nice/excelsior-regina-palace.html[/url]
Beaulieu sur Mer
Bristol Palace: True architectural masterpiece of the Belle Epoque, the Rotonde de Beaulieu rises in front of the sea and catches the eye of the passers-by and visitors of the town. Large circular room with glass-faced apses and a cupola with cut-off sides, the Rotonde is a former outbuilding of the Hotel Bristol, built between 1899 and January 1904 at the request of the British clientele of the palace to serve tea. This lounge was built in the south continuation of the building by the same architect, the Danish Hans-Georg Tersling. The Hotel Bristol, financed by a London furniture manufacturer, Sir John Blundell Maple, was built in record time, like many palaces on the Riviera during the Belle Epoque, between February 1897 and December 16, 1898. Inaugurated on January 5, 1899, the palace comprises 300 luxuriously equipped rooms, including bathrooms fed with heated sea water, spread over 5 floors with 60 rooms per floor. The building has high roofs evoking the style of an English castle. On March 28th 1911, in the evening, fanned by a strong wind, a fire broke out in a chimney and spread to the top two floors of the building and to its entire cover. Following the intervention of the firemen of Beaulieu and Nice and of the Chasseurs Alpins, the fire is mastered by flooding the upper floors. Thanks to the reinforced cement structure of the building, the lower part of the building remains relatively intact, the fire reducing the upper two floors to nothing.
The rest of the hotel is quickly rehabilitated and the Bristol reopens for the winter season of 1911-1912, amputated from the destroyed floors and with a classic roof in red tiles with a slight slope. Converted into a high-end condominium by the promoter Saglia in 1954, the Bristol loses part of its gardens as well as the tennis courts, ceded to the municipality of Beaulieu. The building retains its original appearance, decoration and part of the lobby. La Rotonde was for his part neglected and left without maintenance, threatened with demolition and finally expropriated for the benefit of the municipality in the 1970s. Transformed into a conference center in 1982 and operated by the Partouche group, it will not be any more used from 2001. Again abandoned during 10 years, it now shelters, since October 2011, the Salons de la Rotonde Lenôtre and took back its festive vocation and initial receptive.
- Hotel de Prusse (1805-1905), Hotel Preussischer Hof (1905-1921)
- Bühlerhöhe: Schlosshotel Buehlerhoehe (Bühlerhöhe): officers home since 1918; luxury hotel between 1986 and September 2010. Closed due to low business.
Pflaums Posthotel Pegnitz: An inn that perfectly illustrates the European tradition of a single family`s involvement in a highly personal business over centuries. Pflaums Posthotel Pegnitz, opened in 1707, was owned and run by the founding familiy for 11 generations. As the inn is only 19miles from Bayreuth, it was filled with celebrities during the music festival, and trough much of the rest of the year as well. The 5 star superior rated property has two award winning restaurants 'and 'Outdoor Dining'; . Golf, Spa and conference facilities for incentives and small meetings, Open All Year. Hotel of the Year Germany. Grand Award and Golden Key for Interior Design. New York. Designer Magazine and American Hotel and Restaurant As. 1707 opened under the name Gasthof Post Schwarzer Adler by Heinrich Friedrich Pflaum (with five rooms) Recently a boutique design and arts hotel with ony 25 individually designed rooms, run by Hermann Pflaum, one of the leading chefs of Europe. It closed in 2016.
- Hong Kong Hotel — the "mother" of the Hong Kong – Shanghai Hotels company
- Repulse Bay Hotel, one of the last remaining colonial style buildings in Hongkong until it was demolished to give room for a high rise apartment building ca. 1985. It had a huge balcoly with a view of the South China Sea and was an important part of Hongkong history when it was torn down. The veranda is said to have been rebuildt somehow, but the old atmosphere must be gone forever.
- Budapest — Hotel Ritz — one of the "Ritz" franchise projects —it opened in 1913 with 120 suites, a reading room, a reception and banquet hall, a winter- and a rooftop-garden, a café, a restaurant, a bar, a barbecue room, central heating, three passenger and four service lifts. Despite the professional management of Károly Vásárhelyi, in 1916, the luxury hotel went bankrupt in the recession due to the First World War.
In 1913, Mrs César Ritz, Marie, personally supervised the opening. It was reopend as Duna Palota (Danube Palace). On January 15, 1945, the hotel was bombed and finally flushed for several days. The ruins were removed in 1947. From 1981, the Hotel Forum (now InterContinental Budapest) stands in its place.
- Calcutta Great Eastern built by David Wilson in 1841 Spence's by John Spence, before 1830 Grand, by Stephen Arathoon, opened in 1911, closed in 1937.
- Hotel des Indes was one of the oldest and most prestigious hotels in Asia. Located in Batavia (now Jakarta), in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). The hotel had accommodated countless famous patrons throughout its existence from 1829 to 1971. Before being named Hotel des Indes, a name suggested by the writer Multatuli, it was named ‘Hotel de Provence’ by its first French owner and for a short spell went by the name ‘Hotel Rotterdam’. After Indonesian independence it was renamed ‘Hotel Duta Indonesia’, until it was demolished to make way for a shopping mall. >>> This hotel should not be confused with ‘Hotel des Indes’ in The Hague, the Netherlands. Details on wikipedia.
- The Grand Hotel des Bains was one of the famous hotels on the Lido of Venice. Built in 1900 to attract wealthy tourists, it is remembered amongst other things for Thomas Mann's stay there in 1911, which inspired his novella Death in Venice. Luchino Visconti's film of the novel was shot there in 1971. The hotel was also used as Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo in the 1996 film The English Patient; Diaghilev died at the hotel in 1929. Until 2010 the hotel was frequented by movie stars during the Venice Biennale. In 2010, the hotel was closed to be converted into a luxury apartment complex, the Des Bains residences. As of September 2017 the hotel is still awaiting renovation. A large fence surrounds it, with a guard employed inside.
- Rifugio Guglielmina / Ricovero al Col d’Olen It was 1878 when Ricovero al Col d’Olen was first inaugurated: it was the third among the 8 hotels founded, or run, by the Guglielmina family between the last half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Giuseppe Guglielmina was a humble shoemaker from Mollia: the reason for the fast growth of its hotel business can be find in the entrepreneurial spirit of many public figures of the time as well as in the atmosphere of openness to tourism which followed the conquest of Monte Rosa. As a matter of fact, only eight years after the rise to Signalkuppe (today named Punta Gnifetti), Giuseppe Guglielmina and his family were able to run the Albergo del Monte Rosa, inaugurated in Alagna in 1850 and which was later expanded; then, they managed to run the Albergo delle Alpi in Riva Valdobbia in 1871, the Ricovero del Col d’Olen in 1878, the Albergo d’Italia in Varallo Sesia in 1879, the Albergo del Mottarone on the Maggiore lake in 1884, the Hotel Bellevue Alpino in Gignese in 1900, the Hoten Royal in Ospedaletti Ligure in 1901 and the Grand Hotel Eden in Santa Margherita Ligure in 1090. Moreover, the newspaper of the time record their presence even in Sicily, in Palermo, where they ran the Ristorante Cafè Chantant on the occasion of the Universal Exposition in 1981. Unfortunately Rifugio Guglielmina has been completely burned down. The fire started in the early morning of 22 December 2011 and couldn't be stopped because of strong wind, that did not allowed firemen to reach Col d'Olen.
The Tor Hotel was constructed in 1907 and decorated in the style of a Swiss chalet by Alfred Mildner, a German hotelier born in Alcase Lorraine, because the popular Oriental Hotel near the port was overcrowded each time passenger ships arrived. It catered to visiting dignitaries and tourists as well as wealthy Japanese and foreign residents. The hotel received its name from it location, tor, a Cornish word for ‘rocky hill’. Soon people started to call the road leading to it ‘Tor Road’. The hotel was located on the northern end of Tor Road, near the present-day location of the Kobe Club.
The Tor Hotel burned down in 1950, and little now remains of the earlier history of the site except for the giant Himalayan cedars in the front car park, thought to have been planted around 1890 by Arthur Greppi, a European businessman who had lived on the site before the hotel opened in 1908. There is also one small, red torii gate – all that remains of an Inari shrine that was located in the hotel garden and had several torii leading to it.
- St. Georges of Beirut was the place where Mr. Philby held court in the bar for seven years until he suddenly disapeared before reappearing in Moscow. The hotel or what is left of it, was built on one of the most valuable pieces of sea side property in central Beirut in the 1930s and became a gathering place for diplomats, reporters and spies. Yes, for once this cliche can be applied. In the sixties and early seventies, in Beirut's golden years, presidents, Hollywood stars and the rich Golf arabs, stayed at he hotel while visiting The Casino du Leban in Jounieh, Pepe Abed fish restaurant in Byblos or the Roman ruins in Baalbek. Lebanese-Palestinian writer Said K. Aburish has devoted a 200 page book to "The St. Georges Hotel Bar", published by Bloomsbury, London 1989. The destruction of the hotel in the so-called war of the hotels in December 1975 is vividly described by the American correspondent Jonathan Randal in his book "Going All the Way: Christian Warlords, Israeli Adventures and the War in Lebanon (Viking 1983). Randal was held hostage in the building during the fighting.
- The slim hope of the owner to rebuild the hotel was finally shattered by the powerful road bomb that killed prime ministe Rafik Hariri in February 2005. The neighbouring high rice Holiday Inn was also destroyed in 1975 and is, together with the St. Georges ruin, standing as an emty monument over the civil war.
- The beautiful Phoenicia Hotel re-opened as The Intercontinental some years ago but was also forced to close for a while in 2005 due to the Hariri bomb.
- Kuala Lumpur: Railway Station Hotel
- Penang: Runnymede Hotel
- Penang Hill: The Crag
- Beira: The Grande Hotel Beira was a luxury hotel in Beira, Mozambique that was open from 1952 to 1963. It continued to be used during the 1960s as a conference center and swimming pool. During the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992) it became a refugee camp. The hotel opened in 1954, when it was billed as the "pride of Africa," and was widely regarded as the largest and most exquisite hotel on the continent. Its owners intended to include a casino, but failed to secure the necessary government authorization. The hotel was never profitable, and never attracted the wealthy clientèle it was intended to. It closed as a hotel in the early 1960s. The swimming pool and conference rooms continued to be used during the 1960s and even after the independence in 1975. The last event held in the hotel was the new year's eve party in 1980-81.
After independence in 1975 its basement was used as cells to hold political prisoners. Some members of the police and army started using the third floor as their living quarters. After 1981, it was taken over by the general population. The new guests used the entire parquet floors as fuel. The building has no running water or electricity, and is currently inhabited by more than 1,000 people.
Journalist Florian Plavec describes a visit to the hotel in a July 2006 feature in the Austrian newspaper Kurier. According to his accounts, virtually everything of any value has been looted from the hotel, including its marble and bathroom tiles, wooden flooring, sinks, and bathtubs. The former pool now serves as a water collector for clothes washing, and the former pool bar as a urinal. The hotel has also experienced structural damage, as trees continue to grow out of terraces, and floors collapsed.
The hotel in its actual state of decay has been shot by South-African photographer Guy Tillim in his serie "Avenue Patrice Lumumba"in 2007 (published by Prestel Verlag).
- Xai-Xai: Chongoene Hotel: Ruins remain the only victim of a bygone era of the Chongoene Hotel. Recently the South African company East Coast Development Corporation has shown interest in rehabilitating the hotel.
- Peshwar: Deans Hotel
- Hotel Bristol
- Montreux Grand Hotel National, opened in 1875 as the first grand hotel in the resort on the Swiss Riviera that would eventually become known for its stately accommodation. The lights went out in the 1980s, when the hotel owners decided to close it down.
- St. James Hotel in Jacksonville — after the Great Fire of 1901
- The Ambassador Hotel, Hollywood, built 1921, demolished 2006.
California, Salton Sea
- Palms Motel
Unsurprisingly repulsed by the smell of rotting fish that besieged the town following a series of ecological disasters (the huge lake became so polluted that all marine life was doomed to end up dead on the sand banks), residents and visitors abandoned Salton City, California in the late 1980s. The Palms Motel remains though — at least its structure.
- Lee Plaza Hotel
Abandoned in the 1990s, the 15-storey Lee Plaza Hotel is a monument to early 20th-century design, added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Many hotel buildings have been lost such as the
- Astor House on Broadway between Vesey and Barclay was designed by Isaiah Rogers and opened in 1836 and was demolished in 1913.
- Fifth Avenue Hotel on 23rd to 24th Streets that was designed by William Washburn and had the first hotel elevator and opened in 1858 and was demolished in 1908.
- The Ritz-Carlton, designed by Warren & Wetmore, architects of the new Grand Central Terminal. The Ritz-Carlton, on Madison Avenue and 46th Street, opened at the end of 1910, reached its fashionable heyday at about the time of the First World War. Its ballrooms and lobbies, and some say its service and general ambiance, where between than those furnished later elsewhere at the Ritz Tower. The Ritz-Carlton was razed in 1951 to provide a site for an office building.
- McAlpin (1912), now a condominnium building
- Drake Hotel (1927), demolished 2007.
Notable guests of the old 640-room hotel included Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix and Glenn Gould. In the 1960s and 70s, rock groups like The Who and Led Zeppelin chose to stay at the Drake when they visited The Big Apple from the UK. Famously, Led Zeppelin reportedly had $203,000 in cash stolen from a safe deposit box at the hotel. famoushotels.org columnist Stan Turkel ran the Drake for several years in the Sixties. The famous nbightclub was called Shepheard's, which was Manhattan's first discotheque, named after the famous Cairo hotel. It was Egyptian-themed with two large gold sphinxes either side of its entrance. The Drake Room was one of the places to eat and be seen in Manhattan. The executive chef, a man called Nino Schiavone, championed the idea to have waiters prepare food at the tableside. Cuts of prime steak mixed with sweet butter, fresh chives and other seasonings were flamed with cognac and sherry at the tables of an eclectic and well-heeled crowd. Providing the ambience at The Drake Room was a famous salon piano player, Cy Walter. So renowned was the pairing of pianist Walter at The Drake Room, Turkel arranged for MGM Records to record an album. Released in 1966, the cover of the record, Cy Walter at The Drake, was a photograph of Walter with his Steinway grand piano outside the Drake entrance, on 56th St.
- Traymore Hotel (1879), Atlantic City, N.J.; demolished
- Vemon Manor Hotel (1924), Cincinnari, OH.; convened to ahospital building.
- Savoy Plaza Hotel is now the site of what was the GM building. For a time, it was the Savoy Hilton Hotel.
- Ambassador Hotel on Park Avenue, which was Sheraton Ambassador for a time.
- Hotel Theresa opened in 1913 on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. It became famous for accepting both races in the 1940s. It closed its doors as a hotel in 1970. In 1971, the hotel was converted to an office building with the name Theresa Towers and was declared a landmark in 1993 by New York’s Landmark Preservation Commission.
- GROSSINGER’S CATSKILL RESORT AND HOTEL In its heydays Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel was attracting more than 150,000 guests per year to its 35 buildings, a golf course, beauty salon, pool, and even artificial ski slope. The 1972 death of its legendary hostess, Jennie Grossinger, though, coincided with the death of the hotel’s heyday as the rich and famous sought glamour elsewhere. Abandoned in 1986, the Catskills resort provided the location one year later for Dirty Dancing.
- COCO PALMS RESORT Once a star-studded luxury resort on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Coco Palms was so badly damaged by hurricane Iniki that it was forced to close in 1992. Left abandoned since then, the hotel that once hosted the Elvis Presley movie Blue Hawaii was further gutted by fire in 2014; it remains unclear whether the blaze was started by the ghost of the King ... but we think it probably was.
- DIVINE LORRAINE HOTEL Standing at the corner of Broad Street and Fairmont Avenue in North Philadelphia, The Divine Lorraine Hotel is an abandoned hotel with a future. Derelict since 1999, the hotel has attracted ruin aficionados, graffiti artists, and vandals to its 11-storey playground — but plans are well underway to restore the iconic building to its former glory. Once home to a cult, the Divine Lorraine is also significant as the first racially integrated hotel in America. Following a $US44 million ($57 million) renovation, the blighted building could open as early as the end of 2016, which would make it the first (and only) former creepy abandoned hotel on our list.
- BUCK HILL INN closed in 1990. At this time — when owner Jacob Keuler’s wife fell ill — Keuler drove her to the hospital, checked her into the psychiatric ward, went back to the hotel, and shut the whole place down, leaving everything as it was.
- Muehlebach: The original 12-story building was constructed in 1915. It was designed by Holabird & Rocheand, 144 feet (44m) high and owned by George E. Muehlebach, whose father, George E. Muehlebach Sr., founded the Muehlebach Beer Company. The younger Muehlebach also built Muehlebach Field, which achieved its greatest prominence under the ownership of Barney Allis. In 1952 a 17-story western annex and parking lot were added. The entire hotel underwent a major restoration in 1976 and operated for a time as the flagship of the Radisson hotel chain under the name Radisson Muehlebach Hotel before finally closing in the 1980s.
- West Virginia, Daniel Boone Hotel, opened in 1929, closed 1981
- The Edgewater Beach Hotel was a hotel in the far-north neighborhood community of Edgewater in Chicago, Illinois. Designed by Benjamin H. Marshall and built in 1916 for its owners John Tobin Connery and James Patrick Connery, it was located between Sheridan Road and Lake Michigan at Berwyn Avenue. An adjacent tower building was added in 1924. The hotel closed in 1967, and was soon after demolished.
The Edgewater Beach Apartments were completed as part of the hotel resort complex in 1928. The "sunset pink" apartments, complimented the "sunrise yellow" hotel in a similar architectural style. The apartments remain standing and have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More history --> Wikipedia
- The Raymond Hotel dominates the South Pasadena landscape. It opened in 1886. The Raymond remained Southern California's leading resort hotel until Easter Sunday, 1895. On that day, an ember flew from one of the Raymond's 80 chimneys landed on the hotel's wood-shingle roof. No lives were lost, but within a couple hours the Raymond was no more. In 1901 Walter Raymond was able to rebuild and reopen his hotel. With 400 rooms, golf links, and formal gardens, the Raymond's second iteration was even grander than the first. At the entrance, a new floral display, augmented by 575 electric lights, announced in ten brightly colored letters that visitors had arrived at "THE RAYMOND." Guests then entered a tunnel -- which still exists today, though sealed, under Raymond Hill -- and ascended into the hotel via elevator. In the 1930s, facing intense competition from Pasadena's newest luxury resort, the Huntington Hotel, the Raymond was unable to remain profitable. A bank foreclosed on the aging property in 1931 and, in 1934, the Raymond was demolished.
This list is growing — with the help of our corresponding friends. Please send us names and photographs of lost hotels.
- frank sinatra
- grand hotel
- hong kong
- hotel metropole
- lost hotels
- muhammad ali
- new york
- oriental hotel
- pera palace
- prince of wales
- queen victoria
- stan turkel
- thomas cook
- thomas mann
Trafalgar - beating heart of England
By Adrian Mourby
When World War II ended, thousands of people crammed into this world-famous piazza below the National Gallery and danced round its fountains. During the 1980s the square was the focus for Britain’s anti-apartheid rallies, in November 2015 it was here that young people gathered to sing La Marseillaise to support the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks and every New Year Londoners jump into Trafalgar's fountains at the strike of midnight.
It has always seemed odd to me that, despite its pole position in the national psyche, Trafalgar Square is almost entirely devoid of hotels. Maybe I assign too much importance to hotels but I believe they are the crowning glory of any city piazza.
London’s most famous square (actually it's more of a rectangle with rounded corners) was built in the 1820s, laid out to plans by King George IV’s favourite architect, John Nash. The site chosen was a small hilly slope north of the Palace of Whitehall. The first buildings constructed to Nash’s masterplan here were the Royal College of Physicians and the Union Club (now combined into the diplomatic mission known as Canada House). They were built between 1824 and 1827. Next was the long, low National Gallery, which was begun in 1832 between what is now Canada House and the famous church of St Martin in the Fields. This gracious Georgian parish church featured in Dickens’ novel David Copperfield and in E.M.Forster’s A Room with a View. It is the only building on Nash’s square to predate his nineteenth-century redevelopment.
Morley’s was the first hotel on Trafalgar Square. It opened in 1832
Moving clockwise round the square from St Martin’s there lies South Africa House which was built in 1936 to mirror Canada House opposite. It actually occupies the site of Morley’s Hotel which was demolished to make room for South Africa House. Morley’s was the first hotel on Trafalgar Square. It opened in 1832 and was a Regency style structure designed by the architect George Ledwell Taylor for the developer Atkinson Morley. Mr Taylor has a remarkable footnote in London’s history. When a grand square on this site was nearing completion in the 1830s the intention was to name it after King William IV (reigned 1830-37) who had succeeded his brother George. However Taylor interceded with the king to name it after Lord Nelson’s famous victory against the French Navy in 1805. Taylor had been Surveyor of Buildings to the Naval Department and well knew William IV who had held the position of Vice Admiral before becoming king. William agreed and accepted having one of the eight feeder roads leading into the square named after him instead.
Morley’s was not originally built as a hotel. Initially Taylor designed the block as series of apartments of the kind occupied by Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in fictional Baker Street. This apartment block opened in 1831 but within a year later Morley had reopened it more profitably as a hotel. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes stayed there in 1900 while he was writing The Hound of the Baskervilles, and it is thought that the fictional Northumberland Hotel in that novel may well have been based on Morley's. Certainly Northumberland Avenue – another feeder road - is just round the corner. However Conan Doyle was not a fan, writing to his mother that he was "somewhat sick" of Morley's hotel and intended to move on.
Northumberland Avenue takes its name from where the powerful Dukes of Northumberland once lived in their Jacobean palace on the Strand.
Northumberland House was demolished in 1874 to make space for a wide avenue of mixed-use Victorian development that today showcases two massive hotels built by Frederick Gordon, the self-proclaimed “Napoleon of the Hotel World”. Gordon had started off as a London restaurateur then opened a number of hotels across England, many of them called The Metropole, a fashionable hotel name in the late nineteenth century. Gordon’s London Metropole on Northumberland Avenue opened in 1885 and since 2011 has been known as the Corinthia London. Next to it across Great Scotland Yard stands Gordon’s even larger Grand Hotel (1890) which contains 300 rooms and is now divided up into the Club Quarters (for business travellers) and a more boutique operation for tourists, but neither hotel actually faces on to Trafalgar Square as Morley’s once did.
However after crossing Whitehall - the main route of government – crossing Pall Mall, which leads to Buckingham Palace one comes to the Trafalgar Hotel St James (51.50755957740019, -0.12912150859534846) which is the only hotel actually on the square itself.
The Trafalgar Hotel stands opposite Canada House where Cockspur Street that feeds into the square. This is one of the few sections of Trafalgar Square to have kept its original Tudor street layout that preceded Nash’s comprehensive nineteenth-century redevelopment.
In the fifteenth century a tenement leased by King Henry VIII (reigned 1509 – 1547) to one Thomas Swallow stood here. The royal stables were located nearby so any housing in this part of Westminster was hardly salubrious. By 1605, in the reign of King James I, there were eight messuages (humble dwellings each with a small patch of arable land) on the site of what would one day become the Trafalgar Hotel. In 1709 they were demolished to make way for the Red Lion Inn which in turn was also demolished to make space for the British Hotel. This was a second Trafalgar Square venture by Atkinson Morley. It was built in the 1860s and stood on Trafalgar Square until demolished to make way in 1886 for shops and offices.
So from 1936 with the demolition of Morley’s Hotel there was no hotel on Trafalgar Square.
By the beginning of the twentieth century a lot of important travel companies had opened offices on the Cockspur Street side of Trafalgar Square. There was Stanfords, the premiere mapmakers to the British Empire. There was the Great Northern Railway of America Company, which stood at 21 Cockspur Street, the Hamburg-America Line at No. 22, Canadian Pacific Railways at No. 30 and North German Lloyd Ocean Mail Steamers at 32 Cockspur Street. Why were so many travel companies located on this side of Trafalgar Square? I can only speculate that it was to do with the presence, nearby of Charing Cross Station which was where European passengers arriving from Calais via the Dover ferry dismebarked in London.
So from 1936 with the demolition of Morley’s Hotel there was no hotel on Trafalgar Square. However in 1998 planning permission was applied for by the L&R Company who wished to retain the facades of Nos 25 to 34 Cockspur Street but to demolish their interiors to build a new hotel, the first in decades that would look directly on to Trafalgar Square.
Vista from Vista
This new building opened in 2006 with 130 modern rooms cleverly tucked behind the Edwardian façades of all those offices. It was also designed to have a rooftop bar, known as the Vista and a ground floor dining room known as Rockwells. In 2017 L&R completely refurbished their hotel, creating a new lobby and enclosing most of the rooftop Vista Bar. Although hugely popular since its opening because of its panoramic views, the Vista was wholly at the mercy of London rainfall, even in summer.
Today known as The Trafalgar St James and managed by Matthew Beard, the hotel retains its unique selling point of being the only place to stay on the square itself. Victoria and David Beckham came to stay when she was opening the Harrod's Christmas Sale. The Rolling Stones visited and spent time on the rooftop Vista Bar and photos of them are in many of the hotel’s bedrooms today. In 2014 the film Edge of Tomorrow featured Tom Cruise’s character landing a helicopter in Trafalgar Square - the first and only time such a stunt has happened in a movie – and this was shot from the Vista Bar.
Trafalgar Square’s one hotel makes the most of its unique position. On a warm summer evening when the Vista is crowded it’s unlikely that many drinkers are aware they’re standing above where King Henry VIII once stabled his horses. But Londoners take history in their stride. The past is down there somewhere but tonight most people just want to party.
Built in less than two years: the New Waldorf Astoria
The Waldorf Astoria New York is a member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World since the very first hour of our organisation in 1986. There was no doubt for the two of us that we will enjoy our partnership. Since over 25 years, we are researching the history of the Waldorf.
Please share your personal Waldorf story for a chance to win a two-night stay at the newly restored Waldorf Astoria New York hotel upon its reopening in 2023. To upload your story, recount your fondest Waldorf memories below and submit photos, videos, scanned documents, and/or recordings.
TRAILER - GRAND HOTEL METROPOLE - 2021
Above: Britannia Grand Hotel in Scarborough,
HAVEN’T HEARD THAT EXPRESSION BEFORE? A calendar building always plays with calendar related numbers: 2 for day and night, 4 for the seasons, 7 for days, 12 for months, 52 rooms e.g. per floor for weeks and – you guessed it right – 365 rooms, or windows.
A living example is the Britannia Grand Hotel in Scarborough, a very popular seaside resort at the north-eastern coast of England. It is situated in the city centre overlooking the town's harbour and South Bay.
Built in 1863 it joins the league of Europe’s first purpose-built hotels. Its superb architecture holds a few surprises: the four towers represent the seasons, the 12 floors stand for the months, the 52 chimneys symbolize the weeks and the originally 365 bedrooms exemplify the days of the year.
Today the hotel has reduced its number of rooms to 280, but not lost its popularity among the Britons who enjoy the romance. In 2006 Britannia made a £7 million refurbishment to the existing Hotel. In 2017 the listed hotel was awarded and named by Historic Britain as one of the top ten places, buildings and historical sites that tell the remarkable story of England and its impact on the world.
The Gentleman in the Parlour
For the French in Tonkin, Hanoi was the most attractive town of Indochina. For British playwright and author Somerset Maugham it was obviously less exciting.
In 1923, he stayed at the Grand Hotel Metropole (today Sofitel Legend Metropole) while working on "The Gentleman in the Parlour": 'Here I had the intention of finishing this book, for at Hanoi I found nothing much to interest me. It is the capital of Tonkin and the French tell you it is the most attractive town in the East, but when you ask them why, answer that it is exactly like a town, Montpellier or Grenoble, in France.'
Today, the Hotel Metropole has dedicated one of its suites to the British author (and there is also a Graham Greene Suite, and a Charlie Chaplin Suite, ... but these are different stories.).
From our book METROPOLE HANOI by Andreas Augustin
The nit-picker, a bean counter
The roof of the Dome in Milan -- a fascinating world of arches, pillars and statues. You can climb it easily via the staircase.
Carl Baedeker, the „Erbsenzähler“, was the first professional German travel guide author. His descriptions were so accurate that he earned himself the nickname „Erbsenzähler“ (nit-picker / bean counter)
Observed by a contemporary while climbing the Milan Cathedral in 1847, he observed Baedeker putting a dry beans from his waistcoat into his trouser pocket every 20 steps. Multiplied by 20, the number of beans plus the remaining steps resulted in the precise steps specification for the later travel guide. During the descent, he then did the cross-check.
The result was, by the way, 158.
Say Good Bye to starred Hotel Restaurants
Hotels (again) are saying goodbye to posh restaurants
Is this ringing in the era of fun and entertainment, and finally nobody cares about stars?
50 years ago a hotel restaurant in Europe was basically there to be avoided. Even the hotel's concierge had a list as long as his arm of restaurants outside he would recommend (and get commission from!)
In Asia hotel restaurants were the only place to get decent western food. The Indian Restaurant at the Mena House in Cairo was for long the best of its kind outside of India. The Pump Room at Chicago's Ambassador East Hotel was so famous that you could hardly get a table if you weren't Frank Sinatra.
Now, the tide shifts. Again.
Alain Ducasse leaves the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris after 21 years of a lately less successful performance. It is a question of time how long Alain Ducasse will continue to work for the other two hotels belonging to the hotel group, Meurice in Paris and Dorchester in London. Or rather: how long will an owner maintain their vanity of employing a 3-star chef when the zeitgeist points in a completely different direction?
Spurred by the recent crisis the cost-intensive luxury 2-3-starred hotel restaurants will become a thing of the past.
The hotels are saying goodbye to the great gastronomy, a trend that began a decade ago. The completely renovated Parisian Hotel Lutetia opened only one brasserie for its guests. In Vienna the restaurant Korso at the famous Hotel Bristol has renounced the services of the ingenious kitchen of Reinhard Gerer. The restaurant Majesty at the Hotel Imperial has made way for conference rooms.
In Paris, top chef Stephanie Le Quellec from Hotel Prince de Galles was released after receiving her second star.
Chef Christopher Hache from Crillon was also put in front of the door.
In 2020, the Shangri La Paris closed its two-star restaurant L’Abeille.
The Peninsula of Hong Kong and Gaddie's tradition refused to participate in the race for the stars in Paris from its very beginning. The luxury restaurant Le V of the Hotel Georges V has been closed and the Italian chef of the house, now cooks on the terrace. The Raffles Royal Monceau opened with an Italian and the internationally active Asian Nobu.
May be Alain Ducasse and consorts are well advised to consider themselves trendsetters again, leave hotel environments and start a new thing. We are watching and waiting. No risk, no fun. Chef/restaurateur Jose Andres is offering a US$50 gift certificate to anyone showing proof of vaccination in his Washington, D.C., restaurants. What about this incentive for a start?
Bond of Brothers — the First Asian Hotel Chain
Martin Sarkies (seated) is surrounded by the young generation of successful hotelkeepers. Joe Constantine (left), his brother Arshak and Martyrose Arathoon, a Sarkies partner..
The Sarkies brothers - Martin, Tigran, Aviet and Arshak who came from Isfahan in Persia, became the foremost hoteliers of the East, their enterprises in Penang and Singapore dominating the hospitality trade in the Straits Settlements for nearly fifty years.
In the 1880s the Sarkies developed a new mixture of Asian-European hospitality hitherto unknown in Southeast Asia. Their background as traders and merchants, coupled with their lack of experience in international hospitality, helped them to develop a new view of the actual needs of potential guests, unhampered by prevailing notions. With Persian connections, they brought caviar from the Caspian Sea to Penang, Singapore and Rangoon. For almost five decades, they built, opened and ran hotels which have become legends in their own right.
The Sarkies had learned that the seashore was the best location. Inland – they instinctively felt – was dead land. Long ago, their ancestors had been traders in Isfahan in the highlands of ancient Persia, far away from the sea. For centuries they had benefited from the prosperous trade between Europe and the new colonies of India, the Malayan peninsula and the archipelago of Indonesia, on the main trade and transport route. Around 1820, they experienced the decline of this ancient trading route, known to us as the Silk Road. At some point there was no longer any need for caravans and their goods to cross the deserts, to climb the mountains and to follow the routes that Marco Polo had described. By 1869, with the opening of the Suez Canal, there was no longer any need to go through Isfahan. One day, the godowns surrounding the largest marketplace in the world were empty. Once, they had been filled with tea from the highlands of Ceylon, sugar from Java, and opium, silk and porcelain from China and India. But now, even the local merchants who wanted to export their Shiraz wine had to take it to Ormus, on the shores of the Persian Gulf.
On the waterway between the shores of Asia and Europe, they met the swift sailing ships of the various East India companies. ‘Modern times’, they realized, and it became irrevocably clear that the day had come when the flourishing trade they had once plied in Isfahan was about to dry up like a pond in the desert. At that point, the clever Armenians of the desert cities of Persia, permanently pressed between the political interests of the Osman and the Russian Empires, packed their bags. As trade follows the flag they moved to the new and prospering ports of India and Asia.
Martin Sarkies (seated) is surrounded by the young generation of successful hotelkeepers. Joe Constantine (left), his brother Arshak and Martyrose Arathoon, a Sarkies partner.
The Sarkies family belonged to the first wave of Armenian economical refugees, paving the way for many to follow in this historically significant Diaspora.
A certain Johannes Sarkies became an eminent merchant in Calcutta in the early 19th century. When Stamford Raffles founded – and soon after developed – Singapore in the 1820s, other members of the Sarkies family boarded one of the first sailing ships bound for the new trading place at the tip of the Malayan peninsula. Soon, two thirds of all Armenian trading houses in Singapore were owned by Aristarchus and Aratoon Sarkies. Another Sarkies, C Johannes Shahnazar, moved to Batavia (known to us as Jakarta) and founded Sarkies, Edgar & Co. of Batavia, Sourabaya and Singapore (1855-85). Another Sarkies branch settled in Dacca, while in 1869 a certain Martin Sarkies, an engineer, put down roots in Penang. 2 He and his brothers Arshak, Aviet and Tigran, who arrived years later, were to become ‘our’ Sarkies, the farsighted hotel entrepreneurs.
Penang was an important port of call. Together with the city state of Malacca and Singapore, it formed the Straits Settlements. The island (with its capital, Georgetown) was the first English settlement east of Calcutta, founded by Sir Francis Light in 1786. Light had cannons of silver coins fired into the jungles to motivate his Indian coolies to clear the wood to build a capital: Georgetown. Its city hall, the high court, a respectable collection of public buildings and private villas and the entire layout of the streets of Georgetown were very European. The Chinese who arrived from Mainland China became ‘Straits Chinese’ and built rows of narrow family houses-cum- shops creating one of the famous ‘Chinatowns’ of Southeast Asia.
In 1869, when Martin (1) Sarkies arrived in Penang, the Suez Canal was about to be opened. This was the most important event since Vasco da Gama first discovered the sea route from Europe to India in 1498. Suddenly, a city like Bombay in India was only 6,274 miles from London instead of 11,200 round the Cape. Soon, the journey from Europe to these Asian ports could be completed in half the time. With steam ships, the journey was even faster. Eighty percent of sea-going traffic was British. Taken together, these factors produced a matrix for more efficient Southeast Asia trade, and went on to become the grandmother of Asian tourism. Everybody in the region understood that, sooner or later, all ports East of Suez would be buzzing like beehives.
However, there was a distinct lack of good accommodation for travellers arriving after an exhausting voyage. After days and weeks in narrow, uncomfortable cabins, they often had to rent an equally uncomfortable and overpriced room, if indeed, there were any to be had.
Hoteliers felt that their duty was done if they offered a room away from the dirt and dust of the street, away from rats and straying dogs, beggars and thieves. But that was it. Asia had little to offer compared to the luxurious, dreamlike palaces created in Europe by the first apostles of hospitality such as Cesar Ritz. In Europe, monograms were embroidered onto bed linen, pillows and towels, and delicate porcelain figurines were placed on mantelpieces. Asian guesthouses rarely offered sheets at all, and a mosquito net was often the only luxury. In 1889, for example The Savoy in London already offered 70 bathrooms with tubs and running hot and cold water. At this time, Asian hoteliers were proud of their ‘showers’, which consisted of a wooden ladle which was used to pour water onto the bather from a large clay receptacle (a ‘Tong’). Doors were rarely lockable and servants would enter through back doors at their convenience. Requests were understood once in a blue moon and items wrongly delivered, organized and served for that funny traveller who requested ‘my own knees’ to put on his salad.
Penang - The Eastern and Oriental (E&O):
Penang was no exception in terms of accomodation, and therefore the perfect location for a high(er) quality hotel.It started in Penang: it was 23-year-old Tigran who took the first step into the hotel industry, seeing it as more profitable than his fledgling auctioneering business. Taking over the lease of a large compound house at 1a Light Street, he named it the Eastern Hotel, announcing on 15 April 1884 that the hotel was open to receive boarders. Tigran was joined by his older brother Martin, and calling themselves Sarkies Brothers, the pair acquired Hotel de l’Europe which was situated on the seafront in Farquar Street, and renamed it the Oriental Hotel. Tigran managed the Oriental while Martin was responsible for the Eastern. Younger brother Aviet was persuaded to join them and was soon made manager of the Eastern Hotel. By August 1889, the extended and entirely renovated Oriental Hotel was ready for the public. The brothers gave up the Eastern, but not wanting to lose the goodwill and familiarity of its name, decided to rename the Oriental, the Eastern and Oriental Hotel - which soon became shortened to the E. & O.
The E&O hotel was a success. Perhaps a bit too much of a success. The landlord realised how much the value of his properties had risen, and he increased the rent considerably. The Sarkies began to look around for more reasonable opportunities.
In 1887, the Sarkies went scouting for a good location to establish a hotel in Singapore. They found Beach House, a former boys’ boarding house, at ‘20 House Street’. The Chinese name of the street dated back to Singapore’s early years, when Sir Stamford Raffles had drawn up the layout for this new city. Now this street, facing the shoreline of Singapore, has been renamed Beach Road.
The Sarkies’ keen sense for location led them to come to an agreement with the owner, an Arab merchant, called Syed Mohamed Bin Ahmed Al Sagoff, and they rented the house. Here, on 1 December 1887, they opened Raffles Hotel, a small hostelry with ten bedrooms.
In the meantime, the landlord at Penang possessed enough good sense not to let the Sarkies leave. Their talent as hoteliers was too obvious. An acceptable agreement was made and suddenly the Sarkies were in possession of two hotels. One in Singapore and one in Penang. When Martin retired to Isfahan in late 1890, youngest brother Arshak joined the E. & O., having gained valuable work experience at Raffles under Tigran’s watchful eye. Soon each brother took responsibility for a different hotel. Tigran remained in charge of Raffles, while Aviet opened the Sarkies Hotel in Rangoon, leaving Arshak in control of the E. & O. Apart from short breaks in Singapore or abroad, Arshak ran the hotel until his death in 1931. Within a decade of opening the Eastern Hotel, the brothers’ reputation had been made.
Speaking at a celebratory lunch at the E. & O. in 1893, Sir Frank Swettenham first told the joke which was to pass into history: ‘A little boy was asked by his teacher in Perak who the "Orang" Sakais were, and replied that they were people who kept hotels.’ (The "Sakais" are one of the indigenous races of Malaysia, and now the Oragn Sarkies were the race of hotelkeepers!) (3)
It was time to expand, again. Now they turned to the North. To Rangoon, the prospering city on the Irrawaddy River. A city with so many opportunities. A city with no proper hotel. After 1886, when Upper Burma was annexed by the British desire for extended safe trading facilities and united with the lower part of the country, Burma was declared part of British India and Rangoon was its capital. After the visit, also in 1886, of the Viceroy, Marquis of Dufferein, the city was on its way to becoming one of the cornerstones of the British Empire. In 1892, Aviet (the youngest of the brothers) and Tigran Sarkies boarded a steamer bound for Rangoon. Tigran had been instrumental in setting up Raffles Hotel in Singapore. He had built the billiard room and he had introduced fine cuisine to Singapore. He had brought the first caviar to the colony.
The story of The Strand Hotel, Yanon:
Singapore - Raffles:
With experience gained from running their hotels in Penang, Tigran and Martin Sarkies investigated the possibility of opening a new hotel in Singapore. They found a large bungalow on the corners of Beach and Bras Basah Roads, fronting the seashore, yet quite close to the commercial centre of town. Previously the boarding house for boys at the nearby Raffles Institution, the bungalow needed only a few alterations and repairs before Tigran announced the opening of his new hotel which he called Raffles, in December 1887. His initial advertisement highlighted the factors that would make Raffles such a success: the promise of ‘great care and attention to the comfort of boarders and visitors’. Hotel extensions in 1889 soon proved insufficient, so the brothers opened a new two-storey Palm Court Wing in December 1894, offering thirty well-furnished suites, bringing the hotel’s total to seventy-five.
Sarkies Brothers were rewarded for their efforts as members of royal and aristocratic families and other dignitaries began to patronise Raffles. But the Straits Times remained scathing of Singapore’s hotels, declaring that Singapore lacked a well-designed, convenient hotel offering quality accommodation. Presumably Tigran heeded this criticism for he announced extensive, grandiose renovations in 1897. These plans finally won over the Straits Times which concluded that the ‘palatial building with excellent ventilation, and the vast airy dining room’ would make Raffles ‘one of the largest and handsomest hotels in the East’.
The new wing was opened on 18 November 1899. The old central block had been replaced by a magnificent Renaissance style three-storey block featuring a huge T-shaped dining room as the centrepiece. Boasting a Carrara marble floor, it seated 500 and occupied the whole of the ground floor, while its roof, crowned by a skylight gave the room an awesome air space. The two upper floors each contained fifteen suites, plus a large reading room and two drawing rooms. Two suites were set aside for Tigran and his family. A wide, richly decorated verandah surrounded the building, protecting the rooms from sunlight and rain while the new billiard room and bar were sensibly housed in a separate block. The hotel now offered 100 suites, all with furniture suited to the climate, as well as electric lighting - making Raffles the only hotel in the Straits lit by electricity. Not only did the hotel have its own steam engine to generate electricity, but a 10,000-gallon tank ensured a steady water supply. A special inauguration dinner for 200 guests was held in the dining room where electric light was used for the first time. The Straits Times representative who went along after the grand opening to see what things were like on an ordinary night, was most impressed, especially by the blazing lights as he approached the hotel from the sea front. Indeed, his only complaint was that the drawing rooms were unsuitable for flirting - due to a lack of screens, anyone who walked along the passageways could look in. Tigran should have sought the advice of a lady, he admonished. Tigran was quick to respond, assuring the writer that when the drawing rooms were finished, they would give every facility for flirtation. Ecstatic reviews of dinners dotted the press for the next three decades. Among early successes was the 1900 New Year’s Eve dinner. Lauded as the best banquet yet offered by a hotel in Singapore, it was claimed that half the town turned up for the dinner and the rest came in later to dance. However, travellers were once more complaining of the dearth of quality accommodation, strongly feeling that a first rate hotel under European management was urgently needed. Perhaps such comments en¬couraged Arathoon Sarkies and Eleazar Johannes to acquire the Adelphi Hotel in 1903, and the new owners of the Hotel de l’Europe to construct a modern hotel in 1904 (poaching Charlie Chaytor from Raffles to manage it). These entrepreneurial Armenians in charge of Singapore’s three leading hotels kept one another on their toes. An intense advertising war ensued as each tried to outdo the other vying for patronage for their special dinners, race dinners, coronation dinners and musical dinners. They wooed the diverse expatriate communities with lavish menus accompanied by musical delights to celebrate the birthdays of Kaiser Wilhelm, Queen Wilhelmina, King Edward and Queen Alexandra. In November 1910, having guided Raffles for twenty-three years, a sick Tigran sailed for England. Of some consolation would have been the Pinang Gazette’s glowing praise of his achievement - 'Raffles is more than a hostelry, it is an institution – the hotel has made Singapore famous to the tourist and an abode of pleasure to the resident.'
Arshak managed Sarkies Hotels until his end. Tigran and Martin had died in 1912, Aviet in 1923. On 9 January 1931 Arshak died at his beloved E&O Hotel. On 10 June 1931, the same year, Singapore businessman Tang Men Jim filed a bankruptcy case against Raffles Hotel for Straits Dollars 35,236.87 worth of food supplies. The case grew into the largest bankruptcy affair of the Straits Settlements. The firm of Sarkies Brothers, hotel proprietors, had total liabilities of 3.5 million owing to 195 creditors. Arshaks family had to leave their suite at the E&O hotel, a Raffles Hotel Ltd was put in charge, and the story of Messrs Sarkies Brothers, pioneers in their line of business, had come to an end. The story of the hotels involved, gladly, not. Raffles Singapore, the E&O in Penang and the Strand have all survived under different owners. The Crag on Penang Hill does not exist any longer.
Martin Sarkies (1852-1912)
Tigran Sarkies (1861-1912)
Aviet Sarkies (1862-1923)
Arshak Sarkies (1868-1931)
(1): The Armenian genocide of the people living in Eastern Turkish provinces was the first genocide of the 20th century, perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government against its defenceless and law-abiding citizens, the Armenians, a Christian minority in a Muslim state. For more than a quarter of a century, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire under the leadership of Sultan Abdul Hamid II and later under the rule of the Young Turk regime suffered unspeakable abuse, torture, massacres and persecution. This resulted in the rape, murder and deportation of more than 1.5 million Armenians from their historic homeland, and the destruction of a 3000-year-old heritage and rich culture.
(2): Martin had five children. His son Lucas Martin, born in 1876 in Penang, later founded the famous hotel Oranje. He moved to Malang and later to Surabaya, where he opened a grocery store. When a large piece of land became available he bought it and in 1910, his little son Eugene Lucas Sarkies had the honour of laying the groundstone for the Oranje Hotel, named for the Dutch royal family. Today the hotel is called Hotel Majapahit of Surabaya in East Java.
(3): The Sarkies also run and operated the Crag Hotel on Penang Hill, the cool retreat from the heat of the plains. And the Seaview Hotel in Singapore.
Ilsa Sharp: 'There is only one Raffles';
Nadia H Wright: 'Respected Citizens: the History of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia'
Andreas Augustin: 'The Strand, Yangon', 'The Raffles Treasury', 'Raffles Singapore';
The Driskill - Austin’s oldest operating hotel
The Driskill, a Romanesque-style building completed in 1886, is the oldest operating hotel in Austin, Texas, and one of the best-known hotels in Texas. The Driskill was conceived and built by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who spent his fortune constructing “the finest hotel south of St. Louis”. After all he was flush with cash from his service to the Confederate Army to which he supplied beef throughout the Civil War.
In 1884, Jesse Driskill purchased land in downtown Austin for $7500 and announced plans for a new hotel. Today, the Driskill remains one of the premier hotels in Austin, featuring lavish bridal suites, two restaurants, and a grand ballroom.
Cattle baron Jesse Driskill opened the hotel in 1886 in what was then a frontier town. He lost it two years later when his fortune went kaput after his herd died during a severe drought and a freeze.
The Driskill is composed of two interconnected buildings; the original four-story Romanesque Revival building constructed in 1886, and a 13-story annex constructed in 1930.
The original building, designed by local Austin architect Jasper N. Preston, was constructed with over six million pressed bricks and white limestone accents. The building contains two porticos on the southern and eastern facades, which contain large Richardsonian-style arches that were reputed to be the largest in Texas. The façade contains three limestone busts of Driskill and his sons; J.W. “Bud” Driskill facing Brazos Street, A. W. “Tobe” Driskill facing an alley on the west side, and Jesse Driskill facing Sixth Street, whose bust is surrounded by decorative carvings including longhorns on the gable ends.
The hotel opened with 60 rooms including 12 corner rooms with attached baths, a rare feature in hotels of the region at the time. At the center of the hotel was a four-story open rotunda capped by a domed skylight, which functioned as a flue to suck up the hot air and cool the building; the skylight was removed when air conditioning was installed on the roof in 1950. The building was designed for separate entrances for men and women. Two entrances, one on Sixth Street and another facing the alleyway on the west side the building, were reserved for men and were flanked by a saloon, billiard room cigar shop, a newsstand and a barbershop featuring baths. The women’s entrance on Brazos Street allowed female guests to proceed directly to their rooms, thereby avoiding the cigar smoke and rough talk of the cattlemen in the lobby. The second floor contained the main dining room and ballroom, separate parlors for men and women, a children’s dining room, and bridal suites. Other embellishments included an electric bell system, marble bureaus, steam heating, and gas lighting.
The 13-story annex, designed by the El Paso architecture firm Trost & Trost, opened in 1930. The 180-room annex contains a bungalow penthouse that is only accessible from the building’s roof. The bungalow contains two bedrooms with private baths, a living room, and a full kitchen. The bungalow was originally used as a private residence by superintendents of the Southern Pacific Railroad, but was later rented to high-profile guests including Jack Dempsey, Bob Hope, and President Lyndon Johnson. In 1979, the hotel manager restored the bungalow to use as his private residence.
The hotel held a grand opening on December 20, 1886, and was featured in a special edition of the Austin Daily Statesman. On January 1, 1887, Governor Sul Ross held his inaugural ball in its ballroom, beginning a tradition for every Texas governor since. In May 1887, less than a year after it opened, Driskill was forced to close the hotel, as he could no longer afford to operate the hotel following a harsh winter and drought that killed his cattle inventory. In addition, S.E. McIlhenny, the hotel’s general manager, and half of the staff were hired by the Beach Hotel in Galveston, which expedited the closure. Driskill sold the hotel in 1888 to his brother-in-law, Jim “Doc” Day, who reopened the hotel late in 1888.
Austin magnate George Littlefield, responsible for other Austin landmark’s opened the Austin National Bank on the southeast corner of the building; the old bank vault still remains. Littlefield later purchased the hotel for $106,000 in 1895 and vowed that it would never close again. Littlefield invested over $60,000 in renovations, including ceiling frescoes, electric lighting, steam heating, and 28 additional lavatories, but still sold the hotel at a loss of $25,000 in 1903 to banking competitor, Wilmot. Wilmot added a barbershop and women’s spa featuring Turkish baths, oversaw the construction of the annex, and adorned the former smoking room with eight antique Austrian gold leaf-framed mirrors previously owned by Maximilian and Carlota of Mexico.
In 1950, the hotel embarked on a renovation, which closed off the Sixth Street entrance and removed the rotunda’s skylight to make way for air conditioning units on the roof. In 1952, the former Austin National Bank was transformed into a television studio for KTBC, the very first television station in Central Texas.
In 1969, the Driskill closed its guest rooms in anticipation of a renovation and new tower containing a modern glass façade, which never materialized. Most of its furnishings were sold, and an American-Statesman article declared, “Driskill Hotel’s Fate ‘Sealed’.” The hotel was saved from the wrecking ball at almost the last minute, however, when a nonprofit organization called the Driskill Hotel Corporation raised $900,000.
In 1908, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas met at the Driskill hotel to discuss the fate of the Alamo Mission in San Antonio. At the meeting, a divide between two factions of the group erupted over whether to demolish or preserve the structure.
Braniff International Hotels, Inc., a division of Braniff Airways, Inc., of Dallas, Texas, bought the hotel in 1972 and began a $350,000 restoration of the grand lobby of the historic facility. Braniff reopened the hotel to customers on January 15, 1973, to very strong bookings and conference business. Braniff threw an official grand reopening celebration on February 10, 1973. Over 1000 guests attended the gala event that included a parade of every Texas Governor and/or their descendants, since 1886. All proceeds from the event went to the Austin Heritage Society, who was strategically instrumental in the resurrection of the Hotel Driskill.
In 1995, The Driskill was purchased by Great American Life Insurance, who embarked on a $30 million renovation to restore the hotel to its original appearance, which had been heavily modified over the years. The hotel closed for four years for renovation work and was re-opened in a Millennium celebration on December 31, 1999.
In 2013, The Driskill was purchased by Hyatt Hotels Corporation for $85 million, who embarked on an $8 million renovation of the hotel which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 25, 1969.
Theresa - the Waldorf Astoria of Harlem
The Hotel Theresa opened in 1913 on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem and closed its doors as a hotel in 1970.
Hotel Theresa, “The Waldorf of Harlem”
By Stan Turkel
On September 18, 1960, four months before the United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, Fidel Castro arrived in New York City for the 15th session of the United Nations General Assembly. He and his staff first checked into the Shelburne Hotel at Lexington Avenue and 37th Street. When the Shelburne demanded $10,000 for alleged damage that included cooking chickens in their rooms, the Castro entourage moved to the Hotel Theresa in Harlem. Castro’s group rented eighty rooms for a total of $800 per day. The Theresa was the beneficiary of worldwide publicity when Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, General Abdul Nasser, president of Egypt, Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of India, and Malcom X, all visited Castro there.
In the longest speech ever delivered at the United Nations, Castro transitioned seamlessly from his hotel experience to the discrimination faced by North American blacks to the broader evils of “imperialist financial capital” and the “colonial yoke”.
At the end of 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy made a campaign stop at the Hotel Theresa with Jacqueline Kennedy, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Senator Herbert Lehman, Governor Averill Harriman, Mayor Robert Wagner and Eleanor Roosevelt. “I am delighted to come and visit,” said Kennedy. “Behind the fact of Castro coming to this hotel, Khrushchev coming to visit Castro, there is another great traveler in the world, and that is the travel of a world revolution, a world in turmoil. I am delighted to come to Harlem and I think the whole world should come here and the whole world should recognize that we all live right next to each other, whether here in Harlem or on the other side of globe.”
The Hotel Theresa opened in 1913 on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem and closed its doors as a hotel in 1970. It was built by German-born stockbroker Gustavus Sidenberg and named for his recently- deceased wife. Coincidentally, Sidenberg’s second wife was also named Theresa. Architects George and Edward Blum were trained at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and they designed a full- blockfront all-white apartment hotel, 13 stories high with 300 guestrooms. Like its façade, the newly- opened Hotel Theresa had an all-white clientele and staff for its first twenty-eight years. In 1940, reflecting the changing population of Harlem, the hotel was acquired by Love B. Woods, an African American businessman who accepted all races, hired a black staff and management. The Hotel Theresa was integrated when most mid-Manhattan hotels wouldn’t accept Blacks. They could perform at the clubs, hotels and theaters in mid-Manhattan but couldn’t sleep in the hotel rooms or eat in their restaurants. Black America’s most famous stars: Josephine Baker, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Dandridge, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne and Count Basie had to go to Harlem for a night’s sleep. For many blacks the existence of the Hotel Theresa’s luxurious rooms, bars and swank shops was regarded as a sign that they had finally arrived, at least in Harlem. The hotel became known as the “Waldorf of Harlem.”
Seventh Avenue and 125th Street was called the Great Black Way. The neighborhood contained the Salem Methodist Church; the studio of James Van Der Zee, Harlem’s most famous photographer; the African Memorial National Bookstore; the mafia-owned Diamond Jewelry Store; the M. Smith Photo Studio; the Apollo Theater; Blumstein’s Department Store; Frank’s Restaurant; Harlem Opera House; Oscar Hammerstein’s Play House; Hartz and Seamon’s Music Hall; the Cotton Club; Mike’s Place; Savoy Ballroom; Nest Club; Smalls Paradise and The Club Baron.
In 1940, the following announcement appeared in the New York Age:
Harlem Hotel Seeks Negro Trade; Picks Manager: The Hotel Theresa at Seventh Avenue and 125th Street, which catered to white patronage for several years, has changed its policy as of March 20 and will cater to both races, under Negro management with a Negro staff, according to an announcement by Richard Thomas, publicity manager of the hotel. In carrying out its new policy for the accommodation of Negroes and whites, the Gresham Management Company, operators of the Theresa, appointed Walter Scott as the hotel’s manager. Extensive renovations and improvements of the service and facilities of the hotel have been undertaken. A staff of 80 persons has been employed.
The African American General Manager Walter Scott had been the business manager at the Harlem YMCA on 135th Street. A graduate of New York University and a World War I veteran, Scott had worked as a bellhop and waiter on the Hudson River Dayline boats. Early in April 1940, Scott and his wife Gertrude and their sixteen year-old daughter, Gladys moved into a six-room suite on the tenth floor.
In 1941, heavyweight champion Joe Louis attracted 10,000 fans when he stayed at the Hotel Theresa after a victory at the Polo Grounds. Soon thereafter, entrepreneur John H. Johnson was a guest at the Theresa when he started a new pocket-size magazine called Negro Digest and, in 1945, Ebony which was followed by Jet in 1951. After splitting with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X rented offices at the hotel for his Organization of Afro-American Unity.
In 1948, when GM Walter Scott resigned because of illness, Gresham Management hired William Harmon Brown as resident manager. Brown graduated from Howard University where he had earned a National Youth Administration scholarship, funded by a New Deal program. President Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary Ron Brown, the manager’s son, grew up in the hotel. U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel (D. New York) once worked there as a desk clerk. Earlier in 2016 Congressman Rangel retired after serving in the U.S. Congress from 1971-2016.
In 1971, the hotel was converted to an office building with the name Theresa Towers and was declared a landmark in 1993 by New York’s Landmark Preservation Commission.
Astor, John Jacob IV
The St. Regis Legend
With the launch of the latest edition of our book St. Regis (Grand Hotel) Rome we have a look at the legendary man behind this name. Colonel John Jacob Astor IV was born in Rhinebeck, New York on July 13th, 1864, the son of William Astor and great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, the German immigrant who made himself the richest man in America by investing in fur trading and real estate. Astor was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord and later went to Harvard. Then, he returned to the United States to manage the family fortune. He had two homes in New York. On 1 May 1891 Astor was married to Ava, daughter of Edward Shippen Willing of Philadelphia. Together they had a son and one daughter. In 1894 Astor wrote a semi-scientific novel about life on other planets, A Journey in Other Worlds. He also developed several mechanical devices, helped to develop the turbine engine, and invented a pneumatic road-improver. In 1897 Astor built the Astoria Hotel, New York adjoining the Waldorf Hotel which had been built by William Waldorf Astor, his cousin. The new complex became known as the Waldorf-Astoria. Astor became Colonel-staff to General Levi P. Morton and in 1898, at the time of the Spanish-American War, was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the US volunteers. He placed his yacht Nourmahal at the disposal of the U.S. government and equipped a mountain battery of artillery for use against the Spanish. He also played as an actor in two films, President McKinley's Inspection of Camp Wikoff (1898), and Col. John Jacob Astor, Staff and Veterans of the Spanish-American War (1899), in which he played his own role. Astor's real-estate interest included two other hotels, the Hotel St. Regis (1904) and the Knickerbocker (1906).
The site of the original St. Regis, at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, was a residential neighbourhood when Astor broke ground for it in 1902. He wanted to create a hotel where gentlemen and their families could feel as comfortable as they would as guests in a private home; in fact, he frequently used The St. Regis as a place for his personal guests and visiting relatives to stay at his invitation. For their comfort, Astor introduced such ‘modern’ conveniences as telephones in every room, a fire alarm system, central heating and an air-cooling system that efficiently predated modern air conditioning and allowed each guest to control the temperature of his room. Mail chutes were installed on each floor, a newsworthy innovation at that time. One of the hotel’s other novel features was a special design ‘for the disposition of dust and refuse’ – a central vacuum systems. All maids had to do was plug their vacuum cleaner’s hose into sockets situated throughout the hotel. Throughout its history of nearly a century, the St. Regis in New York has invariably attracted the most glamorous, creative and intriguing personalities. Among them Colonel Serge Obelensky, the Russian Prince who had been a page at the Czar‘s court before he escaped the revolution and grew up to marry Alice Astor; Marlene Dietrich, William Paley and his wife Barbara (‘Babe’) lived at The St. Regis as did Salvador Dali and his wife Gala.
It is a legendary fact that actress Gertrude Lawrence instructed her agent to arrange all her press appointments at The St. Regis. In 1909 Astor divorced Ava and, two years later, married his eighteen-year-old mistress Madeleine Talmadge Force, which scandalized New York society . Mr and Mrs Astor travelled to Egypt and Paris and, in the spring of 1912, decided to return to America as First Class passengers on board the brand new Titanic, probably because, given that Madeleine was 5 months pregnant, they wanted the baby to be born in America. They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg. After the accident Astor left his suite to investigate, he quickly returned and reported to his wife that the ship had struck ice. He reassured her that the damage did not appear serious. As his wife boarded a lifeboat, Astor asked if he could accompany her, due to her "delicate condition", but an Second Officer Lightoller refused, reminding Astor of the "women and children only" rule. Taking the refusal like a gentleman, Astor then threw his gloves to his wife, and lit a cigarette. He and his dog were last seen on deck. Astor died when the ship went down, on April 15, 1912. His body was recovered during the retrieval process by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett, on April 22, covered in soot, and partially crushed, leading experts to believe he had been smashed by a falling smokestack. He had $2,500 cash in his pocket. The body was delivered to Mr N. Biddle and forwarded to New York City on May 1. He was buried at Trinity Cemetery, New York. Madeleine survived to inherit 1.7 million from John, and on August 14th that same year gave birth to John Jacob Astor VI, who would grow up to become a millionaire playboy much like his father.
Additional references: First Class Passengers on the Titanic
Historic Hotel Names
All entries are in alpahbetical order.
BAUR AU LAC
in Zurich, Switzerland, is named after its first owner, a certain Mr Baur, and describes that it is situated right at the shores of Lake Zurich (au Lac).
One of the most common historic hotel names, referring in general to a loction with an extraordinarty good view (also italian "Bella Vista", spanish "Buena Vista", german "Zur Schönen Aussicht").
Bristol hotels all over the world like to claim that they were allowed to name their house after Frederick Augustus Hervey, the fourth Earl of Bristol. It has been said that the Earl only gave permission for the use of his title to those hotels that could measure up to his high standards. This is of course nonsense since the majority of these hotels opened their doors over 100 years after the Earl had died. Furthermore, these hotels also carry the coat of arms of the city of Bristol, a city, not a travelling aristocrat.We can assume that the early Bristol hotels (Rome 1870, Paris 1878 = not the Bristol we have today, this one was in Place Vendôme and the Hotel Bristol in Vienna, founded 1892) served as role-models to the hotels that opened in later years (Warsaw 1901, Oslo 1920, Paris 1925 plus around 50 further hotels across Europe).
They all proudly carry the coat of arms of the City of Bristol. The often quoted connection to the Earl of Bristol is no more than a poorly researched PR-gag.As you can see, the hotel trade is full of surprises and inventions. Until recently this story had been supported by many Bristol Hotels and sold to guests as fact.
Who first brought up the legend about the traveling duke - we don't know. The person in question is the late Frederick Augustus Hervey(1730-1803), Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry. The Earl and bishop was an eccentric traveller. Nevertheless, for the hotels to have named their houses with his consent, he should have lived one hundred years later.
The solution of the riddle is in the coat of arms.
We have long studied the legends around the Earl of Bristol. Finally we compared the coats of arms of the Earl and the City of Bristol. All hotels use the coat of arms of the city of Bristol, none the one of the Earl. For example, the coat of arms of the Hotel Bristol in Vienna went through various stages. The first one 100% resembled the coat of arms of the City of Bristol.In 1923 it was updated to a more modern version in Art Nouveau style. For the first time lions were used instead of unicorns. The lions later changed back to unicorns. The current coat of arms is once again graced by lions, however, the centre piece is the coat of arms of the city Bristol in England.
The term first appeared in London in the 16th century, but was taken over and developed on the European continent in the 1870s, when the first hotels – offering all possible and thinkable services and all of them under one roof – opened.
These hotel where usually owned by shareholders (this explains the absence of a personal name like e.g. "Sacher", "Brown's",).
(e.g. Grand Hotel Vienna, 1870)
: A Grand Hotel offers at least 100 of rooms, all of them of a considerable equal size and shape.
and it offers (and offered) - under one roof:
: accommodation (with bath rooms, en suite or on the same corridor).
: food and beverages (a restaurant, room service)
: stables (later garages)
: staff quarters (servants rooms - mostly on the upper floors, for the equipage of the wealthy traveller)
: services such as luggage transport (porter, upon request, extra to pay for)
: amenities such as heating (log fire in rooms, upon request, extra to pay for)
: light (candles, upon request, extra to pay for)
: all services related to organising things in the city (concierge - theatre tickets, train tickets and ship passages, ...)
The evolution of the Grand Hotel:
One day all services mentioned above, were included in the basic lodging price (no more extra bills for candles, log fire and service of porters, etc., today known as hidden hotel charges). In 1889, The Savoy Hotel in London was the first to provide all these services on an "all inclusive" base. The terms half-board and full-board (Halbpension, Vollpension) came into being - providing breakfast plus one or two meals per day included into the room rate.
The First Grand Hotel
The oldest Grand Hotel we have found so far opened in January 1774 in London. David Low opened the 'Grand Hotel'. The hotel was intended for residence by a wealthy clientele, with a top price of 15s. a night for a suite of two rooms.
The Grand Hotel (du Louvre) in Paris opened in 1855, the Grand Hotel Vienna in 1870.
Growing into a Grand Hotel:
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina (CH) was actually founded in 1851, but only changed its name to ‘Grand’ Hotel in 1890. The same applies to the Grand Hotel in Stresa, Italy, founded during the 1860s. The Grand Hotel Pupp in Carlovivary, Czech Republic, prides itself in a history dating back to 1701, but as a matter of fact, it had adopted the name ‘Grand’ Hotel only in 1913. The Grand at Trieste opened in 1873, the Grand Hotels Oslo and Stockholm in 1874, the Grand Hotel Vesuvio in Naples in 1882.
Imperial Hotels can not only be found in Imperial surroundings. You find them in democratic countries like America, too. Obviously the name is used to explain that the guest can expect "imperial grandeur". See a complete list of all Imperial Hotels here.
Berthold Kempinski was a wine merchant in Raschkow near Posen. In 1872 he moved to Berlin and became a popular restaurant owner. In 1889 he opened Berlin's largest restaurant. His philosophy was to make luxury available for everybody. On good days his "half portions for half the price" attracted 10,000 customers.
He later adopted a male heir, his son in law, Richard Unger. Kempinski died in 1910, on 5 October 1908 his name was registered as a trademark for "delicatessen" (Feinkostwaren). He never was a hotelier.
The Kempinskis were dispossessed during the Nazi era, arrested and deported. Today's hotel chain has no living connection to the Kempinski family.
Berlin's Hotel Bristol, opened in 1952, was managed by the Hotelbetriebs-Aktiengesellschaft (founded 1897). In 1970 it became the first hotel to bear the name Kempinski.
Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (6 July 1781 – 5 July 1826) was a British subject, best known for founding the city of Singapore (now the city-state of the Republic of Singapore). He is known as the "Father of Singapore". He was also heavily involved in the conquest of the Indonesian island of Java from Dutch and French military forces during the Napoleonic Wars.
1819, February 6th: Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles signed the treaty with the new Sultan of Johore to establish a trading post in Singapore for the British East India Company. Raffles installed a committee that drew the basic plans for a controlled development of Singapore.
The Sarkies brothers: Tigran, Arshak, Martin and Aviet (from left)
In 1886 the Armenian Sarkies brothers took over the manison of Captain George Julius Dare in Singapore´s prestigious "Twenty - House Street" (Beach Road). The property, facing the harbour, belonged to the Arabian trader Syed Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Sagoff. In 1887, the Sarkies transformed the house, which operated as a Tiffin Room, into a small hostelry and opened with 20 rooms only under the name Raffles Hotel on December 1st.
Only in 1899 the elegant Raffles Hotel main-building we know today with a total of 102 rooms was created. It was the first hotel in the Straits Settlements employing electricity to illuminate and cool a building.
The London hotel is named after Peter of Savoy, owner of the former palace which stood where the Savoy Hotel London stands today.
Countless Savoy Hotels appeared around the world. A hotel operating under this name opened in 1888, a year earlier than the London Savoy (1889) and it is where one would probably least expect it: in Kansas City, Missouri. It rose to considerable fame as the haunt of Roosevelt, Rockefeller and consorts. Unfortunately, during the recessional 1930s it suffered considerably and today, all that is left of its former glory is a modest inn (with an extraordinary interior) and the legendary Savoy Grill, which opened together with the West Wing in 1903.
On 1 March 1896, The Savoy in Florence opened its doors, and is still regarded as one of the city’s finest hotels. In Cairo, a Savoy Hotel opened on 28 November 1898, while there was another on Elephantine Island at Aswan. The Savoy in Copenhagen opened in 1906 and The Savoy in Berlin (1929), a small hotel, acquired popularity as an artists’ haunt. Today, one can find the name Savoy on hotels from Brighton (in Victoria, Australia) to Prague, from Frankfurt to Cologne, to Rotterdam, to New York, Blackpool, Caorle and San Francisco. A little hotel in the Italian beach resort of Grado was named The Savoy in 1952 because it was considered a traditional name for famous hotels. There is a Savoy in Buenos Aires, in Rome, Cannes, Vienna, New York and even in Thonon-les-Bains, France, not forgetting the one on the island of Madeira.
Oslo, Lausanne, Caracas, Berne, Moscow and Cannes all have their own Savoy. To distinguish the Baur in the city from the Baur au Lac in Zurich, the prefix Savoy Baur en Ville was added to the famous hotel in the Bahnhofstrasse. One can also find a Savoy hotel in the Swedish city of Malmö, in Cusco in Peru, in Yangon in Myanmar and in Melbourne, Australia.
(Kampala, Uganda) is named after the famous British explorer, John Hannington Speke, who 'discovered the source of River Nile. Speke Hotel is the first and oldest hotel in Uganda, built in the British Colonial times of the 1920.
- baur au lac
- earl of bristol
- grand hotel
- hotel imperial
- mandarin oriental
- new york
- oriental hotel
- palace hotel
- palast hotel
- savoy hotel
2021 Spring News
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
With 2020 over, and Corona not, the future of global travel will be different. In contrast, history is a stabile source of information. Our history books present the best stories and a solidly researched history of each hotel, its location and its people. In 2020, our online bookstore has received an unprecedented run of interested buyers, who didn’t want to spend endless months at home without visiting their favourite hotel – and be it from their rocking chair.
So, with more uncertain months of travel restrictions ahead of us, we present you our bookstore online, with more titles available than ever before. I can’t have you starving for famous hotels, so get prepared for your next journey and surprise your hosting hotelier with stunning facts about her or his property.
Above: Arrival of the english lady at the Grand Hotel Belvédère (1890)
Below: Symphony concert at the Grand Hotel Belvédère (1880)
The Grand Hotel Belvédère in Davos in the Swiss Alps was home to Robert Louis Stevenson, who invented „Treasure Island“ while spending the winter there. Conan Doyle’s stay came after the enormous success of Sherlock Holmes - he and his family stayed almost two years at the Belvédère. Yes, it’s that sort of hotel! You will like it, too.
But these are the well documented and illustrated stories of a distant past — today the Belvédère is host to the most dramatic meetings of the World Economic Forum and opens its doors to the likes of Bill Gates, the presidents of the leading powers and the greatest thinkers on earth. Talking about: yes, in the 1930s, Albert Einstein was there, too.
It is one of my most detailed books ever put together, thanks in particular to the picture editors and designer — over 270 (!) photographs were included.
I’d love to autograph your personal copy, just send me an email or add a comment in the buying instructions. Attention — an English and a German edition are available!
Stay safe, prepare to travel, enjoy life.
Yours - as always
Oberoi Mohan Singh
1972: M S Oberoi (left) meets president Sadat of Egypt (right) at the Mena House hotel in Cairo, Egypt. For both men the hotel was an object of prestige. Nasser needed a huge convention centre with a world class hotel attached to it. For Oberoi, Mena House was like the old Grand in Calcutta: a gem. He would make Mena House a landmark in restoration. A substantial sum would have to be spent to restore the hotel. Oberoi could not pitch in with any capital, but guaranteed a six per cent return on investment to the owning company Upper-Egypt Hotel Company and EGOTH – The Egyptian General Company for Tourism and Hotels.
Early Years of Mohan Singh Oberoi
1900: Mohan Singh was born on 15 August 1900. He grew up in Bhaun, a small city of some 8,000 inhabitants in Punjab, now in Pakistan. At 14 MS went to the Dayanand Anglo Vedic (DAV) School in Rawalpindi, chosen by his mother for its balanced mix of tradition and modernity. In Rawalpindi he saw two firsts: the first Englishman and the first hotel, Flashmans.
1901: Death of MS’s father, a 20 year old Sikh by the name of Sardar Attar Singh.
1916: After passing his matriculation exam, MS went to law school in Lahore, where he moved in with the family of Sardar Singh, his father's brother. His uncle was the proprietor of a flourishing shoe-factory, which gave MS exposure to the world of production and business.
1918: Half way to his bachelor’s degree, MS decided to abandon his studies in order to work in his uncle’s factory. Although initially not supportive of the move, MS’s uncle offered him a managerial position. However, times in India were uncertain and MS’s early career fell victim to wave the unrest and protest that was spread across the subcontinent.
1919: The shoe factory shut down after people were shot in Amritsar, causing widespread chaos.
First steps in the hotel trade
1920: At the age of 20 MS returned home and married the 15 year old Ishran Devi. Shortly after the wedding the shoe factory reopened and MS was eager to get back to Lahore. He burnt his bridges, however, by shaving off his beard, which offended his Sikh family and put an end to any chance of working for his uncle again. More woe followed when an epidemic broke out in Bhaun and MS was forced to flee along with his wife and small daughter. He arrived in Simla, where managed to get a 50 rupee-per -month job as a clerk at Faletti’s Cecil Hotel. At first his brief was to keep track of the hotel’s coal supplies and other deliveries of goods. Quickly impressing, he climbed to the position of guest clerk.
1923: MS was a quick learner, grasping social nuances as well as the nitty-gritty of hotel management and he could not have found better role models than the privileged guests of Cecil’s. He took on the responsibility of cashier.
1924: Birth of MS’ son Tilak Raj, TR (Tikki). By then MS was earning 60 rupees a month. 1927: Ernest Clarke, then manager of the Cecil Hotel, was offered a 1 year contract to manage the Delhi Club and asked MS to come along and join him there. MS accepted. It was a reckless decision, leaving an established chain for an uncertain future, but he had faith.Clarke’s Hotel, Simla.
1929: Birth of MS’s second son Prithvi Raj Singh, PRS (Biki). That same year, MS followed Clarke to the run-down 50-room Carlton in Simla. Clarke leased it from the bank for 9,000 rupees a year and renamed it Clarke’s Hotel.
1930: On March 17 1930 MS was made a partner at Clarke’s. He convinced Clarke to buy out the property instead of leasing it. They bought the hotel for 135,000 rupees, some 40,000 rupees less than the it was worth. The Delhi contractor Sardar Bahadur Narain Singh (who built The Imperial in Delhi) agreed to loan the money, if the property was mortgaged in the name of his son Jagjit.
1931: Occupancy of Clarke’s had doubled to 80 % since the takeover. MS was advertising: “Under European Management”. But debts were mounting too as the lease of the Carlton had also come with the struggling Grand Hotel in Delhi. Ernest and Gertie Clarke usually spent the winter in Delhi, while MS and his cousin Partap Singh Dhall were in charge of the Simla hotel.
1933-34: Ernest Clarke was in big financial trouble and MS had to come up with a plan to save the hotels. Clarke died shortly after and MS bought his shares from his widow for 20,000 rupees, loaning the money from a relative, Rai Bahadur Kapur.
1934: On 14 August MS became the sole proprietor of Clarke’s Hotel Delhi and Simla. That day he said to his daughter Rajrani: “Just wait, bitti, when you grow up, wherever you go there will be an Oberoi Hotel.”
1936: Having paid back all the loans on Clarke’s, MS was by chance offered the Grand in Calcutta, which had belonged to the Armenian real estate tycoon Stephen Arathoon and was in a state of decline.
1937-8: MS negotiated with the Mercantile Bank, liquidators of the estate of Stephen Arathoon, for a reduction of the Simla hotel lease. One condition was that a European manager should be appointed so MS brought in his former employer at the Cecil, DW Grove. Also coming in were: Shiv Nath Singh, owner of the Palace Hotel, Karachi, Katchand Kapur and Dr Hari Ram. With 25,000 rupees each in a partnership of four, they formed Hotel Pvt Ltd in 1938. to take the management lease for the Grand. On Dec 21 1938 the hotel reopened for business.
1940: Rajrani, eldest daughter of MS, wedded Colonel JC Kapur, nephew of Kahnchand Kapur at the Grand in Calcutta.1940-42: Profits were low and MS had to persuade his partners not to pull out of their investment by promising that not only would he share the profits but also singly bear all losses. Meanwhile, the war came to Calcutta, which along with Kandy, Ceylon became a centre of operations for the eastern theatre. Tens of thousands of men arrived en route to battles in Burma, the Philippines and Singapore. Ironically, this influx saved the Grand.
Rai Bahadur & The Imperial, Delhi1943: MS was presented with the title Rai Bahadur (pater familiae) by His Majesty the King. That same year, MS annexed the Associated Hotels of India chain and rented Delhi’s Hotel Imperial.
1944: At The Imperial, MS installed the custom of having a tall, stately Sikh doorman, in the full regalia of a viceregal bodyguard. A new menu was introduced into Oberoi hotels, including mince cutlets, custard cream, charcoal grill and the flambé at the Imperial’s Tavern. Delhi got its very first pasta, minestrone and pizza (now Punjabi pizza with chaat masala).Also that year, MS’ daughter-in-law Leela, who was in Paris for medical treatment, searched for a new French chef for The Imperial. After looking at Monsieur Gateau, chef of the Meurice Hotel, she finally chose Roger Moncourte. “Madame, I don’t care about le salaire, but I must have good cooking wine,“ he said upon accepting the job.
1947: MS bought out the property of the Grand for 89 lakh rupees, then paid off Kapur, Dr Rim and finally Shiv Nath.
Oberoi Expansion1947: The Oberoi Palm Beach opened.1948: Tikki and his friend Ripu Bhagat set up a travel agency, Mercury Travels. Tikki quickly lost interest so his sister Swaraj and her husband Gautam Khanna took over the business.
1949: On 26 May MS floated The East India Hotels Ltd (EIHL), named after the East India Company. Associated Hotels of India merged with EIHL. Although the company was public, there were just a few subscribers: Oberoi himself, his son Tilak Raj, Motilal Khaitan, Ripu Bhagat, N Haksar, E Brett and Man Singh. It would not go truly public till 1956.
1950 Gautam, son of Savitri Khanna, fell in love with Oberoi’s daughter Swaraj. MS could spot a human being’s potential as well as he could a hotel’s. He asked him to join his family and soon his business. He would later become Biki’s right hand man.
1951 MS bought the second Arathoon hotel in Darjeeling, the 65 room Everest Hotel.1952: The partnership of Hotel Pvt.Ltd, founded in 1938, was dissolved. That year also saw the Oberoi family embark on an around-the-world tour stopping at Paris, London, NY etc… and staying at the most exclusive hotels such as the George V, Dorchester, and Waldorf. For MS it was a fact-finding mission.Mid-50s: The Oberois moved from Calcutta to Delhi. The family moved into Maidens while Tikki set himself up in a lavish suite at The Imperial.
1955: MS took his first trip to Kashmir / Srinagar. For a fee of 5,000 rupees per month for 20 years, he bought the former Palace of the Maharajah Hari Singh, who had abdicated in favour of his son. The palace had been empty for a decade. It had a billiards room, a gun room, dozens of bedrooms and drawing rooms, grand audience halls, but just 10 bathrooms, some without doors. Oberoi bought back the whole furniture.That same year, Biki returned home from his studies in London and his master courses in haute cuisine at Lausanne.
1956: MS bought the Swiss Hotel opposite Maidens. It had once been the residence of Lord Curzon, was now owned by the Chunamals, an old Delhi family and leased by them by Steiner, formerly Associated Hotels. That year also saw the wedding of Tilak Raj Oberoi and Leela Naidu on 16. July. He was 33, she 17. Her father was a nuclear physicist, Science Director for UNESCO for South East Asia.
1957: MS’s youngest daughter Prem married Captain KK Mehra.
1958: Dispute at The Imperial over money:
MS rented out every corridor to shops at the hotel, making more money per shop than he needed to pay for the lease of the whole hotel. The landlord Saradar Bahadur took him to court and reclaimed the hotel, demanding that it be given back in the same state Oberoi had received it. MS removed everything: linen, cutlery or porcelain, carpets, furniture, paintings, chandeliers as well as bathroom fittings – the marble cladding, the toilets and the air-conditioning ducts. This brought the Oberoi period at The Imperial to an end.
1959: Biki married Goodie, the daughter of a Punjabi landowner of Lyalpur.
1964: Tikki proposed to the Teuton daughter of Ludwig Mittel Huber, the blonde Jutta. Tikki was a polo playing prince with a royal lifestyle.
1965: Tikki and Jutta’s son Arjun was born. Oberoi’s dream hotel, Intercontinental Hotel, opened. Unfortunately it coincided with the first Indo-Pakistan war.
1966: MS wanted to build a new 34 or 36 storey hotel and found a suitable plot of (expensive) land in Bombay. He entered into cooperation with ITT Sheraton. It was a project of great scale: the longest lobby in India, and ebony black Watco oil -finished wood. The design consultant was Dale Keller & Associates. Also that in ’66, Oberoi started a hotel management school in India. The Intercontinental’ F&B manager Sven Jorgensen was in charge of the school. It germinated at the Imperial Hotel, grew at the Intercontinental and then flourished into a sprawling institution at Maidens. Thousands applied for the 300 seats every year straight out of college.
1969: Oberoi took over his organisation’s first international venture: the Kathmandu Soaltee Hotel in Nepal, owned by Prince of Himalaya, the uncle of King Mohendra. Thus the Oberoi Group became an exporter of know-how at a time when India was not considered an expert in any entrepreneurial area. In December 1969 the Oberoi Soaltee opened. That same year, Oberoi took over the management of Singapore’s Imperial Hotel, where the first Oberoi Intercontinental manager William Land was working. The hotel was in a mess. It would stay under Oberoi until 1986.
1970: The Indian Government insisted that MS take up a project in Zanzibar, to complete a hotel for the island’s National Day. The Oberoi Group had no saying in the building of the structure. MS made an honourable retreat as soon as he could. Indeed, Africa remained an impenetrable area for the chain, as did Latin America.
1971: After a trip to London, Gautam Khanna stopped off in Egypt to scout business opportunities. On an excursion to the Pyramids in Giza, he stumbled on the dilapidated Mena House – an institution that was to hotel keeping what the Orient Express was to trains. MS travelled to Egypt immediately and found Mena House to be just like the old Grand in Calcutta and Gulab Bhawan in Kashmir. Mena House was owned by the Upper Egypt Company which had taken over the nationalized hotel from its previous Jewish owners, the Nungovich Company. One evening MS was introduced to Amr el Alfi, Egypt’s leading architect interior decorator, who put him in touch with the Minister of Tourism, Zaki Hashmi. A substantial sum of money would need to spend to restore Mena House to its former glory. Oberoi could not pitch in with any capital, but guaranteed a six per cent return on investment to the hotel’s owners. The new Elephantine Hotel in Aswan was also part of the deal.MS handpicked Rattan Tata, one of the brightest sparks in the Oberoi group from Singapore’s Imperial, to front the Mena House operation.
1972: The Oberoi Sheraton Bombay was ready to be opened to the public. In December, the first tourist group to arrive were Japanese. Meanwhile, at Mena House, Rattan Tata introduced the country’s first discotheque, the Saddle. Mena House was also the chosen venue for the Egypt-Israel talks, following an war Sadat’s peace initiative.
1972: Mena House was an “open sesame“ to the Arab world. Negotiations for the Baghdad Al Rashid Hotel began in the 1970s when Iran & Iraq were already at war. Oberoi would take on the management for 5 years, till Saddam Hussein decided that a foreign group running a hotel where state guests stayed did not quite gel with national pride. The group retained a presence at the Oberoi Babylon, on the banks of the Tigris.
1973: On April 7 the Oberoi Sheraton in Bombay officially opened. The cost of the project had risen from the initial estimate of 70 million rupees to 180 million rupees.
1973: Oberoi began building his first hotel outside India: the Lanka Oberoi. It was an Atrium design by the Armenian Group of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. At that time the Hyatt in Atlanta was the only other hotel featuring this concept. 1975: The Lanka Oberoi opened.
1976: The Windsor in Melbourne came into Oberoi’s sights. Dating from the 1880s, it had become something of a white elephant to its owners. The Australian government had taken over the hotel until Rai Bahadur, then 80 years old, won the bid to lease it for two years with an option for 20 more. Australia’s worst racism surfaced. “The Windsor goes to an Indian,” howled the press.
1977: A cooperation begun between Oberoi and the Arab Sheik Ali Tanuimi.
1978: The Bali Oberoi opened its doors.
1980: Unveiling of The Windsor Jewel in the Oberoi Crown. That same year, Ratan Tata moved to Dhahtan to head a company called Saudi Oberoi.
1981: The first achievement of Ratan Tata’s Saudi Oberoi company was the Dammam Oberoi - 300 rooms, 40 suites: the finest hotel in the Gulf Kingdom.
1984: Death of Tikki. Cecil’s closed down.
1985: Egypt presented Rai Bahadur with its coveted Order of the Republic – First Class award: two massive stars of gold for having promoted modern tourism in the ancient land of Misr. 1986: MS withdrew Oberoi from the management contract of The Imperial in Singapore.
1987: Biki spotted a European property in Budapest. The only problem was it happened to be the headquarter of the secret police.
1991: Oberoi signed the agreement for the Oberoi Gresham Palace in Budapest. Unfortunately things went wrong and the hotel ultimately opened as the Four Seasons Grisham Palace in 2004.
1988: On November 2 Ishran Devi died.
2002: MS Oberoi passed away, leaving a massive legacy to his family and to the world of hospitality.
2009: Irishman Liam lambert becomes CEO of the Oberoi Group.
2012: The Clarkes Hotel, after remaining temporarily shut following its lawns caving in because of construction in the eco-sensitive vicinity, reopened on 16 September 2012
2018: Mena House leaves the Oberoi Group (>>> Marriott)
2021: Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi (executive chairman), Vikramjit Singh Oberoi (MD & CEO), Arjun Singh Oberoi (MD Development)
The company currently manages 33 hotels under the luxury brand Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, with a further 10 five-star properties under the Trident Hotels brand. The group also operates the Clarkes Hotel in Shimla and the Maidens Hotel, Delhi (another Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World). However, these two properties are not held under the Trident or under the Oberoi brand.
Snippets from History: The Savoy London
Snippets of Hotel History: London, Savoy, 1890
In 2000, I lived at The Savoy London and researched its history. After a few weeks I had a very clear understanding of the historical dimensions of the house, where the old courtyards have been hiding, where they are today.
These are a few lines from my notebook from August 2000:
„I enter the Savoy through its neglected back entrance, through the small doors on the banks of the Thames, the "Embankment", which are more suitable for a provincial cinema than a world-class hotel. There are no liveried doormen here, no porters take your suitcases from you, no concierge watches over his realm with Argus eyes.
I find my way through eerie corridors, kitchens and storage rooms to a corner on the ground floor, where you can still see the corners of the foundations of the old courtyard today. A moment later, when I stand up one floor in the great hall, I'm the only person who knows that this was exactly where he stood. That this was once a courtyard of gigantic proportions, in which the echoes of the horse's hooves had broken loudly on the brick walls of the huge building. That this was once the main entrance to the hotel, where everyone got off their carriages. That there was a staircase.
These horse-drawn carriages stopped right in front of it. Only when you look closely do you understand that they were driving on the right-hand side of the road. They turned into the courtyard of the Savoy in a right-handed traffic system, stopped, loaded or unloaded their passengers, ended or began their tour. Here they got off, here they got on: Oscar Wilde, Arthur Sullivan, Nellie Melba, Lady de Gray, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. He stood at the top of the stairs and greeted them all. The king of hoteliers, the man who would revolutionize the hotel industry, who would do everything possible to make his guests happy, to fulfill even the most spoiled English snob the craziest wish to make the impossible possible: César Ritz.“
The photograph I am referring to shows an almost bold man on top of the staircase to the left: César Ritz. All characters in this picture seem to be frozen - a sign that the photographer had advised them not to move! To the left the entrance to a small florist shop.
A Palace on the Strand
In 1900 visitors to London were advised by Baedeker to find a hotel on the Strand. The choice began with 700-room Hotel Cecil, built on the site of Lord Cecil’s Thameside home, then the Savoy (built by Richard D’Oyly Carte who produced the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas), and finally the Charing Cross Hotel, a 350-room mansion immediately above the famous railway station.
One hotel that was not explicitly recommended stood immediately opposite the Cecil. Haxell’s Family Hotel was a more modest three-storey proposition. It occupied two buildings either side of the neo-classical entrance to Exeter Hall. But Exeter Hall was famous all around the English-speaking world in the nineteenth century as a meeting place where great issues of the day were discussed. The establishment of a free colony of South Australia was first mooted here in 1834, and the British anti-slavery movement pretty much began in the hall’s 4,000-seat main auditorium. Hector Berlioz on his visits to London in 1852 and 1855 conducted concerts in Exeter Hall.
By 1900 however this big old venue was in need of repair, and it was obvious that the site could be put to a much more lucrative use. In 1907 the Strand Hotel Limited Company was founded by the Salmon and Gluckstein families, German Jewish tobacco importers who had settled in London’s East End. They bought and demolished Exeter Hall in order to build an imposing new hotel, “Strand Palace”, which opened in 1909.
The year 1909 was a good one for hotels. The Astoria Hotel in Brussels (now the Corinthia Grand Hotel Astoria), Hamburg’s Hotel Atlantic (now the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski) and the Hotel Victoria in Toronto all opened that year. The new Strand Palace retained Exeter Hall’s old imposing entrance and even added some Art Nouveau flourishes to its roofline but it had one problem. The two wings of Haxell’s Family Hotel were still connected by a corridor that had run through Exeter Hall and now ran through the brand-new Strand Palace Hotel. This anomaly was finally dealt with in 1922 when J. Lyons & Co, the famous British coffee house company (a subsidiary of Salmon & Gluckstein) bought the two Haxells hotels to merge all three buildings and create one hotel the size of a city block.
The resulting hotel was indeed huge. By the time it was completed in 1928 the new Strand Palace had 980 bedrooms grouped around six inner courtyards. This made it bigger than the 700-room Cecil but – unlike the forward-looking Savoy - most of the Strand’s bedrooms were without private baths.
The evolution of Strand Palace hadn’t finished yet however. In the 1930s Lyons assigned its chief architect, Oliver Percy Bernard, to refurbish the hotel in the Art Deco style that was proving popular at high-profile hotels like the Dorchester and Claridges. Bernard created such a remarkable interior that when the hotel’s pink marble lobby, with its translucent moulded glass balustrades and chromed steel columns, was being ripped out in an unfortunate 1960s modernisation the Victoria & Albert Museum bought it in its entirety. It was subsequently reconstructed at the museum for a major retrospective on British Art Deco.
During World War II this massive hotel was commissioned as an official rest and recuperation base for American troops in London, but in 1958 its number of rooms was reduced to 785 when private bathrooms were added to every bedroom.
Today the hotel’s main entrance is still through the archway that led to Exeter Hall and later to the Art Deco lobby of Oliver Percy Bernard. You have to look carefully at the façade however to make out the lines of the old archway as the major rebuilding of 1922-28 created a seamless stone façade fronting on to the Strand. A recent 21st century refurbishment has however reintroduced some Art Deco touches in a nod to Bernard. The 785 almost identical bedrooms now have 1930s-style wooden shutters and low Art Deco armchairs. Room numbers are spelled out in a metal geometric typeface all the way down the long dark brown corridors. One feature that has remained untouched – even by Bernard’s Art Deco revamp – is the main staircase that was constructed in the 1920s when the original Strand Palace and the two Haxell hotels were merged. This monumental staircase has ornate brass balustrading and rises up all nine floors although it is tucked away towards the back of the hotel as by 1928 guests would be expecting to take elevators from the lobby.
Another nod to the past is the hotel’s restaurant, a new construction opposite reception that bears the name of Haxells. It’s a nice touch that the modest family hotel with its two halves connected through the Strand Palace Hotel of 1908 lives on in that name.
Sadly Hotel Cecil, which Baedeker urged on visitors to London in 1900, was demolished in 1930 but its façade remains gazing across to Strand Palace Hotel. Behind the façade where was once a grand courtyard for guests to park their cars stands the office of Penguin Random House, publishers of Lonely Planet and the Dorling Kindersley Travel Guides, the Baedekers of the twenty-first century.
Galle Face - Pimm’s o’clock
Calling for Corona Memorabilia
Calling for Corona papers, documents and related memorabilia
The Most Famous Hotels in the World, The Library of Hospitality, is calling for the submission of Corona related documents such as
- Photographs capturing the particular atmosphere
- Announcements at public places
- Documents / releases / rules
- Publications, etc.
- Peronsal experiences / records / correspondence
in short all and everything documenting the events occurring during/because of Corona — hotel / restaurant / transport & tourism in general related times of 2019/2020.
This material will be stored in retrieval systems of The Library of Hospitality - the The Most Famous Hotels in the World Archives.
You can submit material via email, we-transfer or other means of transmission and download to [email protected]
The Façade Competition: does Size matter?
Above: Raffles Hotels Singapore
By Andreas Augustin
The Façade Competition: famous hotels are architectural giants in every respect. Often their façade dominates the surrounding. It is the first thing visible to arriving guests. Does length matter? We have meassured and listed the most famous protagonists of the trade.
LARGEST HOTELS OF EUROPE
Grand Hotel Europe, Russia, St Petersburg: its façade strechtes over 180 metres
South East Asia's historic hotels:
The façade of the Hotel Le Royal (today Raffles) spanns 88 metres. It opened in 1929.
Above: Metropole, Hanoi, Vietnam: 93 metres (in 1901)
HOTELS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA
Eastern & Oriental, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia 177 metres beachfront (both hotels combined)
Galle Face Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka: 123 metres beach/city façade, 93 m Galle Face (city) façade (in 1900)
Metropole, Hanoi, Vietnam: 93 metres (in 1901)
Le Royal, Phnom Penh, 88 metres (today Raffles)
Grand Hotel d'Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 82 metres (in 1930) (today Raffles)
Raffles Hotel, Singapore: 47 metres (main building only), 128 metres (Beach Road façade including main building and Palm Court, in 1899)
Strand Hotel, Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) - 35 metres (in 1901)
Oriental Hotel, Bangkok (historical first building only, in 1888) 29 metres, today including the River Wing 90 metres.
While the Mandarin Oriental and the Strand Yangon appear rather small in comparison, we must not forget that The Oriental has trippled its size ever since it opened. And The Strand simply is among the smallest boutique hotels in the world, but nevertheless a hospitality legend and giant! So, size really does not matter.
To be continued.
Hanoi: The Opening Riddle
1896! No Problem!
by Andreas Augustin
In 1996, I received a phone call from Richard Kaldor, one of the first general managers of the newly reopened Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam: ‘Could you come and research the history of our hotel?‘
‘Of course,’ I replied like a shot, ‘give me an idea of when it opened?’
‘Well, that’s the problem, ‘replied Kaldor. ‘It was 1896.’
‘That’s no problem,’ I said.
He continued: ‘Let me finish my sentence! — Or maybe in 1906. We simply do not know!’
I have unearthed the original building plans of Raffles in Singapore, which had been lost and missing for over 100 years. It can not be so difficult!
Intrigued, I said yes, I would come to research the hotel’s history and try to pinpoint the exact opening date. I travelled to Hanoi to see the hotel’s archives. But, there was nothing but one old black and white photograph showing the hotel around the turn of the last century. I started to visit the city’s public archives, accompanied by my Vietnamese assistant, Mrs. Tuan Thi Le Diem, a local historian. In Europe, my wife Carola started to search for material. A global team of historians was at work.
Of course we were looking for documents about the building history. Imagine Hanoi 1996: dusty archives. Documents packed in brown wrapping paper. All numbered with reference numbers. But no catalogue, no index to check what is where. Where on earth did the libraries' index cards disappear to? How to find building records, annals and chronicles. I have unearthed the original building plans of Raffles in Singapore, which had been lost and missing for over 100 years. It can not be so difficult!
‘If you don’t have a reference number, we are unable to give you any documents. The numbers are in the reference catalogue. However, I am afraid, we don’t have a catalogue for the archives. Maybe they were all relocated to France in 1954,’ was the standard answer.
1954; that was the year when the French left Tonkin, as Vietnam had been called in colonial times.
I went to Aix-en-Provence, to visit the colonial archives 'Archives d’Outre-Mer'. Here, I accidentally discovered the catalogue. unbelievable. The French had taken the index files with them in 1954. A huge drawers cabinet. May be in fear that it would be destroyed, maybe because they wanted to make it extremely difficult for future researchers to work.
I proudly handed him a list of numbers. Equally excited as I had been, he dashed down various alleys of his archive, more a warehouse filled with papers than a well organised library at that time. He returned with stacks of files. More and more to follow. We opened them cautiously. A request for a building permission of arched lamps in front of the .... YES! Hôtel Metropole! And here a correspondence of the founder of the hotel, Andre Duchamp! What a feeling! Relief! I received and copied hundreds of pages.
Slowly the history of Hanoi and the story of the beautiful capital of Tonkin unfolded. One by one I virtually met the old colonialists. I concentrated on the 1880s. I made the acquaintance of a character called Gustave-Émile Dumoutier, the son of an industrialist, born in France on 3 June 1850. Dumoutier was made Tonkin’s Chief Education Officer on 5 June 1886. He also founded the Académie Tonkinoise. Alongside him, another key protagonist rose from the mists of history: André Ducamp, a business man in Hanoi in the 1890s.
Gustave-Émile Dumoutier and André Ducamp formed an alliance to build the Hotel Metropole. But when did they open it? After meticulous archival research, I was able to prove that in 1896 and 1897 the Hanoi Hotel was the only notable hotel in the city. The guidebooks of that time didn’t know anything of a Metropole Hotel either. Slowly I narrowed it down and continued to work myself through time.
We concentrated on 1902 and 1903. Suddenly the hotel appeared. It was mentioned in every guide book, in newspapers and travel articles. In the British Library we found a 1902 account of the hotel from a certain Alfred Cunningham, the founder of Kong Kong's South China Morning Post, who was among the Métropole’s first guests. He had been clearly impressed: ‘The most important hotel in Hanoi is the Hôtel Métropole. It is a splendid building, only very recently erected, and is situated on the boulevard Henri-Rivière, immediately opposite the Résidence Supérieure.’
From now on the search went backwards. To cut a long story short: we were able to pinpoint the opening date on the month. During the first weeks of August 1901, the Grand Hotel Metropole Hanoi had opened its doors. It had become the joint venture of André Ducamp and Gustave-Émile Dumoutier. Ducamp became its first general manager.
Now our search concentrated on related material like photographs, luggage stickers, postcards, the usual memorabilia. We stumbled upon a picture of an electric tramway carrying Hôtel Métropole advertisements on their roofs. From the United States we received a 1920s label of the 'Grand Hotel Metropole', designed by Dan Sweeney. We found out that he was a seasoned illustrator who drew posters for leading Asian hotels, among them The Oriental in Bangkok, The Peninsula in Hong Kong, the Majestic, the Astor House and the Palace in Shanghai, the Manila Hotel and the Continental Palace in Saigon). Read more about him here.
Slowly I was able to paint a picture with figures and facts. The book took on shape. The characters of the past started parading through the pages in the glimmering light of a new rising wealth, created by an unbelievable rubber boom.
We discovered a charming link to the Hotel Scribe in Paris. Both are managed by Sofitel, both hotels can today claim that they are 'historically listed' as the premiere venues for "moving pictures". The Scribe even housed the world premiere, while the Metropole was Indo-China's first venue to show movies. We found out that the restaurant cars between Hanoi and the cities of Vinh, Hue and Tourane in the south were operated by the Compagnie Française Immobilière, the parent company of the Hotel Métropole. Suddenly astonishing printed material appeared and we started getting an pictorial impression of the hotel in the past. We were able to prove that the Metropole was visited by Charlie Chaplin and his wife Paulette Goddard.
After about two years we were able to establish the first fine press kit with an extensive history section; the hotel's first PR manageress Sarah Grant helped building it.
Authors like Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene and many others had been spending time at the hotel. The father of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh had wonderful stories connected with the hotel.
Touching the 1950s, 60s and 70s we entered a field of research were we could relate to people who had actuylly been working at the hotel during that time. They were still alive. Former staff turned out to visit me at the hotel for an interview. They brought their memoirs along with photographs and we had a great time reviving the good old past. Guest from the past appeared as helpful allies to complete the picture.
THE PATH OF HISTORY
During the Vietnam war Jane Fonda spent weeks in her suite at the hotel. She, like many others, was seeking refuge at the hotel's bunker which has been reopened. To discover that Joan Baez had cheered the spirits by singing in the hotel's bunker during US air raids led to a completely new and encouraging effort. Now we wanted to see if the hotel's air raid shelter can be reopened. Its restoration to an accessible museum led to the creation of the PATH OF HISTORY, today the hotel's living museum, where trained Ambassadors of History give tours twice a day. With all our efforts we have turned the hotel’s history into a powerful sales concept.
The book has been very well received. Over the next years – together with the hotel – famoushotels.org developed a history PR scheme, based on our research. Today the hotel has suites named after these outstanding personalities. We have supplied the photographic documents and the related stories.
The old photograph of the hotel which I had found in the hotel in the beginning has been carefully restored and coloured. It still graces the cover of our 160 pages hard-case book. The first edition appeared in 1998. Ever since we have updated every edition with new material. While we are speaking the next edition appears – and only last week we had the pleasure of acquiring another great photographic document – for the book's next edition. The family of the first owner has submitted photographs ... very exciting!
Ever since the Metropole in Hanoi is one of the truly elegant hotels of South East Asia — one of the 'Maidens of the East', situated in the busy capital of Hanoi. It was a long way from Indochina to indochic.
- charlie chaplin
- dan sweeney
- graham greene
- grand hotel europe
- ho chi minh
- hong kong
- hotel metropole
- jane fonda
- joan baez
- path of history
- paulette goddard
- somerset maugham
- south east asia
- the peninsula
Stefan Zweig at Hotel Regina, Vienna
Deutscher Text im Anschluss:
Austrian author STEFAN ZWEIG, born in Vienna in 1881, left his home country for good in 1937, escaping the growingly unbearable Nazi terror. Between 1934 ynd 1937, whenever in Vienna, he stayed at the Hotel Regina in the 9th district, overlooking Votiv Chruch and the Ringstrasse from his room (today the Stefan Zweig Suite). The hotel was to become his last registered address in Austria. During the reign of the National Socialist party in Germany and after 1938 in Austria, being a jewish author his writings were banned in the German speaking world. The Nazis burnt his books.
The classical facade of the Hotel Regina in Vienna, to the left the windows of the Stefan Zweig Suite.
Zweig on his second journey to Brazil (1942)
Zweig chose the city of Petropolis in Brazil for his exile. There, on 22 February 1942, Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte committed suicide. The ‘New York Times’ published the story on its front page. In his suicide note, he wrote: ‘…after the world of my own language sank and was lost to me and my spiritual homeland, Europe, destroyed itself… I send greetings to all of my friends: May they live to see the dawn after this long night. I, who am most impatient, go before them’.
His death spelt the end of one of the most translated European literary figures. He left behind countless stories, novels, biographies, essays, translations, theatre plays and notes on his travels. The world also lost a vigorous advocate of young talent. Being a PEN Club member and multilingual lecturer around the world, he promoted potential young stars at any given opportunity.
Stefan Zweig stayed at the Hotel Regina in Vienna during his last visits to his hometown. On Hotel Regina stationery he wrote countless letters to Hermann Hesse, Richard Strauss and his French translator Alzir Hella.
On 28 November 1937 (his birthday), he penned a three page inventory of his personal collection of the letters and manuscripts he exchanged with Hesse, Zuckmayer, Mann, Roth, Schweitzer, Werfel, Wildgans, Roda-Roda, Schnitzler, Kafka, Lernet-Holenia and many more — all on HOTEL REGINA letterheads.
Der Schriftsteller STEFAN ZWEIG, geboren 1881 in Wien, wich dem Naziterror und verließ Österreich 1937 und wohnte bei seinen folgenden Wienbesuchen im Hotel Regina im 9. Bezirk. Das Hotel war seine letzte gemeldete Wiener Adresse. Lange schon waren seine Werke in der deutschsprachigen (Nazi-) Welt verboten und verbrannt worden. Er emigrierte nach Brasilien.
Zweig with Lotte Altmann, his secreatey and second wife.
Am 22. Februar 1942 beging Zweig zusammen mit seiner Frau Lotte Selbstmord. Die „New York Times“ brachte die Nachricht auf ihrer Titelseite. In seinem Abschiedsbrief vermerkte er: „... nachdem die Welt meiner eigenen Sprache für mich untergegangen ist und meine geistige Heimat Europa sich selber vernichtet ...“ und schloss mit den Worten: „Ich grüße alle meine Freunde! Mögen sie die Morgenröte noch sehen nach der langen Nacht! Ich, allzu Ungeduldiger, gehe ihnen voraus.“
Zweigs Tod beendete die Karriere des meist übersetzten Literaten Europas. Er hinterließ eine unübersehbare Menge an Erzählungen, Biografien, Essays, Übersetzungen, Theaterstücken und Reiseaufzeichnungen.
Als energischer Fürsprecher für junge Talente war er ihr großer Förderer gewesen, Mitglied des PEN Klubs und vielsprachiger Vortragender in literarischen Kreisen rund um die Welt.
Am 28. November 1937 verfasste er auf dem Briefpapier des Hotel Regina das dreiseitige Verzeichnis seiner persönlichen Autographensammlung mit Briefen und Manuskripten von Hesse, Zuckmayer, Mann, Roth, Schweitzer, Werfel, Wildgans, Roda-Roda, Schnitzler, Kafka, Lernet-Holenia und vielen anderen.
Read this and more stories about the HOTEL REGINA — by Andreas & Carola Augustin
The Clean Check
JONATHAN LITTLE, STAFF WRITER
2020 Survey: Almost half of guests will spend 30 minutes cleaning their own hotel room before use!
And 14% would bring their own fresh sheets and towels to a hotel
Did you know that arriving in style at a Grand Hotel 100 years ago meant that you were accompanied by your own staff, e.g. your chambermaid, your personal servant, a valet. We are late 19th century, of course.
You personal valet would start by checking the premises for bugs and hunt down any unwanted tenant in your prospective room. They would prepare the beds, check the room for cleanness, stock the fireplace and - in pre-electric days - organize sufficient supply of candles.
Today severe hygiene measurements are in place, hotel chains have rigid rules and the checklist of a hotel room is as long as your elbow. Five star 5* travellers are content with the quality to expect, however, low budget and 3*-4* travellers don’t trust hotel room hygiene. In particular post lockdown and in days of Corona this subject is key.
A recent survey entertained in Great Britain reveals that almost all travellers don’t trust hygiene in hotel rooms.
Bed linen dirtiest items in a hotel room
92% of hotel guests consider bed linens as the dirtiest items found in a hotel room, and 87% will check before use.
Almost half of guests will spend 30 minutes cleaning their own hotel room before use!
42% of all guests clean a hotel room before using it!
A survey conductedy by End of Tenancy Cleaning Company discovered that a staggering 42% clean a hotel room before using it!
Upon arrival, Brits claim they check the following five items the most for cleanliness:
- Bed linens 87%,
- Glasses and mugs 72%,
- Remote controls 65%,
- Telephones 57%,
- Light switches 49%,
14% of Brits would bring their own fresh sheets and towels to a hotel
Other items considered „to be the dirties in the room“ include
- Upholstered chairs /sofas,
- Decorative cushions /blankets,
- Windows and windowsills,
- Curtains and of course Carpets.
The survey also revealed how long British guests spend cleaning a hotel room before use:
- 46% spend half an hour
- 21% spend at least an hour
- 13% spend more than one hour
End of Tenancy Cleaning also asked those who cleaned their hotel room whether they bring their own cleaning supplies. 29% said they did, whilst 13% said they just asked the hotel for supplies.
Of those that said yes, it was then discovered the most common cleaning supplies hotel guests bring which include:
- Wet wipes (58%)
- Bleach or sanitiser (51%)
- Fragrance spray or candles (33%)
- Own glass or mug (26%)
- Own fresh sheets and towels (14%)
Ivan Ivanov, Managing Director of End of Tenancy Cleaning, who also provides Coronavirus cleaning services, has commented on the findings: “It’s quite clear that hotel guests are keen to inspect their own hotel room, even if they trust it to have been cleaned to the highest standard. The fact more than half are willing to do so, just goes to show how important it is for hotels to thoroughly clean the rooms before customers arrive and avoid complaints and issues of compensation if the standards are not met.”
Feuilleton 398: Born to Survive
The Most Famous Hotels in the World as an exclusive and select group of historic and famous hotels, who have seen it all, cholera epidermic‘s, world wars, oil crisis, stock market collapses, … yes, and Corona, are obviously born and trained to survive them all. It is because our hotels have never ceased to come up with something inspiring and entertaining, attracting travellers from near and afar.
Literally rising like the Phoenix from the ashes, let me quickly throw three samples into this letter. The Peninsula in Hong Kong was supposed to open in 1926, before it got occupied by British troops, who used it as barracks, destroying its luxurious interiors. It had to be refurbished and finally opened in 1928, only to be hit by the worst economic slump of 1929. Today it stands —greater than any other.
Or take the Imperial in Vienna, a former palace, converted into hotel in 1873 for the world exhibition. Only a few weeks after it opened, the city was hit by a cholera epidemic. A few months later, the worlds first stock exchange crash occurred in Vienna and saw the economy dwindling. Not only did the hotel survive all this but also two world wars and the above listed various crises.
Another sample I only recently wrote a book about is the Prince de Galles in Paris. It opened only weeks before the economic crash of 1929, and operated virtually unvisited by guests for the first weeks. Today it is among the best hotels in the world, an icon of Art Deco in Paris.
What I’m trying to aim at is that the world of The Most Famous Hotels is living with ups and downs, with crisis and disasters. They are great at flying high in good times, and the proverbial rock in the storm when it comes to bad times. It is a proven thing that following the times of recession we are expecting an other golden age of travel.
So to my readers and friends near and far, I can only say: famoushotels first, go and visit them. The admired view from the terrace has not changed, it is still walking on thick noise swallowing carpets or over shining marble, looking at marvelous decorated high ceilings and enjoying the splendour of days gone by, kept alive only here. These hotels are more than museums of hospitality, many of them for over one century. They are the keepers of a tradition, the masters of the art of reception and well being. Not to forget all the people who work there and who so happily welcome you back.
As long as we don’t travel abroad or put ourselves at the risk of a long haul flight, visit "your" hotel locally. Look up the next one near to you in our well sorted list of over 450 properties around the world. Spend the weekend there in secluded safety, patronise their restaurants, buy yourself a time out in serene luxury. Or - seriously - book yourself into one of our hotels over the winter. Here's is how to go about this: https://famoushotels.org/news/long-term-stay
The First “Grand” Hotel
In No. 43 King Street, in Covent Garden, the first house to be built on this site, was occupied by Admiral Edward Russell in 1689 or 1690. He had played a leading part in bringing William of Orange to England, and as Treasurer of the Navy and commander of the fleet was the dominant naval figure in the French war of 1689–97, defeating the French fleet at La Hogue in 1692. In May 1697 he was created Earl of Orford. Later in the same year he took a twenty-one-year lease of this house from his uncle (who by then had become the first Duke of Bedford).
The Piazza North-west corner as depicted by Hogarath in 1738.jpeg
1747: 43 Kings Road, 30 years before it became a hotel,
Orford died in 1727 and we jump ahead of time to the 1770s, when the residential quarters of the seventeenth-century aristocracy were undergoing a decisive degradation, and henceforward Lord Orford's old house ceased to be a private residence. In May 1773 a fifty-five-year lease, to run from Midsummer 1779, was taken by David Low, described as a peruke-maker of Covent Garden (probably Southampton Street). The rent was £200 per annum.
In January 1774 Low opened the house as the Grand Hotel. He invited the Duke of Bedford's chief agent to the opening. The hotel was intended for residence by a wealthy clientèle, with a top price of 15s. a night for a suite of two rooms.
From an early date the occupant of the house on this site had enjoyed the use of the most prominent pew in the church, in the centre of the east gallery, over the communion table: the respectability of Low's hotel is shown by his and his successor's eagerness to obtain the continuance of this privilege for their customers.
1774: the coffeeroom
By 1776 Low had added a range of bedrooms to the northern rear wing of the house, and made a coffee room in the basement. Other decorative work of this period, probably installed by Low, survived into the nineteenth century. He also made an opening into the house from the portico walk. Low later claimed that his alterations cost him £6,000 or £7,000.
He fell into difficulties with mortgagees, and by 1779 the ratepayer was another hotel-keeper, Isaac Froome, evidently as Low's lessee at a rent of £525 per annum. By 1786 Low was bankrupt and his assignees put the lease of the property up to auction, when it was bought for £1,600 by Froome. The character of the establishment is brought out in a letter to the Duke of Bedford in 1788 from Froome who sought the Duke's inspection and recommendation of 'the only Hotel for Families on your Grace's estate . . . being fitted up in a Stile of Elegance for the reception of the Nobility and Gentry requiring temporary residence in Town'.
From 1795 until the 1830's the building was usually in divided occupation, as a hotel and a coffee room. The appearance of the latter in 1804, evidently not much altered since Low's day, is shown on Plate 78b. It was at that time in the possession of Charles Richardson, who had acquired the famous lion's head originally at Button's coffee house, which can be discerned on the end wall.
In 1833 (and perhaps earlier) part of the premises was let off in apartments as Covent Garden Chambers. In the following year the lease was renewed to Walter Richardson, wine merchant, for twenty-one years at £260 per annum. In the previous year, however, some fittings, including a carved marble slab (part of a chimneypiece) and two 'landings' of inlaid oak. were removed by the Duke.
In the years 1835–7 the newly formed (Royal) Institute of British Architects had its first headquarters here, under a sub-lease at £100 per annum from Walter Richardson's mortgagee, Sir Henry Richardson.
By this time, however, part of the premises, still known as the Grand Hotel, was in the hands of a former actor and singer, W. C. Evans, who during the 1840's made the house very well known as a late-night rendezvous for song-andsupper entertainments in the basement.
Evans was succeeded in about 1846 by John Green, a self-styled 'father of the music halls'. Under 'Paddy' Green the song-and-supper part of the establishment, still retaining the name of 'Evans's', prospered greatly.
In 1850–1 some alterations of unknown extent were made to the building. In 1855 Green took a forty-year lease of the premises and had a large singing-room or music hall constructed at the back of the hotel. It was approached via the old singing-room in the basement, which had been made, probably by Evans, out of the former coffee room.
Evan's music hall at No. 43 King Street, 1855. W. Finch Hill, architect
The architect was W. Finch Hill. This expensive piece of work, with its Bath-stone columns and elaborate gas-lighting, was built in four months, to be ready to receive the provincial visitors to London 'during the week of the Cattle Show'. The contractor was W. Jackson, and the work, with some alterations to the hotel, cost nearly £7,000. (ref. 122) The appearance of the new room was applauded as a sign of improving public taste by The Builder and also by The Art Fournal, which thought it 'one of the most elegant rooms in London; its proportions are magnificent, and its style of decoration sufficiently classic, without that sombre look it too frequently assumes'. Green was also congratulated on 'having elevated the moral tone of its amusements and made them unobjectionable', a fact of which he was contentedly self-conscious. In 1871 alterations were made to the music hall and the hotel, by the architect J. H. Rowley. The former was enlarged, redecorated with much use of lookingglass, and boxes were constructed all round it. The cost was again about £7,000.
It was probably during Green's tenure, which ended about this time, that the upper part of the façade was given its present appearance, which it had certainly acquired by 1877.
In 1874 and 1875 the Savage Club occupied premises here, but the use of part of the building as a hotel seems to have continued until 1880.
Designs were prepared in 1876–7 by Henry Clutton, as the ninth Duke's consultant architect, to bring the Grand Hotel into harmony with his remodelling of the buildings in and adjacent to the Piazza, but this was not done, although the buildings on either side were designed or given elevations by Clutton. It was, however, in the years 1877–80 that the entrance to the hotel from the portico walk received its present door and doorcase. The designer is not known.
No. 43 King Street, exterior. In 1880 the first Grand Hotel in history closed*.
* In c. 1882–3 the premises were occupied by John Hollingshead's Falstaff Club, for which the upper part of the house was decorated with paintings (by Albert Calcott) and plaster reliefs illustrating The Merry Wives of Windsor.
1884—1890 this was succeeded by the New Club, run by an associate of Hollingshead's, Colonel F. A. Wellesley. The New Club enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales and attracted a wealthy and aristocratic membership: both it and the Falstaff Club staged 'dances and entertainments' as well as providing the usual club facilities.
In 1891 the premises were taken by the newly founded National Sporting Club, which staged its boxing contests in the former music hall. Plans for the alteration and decoration of this boxing hall were made in 1911–12 by the architects Mewès and Davis, but it is uncertain whether they were carried out. The club remained here until its closure in 1929. The premises were then taken by the present occupants, George Monro, fruiterers, for whom extensive alterations were carried out by E. A. Shaw and Partners, architects and surveyors. They included the removal (between May 1932 and February 1934) of the original columned entrance, to provide access for lorries to the warehouse at the rear.
In 1929 there had been an intention to build a theatre on part of the site and although this was not done the third floor was hired in 1934 by the Players' Theatre Club, previously in New Compton Street. This soon closed, but in October 1936 a theatre club was re-opened on the third floor by Peter Ridgeway, as the New Players' Theatre, until its move to Albemarle Street in October 1940.
When the alterations were made for George Monro the staircase of Lord Orford's time was removed. In 1962 it was re-erected by Professor Sir Albert Richardson in South Walsham Hall, Norfolk. Today the architectural description is quite sober: 'Despite its mutilated front and altered interior, No. 43 King Street is still an important example of a town mansion.'
Source: famoushotels.org main archives, Vienna
London Metropolitan Archives (photographs)
The Story of Trader Vic — Bergeron, Victor J (1902-1984)
Victor J (Trader Vic) Bergeron (December 10, 1902, San Francisco, California – October 11, 1984, Hillsborough, California) was an irascible, one-legged genius, who founded a multimillion-dollar food and drink empire called Trader Vic’s.
While everybody believed his restaurants originated in Polynesia, Victor was actually born in San Francisco. He had not lost his left leg to a shark, but amputated when he was six to prevent his death from tuberculosis of the knee.
In 1934 he opened Hinky Dink’s, a food-and-beer joint in Oakland, USA. There he invented his version of South Seas food – tasteful Cantonese cooking and rum-flavoured drinks like Missionary’s Revenge, Sufferin’ Bastard and, yes, the Mai Tai. The Trader Vic nickname was given to him by his first wife, Esther, because of his habit of swapping meals and drinks for supplies and services.
‘There’s been a lot of conversation over the beginning of the Mai Tai,’ Bergeron said before he died.
‘I originated the Mai Tai. In 1944 after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I thought about all the really successful drinks- martinis, manhattans, daiquiris, all basically simple drinks.
I took down a bottle of 17-year old rum. It was a J Wray and Nephew from Jamaica, surprisingly golden in colour, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavour particular to the Jamaican blends. The flavour of this great rum wasn’t meant to be overpowered with heavy addition of fruit juices and flavourings. I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of rock candy syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat (a sweetened almond syrup with a little orange flower water) for its subtle flavour.
I added a generous amount of shaved ice and shook it vigorously by hand to produce the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went into each drink for colour and I stuck in a branch of fresh mint. I gave the first two to friends from Tahiti who were there that night. One took a sip and said, “Mai tai roa ae.” In Tahitian this means out of this world, the best. Well, that was that. I named the drink Mai Tai.’
In 1953, Victor brought his Mai Tai to the Hawaiian Islands. From there it started its journey into all bars around the world. Trader Vic’s restaurants became an institution at many Hilton hotels.
July 2020: British hotels are reopening — — all Select Members of The Most Famous Famous Hotels are about to serve, again, after Coronoa forced most out of business since March 2020. And there are all the others, small, most unusual lodges, inns, boarding houses and special places we all love so much. One of them is Bailiffscourt on Sussex coast. Famous for being the place for madcap country parties during the Roaring Twenties of the wealthy Guinness family.
Guess who's coming to dinner?
ADRIAN MOURBY at the Sussex coast, marvelling at Bailffscourt
Bailiffscourt is an unusual hotel, even by British standards. It sits on the Sussex coast and consists of a series of medieval houses, barns and stone cottages, that were all reassembled on the private estate of the wealthy Guinness family in the 1920s. Only the thirteenth-century chapel is in its original place. Walter Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne and his wife Lady Evelyn built Bailiffscourt as a place for madcap country parties during the Roaring Twenties. She had her bedroom in Bailiffscourt Manor (now the hotel’s reception) while he had his in the Thatched House, a dismantled and reconstructed medieval building that he shared with their children. An underground passageway linked the two houses - and still does today - so that Lady Evelyn could visit her family when she wasn’t entertaining an admirer or two.
Over the years more buildings were added to the estate by the amateur architect Amyas Phillips whom the Moynes had met and befriended when he was running a Sussex antique shop. After World War II, and following Lord Moyne’s assassination in Palestine, the Guinness family sold the estate to a German refugee, Emmy Birrer who with her husband, Hans turned it into a 39-room hotel. Frau Birrer was still running the hotel well into the 1970s.
Today you could be forgiven for thinking that Bailiffscourt is the remains of a medieval Sussex village by the sea, but it’s actually a very convincing fake. The fact that Lord Moyne bought up all the surrounding shoreline to make sure modern building did not undermine the integrity of his historical folly means that Bailiffscourt today represents a merciful gap in the overdeveloped English coastline between Brighton and Bognor Regis.
In 1993 Sandy Goodman, owner of two Sussex hotels, The Spread-Eagle in Midhurst and Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield, bought Bailiffscourt to create a small private portfolio called Historic Sussex Hotels. This family chain is now run by Sandy’s daughter Miranda and her husband Pontus Carminger.
These days it’s increasingly rare to find family-run hotels in Britain and certainly unusual to find a family chain. All three hotels in the group are remarkable in their own way. Bailiffscourt is perhaps the most romantic however, as seven of the 39 bedrooms have open hearths and real log fires. Rooms take their names – Le Herne, Wymcrofte, Langmeade and Meadfeylde – from the names of local fields outlined on a map dated back to 1610 that is in the hotel’s reception. Guests can choose to sleep in the manor itself, in Lord Moyne’s Thatched House, in a reconstructed fifteenth-century gate house that was brought from Loxwood in the north of Sussex or a half-timbered seventeenth-century house imported from Hampshire.
Despite all its oak-panelling, mullioned windows and four-poster beds Bailiffscourt may not be an authentically old hotel - but it’s the nearest thing you’ll find to old that actually isn't.
Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa
Wild Bey of Cairo
I recently stayed the night in a small hotel in Sussex called The Millstream. It was very pleasant, calm place formed out of several low-rise cottages. The greatest excitement occurred in the middle of the night when a remnant of the last transatlantic storm hit the sleepy village of Bosham in the middle of the night and blew my French windows wide open. The net curtains went wild like demented souls waving their arms in the half-lit bedroom.
The next morning I met with Tom Sherlock, who with his wife is one of the managers of the hotel. I’m always interested in hotel families. Hoteliery is often runs in the blood, as with circus families. It turned out that Tom did not come from a hotel family but his wife Clare, daughter of the The Millstream owner, John Wild most certainly did. Clare’s great-grandfather was Auguste Wild. The Auguste Wild.
To those of you who do not know of Wild Bey, as he was called in Cairo I will readily admit I did not know of him either, although I quickly realised I should have. That morning Tom kindly loaned me a copy of Auguste’s memoir of his dramatic years as one of the great hoteliers. It was written in 1952 and its title was Mixed Grill in Cairo.
Auguste Wild was born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1869. Twenty-nine years later he became General Manager of the Savoy Hotel in Cairo. He did so learning his trade along the way as a waiter at London’s Café Royal and then being appointed receptionist clerk at the Baur au Lac in Zurich. By 1894 Carl Kracht, son-in-law of the legendary Herr Baur, had promoted Wild to be manager of that great hotel. Wild was only 25 and was the first manager of the Baur au Lac who was not a member of the family.
Auguste Wild also has the distinction of introducing the American idea of private bathrooms to the Baur au Lac. In his memoirs Auguste Wild later wrote of Herr Kracht, his mentor “his wise and experienced guidance helped me through the early years.”
Four years after moving to Zurich, Auguste Wild was appointed General Manager of the Savoy in Cairo. The job offer came direct from George Nungovich, known in Cairo as Nungovich Bey (Bey was a title one rung below a pasha and also the honorific given to the son of a pasha). Of George Nungovich Wild wrote “beginning with nothing he became the owner and organiser of a chain of first class hotels”
At this time the Mena House Hotel dominated Cairo because of its proximity to the pyramids. According to Wild, the other important hotels in the late 1890s were The Continental, (known for its propriety) the Angleterre (known for its sobriety) and Shepheards Hotel which was known “for notoriety”. But the Savoy Hotel was simply the best in Cairo in Wild’s opinion and he intended to make it better still.
Wild was very, very good at his job. As a result the Crown Prince of Prussia became a friend. In 1912 the Kaiser’s son left the Crown Princess Cecilia at the Savoy in Wild’s care while he went on to business in India. Unfortunately, a few days later the Crown Princess objected strongly to how M Caillaux, former Prime Minister of France looked at her at dinner. Soon Caillaux and the aide de camp to the Crown Princess had challenged each other to a duel. A potential international incident of catastrophic proportions had arisen at the Cairo Savoy. Auguste Wild had to calm both sides down by insisting (tactfully and speciously) that the incident was all his fault for arranging their tables inappropriately. Of course it wasn’t his fault, but fortunately both sides of the conflict esteemed him and did not really want to cause problems.
Other guests at the Savoy just before the Great War of 1914-18 included Princess Caraman-Chimay (the American heiress, Clara Ward) and her Bohemian lover János Rigó, a gipsy violonist, whom she had met in Paris . The Princess set out to scandalise Cairo with their affair, according to Wild, and it sounded as if she definitely succeeded.
Albert, King of the Belgians was also a significant guest. According to Wild the surly monarch spoke to no one in the hotel except to tell Wild himself to lower the Belgian flag from the roof of the Savoy “otherwise I shall leave immediately”.
A frequent guest before the Great War was Sir Ernest Cassel, the financier, philanthropist and friend of King Edward VII. According to Wild, Cassel treated the royal suite as if it were his own private property and Wild was always wary of renting it out to others in case Cassel turned up.
Unfortunately Cassel was also mean. He would not pay his Egyptian dragoman, Ibrahim 100 piastres which was the daily rate when travelling in Upper Egypt. Ibrahim complained to the kindly Wild that Cassel only gave him 50 piastres, the “easy” rate that applied in Cairo but Wild Bey could not move Cassel.
On one occasion Cassel brought Mrs Keppel, mistress of Edward VII and the young Winston Churchill (fresh from his South African exploits) as guests to the Savoy. On this occasion Sir Ernest insisted on a discount because he was not travelling with a courier (which normally added 10% to a bill at the Savoy). It is clear from the memoirs that Auguste Wild was surprised that Cassel, a man renowned for his philanthropy could be so cheap but these memoirs are far too discreet to make that point directly. By all accounts Sir Ernest got his discount, of course he did.
Mixed Grill in Cairo provides a fascinating footnote to thoe years of great hoteliery before World War One. In that terrible conflict Wild saw his Savoy taken over as the British Expeditionary Force’s GHQ. General Allenby and T E Lawrence held a very important conference there in 1917 about the future of Ottoman territories after the end of the Great War. And we are still living with its consequences.
Wild’s memoirs were written in 1952/3 when he was in his early 80s and running the Highcliffe Hotel in Bournemouth and also the Royal Court Hotel Sloane Square.
Auguste Wild's grandson, John Wild bought the Millstream Hotel in 1977. At that time it was a 12 bedroom coaching inn. Forty-three years later it is a now a 35 bedroom hotel that John's daughter and her husband run. I handed back their copy of Mixed Grill in Cairo with some reluctance. It was a fun read. This is a rare book but if you get the chance to buy a copy, do. Wild Bey sailed handsomely through a great era in the history of grand hotels and what he remembered of that time is a fascinating read.
150 Years Grand Hotel Vienna
Since 10 May 1870 the Grand Hotel Vienna reigns proudly over the Viennese boulevard Ringstrasse — an icon of European hospitality.
In 1870, the Grand Hotel in Vienna was the first hotel on the Ringstrasse. It set modern standards, comprising all the elements of a hotel as we would know it today: restaurants, bars, a wide variety of salons, an inhouse laundry and some we wouldn't consider standard – such as a carpenter's workshop and its own stables!
Until late into the 19th century, a hotel of international standards was often no more than a maison meublée, a house that rented out furnished rooms. Any extra services such as lighting (candles), delivery of the luggageto the room (bell boy services) or even heating (logs for the fireplace), – all standard today – were separate sservices for which the hotel charged extra.
Offten restaurants were not part of the hotel but leased to somebody from outside. When the tradition of the table d’hôte came into fashion, the money-losing restaurants finally started to show a profit (everybody ate at the same time in one dining room, served from large trays). Taking at least one meal a day at the hotel was part of the hotel's terms.
The Grand Hotel deserved its name. It soon had over 300 rooms and was, by the way, the first hotel to be called ‘Grand’ in the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire and one of the first in Europe. Others, such as the fabled Grand in Oslo and Stockholm were opened many years later. Accompany us on a stroll through the history of Vienna and its first and only Grand Hotel. Join us on a walk down memory lane, where more than 150 years of an exciting past pave the way of this unique hotel, which has survived two world wars. When the hotel reopened its doors in 1994, after a major face-lift within its original historc façade, it had a long story to tell. Here it is: ...
Toujours L’attaque! — George Goring †2020
London Hotelier George Goring passed away, taking up his room at the eternal grand hotel which is waiting for all of us. The world has lost a great hotelier in the old school style: a true host who exuded joie de vivre.
George Goring † 2020
The Daily Telegraph and Courier London published the following advertisement on Friday, 8 April 1910:
That was in 1910.
51 years later, in 1961, George Goring joined the family business and retired in 2005, handing over the reins of the 69-bedroom property to his son, Jeremy, by passing him the two original keys and walking out of the hotel not to return for the following three months.
The Goring flying all flags half-mast
Last week, George Goring passed away, taking up his room at the eternal grand hotel which is waiting for all of us.
The world has lost a great hotelier in the old school style: a true host who exuded joie de vivre. Anybody who worked for him, was his guest or friend, would know about his extraordinary generosity.
He was certainly one of the last colourful characters this world needs so much.
“He gave up cross country racing aged 70, winning his last event then bowing out. Over the previous 40 years he had broken most of the bones in his body and given this lifestyle nobody ever thought he would be around long enough to have Parkinson’s. Despite this cruel disease he radiated wit, charm and laughter till the end.
“The lessons he left us were to love thy neighbour, and to live for today. RIP Admiral, and as George would say: Toujours L’attaque!”
The hotel has the reputation of being the Queen's favourite, Kate Middleton stayed there the night before her wedding to Prince William, a flock of sheep is scattered throughout the hotel (the first, Barbara - a beautiful carved wooden animal, clad in a snowy-white fleece - was bought by George and placed in the bar, where it became so popular that George placed one in every bedroom, as well as introducing a soft toy sheep on every bed for each guest to cuddle up to).
"Out of all of Dad's crazy ideas, this stupid one has created more PR than anything else we have ever done," explains Jeremy.
„Once, a painting of a nude that George placed in the men's loos brought a letter of complaint, saying that the picture was an affront to women everywhere.“ George framed the letter and hung it on the wall next to the painting.
Jeremy Goring: Despite sharing a wicked sense of humour and closeness as father and son, father and son have never worked together.
The Goring is A Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World.
I was sorry to read a few days ago that Burgh Island had joined the roster of British hotels that had closed until Coronavirus was “sent packing” – to use these common words.
I was really looking forward to getting back to the island having spent one of the most adventurous nights of my life going to dinner there last year.
By ADRIAN MOURBY — traveling correspondent
There, across a narrow stretch of water, rises the island’s brilliantly-illuminated Art Deco Hotel, a pure vision of late 1920s architecture. In an ideal world you are supposed to ring the hotel so they can send the Sea Tractor, a tall gangly four-wheeled bathing machine - over to pick you up. But if there’s no phone reception, do you wait until it next ploughs through the waves to the mainland? Or do you decide to walk the narrow, sandy causeway that divides Burgh Island from mainland Britain - and hope the tide is not coming in?
That winterly evening I was already late, having driven slowly down some English country lanes hardly wide enough for one vehicle, let alone two trying to pass each other, and so I decided to brave the crossing on foot. This could have been a big mistake.
A long white Art Deco breakfast room is named after Archie Nettlefold the man who in the 1920s built a house on Burgh island that he later converted into this hotel.
It was a very black, very windy night, which made the hotel’s illuminated exterior shine out even whiter in the darkness. Using my mobile phone as a torch – thank goodness it could serve some purpose! – I headed across the sand as the angry sea surge snapped at my highly polished shoes and my hat nearly blew away.
One does need highly polished shoes at Burgh Island because not only is it one of Britain’s premiere Art Deco hotels, it maintains the standards of interwar glamour created by the likes of Dame Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, Amy Johnson, and the Duchess of Windsor – all of whom, according to hotel legend, stayed at Burgh Island in the 1930s. Statues of athletic, small-breasted women are everywhere in the hotel in true Art Deco fashion. They hold up light fittings. They are draped round picture frames. They’re even supporting the bar.
Once inside the hotel - opened in 1929 as Britain’s answer to Bermuda – nothing seems to have changed. There is the Palm Court Lounge with its stained glass dome, radiating in peacock feather patterns. There is the old cage lift and the stairs up to the ballroom framed by two great Art Deco columns topped with glass acanthus leaves.
I was greeted by Vladimir Krupa, Director of Guest Relations who was of course wearing a dinner jacket.
My tour included bedrooms that are not only Art Deco in style but furnished with genuine Art Deco sofas, mirrors, vanity units and headboards. The rooms are named after glamorous figures from the 1930s like Lord Louis Mountbatten, Malcolm Campbell, Josephine Baker and Major “Fruity” Metcalfe who was aide de camp to Edward, Prince of Wales. There are no televisions in the bedrooms, as indeed there would not have been in the 1930s and the telephones are originals - and very heavy indeed. But what makes Burgh Island unique is its rigorous dress code. If you wish to dine in the ballroom, it’s strictly black tie. If you’d rather not dress for dinner, then the Nettlefold Fish Restaurant is for you.
This long white Art Deco breakfast room is named after Archie Nettlefold the man who in the 1920s built a house on Burgh island that he later converted into this hotel. Lovely and pristine though The Nettlefold is, most guests choose to dress for dinner and dance to the palm court orchestra (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) or listen to the pianist (alternate nights). The sight of all these glamorous couples at table looks just like a shot from an Agatha Christie novel and indeed the mistress of high-class murder did set one of her books, retitled as Then There Were None * on Burgh Island. Not surprisingly, there are also bedrooms named after two of her fictional detectives, The Jane Marple and The Hercule Poirot.
Thirty years ago Burgh Island’s hotel was derelict. Like so many British hotels it been commandeered for troops during World War and even accidentally bombed when Luftwaffe planes jettisoned their bombs while returning from an attack on Plymouth. By the time it featured in the 1965 film Catch Us If You Can it was empty and falling apart.
Burgh Island had failed to reinvent itself for post-war Britain. But in the last thirty years, a number of brave and generous owners have poured money into a massive restoration project. These benefactors include Deborah Clark and Tony Orchard who owned the hotel from 2001 to 2018. Filling a 25-bedroom hotel with genuine Art Deco antiques and decorative artefacts is an expensive and demanding hobby. The current bar – underneath that stained glass dome – is the hotel’s fifth.
I enjoyed my solo dinner, watching immaculate couples quick-step foxtrotting round the dance floor. When it was time to leave a driver was found to take me across the now-flooded causeway in the Sea Tractor. This vehicle – the third version to be built – was designed in 1969 by Robert Jackson CBE, a pioneer of the Britain’s nuclear power station programme in the 1950s. It is a unique, dogged contraption that cost £9,000 to construct. The story goes that Jackson, a friend of the then owner undertook the work in exchange for a case of champagne.
The Sea Tractor was a dramatic way to leave, with waves rushing up its steps towards me, but tonight was nothing, Vlad assured me. In the stormy winter of 2019/2020 winds of 70 mph created waves that rendered the Sea Tractor unsafe to use and Burgh Island’s guests were marooned for days on end – as in the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None.
“I think our guests enjoyed being trapped here,” Vlad told me. “I called it a technological detox.”
"Truly Burgh Island is unique. When the current CoVid-19 restrictions are over I really want to get back there but next time with my wife so I can join everyone else looking wonderful on the dance floor."
Weekend Feuilleton ‘The incredible History of Alpinie Entertainment’, or ‘The Schedule of Diversion’
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
What have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Peter I. Tchaikovsky, Angela Merkel, Prince William and Bill Gates in common? They all patronised one of the greatest Swiss temples of hospitality, the Grand Hotel Belvédère in Davos. It is once a year, for five days, hotspot and madhouse of the world of finance, politics and arts (during the WEF = World Economic Forum), but 360 days a pagoda of tranquil elegance.
The hotel in the Swiss Alps' history dates back to 1875. It became the cradle of alpine entertainment, almost a quarter of a century before all the other legendary Palaces of the Alps have started thinking about it. First skiing, first tennis courts, first skating; croquet, golf, ... Robert Louis Stevenson spent one, Sherlock Holmes author Conan Doyle even two seasons there. I mean: they lived there – sometimes for years!
This 140 pages book – fresh from the press – is packed with the history of this famous valley, its development from the cure of deadly tuberculosis to the centre of alpine entertainment. Famous guests, artists, writers appear in this string of episodes, a series of pointed snapshots — the "Schedule of Diversion".
It is available in German and in English.
I wish you a safe journey
Seefeld Book Launch turned into Charity
Hotel: Astoria Resort Seefeld Tyrol, Austria
Book: 140 pages of anecdotes, history, stories and legends
"SEEFELDER MINIATUREN" (in German only - for the time being!)
Occasion: Launch of the book
Whatever Austrian hotelier and businesswoman Elisabeth Guertler touches turns into gold. She is a super host and that book launching party was certainly a highlight in Austria's top tourist destination, the city of Seefeld, in the wonderful county Tyrol, 1200 metres above sea level.
Opera Star Ildiko Raimondi (above) and actress Sunnyi Melles entertained an international audience of Seefeld citizens, nobility and celebrities, led by the Governor of Tyrol, Guenther Platter and Franz Fischler, former European Union's Commissioner and today President of the European Forum Alpbach.
The delightful stage and movie star Sunnyi Melles presented Andreas Augustin’s texts sharp-wittednessed with intellectual charm.
The author autographed books worth EUR 2,200.— within two hours — and all proceeds of the evening went to Tyrol mountain rescue (Tiroler Bergrettung).
2,200 Euro donated for a good cause:
Tyrol mountain rescue (Tiroler Bergrettung) representatives pose with Governor Guenther Platter and Elisabeth Guertler.
Ildiko Raimondi, Carola Augustin, Elisabeth Guertler, Sunnyi Melles and Andreas Augustin enjoyed the night.
And now straight to the books — you can choose between three colours.
Let me wave good-bye - I will be at my desk to autograph them for you!
Attention: for the time being only German books are available.
Yours — as always —
PARIS: Prince de Galles
>> swipe through the gallery of pictures on the top>>
Prince de Galles general manager Gerald R. Krischek-Cruypelans points out to me the extraordinary and rare, fully intact 1929 art-deco façade of the inner courtyard, the "Patio".
I am impressed!
By Andreas Augustin
Preview 24 September 2019 - book launch Paris
PRINCE DE GALLES — BY ANDREAS AUGUSTIN
The Birthday of the Prince de Galles
My Paris. Today. Friday 2. August 2019
Below the first lines of the first chapter of our new book. It is launched on 24 September.
2 August 1929
That Perfect Wonderful Day
2 August 1929 started like any other ordinary day all over Europe. Man and women went to work. Many were looking forward to their summer holidays and, for many children, that Friday marked the last day of school of the year.
From the American Cathedral in Paris, down the road, the bell tolled. Opposite the revolving door of the Prince of Wales Hotel — Hôtel Prince de Galles, on that perfect wonderful August morning, Musetta, the flower girl, whispered her song.
"Can you take me on a flight
On the kite
To the paradise … lost."
She raised her head. Her brown eyes gleamed lifelessly in their sockets. She was blind.
At the chambres de bonnes, the servants’ quarters on the last floor of the new building in 33, Avenue Georges V, everybody was getting ready to go downstairs.
A thousand glasses had to be polished.
Hundreds of plates arranged. ...
‘Did I mention that our rooms all have a private bathroom? Some have two. That’s why we count 150 rooms and 160 baths, all finished in mosaics in soft pastel shades. Indeed, some rooms have two baths, an absolute novelty. It makes it so much easier for a couple to complete their dressing at the same time.' (explained general manager Fréderic Schwenter at the opening in 1929)
The new book by Andreas Augustin. 160 pages filled with Paris as Paris can.
Photo: Bill Lorenz Patio at the Prince de Galles — Egyptian style columns and detailed mosaics.
Isn't that a nice end to a long day?
Feuilleton 353 — Where is Elisabeth Guertler?
Elisabeth Guertler — Surrounded by friendly spirits in her historic 'alpine chic' Hotel Astoria Resort — one of the best Alpine Spa Resorts in the world. / Photo: Daniel Zangerl
Austria / Vienna / Seefeld
From Urban Elegance to Alpine Chic
From Urban Elegance to Alpine Chic
Over the past decades Elisabeth Guertler had managed her family, the legendary Austrian Sacher hotel empire (25 years), the Viennese Opera Ball (9 years) and the Lipizzan Horses at the Spanish Riding School (11 years).
Remember: she had kissed the Viennese temple of hospitality, the Hotel Sacher, out of its sleeping beauty doze and turned it into the most elegant family-owned hotel of Vienna. Urban elegance at its best.
Now, the doyenne of European hotel business has returned in triumph to her exclusive, historic family hotel Astoria Resort (one of the best alpine resort hotels in the world) in Seefeld, Tyrol.
The Astoria is one of the most legendary Austrian alpine resorts. The hotel, which, in 1953, housed the first indoor pool and Spa in Western Austria, tells an inspiring tale. ASTORIA – A Story - A Legend. Originally opened as Hotel Britannia in 1929, we have just started to find out more about its history. We shall keep you posted.
In February and March 2019, this alpine village is the host of the World Cup of Nordic disciplines. Seefeld has played host to the Olympic Nordic disciplines no fewer than three times – in 1964, 1976 and 2012. It was the venue of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 1985, and organises the Nordic World Cup on an annual basis. Following the success of 1985, the Olympiaregion Seefeld has been selected as the venue for the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2019, and the region was incredibly proud to be able to host the prestigious Nordic sporting event once more.
We release a 90-stories&legends&tales history book commemorating the hotel's 90th birthday.
Feuiletton 361 — Hotel Mumbai, American Hotels owned by Indians
We shall never forget the dreadful terrorist attack on the Taj in Mumbai. Actor Dev Patel, a British native of Indian descent, reveals the message behind his new movie 'Hotel Mumbai': "You can't bring us down". The 'Slumdog Millionaire' actor plays a waiter from the slums of Mumbai who goes over and above to help the people he is in charge of.
"Once this horrific event happened, within three weeks they got the Hotel fully functioning and running again to make a point, that you can't bring us down, " he said.
Patel continued, "We kind of shared the brutality. Between one person, we would have crumbled, and that's the story of the film. It's an ensemble. It's about everyone in that hotel: guest, staff, alike."
Based on the real story of the Taj Hotel during the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the flick takes place over the course of three days inside the hotel, during which the staff and guests worked together to survive.
Indians own about half of all American Hotels.
The Indian Americans constitute less than one percent of Americas population and incredibly own about half the 50,000 hotels in the United States. Furthermore, about 70% of all Indian hotel owners are named Patel, a surname that shows that they are members of a Gujarati Hindu subcaste, reports our correspondent Stan Turkel. More
The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel (1893) is Encouraging Return of Stolen Items
A cloth hanger, a silver spoon, a napkin or maybe an ashtray — what is it really people steal from hotels? The Roosevelt in New Orleans wants to know. And starts a PR campaign where participants who return such items will be eligible to win a seven-night stay in one of the hotel’s lavish presidential suites, worth over $15,000. The Roosevelt plans to display the items in its lobby, as a record of the hotel’s history. The campaign called the “Historic Giveback Contest” has been launched to celebrate the hotel’s 125th birthday. Former guests have until July 1, 2019 to return items by dropping them off at the concierge desk or sending them in the mail, said General Manager Tod Chambers.
Feuiletton 360 — The Letter
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
By Lisa Augustin (for a change)
Time flies, only my father takes slow boats and sends letters via surface postal services. Yesterday an envelope arrived containing photographs, and an interview, typed on a typewriter!
After the MS Serendipity has safely moored at the jetty of Colombo’s harbour, he has met the chairman of the Galle Face Hotel, Sanjeev Gardiner, whom he knows since he travelled to Sri Lanka in the 1980s as a foreign correspondent. Now he is compiling the stories for his book THE GALLE FACE TREASURY. Let me share with you - and I trust that is all right with him - the interview with Sanjeev Gardiner.
Sanjeev Gardiner (left) awarding doorman Banda for his services.
Sanjeev, so good to see you again. Good that you have time for a little interview for our readers around the world. You have taken over as Chairman of the Galle Face Hotel, the related group and all other businesses from your late father in the 1990s, tell me: what is the Galle Face Hotel for you?
’For me, as Mr Gardiner the chairman but also as Sanjeev the person, the Galle Face Hotel is a legacy in three ways. Firstly, it is the heritage of our family, so I will always treasure it. Secondly, it is the heritage of Sri Lanka, of Ceylon, of our country and our nation. It is 100% Sri Lankan. No international group diverting profits from our people is involved.
Lastly, it is the heritage of our people. No other hotel is deeper rooted in the hearts of the Sri Lankans than the Galle Face Hotel. Not only in the hearts of our guests, but in particular of our staff, our smiling faces, our ambassadors. No other hotel has these wonderful people!
How old is the Galle Face Hotel really?
In fact, it is as old as time. In its place stood a 18th century Dutch Villa which is prominently displayed in paintings.
We say: everybody fears time, but time fears the Galle Face Hotel. Just joking! We officially started our operation in 1864, while the Suez Canal was being built. This new sea route was the main reason for creating a magnificent grand hotel in this particular location. (The date has only recently been proved beyond doubt by historian Carola Augustin of The Most Famous Hotels in the World.) On 31 December 1864, the cornerstone was laid to begin the creation of the Galle Face Hotel.
Sanjeev (left), with his late father Cyril Gardiner and 2001-Odyssey Author Arthur C. Clark (the Grand Master of Science Fiction, finished The Final Odyssey at the Galle Face Hotel).
What are the most significant periods in history of the Galle Face Hotel?
East of the Suez Suez, we were the first civilised hotel en route to Yangon, Penang or Singapore. The hotel was extremely popular with travellers from all corners of the globe until the outbreak of the so called Great War in 1914. Aftet that, in the 20th century, the Galle Face Hotel has gone through three significant periods.
1. The 1920/30s marked the beginning of the grand journeys: luxurious ocean steamers, paquebots to Indochina and liners to Singapore and Hong Kong arrived on a daily base, air traffic started, everybody broke the journey for a few days to see Ceylon; the hotel was world famous, the place to be. It played a role in novels and dramas, everybody who was somebody visited it because to be on its lawn at sunset was the height of chic. As you have probably heard, many love stories started here. Not all ended so tragically as Bonnie’s story from The Galle Face Hotel Treasury, our first history book.
2. The second high time at Galle Face Hotel were certainly the 1960s, when my father had taken it over. He was a PR genius and the first Sri Lankan to operate the hotel single-handed. He made the hotel the place to be for all Sri Lankans.
3. Last but not least, the third high-spirited period is certainly now. We are the hub of social life of the island, and certainly the most popular hotel for weddings, honeymoons and families. Artists from all over the world visit us. The GFH is the most written about hotel, painted a hundred times. Our list of famous visitors, compiled for our book The Galle Face Treasury, comprises some 300 names. It was exciting to be working with Andreas and Carola Augustin and I enjoy sitting together with them discussing the various aspects of our rich legacy.
That's it for this week — I will keep you posted about the travels of my nearest and dearest,
Feuiletton 358 — Anchored
"Unspeakably hot. The equator is arriving again. We are within eight degrees of it. Ceylon present. Dear me, it is beautiful! And most sumptuously tropical, as to character of foliage and opulence of it. 'What though the spicy breezes blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle'—an eloquent line, an incomparable line; it says little, but conveys whole libraries of sentiment, and Oriental charm and mystery, and tropic deliciousness—a line that quivers and tingles with a thousand unexpressed and inexpressible things, things that haunt one and find no articulate voice …. Colombo, the capital. An Oriental town, most manifestly; and fascinating."
13 January 1896
My dear fellow Travellers,
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
The M.S. Serendipity has anchored at Colombo. For weeks we were accompanied by playful pods of dolphins, watched over a cup of tea at breakfast under the sunshade of our deck. Here we are on the Island of (Ceylon) Sri Lanka, the centre of spiritual Asia of bygone times and a hub of intellectual Sri Lanka of today.
It is paradise on Earth, Adam and Eve lived here, the highest mountain is aptly called Adam’s Peak. The Galle Face Hotel is the oldest hotel on the large island with mountains and beaches, jungles and tea plantations. The city's development hints at Colombo becoming the most vibrant metropolis East of Suez.
Legends and stories are swapped at the bar and on the terraces of the Galle Face Hotel, the harbour of social life of the city of Colombo. We enjoy meeting fascinating people, true characters and celebrated personalities. We will moor at this jetty for weeks to come to take down its fables and stories.
One day Sir Thomas Lipton brought Empress Eugenie a cobra at teatime – for example. And there was this heart-breaking love story of that young girl, who graces the cover of our book (the one to the very right!). Yours, to enjoy, in the not so distant future.
Time for an Overhaul
Upon my arrival, news have reached me with the information that coincidentally almost all grand hotels of Asia are now about to undergo major renovations. Oh this wonderful machinery called telegraph, the world's first short message service (why not call it SMS?). Did you know that the first telegraphic message had been received on Ceylon in 1866. But I am drifting away, again. Sorry.
Here's the message: The Oriental in Bangkok has closed its 1976-River Wing on 1 March 2019. Lord Jim’s, The Terrace and all rooms are to receive a careful and stylish facelift. This leaves general manager Greg Liddell of the grand old lady of Bangkok with just 30 rooms (instead of 400). The grand reopening is scheduled for late September / October. So we are fine for the festive season.
Le Royal Palace advert from 1936
The elegant Raffles Le Royal will notably renovate its 1929 original art deco wing. Manager of Raffles Cambodia, Oliver Dudler, will reopen with a grand book launching party to commemorate Le Royal's 90th birthday.
At the Ruins
The Raffles Grand Hotel d’Anchor is closing from April to autumn, during which time all rooms will be carefully renovated. Monsieur le directeur Vincent Gernignon promises that the historic elevator will not be touched.
The Elephant Bar will present a collection of portraits of its most famous patrons, from Omar Sharif to Angelina Jolie, Charlie Chaplin and Peter O'Toole, to name but a few visitors of this wonderful resort. BTW: Minimum stay recommended 6 days! One day Angkor Wat, one day resting at the largest rectangular pool of SE Asia. Excursions to the mountains in the North. Gourmet extravaganza all over the city, including the hotel itself, the city of Angkor Wat fame finally developed some very good restaurants.
Dinner at the Metropole's Spices Garden: US President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un
It was planned long ago and has nothing to do with the recent Kim-Trump summit that the Metropole Hanoi will also undergo a revamp this summer. With general manager William Haandrikman we will update the Path of History at the hotel, including the heart-breaking air-raid-shelter experience, Joan Baez song – composed at the hotel – inclusive. Now this renovation has been postponed for a good reason: Hanoi is hosting the first Formula 1 Race in the history of Vietnam next spring: 'We were asked to be available, so we start with our renovation right after the race.' says Haandrikman.
Last but not least there is Raffles in Singapore, also closed to correct certain elements that didn't work out in the more recent past. Rumors that the Writers' Bar will be renamed Elephant Bar can not be confirmed. Meanwhile you can read some good old anecdotes including the one about the man who discovered the original architectural drawings of the hotel in 1987 in Robert Pregarz' book. He is pleased to autograph it for you, please write to him personally.
The latest news from Guy Steuart III, chairman of Jamaica's oldest and most famous hotel Half Moon is that the most significant addition to the hotel since its opening in 1954 is nearing completion. Will keep you posted on the progress of the new Great House.
I send my greetings from dry land.
Have a save journey wherever the wind takes you.
BAGLIONI LUNA VENICE
At the western end of Piazza San Marco, just behind the Napoleonic Wing that houses the Museo Correr, sits one of the oldest hotels in Venice.
Hotel Luna began life in the twelfth century as the Osteria della Luna. It was a simple house near the Grand Canal that provided board and lodging for knights heading east to the Crusades.
After a long and turbulent history – during which time it was seized from the Knights Templars and later served as a residence for Venetian senators – the Luna became a commercial hotel in 1574 with the moon as its symbol. At a time when Venice provided a temporary home for people of many nationalities and languages - not all of them literate - visual symbols were all-important. Today the city is still full of symbols if you know how to read them but in the sixteenth century travellers would have known to look for the symbol of the moon as you exited Piazza San Marco in the direction of San Moise.
After Napoleon destroyed the Republic of Venice in 1797, and after the island city was handed to the Hapsburg Empire at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the dining room of the Luna Hotel became a meeting place for young imperial cadets. Those who have seen the film Effie (2014) will know how John Ruskin’s frustrated wife flirted with Austrian officers in Venice in the 1840s. It is possible that they entertained her – chastely - at Hotel Luna.
In the 20th century Giuseppe Cipriani, a barman who had just had a loan handsomely repaid by one Harry Pickering of Boston, opened Harry’s Bar next door.
Then in 1988 the Luna was bought by Roberto Polito’s Baglioni company as the group’s second hotel. Mr Polito filled it with his own antique furniture which is still on show today. Celebrities flocked to the hotel for its style, service and central location. In the 1990s US astronaut Neil Armstrong came to stay and had his photograph taken next to the marble Hotel Luna plaque: the First Man on the Moon at the first Luna Hotel in Venice.
Today the Baglioni Luna is a remarkable but discreet jewel in Venice. It neither faces onto the Grand Canal (Harry’s Bar, housed in a former rope factory has that honour) nor does it face onto the main drag between San Marco and Chiesa San Moise. In fact it is almost hidden down Calle Larga Ascensione. One has to know it’s there.
No big sign attracts passing custom and yet when you look up from the landing stage for water taxis, every room has its own small red-draped balcony looking out on to the Giardini Reale (created in 1806 at Napoleon’s behest).
Skip forward two centuries to the present day and running the Baglioni Luna in 2019 is Gianmatteo Zampieri who clearly loves history as much as he loves his hotel. Gianmatteo is very proud of the Luna’s many suites – all named after painters like Bellini, Canaletto, and Titian, who made their names in Venice. He is also proud of the Marco Polo Ballroom where guests breakfast every morning under eighteenth-century frescoes painted by pupils of Tiepolo.
“This ceiling represents the Four Seasons,” he explains expansively. “And it is intended as an invitation for us to grasp the fleeting joys of earthly life”.
Certainly anyone who has qualms about accepting a second glass of prosecco at breakfast should take encouragement from the main Tiepolo oval above. “Here you can see a male figure holding a glass of red wine,” says Gianmatteo. “And he is surrounded by three ladies with fleshy bodies and rosy complexions.”
Gianmatteo is also proud of his latest innovation, the Codega Experience. Originally codegas were professional guides in medieval and Renaissance Venice. They escorted wealthy guests round the city with a flambeau or lantern (Venice was very, very dark in those days), acting not only as escorts, protectors, and guides, but entertaining visitors with stories of their city.
Gianmatteo, always keen to bring alive the remarkable past of Venice, has recently revived the Codega experience. It costs €560 for two guests and consists of an hour walking through the backstreets of the San Marco sestiere escorted by a codega. The tour is then followed by dinner with drinks in the hotel’s neo-classical Canova Restaurant. The night I joined the tour, it was given by a young woman called Giovanna who introduced herself simply as our codega for the night She carried an electric lantern – a modern day concession to sudden gusts of Venetian wind – and wore a cape and carnival mask. I was glad I had a cloak of my own to join in the masquerade.
Off we headed off into San Marco, dipping into darkened alleyways, and being shown unusual sights such as an outdoor gambling den under a small portico, and where duels were fought. One moment we were in the brightly lit merceria – a warren of modern shops that link San Marco with Rialto – and the next minute our codega had taken us into a narrow dark sidestreet where we could easily have been back in the eighteenth century of Casanova. At one point we suddenly ended up in the dark at Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo with its external multi-arch spiral staircase - known as the Staircase of the Snail - looping up dramatically above us.
Giovanna was a mine of information (some of which I shall use the next time I escort a tour round Venice) and she got us back bang on time to have dinner in Canova where Antonella is fast becoming my favourite Venetian sommelier.
The Baglioni Luna is lovely, friendly hotel which manages to get that combination of history and innovation just right. Having a general manager who cares a lot about both probably helps.
The Most Famous Hotels in the World Jury Meeting 2018/December
Excerpt of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Jury (London, December 2018)
Do we Brexit or not? For 33 years the minutes of our organisation were typed at Pall Mall, London. Last December we held our regular jury meeting at our historical conference room. A motion to close our Headquarters in the UK and move the entire operation to the continent was dismissed. The historical commission unanimously declared, ‘This empire had suffered so greatly, with the fall of Singapore, the losses of India and the pearl of the Indian Ocean, Ceylon, giving up the control over the Suez Canal and the handover of Hong Kong to China. It would be a hefty blow if The Most Famous Hotels in the World were to withdraw their annual meeting from England.
Hotels/Room Count 2018/19:
456 hotels in 327 cities and 88 countries are allowed to bear the title "A Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World".
In 2019, The Most Famous Hotels in the World crossed the 100,000 room keys threshold.
Grand Hotel Scarborough
Grand Hotel Nuwara Elyia
Burj al Arab
Reason: The hotel is too young. Management to be advised to re-apply for membership in 2038.
Hill Club Nuwara Elyia’s membership has been suspended (for not meeting the 50-rooms criteria after – with the acceptance of the Grand Hotel – having lost its singular location bonus.)
8:1 votes for keeping the “50% / 50 rooms / 50 years old” regulation.
Preview activities 2019:
We research the history of the Hotel Astoria in Seefeld, Tyrol.
We completed the research of the history of the Hotel Astoria in Brussels. It will reopen in 2021 under the ownership and management of Corinthia. Our book will be presented in 2021.
We research the history of the Le Royal in Phnom Penh, currently first documented in 1929. [url=https://famoushotels.org/hotels/le-royal]https://famoushotels.org/hotels/le-royal[/url]
We research the history of the Grand Hotel d’Angkor (1931), Siem Reap. [url=https://famoushotels.org/hotels/grand-hotel-dangkor]https://famoushotels.org/hotels/grand-hotel-dangkor[/url]
We celebrate the 90th birthday of the hotel Prince de Galles in Paris with an elegant publication. For the first time we will present the text – linked to the classic coffee table book – in an eBook. We also publish a special staff edition for all the faithful employees of the hotel.
Half Moon on Jamaica is undergoing a historical change: Chairman Guy Steuart III has added a Great House as a new main building to this already great hotel complex. Our Treasury book is ready for its opening, our large coffee table book in the making.
We present THE GALLE FACE HOTEL TREASURY (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and its history, starting in the 1860s. Situated along the most important shipping and trading route between Europe and the Far East, you can very well imagine what a fascinating history awaited us in the archives at the capital Colombo in former Ceylon, today Sri Lanka.
Hotel Bristol Vienna TV Documentary
The documentary about the history of the Hotel Bristol in Vienna is has been broadcast several times over the past year. Now it is available on youtube.
The TV documentary is narrated by Andreas Augustin (in German only), wonderfully supported by a group of Austrian celebrities as well as the hotel's staff, who joyfully talk about their jobs, their lives and their encounters with famous guests.
Feuilleton 352 — Mark Twain’s worst hotel on Earth
The Bull and Mouth is a decent hotel in todays Maryborough. Back in 1895, it didn't exist.
Here is a conversation between American writer and globe trotter Mark Twain and a fellow traveller on a train to Maryborough, a city and a suburb in the Fraser Coast Region, Australia.
In order to start conversation I asked him something about Maryborough. He said, in a most pleasant—even musical voice, but with quiet and cultured decision:
“It’s a charming town, with a hell of a hotel.”
I was astonished. It seemed so odd to hear a minister swear out loud. He went placidly on:
“It’s the worst hotel in Australia. Well, one may go further, and say in Australasia."
“No—none at all. Just sand-bags.”
“The pillows, too?”
“Yes, the pillows, too. Just sand. And not a good quality of sand. It packs too hard, and has never been screened. There is too much gravel in it. It is like sleeping on nuts.”
“Isn’t there any good sand?”
“Plenty of it. There is as good bed-sand in this region as the world can furnish. Aerated sand—and loose; but they won’t buy it. They want something that will pack solid, and petrify.”
“How are the rooms?”
“Eight feet square; and a sheet of iced oil-cloth to step on in the morning when you get out of the sand-quarry.”
“As to lights?”
“A good one?”
“No. It’s the kind that sheds a gloom.”
“I like a lamp that burns all night.”
“This one won’t. You must blow it out early.”
“That is bad. One might want it again in the night. Can’t find it in the dark.”
“There’s no trouble; you can find it by the stench.”
“Two nails on the door to hang seven suits of clothes on if you’ve got them.”
“There aren’t any.”
“What do you do when you want service?”
“Shout. But it won’t fetch anybody.”
“Suppose you want the chambermaid to empty the slopjar?”
“There isn’t any slop-jar. The hotels don’t keep them. That is, outside of Sydney and Melbourne.”
“Yes, I knew that. I was only talking. It’s the oddest thing in Australia. Another thing: I’ve got to get up in the dark, in the morning, to take the 5 o’clock train. Now if the boots——”
“There isn’t any.”
“Well, the porter.”
“There isn’t any.”
“But who will call me?”
“Nobody. You’ll call yourself. And you’ll light yourself, too. There’ll not be a light burning in the halls or anywhere. And if you don’t carry a light, you’ll break your neck.”
“But who will help me down with my baggage?”
E N D
Feuilleton 351 — The Christmas Tree Extravaganza
The Christmas Tree Extravaganza
One never thinks that hotels have Christmas trees, too. But in fact there is a real competition of who has the largest and shiniest. Fine in countries of fur trees. But it could proof really difficult a 110 years ago, in Africa, for example (see photograph of the Christmas tree at the Mena House in Cairo). That was long before plastic trees were invented.
If you think you have seen it all, think again. Visit Sri Lanka's luxurious historic Galle Face Hotel at the shores of the Indian Ocean (below). They weave a story around an ancient tradition.
Click image above for the video
For over 150 years, the Galle Face Hotel has boasted a view of the endless ocean, happy families, and a multitude of beautiful kites flapping against the sky. The joy and freedom of flying a kite at the Galle Face Green in front of the hotel is a part of every childhood, an experience that connects generations of Sri Lankans.
The tree of kites which stands tall at the Galle Face Hotel was conceptualised and created by two young designers Sasha Pinto Jayawardena and Charith De Silva – from the advertising agency Triad and the decor consulting and production agency Maic – respectively. Given the task of designing this year’s Christmas tree at the GFH, the team came up with this futuristic creation. The design symbolises an experience which most anyone living in Colombo (and even many living out of Colombo) would be familiar with – flying kites on the Galle Face Green.
Much like the scene it overlooks, the Hotel itself has always been synonymous with friends, family and moments of soaring joy. 'In the true spirit of Christmas, here at Galle Face Hotel, we celebrate these moments - creating a “Tree of Kites”, which we hope will bring a familiar yet festive cheer to the season.' says general manager Robert Hauck, who inspired Sri Lanka's most creative heads to come up with something special for the grand season. They certainly succeeded.
Have a save journey.
Feuilleton 350 - Happy Birthday Famous Hotels
Dear Friends, Readers and Fellow Travellers
By Andreas Augustin
Happy Birthday — The Most Famous Hotels in the World
Today, let me lean back and conjure up 28 November 1986. Since early morning, a signboard at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore displayed:
That was our very first book!
Only days later – in London 32 years ago – we founded The Most Famous Hotels in the World. 80 hotels joined the first list. Today, 455 hotels in 327 cities and 88 countries bear the title "A Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World".
We are proud to hand-craft each book, each exhibition; put in years of careful research, thoughtfully select pictures, personal memories and unearthed papers, never published before.
It is them who so actively helped to bring The Most Famous Hotels in the World to the peak of the mountain. At least that is the view I enjoy, when I look down.
Alas, once the fog and clouds clear, I see that I am only half way up. There are still those who ignore history and believe they can build a future without a past. They are on my agenda for the next 32 years.
I hope you keep me company for the rest of the climb.
The Most Famous Hotels in the World e.V.
T H A N K Y O U
AA’s Notes from a Journey
Galle Face Hotel Colombo in the 1930s: did you reserve your table at the Veranda Restaurant? It was the most sought after lunch and dinner venue of the colonial city, away from the stifling heat of Colombo. This tropical hotel, north of the Equator, was right at the seafront, facing the Indian Ocean. It always enjoying a fresh sea breeze. Ever since its opening in 1864, it advertised itself as the "coolest hotel in Colombo". It has successfully retained this attribute. By the way: it was the first South East Asian hotel sporting a sea water pool.
It the magic number 90 that fascinates us in 2019. The Astoria in Seefeld is 90 years old, so is the Le Royal in Phnom Penh and the Prince de Galles in Paris.
We are producing books about all of them.
Our story book ASTORIA - A STORY - A LEGEND - Seefelder Miniaturen is being presented. Commemorating the 90th anniversary of the former Hotel Britannia, which became the Hotel Astoria in 1950, the book presents some 90 stories and anecdotes from the history and legends of the hotel and Seefeld, the village in Tyrol, Austria.
THE AMAZING TALE OF THE FABULOUS HOTEL METROPOLE - THE SOFITEL LEGEND OF HANOI appeared in its 2019 edition. New material has been added, notably the first photographs of the founder and first owner, Andre Ducamp.
Prince de Galles Paris celebrates 90 years this year. Our elegant Edition will commemorate the event.
Galle Face Hotel Colombo is the legendary hotel at the shore of the Indian Ocean. It's history will come out in March 2019.
Raffles Hotels Cambodia join the library. We research the history of Le Royal in Phnom Penh and the Grand Hotel d'Angkor Wat.
The Austrian Hotel Astoria in Seefel, Tyrol, seems to have an interesting history. We shall look at its early days as Hotel Britannia, and delve into the story.
2018-11: The jury sits again this week - and we go through the applications and - unfortunately - two cases of deletions from the list. The 50/50/50 rules are confirmed.
2018-11-11-11:11: an act of rememberance. 100 years of the end of the Great War.
2018-10/11: Taking Galle Face Hotel Colombo / Sri Lanka on board, the icon of South East Asia's hotels. We start research and are open for submissions of material, documents, photographs, Your personal memories, ...
2018-09: Are we approaching an age of darkness? Hoteliers are hesitant to keep archives.
2018-08: Prince de Galles Paris: the exquisite Art Deco temple in the City of Lights — we are introducing our research, never before published historic photographs and contemporary photography in a Palace Edition book at the height of the Paris' season this autumn.
Grand Hotel Royal — the "Corinthia Budapest": updating the book for the next edition, creation of articles for the hotel's inhouse magazine.
Hotel Imperial Vienna: the Path of History will be updated
Report from Syria: BARON ALEPPO — The Baron Hotel, in west Aleppo near the front line, was hit by mortar bombs, including one that sprayed shrapnel across an upper floor and another that crashed through the window of its “Oriental Room” onto delicate floor tiles but failed to explode. It stopped taking paying guests in 2012
2018-05: latest discovery for our new book Metropole Hanoi. Charles Depincé 1902 photograph of the one year old Hotel Metropole.
2018-05: we are starting our series of articles for Hearst Publications with Marie Claire / Italy.
2018-05: Discovery of the oldest print of the Hotel Astoria Bruxelles — its predecessor "Grand Hotel", later Hotel Cluysenaar.
2018-04: Cesar Ritz — the Hotelier — appears in the Austrian daily Die Presse.
2018-04: We bestow the title "oldest hotel in the world" on a hospitable place in Japan, dating back to the 8th century, called Keiunkan. In the year 705AD (the 2nd year of the Keiun era), Fujiwara Mahito founded the inn. Because it was founded in the Keiun era, the inn was thus named Keiunkan.
2018 03: Reading Session A Night at The Ritz
With Closr we create descriptive and informative presentations of famoushotels history images.
2018-2: expanding the portfolio of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, we have recently selected the Hotel Majestic Barcelona. At the same time, we have re-listed the Oriental Hotel Kobe, Japan.
2018-1: WEF — ECONOMIC FORUM — Davos and its famous hotel Grand Hotel Belvedere is in a state of emergency. Two articles explain in German and in English what's going on during these extraordinary days.
Our book GRAND HOTEL BELVEDERE DAVOS (in German) tells you the story of this equally extraordinary hotel.
2018-1: Our research projects include Hotel Astoria in Brussels. It is currently closed and will reopen in 2020. It is a rare jewel of the beginning art-deco, end of art nouveau (Jugendstil). It was inspired by King Leopold of Belgium, and opened during the Brussels' World Fair in 1910.
Have you stayed at the Astoria / worked there: Please send us information / historic material etc. Mail
We are completing our book on the Paris Hotel Prince de Galles. More about it soon!
The Half Moon Treasury is about to be launched.
2017-12: No, we are not the Guinness Book of Records, so we do not list 'the world's most northerly full-service hotel (which is by the way the Radisson SAS Polar Hotel in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, the largest hotel suite (Grand Hills in Lebanon – 4,131 m² – actually a building is comprised of 6 floors surrounded by private gardens and swimming pools, none of which are included in the 4,131). The smallest hotel with an overall floorspace of 53 m2, is the Eh'hausl hotel in Amberg, Germany. The largest hotel is the First World Hotel (Malaysia) with 7,351 operational rooms, at Resorts World Genting in Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia, as of 20 June 2015. Meanwhile, to secure the lead, the hotel increased its size from 6,118 rooms to 7,351, with the construction of a Tower 2 Annex. The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, UAE, formerly known as Emirates Park Towers Hotel & Spa, is the tallest hotel, standing at 355.35 m (1,165.84 ft) from ground level to the top of its mast (the building’s spire is 49.60 m tall).
- around the world in 80 hotels
- art nouveau
- cesar ritz
- galle face
- grand hotel
- great war
- half moon
- hotel metropole
- oriental hotel
- prince de galles
- sri lanka
Feuilleton in Reflection of the Armistice — 11. November 1918
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World
This is a weekend of remembrance and appreciation; it is “Armistice”. 100 years ago, World War I, the so-called Great War, ended on this date. The unthinkable war between European nations—Germany and Austria with its allies against France, England, Russia and the rest of the world—was over.
Not possible to imagine today, it would happen once more (1939–1945) before our world was to reach the new order we treasure today. Not all, I know, but most of us are living during the longest period of peace in modern times.
Only 14 famous hotels opened during 5 years of war
Our famoushotels-timeline reveals that during its five devastating years until 1918, only 14 of the most famous hotels in the world were opened.
Hotel Gellert in Budapest opened in 1918
That is a relatively small number considering that during the following ‘roaring twenties’, until the next major crash (black Tuesday in 1929), over 60 hotels on our list were put into operation.
The last one opened before the Wall Street Crash was the Prince de Galles in Paris. It is located in Avenue George V., a street named after the British monarch who steered England through that war.
We are publishing the Prince de Galles story to commemorate its 90th anniversary.
I wish you a meaningful weekend of remembrance and appreciation
Look: Here is a link to an annotated online version of the London paper The Times on 12. November 1918. Interesting to see how restrained the victorious nation reported on the last day of war in its “Late War Edition” including details about war, casualties, death notices and adverts, from Gillette and All-Wool-Overcoats to Harrods ‘Blouse Week’. The Times was first to issue a National Tribute to the Nurses of the Great War (page one, centre).
For Austria – at the loosing end – I have chosen the Neue Freie Presse, where you can browse the 12 November edition here: http://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?aid=nfp&datum=19181112&seite=1&zoom=33
(Thank you for your comments, which I gladly publish here)
Thanks for your article.
From a Canadian perspective..:
Young, fresh-faced Canada sent 424,000 men overseas to fight in the First World War and nearly 61,000 of them were killed on foreign soil, far, far, far away from their homes in their 50-year-old country.
Those Canadians rest now in cemeteries all over Europe and their sacrifice helped forge a nation.
So it seems entirely appropriate that, on the 100th anniversary of the end of that great conflict, Canada’s prime minister, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of this year, should spend the day in France, where many of the greatest battles Canadians fought and died in were waged.
Not only that — though that reason alone would be sufficient for a Canadian prime minister to be overseas this year — but French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Teresa May, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and U.S. President Donald Trump to join him and more than 70 other world leaders in Paris for a special 100th anniversary Armistice Day service Sunday, followed by a Peace Forum, where those leaders will discuss issues of international security.
Even if it is in French this is a document from the WWI by my great great grandfather Louis TESTOT who was in Verdun
Can be interesting : [url=https://journaldeguerredeverdun.blogspot.com/]https://journaldeguerredeverdun.blogspot.com/[/url]
Feuilleton 348 — Half Moon Jamaica - It’s all about people
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
My dear Readers;
All that matters in hospitality are people. We meet them, need them, interact with them. We must not take it for granted that they serve us. They could merely do their jobs, but their smile can make our day, their effort by going the proverbial extra mile can change our life.
I have met a remarkable team at Jamaica's Half Moon. It is driven by an energetic chairman, Guy Steuart III, who invests in the future of so many people, for over two years assisted by the congenial general manager Sandro Fabris.
These pages of photographs of the team represent the inner part of the cover of our new book. Click both images below to enlarge them, should you wish to.
Meet the first true ‘generation cool’
As some would have it, Half Moon represents the third wave of beach resorts for Americans: the first generation established Palm Beach as their getaway from the hustle and bustle of New York, their children built Nassau to get away from Palm Beach, and in the 1950s a new generation made Jamaica their retreat to get away from their parents. For Europeans, Jamaica represented an opportunity to truly get away from it all.
In 1952, a group of connoisseurs of freedom and luxury decided to build Half Moon. That's where our story starts. This book runs the gamut from the arrival of Christopher Columbus all the way to Annie Palmer – the ‘White Witch of Rose Hall’, from James Bond to Noël Coward, the stars of Hollywood, American presidents and business magnates, the Kennedys and the Royal families of Europe. We have carefully researched the history of Jamaica and this generous Montego Bay resort, with its 3 kilometres of uninterrupted beach, wonderful restaurants, horse riding, world class tennis pros and arguably the best golf course in the Caribbean.
Make the acquaintance of the pioneers who created Half Moon resort. Meet the people who have been serving guests for over half a century. Learn all about crab races, a water skiing instructor who founded a record label right here (yes, it is Chris Blackwell), why an Olympic-size pool isn’t Olympic, the genesis of the islands greatest golf course, and how Half Moon became an environmental role model. Here is the story of the most legendary Caribbean hotel. A unique compilation of fascinating facts, entertaining anecdotes and inspiring tales.
Peggy Steuart, mother of the present chairman, with Wordsworth Watson, Half Moon's estate manager, who started working at the hotel in 1958.
And, yes, Half Moon was the first, with Round Hill opening just one month later. But that's another story!
Enjoy your travels, wherever they take you, and think about the people who assist you while you are far away from home. How their lives are intervened in the creation of a hotel, how they shape such an institution, and how we guests in return shape their lives.
Left: the fabulous Everette Baker, who had started his career at Half Moon as a trainee in 1972. When he was 36, he had fallen in love with a beautiful girl called Audrey, working at the reservation office. Married ever since!
Yours, as always
Feuilleton 347 - Ritzy Things You Should Know
Some Ritzy Things To Spice Up Your Dinner Conversation
During his career, Swiss born César Ritz (1850–1918) managed or owned the following hotels.
A buffet in the Bois de Boulogne (his first private enterprise),
... and in loose order:
Hotel Rigi Kulm,
Hotel de Provence in Cannes,
Hotel Minerva and Restaurant de la Conversation in Baden Baden,
Savoy, Carlton and Claridges in London,
Riviera Hotel in Maidenhead
Grand Hotel Rome,
Grand Hotel des Thermes Salsomaggiore,
Grand Hotel Villa Igiea in Palermo,
Restaurant Ritz in Biarritz,
Hyde Park in London,
Kaiserhof and Auguste Victoria Bad in Wiesbaden,
Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo,
Grand Hotel National in Luzern,
Grand Hotel des Ilse Britanniques in Menton,
and the Ritz Development Company, planning and overlooking projects in Johannesburg, Madrid, Cairo and Budapest.
César Ritz influenced modern lighting, was known for trying out different colours of lampshades to enhance the appearance of the complexion of a lady's skin.
THE SAVOY LONDON: In 1889, César Ritz became the first general manager of the new SAVOY in London. It was deliberately called SAVOY HOTEL & RESTAURANT, because he wanted the kitchen under Auguste Escoffier to stand out as a very special feature of the enterprise. Ritz brought Auguste Escoffier to the scene, the man who revolutionised the organisation of modern kitchen, and influenced modern cooking.
With the support of the press and even members of parliament, the team introduced Sunday evening dinners and made it fashionable to attend them. The sudden demand for fresh bread on Sundays (no London baker would provide fresh bread on the day of the Lord) led to the employment of a baker from Vienna, a tradition that has been upheld for over a hundred years. This baker brought with him the delights of Viennoiserie, from crisp dark rye bread to rolls and croissants, and the mouth-watering delights of Austrian cakes, strudels and pastries.
In 1894, César Ritz opened the Grand Hotel Rome, today St Regis Rome.
The name Ritz Carlton goes back to London of the year 1899. That year, César Ritz opened the hotel Carlton in Pall Mall, London.
For visitors it was simply the Carlton, but for all who knew Ritz, they would have referred to it as "Ritz’ Carlton". However, the hotel was never called that way.
This combination of names was first used for fine dining restaurants operated on the steamers of the Hamburg-Amerika Line. They were indeed called Ritz's Carlton - Restaurant. In 1905, the restaurant on board of one of the ships, the Augusta Victoria, named for Empress Augusta Victoria, wife of German Emperor Wilhelm II, was still called "Ritz Restaurant. Ritz Carlton appeared after 1905, like here, on this 1909 menu.
The Ritz-Carlton Investing Company was established by Albert Keller in 1911, paying a stately sum to the Ritz hotel development syndicate in London for franchising the name in the United States. The New York hotel, located at 46th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, opened in 1911 as the first Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the U.S.
Puttin’ on the Ritz is a phrase first coined in America in the 1920s. It refers to the Hotel Ritz Carlton and the "well-to-do, walking down Park Avenue" in New York. It means to put on your finest dress, a dress suitable to be worn at a Ritz Carlton hotel. The song "Puttin' On the Ritz" was written by Irving Berlin in May 1927 and first published it in 1929. It was introduced in the musical film "Puttin' On the Ritz" (1930, by Harry Richman). The song was sung, danced and immortalized by Fred Astaire.
César Ritz died on 26. October 1918.
Feuilleton 346 — Path of History
Dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
First of all thank you very much for your brilliant responses on my last week's question whether we should consider young hotels like Dubai's iconic sail-shaped hotel Burj Al Arab (Jumeirah) as a Select Member. Your answers confirmed our path we have been following for the past decades.
This week's newsletter, if you wish, could occupy exactly 2 Minutes and 16 seconds of your valuable time. As many of you know, upon completion of a book, we are translating our research results into smashing exhibitions. We call them The Path of History. Here you can learn more about our global exhibition work in a 2'16" video.
Wishing you a great weekend
Yours, as always,
The Path of History
The Most Famous Hotels in the World display splendid exhibitions, based on meticulous historic research. Exhibitions are the result of our research, displaying carefully chosen excerpts of our books. You see: Walls can talk.
Our Path of History brochure
and for the pros: Creating a Path of History
Feuilleton 345 – Because we Care - Galle Face, Quiz, Jumeirah
Dear fellow Travellers,
dear Friends of The Most Famous Hotels in the World,
On 14. March 1931, at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, Ceylon (today Sri Lanka), the restaurant served for Lunch
The hotel offered Dinner & -Dance on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Ball Room, (the largest east of Suez) free of charge for all who were actually dining at the hotel.
Those who were looking for a watering hole hadn't’t to worry as the hotel held an extended license and plenty of liquor stocks, among it Pimm's No 1. Legend has it that the first ever crate of Pimm's to arrive in Sri Lanka from the British Empire was shipped to the Galle Face Hotel.
In the afternoons, at 5 P.M., guests met at the miniature golf on the western lawn. Badminton and deck tennis courts were available, too.
Why do I tell you all this? Because details matter. Because history is the source of our future. Because we care.
The Galle Face Hotel dates back to 1864. That makes some 56,000 luncheons, hand and machine written menus, over one million lunchers. Among them the Emperor of Japan and Germany, the Duke of Edinburgh, .... More about it here, and soon.
Galle Face Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Today, Pimm’s o’ clock is the perfect excuse to enjoy relaxed evenings with that famous drink and a breath-taking view of the Indian Ocean.
Burj Al Arab (Jumeirah), Dubai
THE JURY is going to meet in November:
Not many hotels are as old as the Galle Face. As many of you know, our 50/50/50 selection criteria is stiff: 50 years of age, over 50 rooms and at least 50% of the year open. Otherwise a hotel won't be able to become a Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World.
This week, Dubai's iconic sail-shaped hotel Burj Al Arab (Jumeirah) has been suggested as a Select Member. It is certainly big enough, open all year round, but only 20 years old. Should we wait until 2039? What do you think? Write to me please.
Have you ever tried our Quiz? So far, nobody was able to answer all 25 questions correctly.
1. Who founded a South-East Asian city and had a hotel named after him some 70 years later?
2. Vivaldi couldn't have named it better (in German) - harbour city sounds like popular fast-food.
If you have a minute, why not give it a chance? Quiz
Enjoy your journeys,