Carlton Hotel St. Moritz – The History
The Carlton Hotel St. Moritz has a long and colourful history: In 1913, the doors of this impressive building were opened for the first time. At Christmas of the same year the hotel welcomed its first guests as the fifth five star hotel in this elegant holiday resort, which was already well known at the time.
According to legend the property was originally planned as summer residence for the czar Nicolaj II., grandson of the czar Alexander II. However, it seems this was never confirmed; on the contrary, it seems in fact, this was a fantastical story made up by a former owner, hoping to raise the profile of the Carlton. In today’s media world, you would most probably call this a genius PR-story – especially as the connection between the hotel and the czar was never eliminated completely. And also because Carlo Rampazzi, supervising interior designer for the complete refurbishment in 2006/2007, used the Russian legend as his artistic inspiration, despite knowing that it was not more than a legend.
A fact is: After an exceptionally successful first winter season, the First World War began in 1914 and all guests left St. Moritz in a hurry. Even though the Carlton received some attention due to the fact that the Greek royal family lived during the whole war in exile at the hotel and in St. Moritz, times were very hard. Only a few hotels managed to survive the duration of the war since they were mainly owned by large financial institutions after their owners went bankrupt. This also applied to the Carlton, which then was owned by the Swiss Volksbank.
In the 30s the hotel experienced for the first time real glorious years. At the library in St. Moritz articles from the „Engadin Express & Alpine Post“can be found which announce Afternoon Tea Times with celebrity guests from London, Amsterdam and Paris. Unfortunately, the Second World War brought these successful times to an end and the hotel was closed again in September 1939. The hotel re-opened its doors again after the war for the winter season 1947/1948. Alfred Koch, the son of the engineer Valentin Koch-Robbi who built the hotel in cooperation with the well known Swiss hotel architect Emil Vogt, became General Manager. But the respective bank was very sceptical towards the hotel trade in St. Moritz and decided to close the hotel again after a very successful Olympic winter season in 1948.
It took seven years before the hotel accommodated guests again. The family Ernst from Luzern, who also owned the Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz, bought the hotel and re-opened it. It seemed to be a success, at least for a short period of time. This was followed by a series of ownership changes: The Niarchos Group sold the house to an American consortium. Then the new owner Norbert Cymbalista sold it to the Banque de Paris and Paye-Bas. Although the hotel was led by a number of inspiring and talented operators, the constant change of ownership could not be prevented.
Finally, an Armenian business man bought the hotel and invested significant amounts for the first time since it had been built in 1913. But even the new roof, the completely renovated facade and the new pool were not able to save the hotel. More money would have been needed to completely modernise the hotel.
In 1987 the Carlton finally found a new owner, who not only had the courage but also showed the necessary resilience to re-instate the hotel as a top property within the competitive set. Since then the Carlton Hotel has gained its place among the most attractive hotels in Switzerland. Its unique location in St. Moritz’s sunniest spot overlooking the lake makes the Carlton one of the most impressive hotels.