Rare photos from the history of luxury at the Hilton on the occasion of the start of the sale process of the Ioniki Hotel Company.
By Katerina Lymberopoulou
Where Hilton stands today, one of the landmarks of Athens, military services used to be housed at the end of the 50s. The plot on the corner of Vas. Sofias and Vas. Konstantinou streets was sold in 1957 to be erected as “an elegant and dignity monument of the 20th century”, according to Conrad Hilton. The 16,000 cubits which were sold for $ 750,000 became the first global hotel chain ever created in Athens. A look at the history of Hilton on the occasion of the start of the sale process of the Ioniki Hotel Company, owner of Hilton Athens from Alpha Bank.
Parade of the crème de la crème of the times.
At the grand opening of the Hilton hotel in 1963, those present were the then Prime Minister, Konstantinos Karamanlis, Aristotle Onassis and Frank Sinatra, and the Athenian elite of the time. As noted by the Athenian, John Kairofylas, “all cosmopolitans who managed to get an invitation went to the event, including some guests who were self-invited, as often happens in such events. The gentlemen were all in formal attire, while the ladies brought the spring somewhat prematurely with their colorful hats, for which they had paid a small fortune to the Athenian hat makers “.
A scandalous skyscraper
Things, however, were not so rosy. Before the plans were even published (note, the specificity of the site dictated a hollow shaft that was not in line with the profile of the urban landscape) G. Koromilas will call the Hilton a “skyscraper” that will destroy this landscape. Thus, its construction will be treated as an economic-political scandal by much of the press, which will renounce the value of the architecture, admittedly a great architectural value. The projects were signed by architects Emmanuel Vourekas, Prokopis Vassiliadis, Spyros Staikos and Antonis Georgiadis
The Hilton and Moralis
The major facades were fashioned by a kind of grid, which takes its form by the large characteristic flaps vertically, and the parapets of balconies horizontally. The two narrow sides formed Socorro, ie blind sides – highly unusual at the time – which brought the famous decorations with the monumental sculptured compositions by Yannis Moralis.
Yannis Moralis’ cooperation with the hotel began in 1959 and ended in 1962. And this was the cooperation that launched a new dimension of the painter’s work and summed up his contribution to architecture.
Those who observe carefully the scene in front of the Hilton Athens will see that it combines elements of hospitality, travel and entertainment. It depicts the goddess Athena, an altar with offerings by priestesses, flute-playing girls offering entertainment, a horse, a boat etc.
However, apart from the external, Moralis made some – much less known is the truth – interventions within the hotel. Unfortunately, after the renovation for the Olympics 2004, most were destroyed.
The celebrities Hilton
Heads of state, Hollywood stars, international scientists, “royalty” and personalities from many places, have visited the Athens Hilton. From Aristotle Onassis and Frank Sinatra to Ingmar Bergman and Anthony Quinn. From Juan Carlos to Hugh Hefner.
Hamburgers at the Byzantinon Restaurant, and cocktails at the Galaxy Bar.
To hotel became a favorite hangout of the Athenians, who tasted their first American hamburger and club sandwich at the Byzantinon, and original cocktails at the Galaxy Bar.
In view of the Athens Olympics, renovations and the addition of a new wing made by the architectural offices of Alexander Tompazi and Charis Bougadeli.
In 2004, the Athens Hilton was the official headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, and in 2011 the GOC headquarters of the Special Olympics, held in Athens.
For the pictures and the Greek version, go to THETOC.GR