Hotel WindsorEdit profile
The Hotel Windsor is a 5 Star luxury hotel in Melbourne. The Windsor is Australiaâs only surviving grand 19th century city hotel and only official "grand" Victorian era hotel.
The hotel has a significant role in the History of Australia as the place where the Constitution of Australia was drafted in 1898.
For much of its 20th Century life the hotel, dubbed the Duchess of Spring Street, was one of the most favoured and luxurious hotels in Melbourne. It has hosted many notable national and international guests.
The Windsor is situated on Bourke Hill in the Parliament Precinct and is a Melbourne landmark of high Victorian architecture.
The Windsor is currently planning a major renovation which is expected to begin in early 2013.
Notable guests at the Windsor have included Margaret Thatcher, George VI of the United Kingdom and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (as Duke and Duchess of York), Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, Basil Rathbone, Lauren Bacall, Douglas Fairbanks, Claudette Colbert, Robert Helpmann, Rudolph Nureyev, Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Michael Dukakis, Muhammad Ali, Barry Humphries, Don Bradman and the Australia national cricket team as well as Australian prime ministers Sir Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard.
The hotel was built in two stages by shipping magnate George Nipper, both designed by Charles Webb in a broadly Renaissance Revival style. Originally named the Grand Hotel, the first section (the southern half) was completed in 1884.
The northern half, which included the distinctive twin mansard roofed towers in the Second Empire style, was completed in 1888, just in time to host visitors to the Centennial Exhibition in the Royal Exhibition Building. A notable feature is the stone sculpture, attributed to John Simpson Mackennal, over the main entrance with male female figures known as 'Peace and Plenty' reclining over the English and Australian Coat of Arms. The extension was undertaken by a new owner, temperance movement leader James Munro, who burnt the liquor licence in public and operated the hotel as a coffee palace, renamed the "Grand Coffee Palace".
Re-licenced in 1897, it became the Grand Hotel and in 1898 the Constitution of Australia was drafted in the hotel.
The present name dates from 1920, when the hotel was sold and refurbished, and honours the British Royal Family.
For much of its 20th Century life, the hotel dubbed the Duchess of Spring Street was one of the most favoured and luxurious hotels in Melbourne, hosting many notable national and international guests.
Decline and demolition proposal
With the construction of modern 'international' hotels, starting with the Southern Cross in 1962, the Windsor declined in popularity. In a bid to regain marketshare, the Windsor expanded, purchasing the four storey White Hart Hotel on the Bourke Street corner. The White Hart was demolished and a new classically inspired extension using elements from the old hotel became the Windsor's north wing. Later in the decade a 25 storey residential tower was developed on the opposite side of Little Collins Street, significantly overshadowing the Windsor.
By the mid 1970s, it was run-down and the other major historic 19th century hotels in Australia, the Federal and the Menzies in Melbourne, and the Australia and Metropole in Sydney, had all been demolished.
Several proposals were put forward which included the demolition of the Windsor. A 1974 proposal for a 38 storey tower on the corner of Spring and Bourke Street was opposed by the state government and the National Trust. The Rupert Hamer led state government purchased the building in 1977 to ensure its preservation and in 1980 leased it to The Oberoi Group.
New Owners and Restoration
Oberoi undertook a major restoration of the hotel in 1983 costing USD$6.6 million, reinstating the decorative 19th century colour schemes to the lobby, stairhall, and especially the Grand Dining Room, where huge brass chandeliers were reproduced from photographs. This was one of the first major private historic restorations in Melbourne, and won a Victorian Architect's Institute award. Its position as a leading five-star hotel and a major Melbourne landmark was then firmly re-established. The cricketer's bar, afternoon tea in the grand dining room, and the top-hatted doorman all resumed their status as Melbourne institutions. The John Cain II state government sold the hotel to the Oberoi Group giving the company freehold possession in 1990. In 2005, Oberoi sold the hotel to the Halim family.
2000s - Redevelopment proposals
The Halim group first proposed to redevelop the Windsor in 2008 shortly after acquiring remaining shares from the Oriental Pacific Group and rebranding as "Hotel Windsor", with a $45 million redevelopment which proposed to modernise many of the interiors although they would not disclose whether the hotel was running at a loss or making a profit. The plan was approved by Heritage Victoria and the government after significant negotiations with the owners which included reducing the heritage impacts of the proposal. However development did not commence due to the Financial crisis of 2007â2010.
In July 2009, the Halim group proposed a new $260 million refurbishment project which would add 152 rooms to the hotel. This would involve demolition of the hotel's 1960s-era North wing, and replacing it with a contemporary building with facilities expected by guests staying in a five star hotel. A thin curtain wall tower designed by Denton Corker Marshall was proposed be built at the rear of Windsor Place. The architects proposed that the fritted wavy glass of the facade was a solution to minimise the visual impact of the tower. The application submitted to Heritage Victoria included restoration of the 1880s facade facing Spring and Little Collins Streets.
The National Trust of Australia (Victoria), opposed to the development responded with a campaign named 'Save the Windsor'. and claimed that the proposed tower was inappropriate and would breach established height controls for the Bourke Hill precinct initially put in place to protect vistas of the Windsor, Parliament House and St Patrick's Cathedral. These controls do not exist south of the Windsor where there are taller buildings, including 99 Spring Street, an apartment building completed in 1971. At 24 floors and 77 metres it is shorter than the proposed tower, yet it fronts onto the heritage precinct of Spring Street and is located directly next to the Windsor.
In late February 2010 a news leak occurred which erupted in a government scandal surrounding the redevelopment of the Windsor Hotel. A document prepared by a senior media advisor to Planning Minister Justin Madden was sent by email to the ABC Newsdesk. It detailed plans by the Victorian Government to run a sham community consultation process in a bid to reject the plans. In response to public outcry, a probity officer was appointed to oversee the decision making process.
On 18 March 2010 The Hotel Windsor's renovation plans were approved by Planning Minister Justin Madden. This is the final step in the approval process.
The Senate of Australia officially recognised the national significance of the Windsor Hotel in a motion led by Bob Brown which was agreed by the senate. The National Trust lost an appeal against the development which it took to the Supreme Court of Victoria.
The Windsor's renovations are expected to begin in early 2013.