London's Savoy Hotel to reopen after facelift

Fri Oct 8, 2010 7:47am EDT
 
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By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London's Savoy Hotel, the "Palace by the Thames" that has welcomed generations of royals, prime ministers and Hollywood stars, reopens this weekend after a facelift that cost 220 million pounds ($350 million).

With its iconic Art Deco steel and marble entrance, prime riverside location and glamorous history, the Savoy is one of the world's most famous luxury hotels.

Claude Monet stayed for six months while painting views of the river, Frank Sinatra entertained guests at the grand piano and Winston Churchill held wartime meetings in the restaurant.

Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin and Coco Chanel have all stayed at the hotel, while Britain's Queen Elizabeth and the late Princess Diana attended functions there.

Opened in 1889, it was among the first of the world's grand hotels to have electric lights and it boasted London's first public electric elevator.

After the hotel started to show its age in recent years, the Canadian owners, Fairmont Hotels, decided to refurbish it to compete with a host of new luxury rivals opening in the capital.

More than 1,000 workers spent nearly three years gutting the hotel, ripping out aging plumbing electrical wiring and air conditioning.

They removed dangerous asbestos and used tons of steel to shore up a wall of balconies that had been added in a poorly executed extension in 1910. The cost of the refurbishment spiraled from 100 million to 220 million pounds.   Continued...