Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leopoldville 1940s - A Quintet of Small Hotels

With the establishment of the Gare Centrale at the end of the Boulevard in the 1940s, a number of small hotels began to open within a kilometer radius of the railway station.  These typically catered to less affluent business travelers, in particular Belgians and Portuguese who operated small plantations, industrial and retail operations in the western part of the colony.  In 1943, as well, the first Congolese-owned hotel, the Jokol, opened in Dendale, now Commune Kasavubu.

Hotel de Belgique
The Hotel de Belgique opened in December 1941, two blocks south of the Gare at the beginning of Ave. Olsen, offering bar, restaurant and “fritture”.  In the early 1950s the Hotel became the Astrid and in 1958 offered its clientele 13 B Rooms and 6 C Rooms at between Fr.200 and 250 a day.  Air conditioning was an additional Fr.60.  The Hotel is now known as the Estoril, managed by long-term Portuguese residents of Kinshasa.

Hotel Astrid 1953

Hotel Estoril - 2006


Interior courtyard of the Hotel Residence

The Hotel Residence is an art-deco structure built in the 1940s on Ave. de Gaulle one block west of the Astoria.  Given its location, it was likely built by Portuguese entrepreneurs.  The interior courtyard featured fine wrought iron work.  It is now a District office of SNEL, the national electricity company.

Hotel Residence late 1940s

SNEL District Office - 2006


Hotel Astoria - 1954

The Hotel Astoria was built in the late 1940s at the end of Ave. de Gaulle (Commerce) near the Gare Centrale.  After Mobutu recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1973, the hotel became the Embassy.  The Chinese later moved to a larger building on Ave. des Aviateurs.  When China began building the Stade Kamanyola (now Martyrs) in Lingwala Commune in the 1980s,  the Cultrana (See.Feb. 20, 2011), which housed the Institut National des Arts was demolished.  The Institut National des Arts was relocated from the Cultrana to the Astoria building.

Institut National des Arts, Ave. Commerce - 2006

The Hotel Terminus was built in the mid-1950s on Ave. Bousin on the northern side of the street from the Gare.  It was conveniently located to the ferry to Brazzaville.  In 1958 it offered 18 B rooms at Fr.200-275 a day.  In 2006, it was a retail establishment near the ferry landing.

Ex-Hotel Terminus - 2006. Brazzaville ferry landing at end of the street on left.

Hotel Mailleur - 1949
Hotel Mailleur was established in 1942 by Joseph Mailleur, who first came to Congo in 1928 as an accountant for the Cominex trading firm (See Mar. 24, 2011).  He returned to Belgium during the Depression, but came back to the colony in February 1938 this time as an accountant with the cotton parastatal, Cotonco.  In 1942, he established his own business, engaging in real estate, construction, furniture manufacture and the Hotel Mailleur.  The two-story hotel was located on Ave. Cerckel (de la Paix) near the intersection with Ave. Beernaert (Equateur).  In October 1960, guests were subjected to a bit of drama when the Congolese Army (ANC) surrounded the hotel looking for weapons.

A promotional card from the Hotel Mailleur - 1957


  1. It is wonderful to see these familiar hotels during their earlier days. They always make Leopoldville a livelier place specially during holidays.

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  2. Aucune idée pourquoi tout ceci est en anglais...

    Vos lecteurs potentiels (vu le sujet) ont nettement plus de chances de lire le français.

    Vous êtes payé par le Peace Corps ou un truc comme cela pour angliciser la planète ?

  3. L'Anglais est ma langue maternelle et je trouve qu'il est plus facile de composer de cette manière. Veuillez-voir l'option de traduction en haut du texte.

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