Henri Negresco, born the son of an innkeeper in Bucharest, Romania, left home at the age of 15 going first to Paris then to the French Riviera where he became very successful. As director of the Municipal Casino in Nice, he had the idea to build a sumptuous hotel of quality that would attract the wealthiest of clients. After arranging the financing, he hired the great architect of the "café society" Édouard-Jean Niermans to design the hotel and its now famous pink dome. The spectacular Baccarat 16,309-crystal chandelier in the Negresco's Royal Lounge was commissioned by Czar Nicholas II, who due to the October revolution was unable to take delivery.
Contrary to popular belief, the large window of the Royal Lounge - listed as an Historical Monument - is not the work of Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel never worked at the Negresco, instead it is entirely the work of Edouard-Jean Niermans.
Henri Negresco faced a downturn in his affairs when World War I broke out two years after he opened for business. His hotel was converted to a hospital. By the end of the war, the number of wealthy visitors to the Riviera had dropped off to the point that the hotel was in severe financial difficulty. Seized by creditors, the Negresco was sold to a Belgian company. Henri Negresco died a few years later in Paris at the age of 52.
Le Negresco seen at sunrise
Over the years, the hotel had its ups and downs, and in 1957, it was sold to the Augier family. Madame Jeanne Augier reinvigorated the hotel with luxurious decorations and furnishings, including an outstanding art collection and rooms with mink bedspreads. Noted for its doormen dressed in the manner of the staff in 18th-century elite bourgeois households, complete with red-plumed postilion hats, the hotel also offers renowned gourmet dining at the Regency-style Le Chantecler restaurant.
Le Chantecler has two stars in the Guide Michelin and 15/20 in Gault et Millau. It has previously been under the leadership of famous chefs such as Bruno Turbot and Alain Llorca, who left to take over the equally fabled Moulin de Mougins. The restaurant features a fabulous interior with gobelins and roccoco furniture in untraditional colourings of pink, lime, lemon, cerulean etc.
In 2003, the Hotel Negresco was listed by the government of France as a National Historic Building and is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. The Negresco has a total of 119 guest rooms plus 22 suites.
The fifth floor of the hotel is presently for "VVIP" guests. The acronym stands for "very, very important persons". The staff wears costumes based upon the 18th century. The hotel has a private beach, which is located across the street from the facility.