< FRANCE | PARIS: Hôtel Plaza Athénée
Initiated by Emperor Napoléon III and led by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, in 1853, Paris began its modernization program - the "Haussmann Plan", which tranformed a quiet medieval city into a modern and bustling capital. Among many prestigious edifices created in this period was one of Paris's symbols and landmarks - the Opéra Garnier, designed by architect Charles Garnier. Even before the new Opéra was officially inaugurated in January 1875, the whole area became one of the most fashionable parts of Paris and many luxurious hotels opened within short period of time.
One of hotels that were founded in this epoch was also the Grand Hôtel de l'Athénée, which opened in 1867,
on 15 Rue Scribe. During the following decades, Hôtel de l'Athénée became Paris' highly popular place to stay
and in 1885, Hôtel welcomed its new manager: 25-year-old Gustave Émile Armbruster. In 1913, Hôtel de l'Athénée
closed its doors and the building was sold to the Banque Française pour le Commerce et l'Industrie.
With a capitalization of 1 million old-style francs, Société Anonyme de l’Hôtel Plaza was founded on June 1st, 1911. Jules Cadillat, the brilliant hotelier who at that time ran the oldest hotel on the Champs-Elysées - Hôtel d'Albe, became its manager. Designed by architect Charles Lefèvre, future Plaza hotel soon began to emerge on 25 Avenue Montaigne, just a few steps away from (at the time also under construction), Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
Set to open on the first day of April 1913, the company which had not yet registered its name, found itself facing problems with the future hotel's name as the name "Plaza" has already been taken for one far less prestigius establishment. Émile Armbruster who was appointed General Manager of the new hotel, added the name of his former hotel to that of the Plaza and the Plaza Athénée was born!
The grand opening of the hotel eventually took place on the April 18th, 1913. Few days before the Plaza Athénée was officially inaugurated, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées also opened, and the new hotel immediatelly became the gathering place for the most prominent composers and performers of the day.
By 1936, the hotel had achieved international fame. The Galerie des Gobelins and the restaurant “Le Relais Plaza”, its salons and apartments hosted many great personalities of this period including Joséphine Baker, Rudolph Valentino and Maurice Chevalier. One of hotel regulars was German-American actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich. In August 1933, she stayed for three weeks and occupied 7 rooms. Dietrich also took up permanent residence in an apartment on the 12 Avenue Montaigne. In the 1970’s, she withdrew from public life, but remained loyal to this address.
In 1946, in close proximity to the Plaza Athénée, at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Christian Dior established The House of Dior and a new era began. Avenue Montaigne quickly turned into the avenue of ‘haute couture’ and the Plaza Athénée became Paris’ focus for fashion and the arts. During this period, hotel hosted famous guests such as Grace Kelly, Gary Cooper, Jackie Kennedy and the Ford family. In 1971, Hollywood's most glamorous couple - Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor took up residence in the hotel for six months and their entourage occupied several rooms.
As one of the greatest hotels of the world, Plaza Athénée became the centre of social and cultural life of Paris. The epitome of Parisian chic and luxury became a magnet for the film industry and hotel was used as a filming location many times. Most recent movies filmed at the hotel count: "Something's Gotta Give" (2003) starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves"; "Rush Hour 3" (2007) with Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker and Max von Sydow; "L'arnacoeur (The Heartbreaker)" (2010) with Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis and Julie Ferrierwhile, and the latest movie by Woody Allen "Paris Manhattan" (2012). In 2006, hotel was featured in the final episode of the HBO's "Sex and City" as the hotel where Carrie Bradshaw stay during her visit to Paris.