Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Leopoldville 1942 - Hotel Le Regina

The Pension Paula on Place Braconnier
The Hotel Regina was built by Paul Storey-Day on the Boulevard in the 1940s on the site of the original train station (See Jan. 23, 2011).  The antecedent of the hotel was the Pension Paula established before WWII and located across the Boulevard on the Place Braconnier where the Galleries Albert was built in the 1950s.  Paula Colman was Storey-Day’s mother in law.  Storey-Day received approval from the Comité Urbain to build a hotel on the Boulevard in June 1942 and additional authorization to rehabilitate a 20-room building the following November. 

The original hotel facing Boulevard Albert
The original structure was a rambling two-story building with a varied façade incorporating an inverted semi-circle at the corner of the Boulevard and Bangala. In the early 1950s, Storey-day expanded the hotel, adding a third story and squaring the corner. Flashing neon “Pepsi-cola” and “Martini” signs could be seen from the Stanley Monument on Mt. Ngaliema.  Pan American Airways maintained a ticket agency in the hotel, and the Japanese Consulate had an office there as well.  By the late 1950s, the hotel boasted 165 rooms, air conditions and telephones.  A sidewalk café, “Le Bruxelles “, and a night club, the “Manhattan”, were popular destinations for Kinois.
The Regina late 1940s
The Regina after expansion mid 1950s - note Otraco Building under construction (L)

The Regina in the late 1960s
With the coming of Independence June 30, 1960, the hotel was a frequent meeting point for politicians, diplomats and journalists.  In mid-September 1960, Brian Urquhart, a senior member of UN Secretary General Hammarskjold’s staff, was working in his room at the Regina.  Joseph Mobutu came in and urged them to listen to the radio, which was announcing his coup neutralizing Kasavubu and Lumumba.  Mobutu then went to the bar and gave a press conference to the journalists gathered there.  Storey-Day continued the business, catering the first Kinshasa International Fair (FiKin) in 1969.

During the 1980s, the hotel was demolished and construction of a new hotel to be called Novotel or Ibis started on the site.  Construction was largely completed on the six-story concrete structure when the “pillage” swept through Kinshasa in September 1991.  Work was suspended and never resumed.  In December 1997, the new Kabila government sought to interest the Accor Hotel group in the project, but without success.  The 4th Battalion of the National Police established itself in the shell and enterprising advertising agencies hung billboards from the sides of the building.  Storey-Day’s son Patrick remained in Kinshasa and operated a restaurant called “Chez Patrick” in an old villa on Ave. du Port for a number of years. The restaurant specialized in game and was decorated with old photos and documents from the “Pension Paula” and the “Regina”. In 2005, his landlord raised the rent, which forced him to vacate.  
The uncompleted hotel on the Boulevard

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing how things have changed in this place after all these years. I always love looking at these old photographs. It is just like traveling back in time.

    Serviced apartments pattaya