intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
Le Palace Hotel Brussels was built in 1908 by businessman Georges Marquet in the immediate vicinity of the North Station, to welcome visitors to the Brussels 1910 World Fair. The Fair was held on the Solbosch plateau, near the Bois de la Cambre. It was easily accessible by tram by the residents of the hotel. The main architect was Adhémar Lener who worked most closely with Antoine Pompe.
The Hotel was built in under a year, a record time for the period. First residential building of seven floors in Brussels, it was the last word in technical progress (7,500 m3 of concrete and 8 million bricks were needed to erect it!).
Le Palace has also been the first concrete building in Brussels. Its 300 rooms all had a window with an outside view and an individual bathroom (see article “To bathe or not to bathe?”), a luxury which only César Ritz had dreamed up for his Parisian hotel in Place Vendôme. Each room had several light fittings and a telephone. Air was circulated and purified several times a day.
At the top of the hotel, a large terrace provided stunning views of the city (whose roofs were much lower than today). The North Station, next door to Le Palace, drained a constant flow of travelers. The tavern and restaurant could accommodate up to 2,000 guests! Not to mention the wine cellar, which housed some 70,000 bottles! The refrigerated beer cellar was located just below the tavern, to serve drinks at the ideal temperature. The hotel offered its guests variety shows and concerts.
In 1930, the Palace became a member of the prestigious “Grands Hôtels Européens” association.
> Download this Magazine (2008) for detailed information about the history of Le Palace Hotel Brussels .
Main entrance to Le Palace
Next to international diplomats, various important celebrities have stayed here, especially at the time of World Fairs held in the Belgian capital (1910, 1935 and 1958). Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco (when Le Palace Hotel Brussels belonged to the Consul of Monaco), Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, King Hussein of Jordan, Gina Lollobrigida, Jean Poiret, Rita Hayworth, Brigitte Bardot, Orson Wells, Fausto Coppi, Sugar Ray Robinson and many others.
Occupied during the two World Wars (as several other hotels in Brussels), Le Palace was the residence of the German staff – a nest of spies on both occasions.
“With my colleague Lener, we dreamed up the Palace Hotel in one night. This building replaced a series of ramshackle old houses. And when this hotel comes to be demolished, care will need to be taken because I have placed a leaden box containing coins from the period and a parchment on which are written the names of the people who participated in the construction of this building. The box is located under the second pillar in the Salle des Brasseries, which is to the right of the hotel when you face it with your back to Koekelberg. At the time it was quite something to build a 300-room hotel. Once finished, I was no longer a rich man because I was cheated. However, that is of no importance.”
(Extract from the “Memoirs of architect”, by Antoine Pompe – 1910)
The original geometric “Art Nouveau” furniture in the deluxe rooms was designed by Alban Chambon, a French decorator and contractor, more traditional in approach than the architects chosen for the actual building.
Antoine Pompe designed the furniture for the standard rooms and lobby. He was also responsible for most of the decoration in the passageways, lobby, corridors, etc.
© Crowne Plaza Brussels
Le Palace Hotel Brussels has been given a new Art Deco look at the end of World War II, before ondergoing another modernization in the 1970s, then again in the 1990s (first restoration of the original furniture and decor). Other restoration work has followed since 2000.
But a bit “lost” in the very modernized new Crowne Plaza Brussels decor, such as the copper clock in the lobby, the stained glass panels in the stairwell, the lighting fitments outside the lifts, the wrought iron stair ramps, the stone and marble mascarons and features in the lobby, the HP “crest” in sculpted stone on the outside wall, the portrait of Georges Marquet and his sisters in the lobby, the furniture by Alban Chambon in the corridors and the original pillars of the tavern (now a meeting room); the princely apartment (salon and suite); the wainscoting in the salon of room 560; the gallery with its reproductions of old postcards in the smoking room …
Be sure you ask for one of the 10 “Century Rooms” of the Le Palace Hotel Brussels. These have been restored with utmost care to reflect the original 1910 geometric transition between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. A lot of furnitures are authentic.
Room 560 © Crowne Plaza Brussels
The other spaces of the prestigious hotel have been much renovated in the last 60 years, but a trained eye will recognize significant elements of the original décor: carved pilasters, ceilings ornaments, chandeliers, wrought iron railings and sanded glass … that will make you forget the bright colors of the contemporary rugs.
To fully appreciate the period atmosphere of Le Palace Brussels, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Watching a film evoking the era or listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:
Books to be devoured in situ
Films to be watched before arriving
Period music to be enjoyed on location
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Le Palace Hotel Brussels – Crowne Plaza ****
Rue Gineste, 3
+32 2 203 62 00
Le Palace Hotel’s own web site
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