Hotels of the Social Elite


Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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Interesting question, John - I'll have to look that up. It's a pretty vast old thing.

The Grand Hotel in Scarborough (THE original 'Grand Hotel') was once the largest hotel in the world. It has a few connections with the Moody family. Rather shabby Victorian grandeur, I'm afraid, but at night from the lighthouse it still looks much the same as it did in Grimshaw's wonderfully atmospheric painting 'Scarborough Lights'.
 
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Alex Twitchen

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Hi All

I have just had the pleasure of a weekend at the Adelphi in Liverpool (Stag weekend so much more time spent in the bar than my room !). The hotel is still very impressive and according to the leaflet I picked up it claims that the ball room was modelled on the one aboard the Titanic. Is there any truth in this or is it a little marketing hype ?

I do wonder what Murdoch and his colleagues would have made of the disco.

From memory the hotel has 402 bed rooms on 6 floors, not many compared to today's skyscrapers.

I also came across a pub in Liverpool called "The White Star" with a picture of an ocean liner on the sign, (unfortunately it was too dark to make out which one). This must cause some confusion to drinkers without a nautical interest. Unfortunately I don't know exactly where it was as I was slightly the worse for wear and very lost. If anyone knows the address of the pub can they post it as I would like to go back for a better look next time I'm sober in Liverpool.

Regards

Alex
 
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John Meeks

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Quiet but interesting little thread, this.

Had to smile, Inger, at your mention of Grimshaw's painting...my old grandmother used to have a colossal print of it in her bedroom! Always remember it - hung ceremoniously over 'the commode'!
(See other threads for discussions of this quite useful device!)

As for the Adelphi though...but I presume it's been much modernised now...I was under the impression it used to have 800-plus rooms, which would have been quite a number during its heyday.

Regards,

John M
 

John Clifford

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Mar 30, 1997
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A few things:

Colleen: Quick note: The Miramar Hotel is near to, but not immediately visible from Pacific Coast Highway, in Santa Monica (unless you know its exact location, and are heading southbound, from Malibu). The hotel is on Ocean Avenue, between Wilshire Blvd. and California Avenue. I don't know if the California Incline road used to be an old foottrail or horsepath down to the beach.

Shelly: I plan to take my vacation, next July, to Toronto and Ottawa. While in Ottawa, I'll have to stay at the Chateau Laurier.

Douglas: The Chateau Lake Louise was also operating in 1912. However, the oldest part of the current building, the Painter Wing, was opened in 1913.
The other parts of the hotel were later destroyed by a fire in, I believe, 1924.
I wonder how many of Titanic's first-class passengers may have, at least once, visited Lake Louise?

Alex: I got the chance to see the White Star Bar, in Liverpool, last July. It is a short walk up the alleyway where the Cavern Club is located: head north of the Cavern Club, and turn right at the first corner.
Geoff: Help!! I can't remember the street names.

Inside the White Star is a painting of the Titanic. I made sure to toast the "Great Lady", when I visited the pub on my last night in Liverpool.

For 2004, I'll be in England, again. I'll have to return to Liverpool, and revisit the White Star pub, as well as stay at the White Swan in Alnwick.

John Clifford
 

Inger Sheil

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I came across a 'Cunard' Pub whilst wandering through the wilds of Bootle the other week, looking at shore addresses for the Titanic crewmen. Then there's Cobh, which is crammed full of pubs like the White Star, Lusitania etc. Senan Molony told me about his Golden Age of Liner Travel pub crawl on his last visit down there.

John, I know that Grimshaw goes in and out of fashion, but relegating him to a place over the commode seems a bit harsh! I've grown increasingly fond of his works, and especially of his paintings of dockyards at night.

I have some literature at home somewhere on the Adelphi - I imagine that it has been much modernised, as there needed to be space made for the nighclub that Alex mentioned as well as the gym etc. Good thing about the Adelphi is 'The American Bar' which only kicks into life after Closing Time - very handy after you've been booted out of the other pubs in the area.
 
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Alex Twitchen

Guest
John, Thanks for the info I will try and find the bar again next time I am in Liverpool.

Inger, I suspect that the biggest impact on the number of bedrooms at the Adelphi now compared with the past would be the number of conference suites and meeting rooms.

I can confirm that 'The American Bar' was a very useful facility at 2.30am !

Regards

Alex
 
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Robert M Himmelsbach

Guest
Two notes: 1) Here in Philadelphia, the Bellvue-Stratford (built 1904) was the elite location. Built across the street from the old Stratford and now taking it's place as the "Grande Dame" hotel (even when new), the "grand old lady of Broad Street" remained the high-society retreat of choice until the 1976 Legionnaires Disease fiasco. It's still there, 'though the lower floors have been converted to office space and the upper floors are, I believe, now a hotel that's part of the Fairmount chain.
2) In San Diego, the U.S. Grant hotel (built 1910)has long been a high-class accomodation.
I stayed there for an American Public Health Association conference several years ago; my plane got in late, I got to the hotel even later, and all the singles had been occupied, but since I had confirmed my reservation with AmEx (gotta love it!)they wound up giving me a suite! Parlor & bedroom, done in Queen Anne style as I recall, dressing room I could have used to house an immigrant family of 6, bathroom, and beyond that the hot tub room (obviously a recent addition!). For six days I rattled around in there by myself feeling like any moment now the White Trash Police would show up to cart me away for being unworthy of the lodgings!
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I thought I might as well chime in here - this thread has been lying dormant for the better part of five years!

The most prestigious hotels of the Gilded Age, then as now, were those established and run by Cesar Ritz. Having managed London's famous Savoy between 1889 and 1897, Ritz went on to open the first hotel to bear his name in Paris, on the swanky Place Vendome, in 1898. I'd go so far as to say that the Paris Ritz was the first truly 'grand hotel' in the same way that the 'Mauretania' and 'Lusitania' were the first true 'floating palaces'. Exquisitely decorated in the Louis XVI style - a far cry from the stuffy, over-upholstered look still so popular in the closing years of the nineteenth century - the hotel rapidly came a Parisian landmark, frequented by princes and millionaires alike. It is of no small credit to the staff of the Ritz that they were patronised by so tricky a customer as that legendary (and, in my opinion, insufferable) chronicler of the Belle Epoque, Marcel Proust. Then again, the doyenne of American literature, Edith Wharton, was distinctly sniffy about what she deemed to be the flashy international crowd who flocked to the Ritz and satirised it as the 'Nouveau Luxe' in her brilliant and savage novel of 1913, 'The Custom of the Country', and in several of her short stories.

I believe the John Jacob Astors spent their last night in Paris at the Ritz, before travelling to Cherbourg to board the 'Titanic'. Dorothy Gibson actually died there in early 1946!

Following the huge success of the Paris hotel, Ritz went on to open a sister branch in London in 1906. Situated by leafy Green Park on busy Piccadilly, the London Ritz was an immediate success and, even today, there is no one building so redolent of leisured and elegant Edwardian England. After a period of relative shabbiness in the 1970s and 1980s, the public rooms and private suites have been rejuvenated and revitalised and are now every bit as splendid as they were when the hotel first opened. The sumptuous Louis XVI decor - a symphony of rose-pink and gold - was carried out by the firm of Mewes and Davis who were also responsible for first-class interiors aboard the Hapag liner 'Imperator' of 1912 (subsequently the Cunard 'Berengaria') and the 'Aquitania' of 1914. The main dining room is perhaps the most beautiful in town!

As for other hotels...as Randy says, the Meurice and the Crillon in Paris were both absolutely top-notch - the Crillon in particular. It is here that the ultra-prestigious Debutante Ball is annually held. The super-elegant Plaza Athenee opened in 1911 and is now chicer than ever (a very demanding friend of mine won't stay anywhere else - not even at the Ritz - when she is in Paris). The venerable Bristol was also popular, particularly with older clients who preferred discretion to flash and sparkle. A Spanish branch of the Ritz opened in Madrid in 1910 - I imagine the Penascos would have been familiar with it.

In London, Claridges was a by-word for luxury and service - it is my personal favourite among the great hotels although the Art Deco interiors I so love were not fitted until the late 1920s and early 1930s. The sadly defunct Cecil was enormously popular with the Edwardian rich, as was the Savoy on the Strand - although this latter now survives mainly on a past reputation for greatness, which seems to have little to sustain it today. Brown's Hotel in Mayfair has been a quietly and discreetly grand venue since 1837 - it is name-checked in Wharton's 'Age of Innocence' so she must have approved! - and is currently enjoying something of a renaissance (beware the apple martinis!)

As mentioned above, the Adelphi in Liverpool opened around the time of the Great War and was, I think, intended to appeal to the same clientele who sailed first-class on the great Cunard liners. Although architecturally on a palatial scale, it has rather come down in the world in recent decades, so you'll have to use your imagination if you pay a visit today!
 

Jim Kalafus

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New York City had the Ritz-Carlton, now demolished; the Astor, whicb was perhaps the most European of the NYC hotels, now demolished; John Jacob Astor's Knickerbocker (converted to office space in the early 1920s); Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilts's Vanderbilt Hotel (converted to office space in the 1960s); the Waldorf-Astoria, demolished in the late 1920s; the Biltmore, demolished in the 1980s; The Savoy-Plaza, demolished in the 1960s; the still-extant St. Regis (another J.J. Astor project); the Plaza (now being converted to condos) and for true old money who turned up their noses at the garish excesses of the newly wealthy, there was the staid Brevoort on lower Fifth Avenue, demolished in the 1950s. The Claridge, across the street from the Hotel Astor, was almost as exuberant although never matched it in terms of prestige, demolished early 1970s. There was the Commodore, with its massive lobby, modernised out of existence in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and, of course, the still-extant Roosevelt with its Berengaria-like interiors. The Gotham, across the street from the St. Regis was, and is, a remarkable building and one of the few Beaux-arts era structures in NYC not to look stale from day 1. The Prince George, and Martinique, still extant, were amazingly detailed not-quite-top-drawer structures. The Murray Hill, demolished post-WW2, remained aggressively High Victorian long beyond the point where such was fashionable. Just a handful of favorites.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I'm not really an expert on the American hotels of the Gilded Age (particularly those outside the New York area) but I was devastated to hear of the closure of The Plaza - a truly grand hotel that ceased operation just months short of its centenary.

Back in Europe, The Adlon in Berlin was very smart - like The Plaza, it opened in 1907. During the dark days of the Second World War, it became both a refuge and a haven for the remnants of the old German aristocracy as Allied bombers battered the city. In Vienna, the legendary Sacher had been serving its scrumptious chocolate cake since the 1870s. The Imperial was also a splendid venue, truly worthy of an emperor. That favourite destination of the Edwardian rich, the French Riviera, boasted the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, a show-case of Second Empire luxury, which it remains to this day. The Carlton in Cannes was very similar; interestingly, its twin domes were reputedly modelled on the breasts of grande horizontale, La Belle Otero! It is worth remembering that the fashionable spa-towns of Vichy, Baden-Baden and Homburg (the latter finally upgraded to 'Bad' status in 1912) also featured very grand hotels for rich patrons although specific names temporarily escape me.

As a matter of interest, do we know which New York hotels first-class survivors went to after the 'Carpathia' landed? The Countess of Rothes, I think, went to The Plaza...
 

Jim Kalafus

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I think that the Duff-Gordons went to the Ritz-Carlton, and since Mrs. White gave the Waldorf -Astoria as her NYC address she most likely went there.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Apologies for an error in my earlier post. I now see, from re-reading Randy's article about her, that Noelle Rothes actually went to the New York Ritz-Carlton. It must have been interesting to see first-class 'Titanic' survivors stumbling in motley array through the portals of these very grand hotels! I imagine most simply had a hot bath and a lie-down.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Here is the ballroom of the Hotel Astor, from an article coming soon to Gare Maritime. The rather wretched stylistic excesses shown here were removed circa 1931 and replaced by an excellent Art Deco room designed by Julian Peabody, who was lost aboard the Mohawk in 1935.
120428.jpg
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Hmmmmmmm, I suspect a little artistic license may have been exercised here! The people look just a tad under-sized for this cavernous space!

As a matter of interest - does anybody else on the board have copyright-free photographs or images to contribute of Edwardian patrons luxuriating in the grand hotels of the era?
 
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sashka pozzetti

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I quite like the stylistic excess! If they were going to go for that look, they have at least put all their effort in! The only blank space must have been on the cheque.

I expect I would prefer the deco version, is there a picture to compare? :)
 

Jim Kalafus

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>The people look just a tad under-sized for this cavernous space!

The proportions are fairly accurate. Unlike the designers of ocean liners, who were hampered by 8 foot high ceilings that made even a lofty three deck room seem squatty when human models were introduced to the photos (BTW- in the new Queen Victoria brochure, check out the cabin photo with the elderly woman in it emphasizing how cramped the standard cabin will be. She ruins the proportions, sitting as she does on a couhc with her knees up against the coffee table ina msot uncomfortable looking manner. Why did they not move the table or delete the older woman?) land based architects had freedom to waste space.

>I expect I would prefer the deco version, is there a picture to compare

I'll scan one this evening.

Despite the fact that it represented the high water mark (and, fortunately, coming demise of) the most putrid era of social and stylistic atrophy in American history, the Astor transcended its tawdry beginnings as the playground of the rich and trashy set, to actually become somewhat of a cultural landmark. The Columbia Room and the Astor Roof became places where the smart set could catch up-to-the-minute popular acts- the surviving radio transcripts of Astor Roof performances are all beyond first rate and generate the rare wish-I-could-have-been-there feelings when I hear them. But, the hotel fell victim to NYC in the 1960s economics~ it was cheaper to buy a single large building and demolish it than it was to negotiate with the owners of five or six lesser structures, and so after the 1967 season it was closed and repalced by a glass box cliche.
 

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