Valerian Ho finds out how it all began for the legendary Peninsula Hong Kong
Like many grand hotels, the Peninsula is a family business. It all started with two brothers of Jewish-Iraqi descent – Ellis Kadoorie settled in Shanghai in 1880, while his elder brother, Elly, set himself up in business in Hong Kong. They gained a major shareholding in Hong Kong Hotels Limited, which in 1922 acquired an 85 per cent interest in the Shanghai Hotel Company. The two companies merged to form the Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels – parent company of the Peninsula Hotels.
Architects were commissioned to draw up plans for “the finest hotel east of the Suez” in the early 1920s, at the tip of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula. However, soon after completion the building was requisitioned by British forces and used for military accommodation. After renovation, the Peninsula opened for business in December 1928.
The 168-room property was the first to cater to 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 rapidly became one of Hong Kong’s most popular venues for parties and balls, and afternoon tea dances were a popular fixture at weekends, with cream cakes, tea and dancing to a band – all for only US$0.50.
In 1994 a new 30-storey tower added 130 rooms, a heliport, a rooftop restaurant and spa. The group now has properties in ten cities worldwide.
Left: The Peninsula in 1928 the hotel lobby in the 1950s