Photo exhibition for the celebration of a hundred years
The hotel chain-landmark of the world, Hilton, marks 100 years since the inauguration of its first hotel unit and the Athenian Hilton celebrates with a free-entry photographic exhibition and visual guided tours.
The opening of the hotel in Vasilissis Sophia marked a new era of prosperity and growth for Greek tourism, marking the urban fabric of the city at the crucial period of its rebuilding. It actively participated in the life of the Greek capital with its actions, was involved from the start with the promotion of Greek contemporary art and connected its name to a whole region.
It was designed by the architects Emmanuel Voureka, Prokopios Vasiliadis and Spyros Staikos, who emphasized its Greekness with the use of Pentelic marble and embossed decorative compositions with archaic themes by Yannis Moralis, which gave the building a Doric exterior decoration. The interior was majestic, well designed and simple. The building combined the imposing grandeur and modern aesthetics with the ancient Greek harmony.
His official inauguration took place on April 20, 1963, with three-day festive events that brought together distinguished guests from all over the world and was an unprecedented event for the secular times of Athens. Τhe founder of the well-known hotel chain, Conrad Hilton, had attended the inauguration ceremony and had stated: “I agree with those who believe that the Athens Hotel is the most beautiful Hilton in the world”.
Hilton was the first example of “architectural prestige,” symbolizing the economic, cultural and social developments of that era, and especially the country’s entry into the world luxury tourism market. It was the first branch of an international hotel chain that opened in Greece and since its early years, it has hosted famous personalities of the era, such as Aristotle Onassis, Ingmar Bergman, Anthony Quinn and others.
In addition, since its early years, it has played an important role in the cultural life of the city, through the historical exhibitions of the Athens Hilton Hall, in the period 1963-1973.
In 2001-2003, in view of the Athens Olympic Games, it was radically renovated by the architectural offices of Alexandros Tombazis and Haris Bougadellis, and a new wing was added, proving that, as a living organism, it keeps on evolving. In 2004, it was the official seat of the International Olympic Committee, while in 2011 it was the seat of the Organizing Committee of the Special Olympics World Games held in Athens.
In 2019, Hilton’s famous chain closes a century of life, and from a single hotel in Texas, it has reached 5,500 in 106 countries of the world. From 1919 to today, it has accomodated 3 billion visitors, while the total number of employees is estimated at ten million. Beyond these impressive figures, Hilton has changed many cities in the way it shaped Athens since it was the first global chain in this field.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the group, Aethrion Lounge organizes an interesting photographic exhibition of historical art and museologist Katerina Koskinas, which aims to take back Athenians and visitors in the history of the hotel, which is inextricably linked with that of the newer Greece.
The exhibition is a tour of the past, with photos where Hilton was just an ambitious model, with the evening of the glittering inauguration being the cosmic event of the year, with the crowded lobby of the hotel and the numerous guests filling the dance hall “Terpsichore” to start the party.
One will be guided through the press conference of Henry Verney’s “Le Casse”, which was largely shot at the Hilton of Athens, and the visit of the at the time Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis to Hilton’s construction site on 24 January 1959, the foundation ceremony on February 26 of the same year, with a number of officials and present Conrad Hilton.
Conrad Hilton, Panayiotis Papalegouras, Stratis Andreadis (inauguration of Hilton Athens)
In another picture, Conrad Hilton writes on the guest book and in another, dances with his sister his favorite “Varsoviana” waltz, which he used to do for the inauguration of all his hotels. Another shows the aesthetics of the “Galaxy Bar” in 1965, which has been a favorite hangout and meeting place and still is, for 56 years, and is a point of reference, an integral part of the city’s social, cultural and business life and one of the most important monuments of modern architecture.
There are photos of Aristotle Onassis smiling, in 1963, the great Ela Fitzgerald in 1979, Hugh Heffner of the legendary Playboy, accompanied by a gorgeous model in 1970, the charming Jeremy Irons, in 1996, Telis Savalas with sunglasses in front of Hilton in 1971, the Platters, who gave a concert at the hotel’s swimming pool in 1980, and many others who sealed their life and work for an entire era.
The legendary French singer Mireille Mattie during her stay at the Hilton Athens, March 1988.
Moreover, tours are organized for the first time, which allow the public to get acquainted with contemporary artworks, located in the emblematic hotel. Apart from Yannis Moralis and Eleni Vernardaki, who left their artistic mark on two sides, George Zongolopoulos, Chrysa, George Lappas, Pavlos are some of the artists whose works were placed at Hilton Athens by Katerina Koskinas in 2003, after its complete renovation.
The vision of the founder of the Hilton chain, Conrad Hilton – which first established the hospitality business class for business travelers – was to provide warm and quality services, focusing on their development and on the needs of travelers. Historically, the experiences that Hilton hotels first brought to their clients were many – among other things, they installed TVs in the rooms and established room service.
The famous cocktail pina colada was inspired by Hilton’s Puerto Rico Bartender (1954), and Hilton was the first hotel to be opened near San Francisco Airport Hilton.
But beyond the stunning elements that make Hilton the undisputed protagonist in the global hotel world, it is noteworthy that this international chain has had a tremendous influence on the development of the cities and countries where it built its units.
In a while, a book titled “The Hilton Effect” will be released on the occasion of his 100 years of life, written by Chip Hith, professor at the Stanford University, and Carla Star, a reporter who specializes in business reporting. In their research, this significant impact of Hilton hotels on built-up areas is recorded.
The photographic exhibition is hosted at Aethrion Lounge until December 31, 2019, with free admission. Tours take place on an appointment and last one hour.