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Monday, June 22, 2009

Take a Trip to London: The historical milestones of Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel

Whom You Know just loves history and accomplishment, so we love love LOVE Brown's Hotel! As we continue our coverage of Take at Trip to London, we are pleased to present the beginning of our stories on Brown's Hotel. It makes so much sense to begin with their fabulous timeline.

European Royalty, an American President, a Scientist and Famous Authors - Brown’s Hotel has hosted many famous names, as well as events

1837 – James Brown and his wife, née Sarah Willis, who was Lady Byron’s maid, acquired 23 Dover Street and, by 1838, had expanded into numbers 21, 22 and 24 to create Brown’s Hotel.

1859 – James John Ford bought the hotel. James Ford came from Wiltshire and made his money in the livery and stable business, having premises in Oxford Street. Also in this year James Ford acquired another asset that was to prove every bit as important – his son Henry was born, who was later to take over the hotel (see 1882).

1876 – Alexander Graham Bell checked into Brown’s Hotel when he came to London to tell the British government about his fabulous invention, the telephone. He subsequently made the first ever telephone call from the hotel to James Ford, with the aide of a private telegraph line installed between the hotel and the Ford’s household in Ravenscourt Park.

1871 – After the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the third republic in France, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie were compelled to flee and stayed at Brown’s Hotel for a time.

1882 – James Ford’s son, Henry, took over the management of the hotel, which he was to manage for the next 46 years. A lover of flowers, the colourful window boxes that are present today are a legacy to his memory. The Fords focused on creating a “private” hotel, where premier guests would be undisturbed and able to enjoy homely comforts. During the late 1880s, he installed a lift, which was one of the very first in London and introduced a smoking room for gentlemen and the first ever restaurant within a hotel - prior to this, guests had dined in their own rooms or hired one of the 16 licensed suites in which to dine.

1884 – Electricity was installed with the help of an oil-driven generator in the basement.

1885 – Bathrooms were introduced and in one contemporary publication these were referred to as ‘fixed baths’ and described as a Brown’s novelty.

1886 – Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the hotel before his marriage to Edith Kermit Carow, which took place at St George’s in Hanover Square. A copy of the marriage certificate still hangs in the hotel today and on it one can see that the occupation of the future President of the United States is given simply as – ranchman.

1886 to 1894 – Count de Paris, Pretender to the French throne, lived at Brown’s Hotel and held Court regularly in his suite. Cecil Rhodes, after whom Rhodesia was named, stayed at Brown’s Hotel on many occasions.

1889 – Ford acquired St George’s Hotel on Albemarle Street (named after the church in Hanover Square in which Theodore Roosevelt was married). The hotel backed on to Brown’s and was soon merged into the existing Dover Street building to create one big hotel. A fifth floor was added at that time. The new, enlarged property retained the name Brown’s Hotel, but St George’s Hotel presence still remains within the hotel logo and stationery, in addition to the stained glass image within what was known as St George’s Bar and is now known as The Donovan Bar.

1890 – Lord Kelvin led the international Niagara Commission meeting, at which it was agreed that the power of water would be used to conduct electricity.

1892 to 1936 - Rudyard Kipling who wrote ‘The Jungle Book’ amongst others, first stayed at the hotel on his honeymoon and returned frequently, as he found it an inspiring venue for his writing. Queen Victoria visited the hotel regularly, but never stayed, as Buckingham Palace was so close.

1905 – Three more townhouses were acquired and incorporated into the hotel, allowing structural alterations and expansion.

1905 - Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt visited Brown’s on their honeymoon. Mrs Roosevelt later commented on her stay in her autobiography, ‘The Lady of the White House’ saying “we were given the royal suite at Brown’s Hotel, with a sitting room so large that I could not find anything that I put down”.

1914 to 1918 – Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians resided at Brown’s Hotel with her family during World War One.

1924 to 1935 – King George II of Hellenes, exiled from Greece, was the longest royal resident at Brown’s Hotel. The hotel was in fact the official court of the Greek royal family and before he left for Athens the king decorated the then manager with the Knight’s Cross of the Royal Order of the Phoenix.

1936 – Haile Selassi, Emperor of Ethiopia, stayed at the hotel, whilst a refugee from Mussolini’s incursions into his country, as did King Zog of Albania in 1939.

1941 – The Dutch Government in exile declared war on Japan at the hotel, an event that soon led to the occupation of the Dutch East Indies.

1965 – Crime writer Agatha Christie, who visited the hotel many times, we believe based her book “At Bertram’s Hotel” on Brown’s Hotel.

1968 – Brown’s Hotel was purchased by Trust House Limited, which later became Forte plc, where it was part of the Exclusive Collection of luxury hotels.

1980 – Stephen King stayed at Brown’s and wrote the beginning of a story that later become the novel ‘Misery’ from Rudyard Kipling’s desk in Brown’s Hotel.

1996 – Ownership of the hotel passed to Granada plc following the takeover of Forte plc. In 1997 it was sold to Raffles.

July 2003 – Brown’s Hotel was acquired by the Rocco Forte Collection.

April 2004 – Brown’s Hotel closed for a multi-million pound refurbishment.

12th December 2005 – Brown’s re-opened following a £24-million renovation.

June 2009 Peachy Deegan tours Brown's Hotel with Nina Colls of Brown's to enlighten Manhattanites, and all Americans for that matter, and hopes to stay there next time she covers London!

Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 4BP

Tel: +44 (0)20 7493 6020 Fax: +44 (0)20 7518 4064

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