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The Westin Paris
Update from November, 2005: The InterContinental Paris has become The Westin Hotel Paris.

Article added on January 1, 2004
A history of The Westin Paris, formerly the InterContinental Paris (and tested as such)
 
The hotels of the InterContinental group are normally in modern, specially-designed buildings. Therefore, they are perfectly adapted for that purpose, but unfortunately they are rarely delightful to look at. In Paris however, both the InterContinental Paris in Rue de Castiglione, reviewed on this page, as well as the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris in Rue Scribe, are marvelous landmark buildings.

Where the InterContinental Paris stands today was once a refectory where a reception for the birth of the grandson of Louis XIV, the "Sun King" (Roi Soleil) was held. The hotel's main entrance is built on the site of this refectory.

Before the Rue Castiglione was opened in 1811, the Rue Saint Honoré and the terrace of the Tuileries were linked by a narrow passage with a monastery on either side, the Feuillants and the Capuchins. Both orders were dissolved during the French Revolution and the two monasteries were nearly empty when the first Assembly, the Convention, sat in the Manège, the covered riding school in the corner of the passageway that was to become the Rue de Castiglione, designed for the young Louis XV.

In 1792, Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette spent some of the last days of their lives in this Manège, where the King was later condemned to death. In the same monastery and the same year, La Fayette acted as a member of the Moderate Political Club. Fifteen years ago, the general had participated in America's War of Independence and played an important part in the rendering of the British at Yorktown in 1781. In 1789, La Fayette had drafted a version of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (Human Rights). Because he favored a constitutional monarchy, he had to flee to Austria in 1792. In 1818 he came back as a liberal deputy and in the Revolution of 1830, he led the National Guard.

In 1802, in honor of Napoleon's successful campaign in Northern Italy six years ago, the construction of the Rue de Rivoli began. By then, the two monasteries were more or less in ruins. Napoleon decided to reserve what is now the Cambon - Mont Thabor - Castiglione block for a new central post office. There, in 1822, the Ministry of Finance was established and the district became a business area.



In 1871, when the Germans occupied Paris, a shell from a Versailles cannon apparently pierced a hole in the roof of the Ministry of Finance. The Communards, who were already at bay, stoked the flames.

The blackened walls were cleared away and the short Rue Rouget de l'Isle was opened up between Rue de Rivoli and Rue du Mont Thabor. From 1781, the entire block became a building site when the foundations of the Hotel Continental, built from 1876 to 1878, were laid.

The Hotel Continental was designed to be the most comfortable and luxurious property of its kind. The plans were the work of the architect Blondel, the son-in-law of Charles Garnier, who built the casino in Monte Carlo and the Grand Opéra in Paris.

The same designers who had created the famous restaurant at the Gare de Lyon carried out the work at the Hotel Continental, which was opened on June 6, 1878. The idea was to offer a luxurious residence for visitors to the Universal Exhibition of the same year.

Among the creative minds responsible for the interior design of the Hotel Continental were Laugée, who embellished the Sainte-Clotilde church, Faustin-Besson, who decorated the Tuileries and Saint-Cloud royal residencies (both later demolished), Luminais, who painted the hunting scenes in the restaurant, and Mazerolle, who created the panel devoted to Jupiter and Mercury in the Salon Napoléon.
 
The Salon Impérial retains its original appearance. It is decorated with ebony woodwork with copper inlays, fourteen dark cherry-colored marble columns, an imposing chimney from the Seguin workshop supported by two caryatids by Delaplanche. Ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, which is coffered with four gold-paneled paintings.
 
The Hotel Continental immediately became the location for important artistic, political and charitable events. On July 7, 1880 members of the Franco-American Union and sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi met at the hotel to discuss plans for a monument to the Franco-American friendship, which later became New York City's Statue of Liberty.

On February 25, 1883, the French writer Victor Hugo presided over the last banquet in his honor, given by the publishers of his complete works. Victor Hugo, aged over eighty, was seated between Madame Edmond Adam, also known as the poetess Juliette Lamber and aged over one hundred years, and the Prefect of the Seine, Monsieur Poubelle, whose name is a household word in France today because he introduced the garbage bin, in French simply called ... poubelle.

In 1887, the French magazine La Nature praised the hotel's eight-ton Gramme-type electrical dynamo that fed the five hundred Edison-style incandescent bulbs lighting the reception rooms. The article also stated that this was only the beginning, soon electricity would be installed throughout the building. And in 1892, the Guide Joanne mentioned, in addition to the famous balls, concerts, receptions and dinners, the hotel's elevators and post and telegraph office.

From May to July 1898, the Empress Eugénie stayed in a suite on the second floor of the Hotel Continental Paris overlooking the Tuileries Gardens. By then, she was a widow, and from the Tuileries only the gardens were left; the noble palace built for Catherine de Medicis by Philibert Delorme, had been destroyed.



French Prime Minister André Tardieu and French President Gaston Doumergue chose the Hotel Continental to install some of their services. Tardieu was a close collaborator of another Prime Minister, George Clemenceau. Both were key figures in the formulation of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War and imposed terrible conditions and sanctions on Germany, one of several reasons for the outbreak of the Second World War.

During 1939, the Hotel Continental became again a center of political activities, when several offices were occupied by the Information and Censorship Bureau, under the direction of the playwright Jean Giraudoux. By this time, all the hotel's structures and facilities had been modernized.

Due to excessive modesty, the hotel has not preserved its Golden Book containing the compliments of famous guests such as the opera singer Adelina Patti, the explorer Savorgnan de Brazza (Sir Henry Morton Stanley's rival in Africa), Queen Marie of Romania, King Peter I of Serbia, King Faud of Egypt, and many others.
 
In recent years, the salons of the InterContinental Paris have hosted the catwalk for many fashion shows of famous French designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche and Christian Lacroix.

The InterContinental Paris is not only a landmark building and national treasure of France's Second Empire, but today's decoration of the rooms is tasteful too. I was pleased with room 4012, an executive suite.

The hotel was bought by the InterContinental Group in the 1960s. The final negotiations for the property took place during the student riots of 1968. The restored Inter-Continental Paris opened in 1969. The last important renovation took place in 2001.
 
The greatest asset of the InterContinental Paris is probably neither its history nor the building itself nor its interior decoration, but the breathtaking view it offers on the side overlooking the Tuileries Gardens, originally designed by André Le Nôtre in 1664. From the hotel, you can see almost all sights of Paris; there is only one other luxury hotel offering such a fantastic view of the French capital, the nearby Hotel Meurice.




The Hotel InterContinental Paris (today the Westin Hotel Paris) offers one of the best views of the French capital. Photo © InterContinental Paris.


The Victor Hugo Suite overlooking the Tuileries Gardens. Photo © InterContinental Paris.
 

Room 5054. Photo © InterContinental Paris.
 

The Hotel InterContinental Paris pays attention to lavish details such as this clock. Photo © InterContinental Paris.


The Terrasse Fleurie, a tranquil courtyard. Photo © InterContinental Paris.


Salon Napoléon. Photo © InterContinental Paris. Formerly known as the Salon de Conversation, today's Salon Napoléon is full of Rococo ornamentation, lavish friezes and glittering chandeliers. The ceiling is decorated with three mythological paintings by Joseph Mazerolle.


Salon Impérial. Photo © InterContinental Paris. The Imperial Salon retains its original appearance. Constructed for sumptuous receptions, the interior is reminiscent of the splendor of the Opéra by Charles Garnier and his son-in-law Blondel, who made the architectural plans for the Hotel Continental.
 

The Terrasse Fleurie, a tranquil courtyard. Photo © InterContinental Paris.

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