Grand Hotel (Auckland)
The Grand Hotel, at 9 Princes Street, was the leading hotel of Auckland, New Zealand, from 1889 until 1966. With its vaulted ceilings, ornate mantlepieces, red carpet and marble statuary, the Grand Hotel was a plush and social rendezvous from its opening. The leading hotels of Auckland were in the following order: The Grand Hotel, Princes St (closed 1966), the Central Hotel, Victoria St (closed 1970s), the Star Hotel, Albert St (closed 1973), the Royal Hotel, Elliot St (closed 1980s) and the Albert Hotel, Queen St.
The Grand Hotel was opened on 21 April 1889 by Mr Frank Gaudin for the purpose of receiving the Earl and Countess of Onslow on their arrival from Britain. The interior was furnished by large paintings collected by Moss Davis and Ernest Hyam Davis which leased the Grand Hotel building from the Ara Masonic Lodge through Hancock & Co. Ltd. Fortunately the extensive collection of paintings decorating the hotel were not damaged by the 1901 fire and many of these were later donated by the Davis's to the Auckland Art Gallery.
The wooden Masonic Hotel occupied the site before the Grand Hotel was built.
1901 fire and reconstruction
In 1901 the Grand Hotel hit the headlines with a massive fire. At the time of the fire the hotel had just finished being refurbished in anticipation of hosting the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall during their stay in Auckland as part of the 1901 Royal Tour.
The fire almost destroyed the building and killed three children, a bank manager from Wellington and a maid. The cost of the damage was said to be 12,000 pounds and the fire left only the charred external and interior brick walls. The lack of fire escapes became a public concern. The children Leonora, Eva and Nina Johnston died of smoke inhalation, the hotel employee, Dora Wallace died after jumping from the building.
The fire was not the end for the Grand Hotel and it was soon rebuilt, incorporating the original ornate plastered brick street frontage and side walls. The spiral staircase, which was blamed for creating draughts which fanned the flames, was rebuilt. Between the staircase was a Victoria open-shaft lift with an iron grille, resembling a left over "prop" from an old French film.[clarification needed] Alongside it a black oak message board with the words "A Message Awaits" engraved in Gold. Messages awaited in the Golden Embossed Pigeon holes along with the potted Parlour Palms and straight back Victoria Hall seat in the entrance.
Well known guests over the years include: Randolph Churchill, Noël Coward, Captain Musick, George Formby, Todd Duncan, Webster Booth, Mountbattens, Lord Montgomery, Gracie Fields, Anthony Eden, Duke of Edinburgh, Lord Denning, Dame Margot Fonteyn, innumerable prime ministers and governors-general.
"One of the finest and most up-to-date establishments in Auckland". "Outmoded and old fashioned and does not pay its way". These two comments have an ironic ring and to a degree sum up the rise and fall of the Grand Hotel.
In 1966 the Grand Hotel was to be closed. After 77 years of service the Grand Hotel began shutting up shop. The last guests left and only a skeleton staff remained to clean up and staff the bars. A party was held for the staff in the dining room. The star of the occasion was the chef Mr Lesley Horace Rose who had been chef at the hotel since 1937. "It is a tragedy", said Mr Rose referring to the closing of the Grand Hotel. "The Grand Hotel was the last frontier of the true hotel". "I think I have been chef at this hotel longer than any chef at any other Auckland hotel", he said, "and I have enjoyed every moment". Other staff members were recorded to have been very wistful. Mr Rose stated that it was remarkable that so many had stayed when they knew the hotel was closing down. "It is very sad for me", he said. "The hotel was a tradition in Auckland. Quote reference is New Zealand Herald, 30 November 1966.
A few weeks later the bar closed "quietly and sedately, as befits the grand old lady of Princes Street" and the building was converted into offices. The quote comes from the New Zealand Herald, late 1966.
In 1987 the Auckland City Council approved the development of a 15-floor office tower on the site. It was to include the facades of the Grand Hotel and the neighbouring 1881 Freemasons Hall. Demolition began and in 1988 and before long nothing was left of the old hotel other than the bare facade, incorporated into the glass tower which is now the headquarters of dairy company Fonterra.
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