The History of Hotel Plaza Athénée
On 20 April 1913, the avenue Montaigne was all astir as the Plaza Athénée opened its doors at number 25 with sixteen guestrooms per floor, apartments on the top floor and a restaurant overseen at the time by chef Jacques-Léon Colombier. The Hotel soon became a new haunt for both composers and artists who regularly ate at the restaurant after an evening performance at the theatre.
The roaring twenties evoked the post-war period. It was a time of jubilation and embellishment. The architect Jules Lefebvre was chosen to create the fine apartments, La Cour Jardin, and the Salons Régence and Marie-Antoinette. Le Relais Plaza restaurant opened in 1936: its décor was entrusted to the interior designer Constant Lefranc, who transformed it into an Art Deco temple. It was in 1947 that Christian Dior set up his couture house on avenue Montaigne right next to the Plaza Athénée.
Whilst 1968 marked a time of change politically with the student rebellions of May 1968, the Hotel also went through a change in management: Paul Bougenaux in 1969, the former head concierge, organised a staff demonstration to protest against the threatened sale of the Hotel; Franco Cozzo followed his footsteps in 1979 and Hervé Houdré in 1995, who oversaw a major redesign of the Hotel in light of the growing competition.
In 1999, François Delahaye became managing director and initiated key changes. He chose Alain Ducasse to supervise the Hotel’s catering services and create the menu for the Alain Ducasse at Hotel Plaza Athénée restaurant, which obtained three Michelin stars in 2001. Meanwhile, chef Philippe Marc was appointed at Le Relais Plaza, and acclaimed pastry chef Christophe Michalak was appointed at La Galerie des Gobelins.
In 2001, Dorchester Collection announced the acquisition of the Plaza Athénée. Le Bar was redesigned in June 2001 by designer Patrick Jouin and soon became one of the most popular destinations in Paris.
In 2003, Laurence Bloch, the Hotel’s manager, commissioned interior decorators Bettina Mortemard and Marie-José Pommereau to decorate the 194 guestrooms, which included 46 suites. Two years later, a 450-square metre Royal Suite opened on the fifth floor and 2008 saw the launch of the Eiffel Suite with unparalleled views of the Eiffel Tower. That same year, the Dior Institut opened at the Hotel and received the Living Heritage Company (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant) prize in 2011.
It was in 2012 that the Plaza Athénée was awarded the official French distinction of “palace”, and on 20 April 2013, the iconic Hotel celebrated its centenary, 100 years to the day from when it opened. A time capsule was created to mark the occasion, in which objects from the past and from the present were included to be passed down to future generations for the next 25 years.