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Hotel Normandie
San Juan, PR 05.jpg
View of the Normandie Hotel from Muñoz Rivera Avenue, October 2007
Location Ponce de León Ave. and San Gerónimo St., San Juan, Puerto Rico
Built 1942
Architect Raúl Reichard & Félix Benítez Rexach
Architectural style Art Deco, Streamline Moderne
NRHP reference No. 80004295
Added to NRHP August 29, 1980

The Normandie Hotel is a historic building located in the Isleta de San Juan, in San Juan, Puerto Rico which opened on October 10, 1942 as a hotel but as of 2019 remains unused and abandoned. Its design was inspired by the French transatlantic passenger ship SS Normandie in addition to featuring the same art deco design as the ocean liner that inspired it, and the hotel's original roof sign was one of the two signs that adorned the top deck of the SS Normandie but were removed from it during an early refitting. It is an example of what came to be known as the Streamline Moderne architecture style.

History

The Normandie Hotel was the brainchild of Puerto Rican engineer Félix Benítez Rexach. The engineer met his future wife while on a trip aboard the Normandie. As a tribute to his French wife, Moineau, Benítez decided to construct a structure that imitated the lavish settings of the ship. Designed by architect Raúl Reichard (1908–1996), the hotel began construction in 1938. The hotel's exterior was designed to resemble a luxury ocean liner, elongated and curved in front and back, with porthole-shaped lights on the facade of the 6th floor, as well as on the front on all floors except the front entrance and 2nd floor. Inside, the hotel features art deco design, complete with Roman, Egyptian, and French details, high ceilings, corridors looking down into a central skylighted atrium, banisters that resemble those on ships on the edges of all floors except the lobby, a pool outside in the back shaped similarly to the hotel, and had blue or orange awnings above the windows on the upper floors until the hotel closed in the 1960s.

Designers and artists from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, France, and Spain all contributed to the hotel's overall construction. When it opened on October 10, 1942, it became an instant sensation among the island's social elite. Completed at a cost of more than US$2,000,000, the hotel catered to many major Hollywood and Latin American film stars such as Cantinflas, Libertad Lamarque and Jorge Negrete. The hotel also served as a performing arts venue for many of Puerto Rico's top entertainers, such as Ruth Fernández, Myrta Silva, Sylvia Rexach, and Carmen Delia Dipini.

After being closed and abandoned in the 1960s, the hotel was restored in the early 1990s. Afterwards, it underwent massive renovations due to heavy damage caused by Hurricane Georges in 1998. After storm-related damages were repaired, the hotel remained in business until 2004, when another renovation project commenced. In early 2005, the 173-room hotel reopened after its refurbishing and would operate as a Boutique Hotel for 4 years, before closing again by late 2009, since then the hotel has remained unused and abandoned for over a decade by 2019. In 2015 the hotel's roof sign was removed, and only the structure that held up the letters of the sign remains.

The Normandie Hotel was purchased on August 8, 2013, by Ben Medetsky and Jack Polatsek of Interra Capital Group for nearly US$4,000,000 but after initial plans for redevelopment of the hotel, the group decided to sell it. In 2014, then in the spring of 2017 and again in the spring of 2018, investors were considering the purchase of the Normandie Hotel. In August 2014, it remained abandoned, locked up, deteriorated, and eventually was vandalized. . Its entire electrical, plumbing and other infrastructure would need to be entirely redone if the property is purchased and reopened.

Recognition

The Normandie Hotel was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

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