Northern Whig, Thursday 31st March 1927
To-day the last word in hotels in Belfast will be formally opened by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Viscount Craigavon. The Grand Central, as everyone knows, is not a new hotel, but so well and so thorough has the scheme of renovation and re-decoration been carried out that it might well be called a new hotel.
For long enough the Grand Central stood a gaunt, grey building in Belfast’s leading thoroughfare, ever growing dingier, with its curtainless windows weather-stained, giving the impression of sightless eyes; and the only decoration the letting board.
It was a pitiful sight, and its empty lifelessness seemed as though it were likely to become a permanency, one of the sights of Belfast, its emptiness a seeming mute rebuke to a great progressive city.
The last few months have wrought a great change. No longer does a vast greyness dominate Royal Avenue; instead there is a mighty stretch of living colour. Day after day the people of Belfast watched the growing change in the façade of the building; day after day marked the growth of the evolution of the pile from obscured uselessness to a premier place in the life of the city.
No longer did the letting board meet the eye from every angle; in its place was another bearing the name of a great furnishing firm that spoke of life, colour and comfort.
Inside the contrast was even greater our representative discovered when he made a visit of inspection yesterday. In place of long resounding corridors and empty rooms that threw back the echo of the least noise, with over all the hushed silence peculiar to empty buildings, everything was in the last stages of being made ready.
True, the rooms and the corridors re-echoed with noise, but it was the cheering noise of workmen busily engaged putting the final touches to the work of the past few months.
In the entrance hall the impression of spaciousness is immediately received from the plain wall surfaces contrasting with mahogany and gold woodwork, reminiscent of the later work of Adam. The banqueting hall, with its brilliant artistic lighting, is an imposing room with a spring dance floor. It is designed on early Georgian lines, the colour scheme being mainly peach broken up with blue and gold, and the woodwork done in Chinese blue. There is accommodation for about two hundred persons, and it will be used for breakfasts and luncheons, as well as for dancing. The colour scheme in the reception-room is flesh pink, primrose, and petunia, the walls being broken up with pilasters having decorative motifs of baskets and flowers.
A department that should appeal strongly to the sterner sex is the smokeroom, which is panelled in a soft shade of grey oak, that acts as a quiet background to the darker furniture. A sense of warmth is added by the introduction of a blue and tango carpet. The lounge, which is situated at the corner of the hotel and consequently is flooded by light from the numerous windows, has been treated naturally in a cheerful manner. The ornaments for the chimneypieces have been designed after the style of Grinling Gibbons, and the tones of the walls are biscuit, with a slight introduction of petunia. It is a most graceful and alluring room, and is likely to prove one of the most popular.
There are two “function rooms” and each is beautiful. Rose is the keynote in the large room, and a striking effect is obtained in the blue and silver in the special room.
The writing room deserves special mention. Situated at the end of a corridor almost “perfect peace” is assured, the decorative scheme of plain panelled walls of café-au-lait offering no distraction to the mind. In the visitors’ lounge and drawing-rooms the wall colouring is of varying tones of cream relieved by gold mouldings, and the whole scheme gives a sense of warmth.
One cannot help being struck by the absolute simplicity of the hotel dining-rooms. The grill room and private boxes have been designed essentially for men. It is pleasing to know that Mr. E. J. Emery, who served as chef at St. Enoch’s, Glasgow, and the Midland Hotel, Crewe, will be in charge of this department.
Comfort and cosiness are found in every bedroom. Each has been installed with hot and cold water, and bell pushes and light switches are within less than an arm’s length of the pillow. Last but not least, each room has a telephone.
The hotel contains four magnificent private suites, one of which is known as the Harland & Wolff suite, which will be occupied by Lord Kylsant, chairman of the firm. It consists of dining-room, sitting-room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom, and the furniture is exclusively from the residence of the late Lord Pirrie at Ormiston.
AN ASSET TO THE CITY
It will be agreed by all, no doubt, that the hotel accommodation in Belfast has not been sufficient to meet the demands put upon it, either from the commercial or the tourist point of view, and in these respects the Grand Central should prove a decided asset to the city in this respect. It will be recalled that the Prime Minister has on several occasions commented on the accommodation offered by Belfast and the Six Counties to tourists, and Belfast’s new hotel should add weight to the claims of Ulster as a holiday resort.
Bookings have already commenced, reservations having been received from a large party from Chicago, while to-night quite a number of people will be in residence.
Mr. C. J. Sims, the resident manager, is a genial gentleman, with extensive experience, having seen service in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and in a chat with the “Whig” representative he put the aim of the hotel as “Ordinary prices, but better value.”