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Fiji Time: 12:34 PM on Tuesday 29 July

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The 'jewel' of the city

Avinesh Gopal
Friday, May 09, 2014

THE colonial era building stands out in the middle.

It was once a landmark of Suva City and is now set to regain its status.

Once known as the "Grand Old Lady", the Grand Pacific Hotel had closed operations in 1992 and changed hands since then.

But it is now being restored to a five-star hotel and is scheduled to open soon.

The new wings add more elegance to the hotel, which may look of a standard size from the front but is quite enormous if seen from all corners.

However, what makes the hotel stand out though is the same old building in which the hotel started during the colonial era.

Located on the seafront and along Victoria Pde, the hotel was built by The Union Steamship Company in 1914 to serve passengers on its transpacific routes.

From the hotel, the Government Buildings, Fiji Museum and Albert Park are at a walking distance, not forgetting the city.

The hotel was designed in such a way then to make passengers think that they had never left the ship and gone ashore.

Its rooms were like first-class staterooms, reportedly with saltwater bathrooms and plumbing fixtures identical to those on an ocean liner.

The hotel has been a popular place for famous people such as Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who landed his aeroplane at Albert Park.

All rooms in the old hotel were said to have been on the second floor and guests could step outside on a 15-foot wide veranda overlooking the harbor and walk around the building.

When Queen Elizabeth II and her entourage visited Fiji, she stood on the wrought-iron portico of the hotel and addressed people crowded at Albert Park and Victoria Pde.

In its centennial anniversary celebration in 1969, The Fiji Times gave a brief history of how the Grand Pacific Hotel started in 1914, how the construction work progressed and how it would look like once completed.

Restoration works at the hotel started about two years ago and will complete soon to mark its grand re-opening and 100 year anniversary.

The old hotel building stands in the middle while the new wings are being constructed on each side, making the colonial era structure stand out.

Grand Pacific Hotel general manager Eugen Diethelm told this newspaper recently that almost 90 per cent of refurbishment work had completed.

Mr Diethelm said they were wrapping up the final phase of construction and preparing for the grand opening in the second quarter of this year.

"With construction works on track, we are confident of the scheduled opening," he had said, adding that the hotel's staff members were undergoing extensive training for two months.

The hotel is training its 218 permanent staff members and another 50 have been hired for casual work, where they are called in during preparations for a big function.

Mr Diethelm said the hotel would be busy throughout the year with weddings already booked in advance.


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