As soon as you walk into the historic Vanderbilt hotel, you’re met by the magnificent lobby. When the townhouse was built it was one of ten constructed by the Vanderbilt family, along the then very fashionable Cromwell Road, for some of the wealthiest families in Europe including the Kay-Shuttleworths, Admiral Fanshawe and the Townsend-Halls. All ten have now been combined to create the hotel.
The Vanderbilt’s made their money in America, mainly from shipping and railways. At that time they were the richest people in the world – although they had a talent for squandering their money as well as acquiring it so there is little left of the family fortune! It has been widely documented and is often cited as The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt – however despite their spectacular loss of fortune, the family are still one of the wealthiest in the world.
The Vanderbilt hotel is a Grade II listed building meaning it can only be restored, not changed. In the early 1900’s Kensington had grown into quite a residential area for people who wanted to live away from the city. In 1924 the Vanderbilt hotel was formed of 6 houses, and then later the remaining 4 houses joined to become the Vanderbilt as you see it today.
At the height of the Vanderbilt family influence, they built this house as a base in London and they imported little bits of Paris such as the magnificent fresco ceiling and the original fireplace with its Fleur de Lis detailing.
The Vanderbilt’s were keen on France in general, and especially Napoleon, and in the painting above the fireplace you can see his troops as well as the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Egypt representing some of his triumphs.
The stained glass window at the top of the stairs depicts Henry IV of France, a popular French King who ruled from 1589 to 1610. The King is shown to be wearing the L’Ordre du Saint-Esprit or Order of the Holy Spirit, a chivralic order of the French Monarchy, under his blue sash.
The motto underneath the painting states “Au chemin de la honneur et gloire” (“the path of honour and glory”).
The Vanderbilt Dining Room
The Vanderbilt family dining is another room that’s full of history. We’ve retained all the wonderful wood panelling and the period detail, including the original open fireplace. The magnificent bay window of stained glass lets in lots of light during the day and adds a beguiling atmosphere at night.
Why not pop by the Vanderbilt hotel , have a look at the hotel’s historical features and enjoy some afternoon tea? We’re in the heart of Kensington, right by Gloucester Road station and the Natural History Museum. See you soon!