< FRANCE | PARIS: Hilton Paris Opera
The Grand Hotel Terminus - as it was originally named, was commissioned at the end of the 19th Century as a new luxury hotel in Paris to accommodate wealthy
foreign visitors to the Paris Great Exhibition of 1889. The first stone was laid on 26th of January 1888, and in record time of just 15 months and at a cost of 12 million francs,
the Hotel was officially opened on 7th May 1889. Grand opening was announced by Gustave Eiffel from his tower, at the height of 300m.
Hotel was envisioned by architect Juste Lisch, and because of its revolutionary design and direct link to the Gare Saint Lazare, it was named the Grand Hotel Terminus. Architect Lisch was also in charge for the construction of the Gare Saint-Lazare, which opened just one month before the Hotel.
The arrival of the Grand Hotel Terminus, along with the recent development of railway lines and sea transportation put Paris on the doorstep of English, Russian and American tourists
and businessmen. Since its opening the success of this palace of 500 bedrooms has been enormous. Even in 1889 a commentary featuring in the hotel brochure was able to praise the
modern and luxurious inventions provided for the clients of ‘The Hotel Terminus’:.
«The telephone doubles the speed of service but if one is in bed, one still has the bell, allowing one to be served without getting up. There is electricity to tell the time, electricity to communicate, electricity to ring the bell, electricity to provide light. The room has two or three electric lamps according to its size. I am sitting in the corner by the fire, under the lamp next to the fireplace. I am at my table, a light suspended in the middle of the room. When I decide to sleep, by turning a key, the light in the middle of the room fades and another lamp lights up by my bedside. One would think one was by the fire of the late Robert Houdin.»
In 1889 all the furnishings came from the department stores of the Louvre, ensuring the criterion of quality, and the interior of each piece was lined with white enamel. The rooms were equipped with a double-doors allowing the valet to leave hot water without disturbing anyone and a box of surprises was often placed in the thickness of the wall along with letters, shoes...
The ingenious design plan of the hotel evoked the feeling in clients that everything was at hand: telephones for local calls, cloakrooms, hairdressers, elegant lavatories for men and women, restaurants, travel-goods and fine-food shops of the highest quality.
It would be to forget the main calling of this hotel, favoured by the travellers from America, England and Normandy, if one were not to mention the 18m long covered footbridge which linked the ‘salles des pas perdus’ with the Gare Saint-Lazare. The «Terminus» plaque, which was distributed at the time of the opening of our hotel reminds us of the importance of this precious detail:
«In order to travel often, one must consider three things – your time, money and tiredness. Once I get down from the train, I need a car to drag my bags to the town, I need another to bring them back when I leave. Cars, tips etc…5-10 FF. are quickly spent. At the Gare Saint-Lazare, I jump from the carriage, and on giving my ticket to the porter I enter The Grand Hotel Terminus. I am already in bed while the other ill-advised travellers fret on the pathways and quarrel with coachmen and porters (…) Then, on my departure, my ticket is brought to my room and my luggage is registered even before I have left the lounge. As soon as I have been informed of my trains arrival I can go straight through to the station by the footbridge, in my slippers, and into my compartment – without waiting, without getting cold, without getting irritated and consequently without getting tired.»
Clients had three restaurants at their disposal of which one was reserved for a buffet, one as a wine bar and one as an exceptional wine cellar. Indeed, the cellars of The Hotel Terminus were the pride of the establishment where one could find ‘Old Yquem’ and the ‘Bourgognes’ from the best years, satisfying even the most demanding of guests.
In the middle of the 1930’s the Hotel Terminus was entirely renovated. This may seem bizarre, as it happened in spite of a crisis in the hotel business, which had hit the large luxury hotels of towns, fashionable seaside resorts and the large European capitals.
In 1930, it was equipped with a very fine French billiards-room, unique in Paris where there had never before been any tradition of this.
In 1934, the architect Henri Pacon presided over the transformations, which made the hotel an avant-garde establishment once more. There followed the appearance of a jazz orchestra playing the Charleston and giving an air of perpetual party in the new salon of the Café Terminus. The Norman steak house, today the ‘Salon Champagne’ was the biggest success story of the hotel’s renovations. Entirely air-conditioned it assumed the shape of a Norman steamship and, complete with a central aisle and unique lighting, it created an unforgettable atmosphere.
Cumosky, the forefather of today’s gastronomic columnists and the prince of taste at that time, attested in his articles that the beauty of the decor had no equal, except for the quality of the dishes. Yet, the service provided was yet another feature that couldn’t be paralleled so, without a doubt, it was not by chance that the services of Head Waiter of the Hotel Terminus were called upon for the great dinner of the Louvre Palace offered to Queen Elizabeth in 1957.
The Second World War quickly brought an end to this luxurious euphoria. In November 1944, the hotel was requisitioned by the Americans to shelter thousands of refugees and allied soldiers. Under the name of ‘The Grand Club Central’, it served 628,917 meals in one year and accommodated 182,178 men. In spring 1946, the Grand Hotel Terminus opened its doors once again to civilian clients.
In 1973, the Concorde Group of hotels was born, developing a tradition in the hotel business bound by its mother company – the Louvre Organisation, presided over by Jean Taittinger, and controlled by the prestigious ‘Maison Champagne Taittinger’. The Grand Hotel Terminus was renamed to the Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare.
In 1989 the meticulous restoration of the foyer, which is classed as an historical monument, and the complete renovation of the bedrooms showed that under its new name the Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare was to maintain a constant enthusiasm for quality, and place top priority on the comfort and happiness of its guests. This concern continues to be evident and has resulted in a complete renovation of the bedrooms, a huge transformation in the hotel itself and a commitment to maintaining the standard of luxury for which the hotel is famous.
In December 2013, the hotel was bought by the Blackstone Group, owner of the Hilton hotels. Renamed into Hilton Paris Opera, hotel opened in the early 2015.
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