The arrival of the railway, in Touraine during spring 1846, has the effect of a small revolution in the city and sees the birth of the hotel de L’UNIVERS of Tours the first luxury hotel in the city
The elite feels at home at the Hotel de L’UNIVERS from the beginning of the summer, among the Comte Duchatel, the Home Secretary, the Duc D’Aumale (son of the king), the Queen of Spain, the Kings of Romania and Sweden, King Manoel of Portugal, ambassadors, army generals, and even some prelates, cannot resist the temptation of staying at the Hotel de L’UNIVERS.
A quarter of century later, all the hotels in Tours are full of guests: After the Sedan defeat and the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, the Prussians are threatening Paris. Therefore, the new Republican government chooses to office in Touraine. The Ministries, Embassies and administrations, set up in Touraine, and some in the Hotel de L’UNIVERS. But, on December 9th, the government leaves for Bordeaux, because the enemy is approaching Tours. On the 27th, Tours is invaded, for the first and last time in 160 years the hotel closes. The Prussians have to break down the doors in order to set up their headquarters.
Oh Nostalgia ! A lot of Americans decide “to have a break” in the Loire valley, while travelling in Europe. The Rockefellers (John Davison Rockefeller, one of the pioneers of the oil industry, who in 1870 founded the Standard Oil Company), the Roosevelts, Vanderbilts and many large fortunes of the New World stay in the best hotel in Tours. In 1919, while American President Wilson is signing the Treaty that ends the First World War in the Château de Versailles, his family takes its quarters in the Hotel de L’UNIVERS.
It will be the same frenzy during the 1920’s, when famous people such as the Princess of Greece, Frank Jay Gould, an American billionaire, husband of the famous Florence, who was a literature patron during forty years, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the legendary aviator and a genius writer (“Le Petit Prince à L’Univers”…), the Guggenheim family…the Chenerilles Marquis, the Hotel’s owner from 1935, is the happiest man in the world !
But soon came the darkest years: the occupation army set up in the Hotel in June 1940, on requisition, tempted by the universal fame of the Hotel and the gastronomy. During all this period, the owner, Pierre de Chenerilles refused to enter his hotel and the Golden Book is put into a safe place. But it is time for History to take another direction : One army replaces another, and the American officers become important guests for years. In the 1950’s, the Hotel’s grooms meet the wealthy American ladies at the station and the bellboys walk the guests poodles in the tree-lined avenues.
However at the end of 1960’s, traditions are changing and the new managers of the Hotel must find a second breath for the UNIVERS, under the directorship of a new management, during the 1970’s. Twenty years later, The Hotel de L’UNIVERS has undergone fundamental refurbishing and confirms its prestigious place in the Loire Valley hotel industry. It is even truer with the creation of the spectacular GALERIE DU LIVRE D’OR, lobby with the magnificient stairs and the “trompe-l’oeil” paintings balcony, where stand the world’s most prestigious people.
Trying to revive more than forty six of them, the painter François Pagé has represented the Kings Alphonso XIII from Spain, Edward VII from England, and Mohammed V from Morocco, the prince Youssoupoff, policitical figures such as Churchill, Clémenceau and Gambetta, the writers Courteline, Edmond Rostand and Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, French Marshals Leclerc and Lyautey, people from show business such as Sarah Bernhardt, Abel Gance, Fernandel, Pasolini, Edith Piaf, Luis Mariano, Maurice Chevalier, Norma Sherrer, Katharine Hepburn and Serge Gainsbourg…
Did you know that the famous vulcanologist Haroun Tazieff was also a philosopher? During his stay at L’UNIVERS in 1980, he marveled at the Golden Book: “En ces murs, tant de grands noms, écrivains, acteurs, metteurs en scène, musiciens, rois, princes, ducs, et tout le gotha, généraux, diplomates…Quelques-uns uns encore en vie, quantité disparus. Que reste-t-il de nos futiles vanités ? »
« On these walls, so many great names, writers, actors, musicians, kings, princes, dukes, generals, diplomats,… some still alive, many others disappeared. What remains of our futile vanities ?”
- But… each guest still has the pleasure to succeed them , it’s your turn now don’t miss it.