A difficult beginning
The Bristol is one of six palaces in the Parisian hotel galaxy, buy in company with the Ritz, purchase the Crillon, medical the Meurice, the Plaza athénée and the George V. it is also one of the most recent. its creator, Hippolyte Jammet, marked by his experience at Berlin’s adlon, one of the mythical establishments of Europe between the two great wars, strived, from the inception, to create an exceptional hotel. But the beginning was not easy. To assure the name of the Bristol, a tribute to the English lord of the same name and a great traveler
of the 18th century, it was necessary to hold forth against diff erent competitors. What’s more, the land purchased for the project in 1923 on the rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré harbored an historic building: the private mansion of Jules de Castellane, the great dandy of the Second Empire. The prospect of tearing down this monument of the past century was met with lively opposition. nonetheless, in January 1925, the Bristol opened its doors on schedule.
Le comte Jules de Castellane
A Tribute to Louis XV
From the beginning, the Bristol distinguished itself by its avant-garde details. very early on, it had an air-conditioning system, a modern telex, and easily dismantled locks in the rooms. The bathrooms were particularly well conceived including an original mirror mounted with a small lamp for shaving. This invention would soon be distributed internationally under the name of “mirophare.” The attention to detail was such that even the toilet seats, of which a few still remain, received special treatment: they were sanded and re-varnished after the departure from the room of each occupant! The Louis XV and Louis Xvi decors included valuable works of art such as a bust of Louis XVI by the sculptor Pajou, as well as rich Gobelins tapestries. The crowds that fl ocked here for the hotel’s inauguration were remarkable. it’s true that the timing was particularly favorable due to the opening in april 1925 of the Parisian World’s Fair of decorative arts, which attracted a great number of visitors to the capital and which marked the birth of the art Deco style.
A Strange War
The Second World War was a very unusual period for the Bristol. While numerous other Parisian hotels closed or were requisitioned, the Bristol managed to remain relatively neutral territory, largely because of the presence of numerous american diplomats, attracted by modern amenities such as an anti-gas shelter in the basement. The improvements and expansion undertaken in the midst of the economic crisis of the 1930’s had made the hotel an establishment on the cutting edge in terms of modern comfort. While accepting the vigilant control of German authorities all during this period, the owner, Hippçolyte Jammet, harbored Leo Lerman, a Jewish architect who had participated in the work on the hotel. He spent his years in hiding designing rooms and creating a beautiful ironwork elevator cage that can still be admired today.
Very Special Guests
The Bristol has an abundantly fi lled visitors’ book. Consulting its “kardex”, the fi ling system by which all pertinent details concerning each client are carefully noted, is a voyage back in time highlighted by names such as Josephine Baker (projected to the height of her glory in 1925 with the Revue nègre, she would celebrate 50 years of her career here in 1975, with guests including alain Delon and Mick Jagger), Rita Hayworth or Charlie Chaplin. But it is perhaps in politics that the hotel’s influence is most notable. The american President Harry Truman, Faysal II, the young king of irak, and israel’s Ben Gourion all stayed here. konrad adenauer, the German Chancellor, was a regular client. Part of the negotiations for the important Franco-German treaties of 1963 that would help post-war Europe move forward took place here.
Evasion in the Pool
One of the great attractions of the Bristol is its pool, among the most unusual in Paris. it is located on the top floor, overlooking the rooftops of Paris. Conceived by César Pinnau, architect of yachts for Greek magnates such as niarchos and Onassis, the pool resembles that of a most luxurious vessel. a trompe-l’oeil mural gives the illusion of being on the teak deck of a ship in the company of the elegant fi gures of the Belle Epoque with a glimpse in the distance of the Mediterranean vegetation of the Cap d’antibes. The sailboat with its team of shipmates, its wicker deck chairs, its Captain in his white cap, seems to be bound for another destination in the Oetker group, the famous Eden Roc hotel.