27, Gerrard Street, Soho

From: A history of the French in London: liberty, equality, opportunity (2013), by Debra Kelly and Martyn Cornick, University of London Press, Institute of Historical Research (IHR Conference Series):

“The number of hotels associated with the Free French is impressive. In addition to the Connaught and the Savoy (connected with de Gaulle and many others…), there were several others of note: Rubens Hotel; Rembrandt Hotel; Hyde Park Hotel (again all used by de Gaulle…); the Waldorf…; Grosvenor Hotel…; Hotel de Vere…; Kensington Palace Hotel…; Mount Royal Hotel…; the Ashdown Park Hotel, Coulsdon…; and finally the less salubrious Hotel de Boulogne in Lisle Street (sic), Soho, which still has its name in mosaics (see image) in the doorway of the Chinese restaurant it now houses, and was frequented during the war by the armed forces of the Free French. Such hotels were, or…had been, staffed to a great extent by foreign nationals, including some very prominent French chefs and restaurateurs, as well as many ordinary French men and women…German and Vichy spies also haunted those places – as (Matthew) Sweet puts it: “at Claridge’s there were more spies than sommeliers…”

Sebastien Ardouin writes on the Painted Signs and Mosaics blog:

“27 Gerrard Street was built in 1783 but it was only in 1874 that a hotel opened in its walls. The street facade was ‘Victorianized’ that same year and one can assume this took place prior to the arrival of the first guests at the Hotel de Boulogne. The leaseholder at the time was a certain Philippe Ganosse, a Frenchman born in 1843, and who, according to the 1881 census had his residence at nearby 84 Dean Street. With such a name, I would strongly suspect he came originally from southeastern France, something that the name of the hotel clearly does not reflect!

(from the Hotels section of the UK London Post Office Directory in 1899: Hotel Francais, Philippe Ganosse, 27 Gerrard street, Soho W)

Following the death of Philippe, his English wife Kate and later on their daughter Eugenie Elise Jeannette took over the business. The Hotel de Boulogne was certainly popular enough and around 1910 the ground floor front was glazed in Art Nouveau style. However the First World War must have dealt it a serious blow. The hotel closed in 1917, only to be replaced one year later by the Restaurant de Boulogne. Documents of the 1920s and 1930s point to a growing presence of Italians (with) interests in the building itself and the running of the restaurant. In 1962 the Restaurant de Boulogne was still occupying the premises and may have done so for another number of years. By the mid-1970s though, many of the traditional businesses of Gerrard Street were closing down and were replaced by Chinese restaurants and shops. Nowadays this is the very heart of Chinatown and the London China Town Restaurant (now Gerrard’s Corner) occupies the premises of what used to be the Hotel de Boulogne.”

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