< UNITED KINGDOM | LONDON: Strand Palace Hotel
The Strand Palace Hotel has a fascinating history dating back to 1907, when permission was given granted to build a 'grand' hotel in the prominent Westminster
thoroughfare of the Strand. Two years later, this Waterloo London hotel opened for business and remained under the same name ever since. At that time, a single room with breakfast
would have set you back five shillings and six pence - 27p in today's money.
As London roared into the Twenties, the adjoining Haxell's Hotel was acquired in order to expand and modernise the Strand Palace. After extensive redevelopment, the hotel became an art deco showcase, and re-opened in 1928 boasting 980 bedrooms.
Art Deco features were incorporated into many of the public areas, and the Hotel became a popular venue for social gatherings, where London's best and brightest could show off their
dancing skills with displays of the Charleston and Tango. Some of the original Art Deco architecture can still be seen today in the historic facade, and the property has been featured
in several movies and television period dramas.
The grand entrance to the hotel was the talk of the town and bettered those of our more prestigious competitors the Savoy and Claridges. The rear of the property was occupied by The Winter Garden Restaurant, which is now The Gin Palace, Lounge Bar and Reception area. The restaurant had a large dome ceiling and could seat over 500 guests, which were served by over 100 staff.
At the same time, certain functional changes were quietly made. Two second-hand coal-fired steam boilers, salvaged from World War I battleships, were installed in the boiler house. They proved to be highly labour intensive, and required 24-hour monitoring. Legend holds that one father and son team looked after the boilers for thirty-six years, seeing each other only at the beginning and end of their 12-hour shifts.
During the Second World War, food ration vouchers could be exchanged for meals in the restaurant, and air raid shelters were provided for all guests in the basement vaults. Due to its large number of bedrooms, the Hotel became popular with the American armed forces before they were sent into action. The Hotel was in fact commissioned as an official U.S rest and recuperation residence. Once again the Hotel became an important social venue as Londoners and war-weary soldiers jived and jitterbugged long into the night. Over the years, many of those service personnel have returned to relive memories, and today their families and relatives still visit the Strand.
Some years ago during excavation work in the fields of Normandy, France, a Strand Palace Hotel room key was discovered in a First World War trenches from the First World War. That key and other Art Deco features are now held in the archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The post-war era saw the Strand Palace Hotel implement a number of improvements. With the introduction of private bathrooms in all guestrooms in 1958, new oil-fired boilers were installed to cope with the increased demand for hot water. It was at this time that the son of the original boiler house team finally hung up his coal scuttle and joined his father in happy retirement. Also at this time electronic cash registers were installed.
In 1968, the front hall and ground floor restaurants, including the Winter Garden were re-designed, and the first computerised billing system in London was installed. The revolving doors at the main entrance were no longer classed “fashionable”, but were of such fine quality and historic interest that they were given to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
In 1976 Forte bought the lease for the Strand Palace Hotel from the Lyons Hotel Group. Over the next 10 years minor refurbishment took place throughout the hotel. In 1985 a more in depth refurbishment was undertaken on all floors of the hotel and this included new furniture, new bathrooms and a redecoration of the bedrooms.
In 2006 its current owners London & Regional Properties acquired the hotel. Significant development throughout the hotel with major refurbishment in all bars and restaurants, main reception area, over 500 bedrooms fully refurbished including corridors and the redecoration of the conference areas.
Today the Hotel is fully computerised and is set well to face its next 100 years. As the premier address among London Waterloo hotels, the Strand Hotel offers comfortable accommodation and impeccable service, with extensive catering facilities and excellent conference suites.
Additional pages: Bartender's Tales - 'Please Leave at the Bureau'
Additional literature: n/a