Va­le­rian Ho finds out how it all be­gan for the leg­endary Penin­sula Ho­tel

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS -

The ori­gin of The Penin­sula Ho­tel

Like many grand ho­tels, The Penin­sula is a fam­ily busi­ness. It all started with two broth­ers of JewishIraqi de­scent: El­lis Kadoorie set­tled in Shang­hai in 1880, while his el­der brother Elly set him­self up in busi­ness in Hong Kong. The broth­ers first gained a ma­jor share­hold­ing in Hong Kong Ho­tels Lim­ited, then in 1922 that com­pany ac­quired an 85 per cent in­ter­est in The Shang­hai Ho­tel Com­pany, the two com­pa­nies merg­ing to form The Hongkong and Shang­hai Ho­tels – par­ent com­pany of The Penin­sula Ho­tels.

Architects were first com­mis­sioned to draw up plans for “the finest ho­tel east of the Suez” in the early 1920s, lo­cated at the tip of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Penin­sula. How­ever, soon af­ter it was com­pleted The Penin­sula was req­ui­si­tioned by the Bri­tish forces, and served as emer­gency mil­i­tary ac­com­mo­da­tion from 1926 to 1928. Once Shamshuipo Bar­racks had been com­pleted, The Penin­sula was ren­o­vated and even­tu­ally opened for busi­ness in De­cem­ber 1928.

The orig­i­nal build­ing com­prised 168 gue­strooms. It was the first to cater to the over­land trade in the days when a first-class train trip from Lon­don took ten days, run­ning via Calais, Paris, Moscow, Bei­jing and Shang­hai. It was also the first to en­ter­tain the stars of Hol­ly­wood in the 1930s, wel­com­ing the likes of Char­lie Chap­lin and Paulette God­dard.

The ho­tel rapidly be­came one of Hong Kong’s most pop­u­lar venues for par­ties and balls, and af­ter­noon tea dances were a pop­u­lar week­end fea­ture, with cream cakes, tea and danc­ing to a band – all for 50 cents.

In 1994 the ho­tel ex­panded, adding a 30-storey tower to the orig­i­nal struc­ture. This houses an­other 130 gue­strooms, a he­li­port, the Philippe Starck-de­signed Felix rooftop restau­rant, and a swim­ming pool and spa de­signed by Or­lando Diaz-Azcuy.

From top: The Penin­sula in 1928; the lobby circa 1950s; an early bed­room layout; and the ho­tel’s Nathan Road cor­ner in the days be­fore it had a front drive­way

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