Robaina's plantation

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Hotel Sevilla (Havana) Entrance & Lobby

                A few years after the demolition of the ancient city wall which began in 1863, the first luxury hotel in Havana, The Gran Hotel Sevilla, was built. Work began in 1880 next to the famous Paseo del Prado. With a ritzy ceremony which was attended by the who's who of Havana's upper crust, the hotel opened it's doors on March 22, 1908. Originally it only had the 4 floors but in 1919 John Bowman & Charles Flynn bought the hotel and renamed it the Sevilla-Biltmore Hotel. They added a 10 story wing and a rooftop ballroom with direct access to the Paseo del Prado in 1924. The space where the addition was built was suppose to have a hospital built on it but it couldn't get the busy street converted to a Quiet Zone. At the time of it's construction it was the tallest building in Havana. During it's early years the Moorish-Andalusian styled hotel became very famous in Cuba and around the world attracting many luminaries of the time; Gloria Swanson, Enrico Caruso, Al Capone and baseball's Ted Williams to name a few. When Josephine Baker was refused at the Hotel Nacional due to her colour, Hotel Sevilla welcomed her with open arms and later used it as a publicity stunt. The hotel was even featured in Graham Greene's novel "Our man in Havana".
               The stock market crash had a negative effect on the hotel to the point that it had to close it's doors in 1931 for 4 years. Still reeling from the disaster a few years prior and with the increasing influence of the US and the mobster invasion of the Island, the hotel was bought by Don Amleto Battisti Lora. He was a Uraguayan of Italian origin with a shady past connected to the underworld. It's been said that he bribed his way into obtaining the stock that would give him full control of the hotel. He was known as the Kingpin of Havana's lottery racket. Santo Trafficante Jr had shares in the hotel and Amleto was known to have made deals with Lucky Luciano & Santo Trafficante Sr who had their sight's on taking over Havana. A casino was installed in the hotel and as with all the other's, he paid tribute, a percentage of the take, to the mob bosses in the US. It was the place to be for a couple of decades with many social events taking place there but the revolution ended all that. Because Amleto's connection to the underworld was so well known, the Sevilla's Casino was the first one that was ransacked and destroyed.
               Sevilla continued to operate as a hotel until 1965 but mainly to national tourism. Some renovations were done between 1966-69 in order to convert it into a school for training people for the hotel and restaurant industry. It worked as such for 20 years and in 1989 a major overhaul began. The hotel re-opened to the public in 1993.
               I don't know what it looked like but I can tell you it looks like they've done a great job of restoring it to it's past glory. I've never stayed in this hotel so I can't comment on how the rooms are. Usually they're not that great in the older hotels. It does boast to have one of the 3 pools in the general area, the other 2 being at Hotel Parque Central & Hotel Saratoga. On my next visit I must check out the restaurant on the 9th floor which they say has great views of the city. As with most hotels in the city, the drinks are a little more expensive but have a drink in the courtyard not far from the check-in counter, you'll feel like you've gone back in time. If you're a tourist you will have no problem getting inside. Up the stairs and to your right if you come in the main entrance and if you come in the Prado entrance, go to the end and up the stairs and follow the hall, you can't miss it.

Hotel Sevilla
Calle Trocadero #55
e/ Prado y Zulueta
Habana Vieja

The Main Entrance on Trocadero

The Courtyard

Side entrance on Prado

Art displays are often hung on the main lobby walls

Main Entrance on Trocadero

One of the many famous guests, Al Capone

The raiding of the Casino on Jan.1, 1959 (the night President Battista fled)

Amleto Battisti sitting in the middle

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