The Queen's Park Hotel
By Alice & Gerard Besson
"Nennette! Prissy! Quick, quick, get the rooms ready, or do you want His Royal Highness to see you coming down the corridors with brooms and buckets?"
In those days of world news of depression in the United States and a fascist Germany causing trouble in Europe, the visit of the Duke of Kent and his bride, Princess Marina, to Trinidad came as a welcome change to society in Port of Spain in 1935.
The Queen's Park Hotel, in those years already a venerable establishment that was able to look back on 40 years of existence, prepared the 'honeymoon suit' for the royal bridal couple.
A little more than four decades before, in 1890 to be exact the "Queen's Park Hotel Company Limited' was formed with the purpose to establish a hotel. The first Queen's Park Hotel was opened in the former resident of Hon. Frederick Warner, Trinidad's Attorney General, at 11 Wellington Terrace and 4 Tranquillity Lands- an entire block facing the Queen's Park Savannah. The company converted the house into a hotel and made the necessary structural changes.
A man called Edgar Tripp caught on to the idea of moving hotels out of down town Port of Spain, where up to this time all hotels had been located. Livery stables for the transport of hotel guests were established in Woodford Street.
The opening of the first Queen's Park Hotel took place on the 15th January 1895. As Olga Mavrogordato reports in her book 'Voices in the Street', the Port of Spain Gazette wrote:
"The scheme is essentially a local enterprise. Local brains conceived it, local talent planned it, local skill erected it, and local capital has footed all the bills. It is earnestly hoped that local appreciation will ensure its success."
The first extension to the original Warner residence comprised a building of two and half storeys and two wings added on either side. Fifty rooms upstairs, 30 bedrooms and 20 dressing rooms, were equipped with fittings and furniture in the latest style, imported from London. A special drawing room and front gallery on the second floor, facing the Savannah, was reserved for ladies staying at the hotel and their friends. The requirements of polite society in those days were quite elaborate! The ground floor was divided into offices, reception, dining rooms, bar, tables for card, billard and pool, a smoking room and a large verandah. The main entrance was the Circular Road.
The cost for the renovations ran up to the then mindboggling sum of $30,000. To ensure the financial success of the enterprise, management hired a Mr. Hirschly from Switzerland, who had a wealth of experience in the hotel business, to run the hotel. Under Mr. Hirschly's management, the Queen's park Hotel quickly became one of the very best Hotels in the West Indies. In spite of this, the rates from $2,50 to $3,00a day were considered as reasonable.
And what did hotel guests do for entertainment in those days? Well, they would take walks in the Savannah or enjoy a tramride around it. They would go to receptions in private homes. They would go to large functions in the Princes' Building, just a block away from the hotel. And on Old Years Night, a ball was held in the ballroom of the hotel itself.
In 1937, just two years after the chamber maids Nennette and Prissy got the rooms ready for the Duke of Kent and Princess Marina (on time, of course), the old Warner residence, the centrepiece of the Queen's Park Hotel, was demolished and a modern, five - storeyed Art Deco structure took its place. The new owners, who had bought out the shares from the original Queen's Park Hotel Co., put many internal refurbishing into place. In 1939, Pan American Airways built an additional wing to the south for accommodation of its passengers. In 1969, the east wing was pulled down and a swimming pool was built in its place.
In 1955, J.B. Fernandes become the sole owner of the hotel. In 1996, the entire hotel was demolished and an office complex erected in its place.