History of The Dorchester
From the moment the famous doors of The Dorchester first opened back in 1931, it has attracted high-profile guests and those with a taste for the finer things in life.
Take a trip back in time with us to share some of our favourite historic highlights.
William the Conqueror
Back in the 11th century, Mayfair was known as the ‘Manor of Hyde’ and owned by William the Conqueror. He gave the land to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Constable of the Tower of London, who bequeathed it to the canons of Westminster Abbey.
In 1792 the Earl of Dorchester, Joseph Damer, bought a house which stood on the exact spot where our hotel now stands. His house became known as ‘Dorchester House’, which explains where our own name comes from.
Holford Room event space
In 1853 Robert Holford built a grand Italian palazzo-style house to replace the original, but it kept the same name. In his honour we have an event space called the ‘Holford Room’ – we trust he would approve.
Dorchester House in occupation of the American Ambassador, Mr Whitelaw Reid
By 1910 Dorchester House became the American Embassy and was later used as a hospital during World War I, before being demolished in 1929.
The newly built hotel
Sir Robert McAlpine created a vision for what he considered to be the perfect hotel. His vision became a reality when The Dorchester opened its doors on April 18, 1931. The state-of-the-art design was built in record time over 18 months, at the speed of a floor a week, to become the world’s first hotel to be constructed from reinforced concrete.
Illustration of our ballroom in the 1930s
Throughout our history we’ve been favoured by royalty and celebrities, hosting countless state banquets and legendary parties. In the 1930s we were particularly popular with writers and artists attending Foyles Literary Luncheons.
The Dorchester entrance in 1942
During World War II General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the American Forces in Europe, stayed with us while planning the Normandy invasion. Our Eisenhower Suite is decorated in his honour with historical memorabilia.
HM The Queen and HRH Prince Philip at a charity event in our ballroom, 1948
Between 1946 and 1948 after the war, The Dorchester hosted an average of one charity ball a week. Most of these were attended by a member of the British royal family.
Messel’s decorations for HM The Queen’s coronation, 1953
We celebrated the coronation of HM The Queen in 1953 by inviting leading British stage set designer Oliver Messel to decorate the hotel façade. The decorations were said to be the best in London.
Over the years we’ve become affectionately known as ‘The Dorch’ and in 1981 we achieved official Grade II listed status, marking us out as a building of special interest.
Following a major refurbishment, the reopening of The Dorchester was commemorated on November 26, 1990, by HRH Prince Philip unveiling a plaque in the lobby.