The history of unique hotel
The National is a unique Russian historical and cultural monument that stands apart from Moscow's other hotels.
The Hotel combines the best of the centuries-old traditions of Russian hospitality and entrepreneurship. The hotel's more-than-100-year history is closely intertwined with the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. Over the years, the hotel's guests have included heads of state and government, diplomats and businessmen, military officials, scientists, writers and musicians.
The hotel's building was built in 1902 and financed by The Varvarinskoe Joint-Stock Company of Householders. Alexander Ivanov, the architect who designed The Varvarinskoe building, belonged to the older generation of architects working in the Russian modernist style. The building combines renaissance and classical architecture with modernist decorative elements in a style that was typical of Moscow at the turn of the century.
Before 1917, guests at National included members of royal families, foreign diplomats and politicians. But Russian state officials and representatives of the tsarist administration made up the main contingent of guests. Members of the State Senate, State Duma deputies and tsarist ministers, generals and governors all preferred to stay at the National.
The hotel's restoration in the 1930s marked yet another milestone in achieving even greater grandeur. Artifacts from Russian Tsar palaces and aristocrats' estates were added, and the hotel was decorated with museum-quality furniture, exceptional paintings and exclusive art objects. To this day, visitors can still marvel at the majority of these precious antiques forming part of the National's interior.
The history of Hotel National is a journey into a past rich in events. It is a tale of the people who were at the origins of the hospitality industry in Russia, a tale of our contemporaries and a story of the traditions of Russian entrepreneurial spirit and hospitality.
- The hotel welcomed the first guests in 1903. Before 1918 the contemporaries preferred to call the hotel Russian-style “Natsional’naya”. The hotel was designed above all for the accommodation and service of foreign guests and representatives of the Russian state authorities.
- On the whole, the building in its look combined the renaissance-classicist architectural plasticity with the decorative motifs of the modernist style. The facade of the building was done in the classicist style. It was splendidly decorated with columns, caryatids carrying the figurine balconies, cornices, pilasters and annulets. Particularly magnificent is the interior of the hotel lobby. It was designed along the vertical plane. The interior makes the emphatic reference on the main staircase of the unique design made of white marble with gilt plastered decorations and metal barriers. The staircase and stained-glass windows have been the jewel of Hotel National to the present day.
- In 1905 the main entrance to the hotel was mounted with a metal canopy top featuring gryphons, spreaders, monograms and the plaque with the opening date - 1903. For a long time a legend persisted that an absolutely identical canopy existed in the mid-section of the facade on Tverskaya Street. The story has it that the canopy was destroyed by a grenade explosion during the revolutionary events in October 1917. However, there is no firm evidence that would corroborate that story.
- In 1903 the hotel numbered 160 apartments including suites. The apartments were designed to meet the most different tastes – from modest needs for comfort and ease to claims for the highest degree of luxury. The suites on the third floor were the most expensive. Before 1917 Suite 101 was called ‘Louis XVI Suite’ and Suite 115 – ‘Louis XV Suite’. A few pieces of the original interior decoration have survived: paintings on the ceilings in Suite 115 and the fireplace decorated with white marble and a metal lattice in Apartment 101. The suites were designed to entertain high-ranking guests, including foreign diplomats and members of royal families. Nowadays these suites belong to the Presidential Suites.
- In 1903 the cost for daily accommodation varied from 1 rouble 50 kopecks to 25 roubles. For instance, the average wage of a teacher in Russia in the begging of the 20th century equaled to 10-15 Rubles. It was considered to be a snug income in Russia in the beginning of the 20th century.
- The Natsional’naya always had its reputation in mind. They took on only people who had been recommended by the employees of the hotel.
- Mainly civil servants and government officials of the Russian Empire stayed in the hotel from 1903 to 1917. The Natsional'naya put up over one thousand high-ranking personalities. We dare to say the history of the hotel guests is nothing else but a personified chronicle of the Russian Empire over its last decade.
- In 1913 the Grand Prince Alexander Mikhailovich stayed at the Hotel. The Grand Prince Alexander Mikhailovich was the grandson of Emperor Nickolas I, the uncle of the last Russian Emperor.
- In the early 20th century there were 228 hotels in Moscow. Ten of them stood in Tverskaya Street. The most popular ones among the visitors were Dresden, Loskutnaya, Parizh, and Bolshaya Moskovskaya. But all the above hotels had been built back in the 19th century. Unlike the above hotels the Natsional’naya had a remarkable for that time degree of innovations used in the construction and decoration of the hotel - electricity-driven lifts, ventilation devices with the exhaust and fresh-air fan system, system of heating, telephones and etc.
- From 1903 to 1910 a set of postcards was issued with the representation of the Natsional’naya.
- No doubt the hotel owners particularly prided themselves on the restaurant. The national cuisine became a visiting card for the restaurant. The peak of culinary art was a holiday dinner menu. It included a large variety of hors d’oeuvers, oysters, broth, borshch, royal meat or fish jelly, cream sucking-pig, varied kulebyakas, game pate with truffles, Gatchina trout, Siberian nelma, Wisland salmon, Kuchugur sturgeon, roast beef, ham, veal, corned beef, Nezhinskiye gherkins, turkey, capon, pheasant, Siberian grouse and a variety of salads.
- Not only ministers, civil servants or diplomats preferred to stay at the hotel. Among the guests of the hotel there were quite a few celebrities- French writer Anatole France, English author Herbert Wells. The most celebrated guest in the Natsional'naya in 1903, though not a civil servant, was Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov, the famous Russian composer and the author of a world-known composition the Fight of the Bumblebee.
- On the third floor the reading room was accommodated with a large library; the latest issues of newspapers and magazines were delivered there. At the moment this room belongs to the Classic Suite.
- The October Revolution dramatically changed the hotel's fate. In March 1918, the hotel became home to the first Soviet government. During the hasty repair work that was going on at the Kremlin, which had been damaged by artillery fire during the fighting in October 1917, it was decided to accommodate Vladimir Lenin in room 107 at Hotel National. Lenin and Nadezda Krupskaya spent seven days at the National. Now this suite belongs to Kremlin Suites. In addition to Vladimir Lenin the National Hotel accommodated other soviet leaders - Trotsky and Dzerzhinsky.
- Once the Soviet government moved into the Kremlin, it was decided to keep using the Hotel for its original purpose, but it was given a new name with the spirit of the times. The National became the First House of Soviets.
- In 1931 the building of the Hotel was in a very bad state due to lack of any real repairs for such a long period of time. The furnishings and interiors of the hotel were no longer up to European standards. It was decided to undertake full-scale repairs of the building. The National was opened as a hotel once again in 1932. Furniture and equipment for the hotel came from the reserves created after the revolution using what had been taken from former estates and palaces. In this way, some of the furnishings that ended up in the National included pieces of art from such places as the Tsarskoye Selo and Anichkov Palaces.
- At the beginning of the 1930s, the National was as much a museum as a hotel, bringing under its roof unique pieces of furniture, musical instruments, paintings and decorative objects.
- In 1932 the decorative mosaic panel on the building’s corner was replaced with a 120-square-meter panel portraying an industrial landscape with electricity pylons, factory chimneys and tractors that the ideologies of Soviet art of the 1930s thought better suited to the times.
- In 1933, the National became part of the Intourist the state company for foreign tourism.
- The 1940s left their mark on the hotel and its unique history and brought it worldwide fame. With German troops at the very gates of Moscow, the National became a base for the countries in the anti-Nazi coalition. It became home to missions from allied countries, resistance leaders, representatives of neutral states and the International Red Cross.
- At the end of the 1960s, a modern glass and concrete hotel, the Intourist, was built just next to the National. In 1983, the State Committee for Foreign Tourism merged the National and the Intourist hotels into a single complex. In 1989, a new decision was made to reorganize the National-Intourist hotel complex and separate it into two independent hotels again.
- The main hotel reconstruction and restoration work were continuing from 1991 till 1995. The National Hotel was opened on 9th may 1995. In the same year the National became the part of the Le Meridien hotel chain, one of the world's biggest hotel chains and owns five-star hotels around the world.
- In 2000 on the recommendation of Le Meridien, the National was renamed the Le Royal Meridien National.
- In 2009 the National joined the Luxury Collection by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, a glittering esemble of more than 70 of the world's finest hotels and resorts around the world. The Luxury Collection® is a selection of hotels and resorts offering unique, authentic experiences that evoke lasting, treasured memories. In the same year the Hotel went through the extensive renovation of all guest rooms, suites and public areas.
- In more than hundred years of its history the National has lived through times of prosperity and devastation, been at the centre of war and revolution and has shared all the misfortunes and upheavals that have been Russia's fate over this eventful century. The National's guests today include state leaders and prominent politicians, public figures, scientists, businessmen, writers, actors and musicians. The National is one of the centres of public, political and cultural life in Russia today.