< UNITED KINGDOM | LONDON: The Savoy
Back in 1246, Henry III presented a stretch of land between the Strand and the Thames to Peter, Count of Savoy, uncle and consort to the King’s wife. Peter built his Savoy Palace on the river, and the name has been associated with the place ever since. Over 600 years later, impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte chose the location for a new theatre to stage the famous operettas written by his friends Gilbert and Sullivan. He decided to call his new building the Savoy Theatre, and the productions were known henceforth as the Savoy Operas. Gilbert and Sullivan were a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic, and D’Oyly Carte spent a lot of time producing their shows in America. This meant he could stay in some of the newest and best hotels, which impressed him so much with their amazing new technologies that he decided to build his own hotel back in London.
The new Savoy on the river took five years to build and opened on August 6, 1889. It caused a sensation. This, the first true luxury hotel in London, was also the first to be lit by electricity.
It had the first electric lifts, known as ‘ascending rooms’. Guest rooms were connected by speaking tube to the valet, maid and floor waiter – and to other parts of the hotel. The Savoy later
became the first hotel to provide most of its rooms with private bathrooms en suite. The ‘Savoy bathroom’ became famous for its cascading shower and quick filling bath.
D’Oyly Carte tempted the well-known hotel manager César Ritz to join his new wonder hotel. Ritz was delighted by the perfectly appointed facilities and great potential at The Savoy. He brought in Auguste Escoffier, leading ‘celebrity chef’ of his day, to run the kitchens. In the early years, Savoy guests included Sarah Bernhardt and Dame Nellie Melba for whom Escoffier famously created Melba Toast when she was on a diet, and Pêches Melba when she was not. Artists Whistler and Monet both used views from Savoy windows in their work. Oscar Wilde stayed, with his friend Lord Alfred Douglas. The Prince of Wales and his coterie were frequent visitors. By 1904 the hotel was such a hit that the blocks on the Strand were added, designed by Thomas Collcutt, and the American Bar and Savoy Grill moved into this new part of the hotel.
After the sobering interlude of the Great War, The Savoy gradually began to find itself again, always looking for the latest styles and fashions that would draw the feted and famous. The likes of Noël Coward, George Gershwin, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells frequented the restaurants and American Bar. The Jazz Age and The Savoy were made for each other. Top jazz musicians from America came to play, and a hydraulic system was installed to raise the dance-floor and turn it into a stage for cabaret acts. The Savoy’s defining Art Deco style was introduced, with the iconic stainless-steel sign over Savoy Court erected in 1929. Epitomising all the fun and flamboyance of the times, the famous Savoy Cocktail Book was published in 1930.
The stars loved The Savoy, England’s own Vivien Leigh was first introduced to her future husband Laurence Olivier in the hotel’s Savoy Grill. From America came Hollywood greats such as Al Jolson, Errol Flynn and Katharine Hepburn. From France, Josephine Baker and Coco Chanel. Winston Churchill frequently lunched with his cabinet at the hotel during World War II, and attended his Savoy dining club, The Other Club, until his death in 1965. Once peace was declared, The Savoy quickly regained its air of glamour and luxury. Princess Elizabeth was first seen with Lt. Philip Mountbatten in public at a Savoy reception. When the Princess became The Queen a few years later, The Savoy threw quite the largest and most lavish Coronation Ball in London.
The new Elizabethan age saw a new generation of actors, film stars and politicians at The Savoy. Among the most glamorous: Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe. The Savoy swung into the 1960s with guests ranging from Louis Armstrong, Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda to The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
A number of refurbishments were undertaken as the century came to a close, the last completed just in time for the great Savoy party that celebrated the new Millennium. In December 2007, hotel closed for a restoration program that encompasses the entire building from the iconic entrance and the American Bar to Savoy Grill and the 268 guestrooms and suites. The Savoy has undergone one of the most ambitious restorations in British history.
After nearly tree years of painstaking work and cost of over £100 million, The Savoy, A Fairmont Managed Hotel, reopened its doors on Sunday, October 10, 2010. What has been achieved is a quite remarkable synthesis of past and present. The Edwardian style of the original buildings and the Art Deco of the 1920s and 30s have been enhanced to embrace the very latest technology.
The restoration offers guests even higher standards of service and pinnacles of experience, with new names such as the Beaufort Bar and Savoy Tea added to the hotel’s illustrious eating and meeting spots. So The Savoy brings to the 21st century its own style of quality, charm and originality, steeped in the character of London of which it is an essential part. Authentically celebrating its past, The Savoy is now also leading the present. A British icon has once again taken its place on the world stage.
#Andreas Augustin: The Savoy London
The Most Famous Hotels In the World, 2002 | ISBN-10: 3902118040; ISBN-13: 978-3902118042
English language | 224 pages | Hardcover
| Buy it at Amazon | Buy it at Alibris |