< POLAND | WARSAW: Hotel Bristol
The winning design for the new hotel came from Cracow architects, Stryjenski and Maczynski and was Art Nouveau in design, representing the latest in
architectural fashions. The shareholders, however, thought this modernity might put off potential guests and called in Wladyslaw Marconi, a Polish architect of Italian
origin, whose father had designed the Europejski Hotel across the road. Marconi added some comforting classical elements, enriched the facade with stucco work and topped
the Hotel's rounded corner with a podium or "belvedere", thus hopefully giving it the appearance of having a rich and reliable owner, rather than just a fashion-conscious
As for the decor, it was one of the first times in Europe, let alone in Warsaw, that the interior of a hotel was extensively decorated in the Art Nouveau style. The interior designer was the Austrian Otto Wagner the younger, who left his mark on Warsaw at the Bristol, with his stylish Viennese Art Nouveau reception rooms and the suite 211 -home to Ignacy Paderewski, one of the world's most celebrated and most highly rewarded pianists.
Within weeks of its opening in November 16th, 1901, Warsaw's newest hotel had become the place to stay. Over the following years statesmen, composers, geniuses from all walks of life, artists and the merely wealthy came and went through the Bristol doors. Composers Edward Grieg and Richard Strauss, singers such as Enrico Caruso, the physicist and chemist Marie Curie-Sklodowska to name but a few. And there were parties - peopled by Warsaw society. In 1907 the first New Year's Eve Ball ever to be held in a hotel was given by the Bristol. It started a tradition, which lasted many decades and has been revived today.
The First World War put a stop to such frivolity and the Hotel, part of which was requisitioned by the Germans, suffered both financially and structurally. When Poland finally regained independence, the Bristol became the natural setting for many of the subsequent political events.
Due to clever management and its extensive modernisation, the Bristol survived the Great Depression which was making itself felt, and remained famous for its parties, banquets and its eminent guests. Then came the Second World War. The Bristol closed on the outbreak of the Uprising on 1st August, and many of its employees joined the fight. Sixty-three days later it was over, and what was left of Warsaw was razed to the ground on Hitler's orders, but by some stroke of luck the Hotel Bristol was left standing and recognizable. However, it needed a repair.
Rebuilding was completed by 1947 and in July 1948, the Hotel was nationalised. Even with the radical changes on the political scene and the impact such changes had on society, the Bristol - which was still the best hotel - retained more than a glimmer of its former grandeur, with such visitors as Pablo Picasso, Artur Rubinstein, Jan Kiepura, Margot Fonteyn, and Marlene Dietrich.
In 1952, Hotel Bristol was taken over by Orbis, the State Tourist Agency and became a hotel exclusively for visitors from abroad. The interior of the Hotel was changed to echo the political attitude of the newly named People's Republic of Poland. By the 1970s the Hotel had lost its edge over other Warsaw Hotels and its condition was rapidly deteriorating. Renovation plans were made but remained only on paper.
In November 1981, exactly eighty years after it opened, Bristol finally succumbed to the sorry ideology of Communism's command economy and closed its doors. Ten years later, by which time the Hotel was quite literally a ruin, it was bought by Forte which began the momentous task of restoring the Bristol to its former glory. On December 5, 1992, the five-star Hotel Bristol reopened for business, with Lady Thatcher officially cutting the ribbon on April 17, 1993, when she stayed in the newly renovated Paderewski Suite. Once again, the edifice claimed the title of the most beautiful hotel in Warsaw, drawing royalty ranging from Queen Elizabeth II to His Holiness, Dalai Lama and celebrities ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Woody Allen.
Five years later, on September 24, 1998, a new chapter began when Hotel Bristol became a member of Le Méridien before joining the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Luxury Collection in 2013.
Additional literature: n/a