Grand Design

By 1904, a General Manager George Olden was appointed. During Olden’s tenure installation of a lift and telephone augmented prestige of hotel. The hotel’s staff many of whom were European was regarded as most highly trained in culinary skills and hospitality. Not surprisingly hotel’s success grew. The cream of Dublin’s society came in their droves between 1906 and 1913, arriving by car or even by tram. These included arrival of several international visitors from America, Japan and even Australia.

In 1922 after War of Independence committee appointed to draft new Irish Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann) met in a sitting-room in number 122 of Shelbourne hotel. The room, now known as Constitution Suite, overlooks St Stephen’s Green and is hotel’s most famous banqueting room. Here under chairmanship of Michael Collins Irish Constitution was drafted, thus, Irish Free State became effective.

From mid 1950s and with addition of a new ballroom, Shelbourne continued to attract high profile guests. The hotel was renowned for her relationship with wealthy and famous clientele. Indeed hotel’s guest list around this time reads like who’s who of an A-list Hollywood party: James Cagney, Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rock Hudson, Burl Ives, Orsen Welles, Robert Taylor and Rita Hayworth.

The Shelbourne Hotel, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin

The Shelbourne Hotel, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin

By 1960s after yet another change of hands, Shelbourne became a favourite with one of Europe’s most esteemed couples, Princess Grace of Monaco and her husband Prince Ranier. The Grimaldis were particularly fond of view of St. Stephen’s Green from room 270, and this became their usual room. In fact, room was known thereafter as Princess Grace Suite.

John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline first came to Shelbourne in 1958. They stayed in Tonga Suite which was named after Queen Salute of Tonga. Just a few months prior to his assassination Kennedy returned to Shelbourne as president of United States on an official visit.

Present head concierge of Shelbourne Denis O’Brien describes how Oliver Hardy, robustly built American actor and comedian got stuck in a chair. When staff managed to dislodge his ample frame from chair they found that Hardy’s trousers were ripped. Of course within a short time resourceful staff had them repaired. Another time American actor James Cagney danced on piano. Then there was incident of Peter O’ Toole bathing in champagne.

The Shelbourne has also been subject of two historical treatises. The first was published in 1951 by writer Elizabeth Bowen. Entitled simply The Shelbourne Hotel, Bowen’s book chronicles hotel’s history from its foundation until World War II. The other history of hotel is more recent. Michael O’Sullivan and Bernardine O’Neill co-authored The Shelbourne and its People, (1999). The writers drew on hotel’s archives to chart their insightful history. O’Sullivan is also curator of Shelbourne’s new museum which is a repository of historical artefacts, letters, menus, and other items. These beautifully displayed and meticulously chosen objects are a delight to view. More importantly, they are valuable for their significance as a catalogue of sociological history of hotel and indeed of Ireland.

www.theshelbourne.ie

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