< AUSTRALIA | MELBOURNE: The Hotel Windsor
Built at the height of the state’s gold rush and early rural prosperity in the late 19th century, the Grand Hotel - as was originally named, opened its
doors in December 1883. It was envisioned by shipping magnate George Nipper and designed by eminent architect of the time, the British-born Charles Webb, in a broadly
Renaissance Revival style.
After just a few years, following difficulties in his other business ventures, George Nipper sold the "Grand" to the Honourable James Munro who, in association with the Honourable James Balfour, embarked on a massive expansion programme. This doubled the size of the hotel, and saw the addition of the renowned Grand Ballroom, the Grand Staircase, and the twin cupola-capped towers.
When re-opened in 1888, the hotel was known as the Grand Coffee Palace and for a brief period, under the influence of the Temperance Movement, banned liquor from its premises. Munro was declared bankrupt in February 1893, and a new owner of the hotel took over in 1897, welcomed back its original name and regained its liquor license. From then on and for the better part of the 20th century, The Grand Hotel was a pivotal centre in Melbourne and, indeed, Australia, for the political and social milieu.
With its close proximity to Parliament House and government offices, hotel rapidly became associated with politics and politicians. So convenient was this relationship that in February and March 1898, the Drafting Committee for the Federal Constitution worked on the final details of the Constitution from a suite in The Grand. For decades, it was the preferred hotel for Prime Ministers, politicians, actors, performers and celebrities. In 1923, in honour of a visit by The Prince of Wales, the hotel became known as ‘The Windsor’.
Under threat of demolition in 1976, The Hotel Windsor was bought by the Victorian Government to ensure the conservation of an essential part of Victoria's heritage. In 1980 the lease was acquired by The Oberoi Group which subsequently purchased the property in 1990, assuring the ongoing future of the 'Duchess of Spring Street'.
The Oberoi Group initiated a programme of renovation and refurbishment, under the guidance of heritage specialists, which restored the splendour of the property and fully returned it to its status of Grand Hotel. The roll-call of pre-eminent guests continued.
In November 2005, The Hotel Windsor became independent once more with the purchase of the Hotel by the Halim family. A sensitive yet extensive refurbishment is being planned in order to ensure the property remains one of the world's finest grand hotels, Meanwhile the focus on exemplary service was recognized in 2006 and 2007 with Condé Nast UK including The Hotel Windsor in their list of the top 18 Hotels in the World rated ‘Best for Service.’
With its 128 years long history, Australia’s only surviving grand 19th century city hotel pre-dates some of the world’s famous leading grand hotels. Among the pages of its Golden Book, we find a number of famous guests who have chosen The Hotel Windsor as their Home Away from Home: Vivien Leigh, Sir Robert Helpmann, Katherine Hepburn, Gina Lollobrigida, Lauren Bacall Gregory Peck, Muhammed Ali, Anastascia and Daniel Radcliffe...
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