05 26 2009 44

The Oldest ‘Grand’ Hotel of Paris

In the mid-nineteenth century a master town-planner called Baron Georges-Eugene Hausmann transformed Paris. In under two decades he turned the cramped medieval city of old into the spacious modern metropolis we know today. Chaotic mazes of narrow streets gave way to wide, tree-lined boulevards. Leafy parks were built in the city centre and at Boulogne and Vincennes. Growing numbers of tourists visited too, and suitable accommodation was duly required.
Baron Hausmann commissioned the Pereire brothers, powerful bankers who heavily financed the reconstruction of Paris, to build a luxurious new hotel. Designed by the architect Alfred Armand, the Grand Hotel du Louvre was opened in 1855, just in time for the International Exhibition staged in Paris that year. It was the first luxury hotel in France and the first 'Grand Hotel' of Paris.


Standing proudly on the Place du Palais-Royal, the Grand Hotel du Louvre boasted 700 deluxe guest-rooms, as well as two steam-powered lifts - the very height of modernity at that time- and wide staircases. A 1,250-strong staff kept operations running smoothly. There were guides and interpreters, an information desk, a post office, a telegraph room and an exchange bureau. The Grand Hotel was well-reputed for its culinary excellence, both French and foreign. Next door stood the Galeries du Louvre, a fashionable new department store which rapidly became the most successful of its kind in Paris. In the 1870s its owners bought the Grand Hotel du Louvre and shifted it to its current location on Place Andre Malraux. Distinguished guests were never in short supply. In 1897 impressionist Camille Pissarro took up residence at the Grand Hotel du Louvre, painting some of his famous Paris townscapes from the window of his appartment (today's Pissarro suite). Sherlock Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was so impressed that he featured the hotel in several of his famous detective's adventures.

The hotel's management company adopted its present name, 'Societe du Louvre', in 1898. Eight years later the firm purchased the eighteenth-century Crillon mansion on Place de la Concorde, refurbished it and turned it into a palace hotel. Inaugurated in 1909, the Hotel de Crillon became the company's flagship hotel. In 1973 the Societe du Louvre formed Concorde Hotels, grouping all of its luxury hotels into one subsidiary. Owned by the prestigious Taittinger family, specialists par excellence in the fine art of luxury, Concorde Hotels is a global sales and marketing network covering over 90 prestigious hotels worldwide. The oldest establishment in the group celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The Hotel du Louvre (the Grand has since been dropped) is the original French deluxe hotel. And the oldest Grand Hotel (by name, not per definition) in the world.

The French impressionist Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) who endured prolonged financial hardship in keeping faith with the aims of Impressionism. Despite acute eye trouble, his later years were his most prolific. The Parisian and provincial scenes of this period include Place du Theatre Francais (1898) and Bridge at Bruges (1903). He painted this scene from a window of the Grand Hotel du Louvre.



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