A Short History

Grand Pacific Hotel – A Short History

 The Grand Pacific Hotel has been an icon of the South Pacific for over a century. Totally rebuilt, the Hotel reopened in May 2014 on the hundredth
anniversary of its original opening and has already regained its place as the “grand old lady” of the Pacific – a wonderful blend
of fascinating colonial architecture and history combined with magnificent Fijian hospitality and friendliness.

 

Her Enduring Journey

Preliminary planning commenced in 1908 when the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand recognised the need for superior accommodation in Suva to cater for their passengers on the South Pacific route.

The Managing Director, Sir James Milles, commissioned the project with the hotel to be set on two acres that had been reclaimed from Suva Harbour in 1910. The final plans, prepared by a New Zealand company Salmon and Vanes, were based on contemporary colonial architecture and featured high ceilings and big double, louvered doors opening onto a broad veranda designed to provide cool comfort and style in a tropical climate. Construction was undertaken by Hall Hogg and Company from Dunedin, and the Hotel opened on 23rd May 1914.

 

The following extract from the Fiji Times dated 24th August 1912 gives a an interesting overview of the project – “The fact that the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand is spending a large amount of money in the construction of a magnificent building in Suva such as the Grand Pacific Hotel augers for the future of Suva as a tourist resort. There are many in Suva who say “it will never be finished”. To them we say to go to Mr Morgan, get him to introduce you to Mr Diamond who is in charge of the work and ask him to show what has been done, and then well, change your opinion. The hotel is being constructed on a floating foundation which means a raft of reinforced concrete under the entire structure and in the building of this alone there is a huge amount of work and 100,000 yards of cement have been used. It is estimated that over 13,000 pounds have already been spent and when complete it will have cost 25,000 pounds”

The hotel was indeed finished, though even in its early life the 35 rooms were insufficient to accommodate the groups of tourists who broke their sea journey for a short stay in Fiji.The Roof Garden was a popular feature where guests retired in the evening to catch the cool evening breeze, have drinks and sit and watch the sun set over Suva Harbour.

The ladies had their Drawing Room and the men a Billiard Room with two tables, the smoking room, writing room and bar. Bathroom fittings all came from the United Kingdom, the only drawback being they were in a communal location and shared with other guests. When the hotel opened rooms were priced from 15 shillings.

Over the decades GPH has welcomed a pantheon of notable guests and historical figures. Dame Nellie Melba visited in 1915 and in 1928 Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, a true hero of his time, landed the “Southern Cross” opposite in Albert Park on his flight across the Pacific.

He and his colleague recuperated at GPH as guests of the Union Steamship Company before departing to Australia on the final leg of their epic flight. Other notaries who have stayed or attended banquets and state functions held here in their honour include Edward Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), the Duke of York (later King George VI), Sir Don Bradman, James Michener, Burt Lancaster and Joan Rice, together with many, many others.Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attended a Grand Ball held in her honour in December 1953, and visited again in 1973 when a state dinner was held in the dining room.

In 1958 the Union Steamship relinquished their lease and the hotel moved into the ownership of Cathay Hotels (Fiji) Ltd under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Wesley Barret M.L.C. During this period the exterior was painted pink in the style of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel and in 1960 a new air conditioned accommodation wing with 45 rooms was added, together with a swimming pool, a larger dining room, Tapa bar and the Taj Mahal night club.

During the late 1980’s the hotel underwent a gradual decline and there were a number of ownership changes, finally closing its doors 1992. Thereafter it began to slowly deteriorate due to neglect and the ravages of time and climate. At one stage it served as barracks for the military to protect it from squatters and many thought that its final fate would be demolition.

Fortunately, some had other ideas and in 2011, plans for its resurrection were publicly released in a joint venture between Fiji National Provident Fund, Papua New Guinea Superannuation Fund and Lamana Development PNG. Extensive research was undertaken to ensure accurate and sympathetic restoration of the Heritage building with input from many sources, including Fiji National Trust who acted as advisors to the project.

We greatly appreciate your interest in our history. If you can add to this in any way, or if you have any memorabilia from our past, please let us know.