Eliant Gomez Alanis
29 December, 2015
Some curious fact that you might find interesting in the Russian history is the oldest hotel in the country located right in Moscow’s downtown not far from its main attractions.
Starting in the year 1850, in the second half of the 19th century, the very popular Moscow baths were in the south-western part of Teatralniy Proezd (Театральный проезд) near the medieval Kitay-Gorod (Китай город) Wall and the other part of the building was used as a hotel. Muscovites called both of them Chelyshy – in honor to the owner Pyotr Chelyshev (Пётр Челышев), a wealthy merchant.
In the year of 1898, the St. Petersburg Insurance Association purchased Chelyshy’s property and rented it out to the North Homebuilding Society whose head was Savva Mamontov, a patron of the arts who decided to create not just a hotel, but a cultural center, with a theatre, exhibition halls, indoor stadium, restaurants and hotel rooms. He hired a young architect, William Walcott, who began the Metropol construction in 1899. The project was finished and opened officially in March 1905; it became a luxury hotel popular among travellers, business people, cultural and political elite. The hotel was one of the first structures in Moscow to be built in the Art Nouveau style, and equipped with the latest conveniences of the time: electricity, hot water and telephones in the rooms, refrigerators and elevators. The wealthy public was especially attracted to it.
In early November 1917, clashes for the proclamation of the Soviet regime broke out in Moscow. Metropol was one of the points of resistance of the Bolsheviks, the cadets turned the building into a military fortress and were forced to leave it after 6 days; the Metropol became the Second House of the Soviets, the central restaurant, was turned into a meeting room and some rooms were turned into institutions: the people’s commissariats, commissions, and committees. In 1925 it hosted the First International Chess Tournament, but only at the end of 1931 the hotel came back to normality hosting important foreign guests and well-known foreign immigrants like Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Marcello Mastroianni among others.
The reconstruction of the hotel was a large scale project that took 5 years, until December 1991. The facade and interiors were restored to their original state to preserve its identity; the restoration was worldwide announced and gave it a five-star rating and a place as one of the top luxury hotels.