The following is an extract from Walking Long Street, by Desmond Martin (Struik, 2007)
Although this hotel has been refurbished and altered a number of times in more than a century, the basic design remains much as it was when it opened in 1895 as Hotel Metropole (though the original 1984 plans named the building as the “Hamburg Hotel”). A newspaper report in the Cape Argus, 1 July 1895, stated that it was “one of the landmarks of the city … five storeys high … a tower at the corner rising over 90 feet (27 metres) above the street level. It is of a very imposing and grand appearance, being designed in the old German Renaissance style, introduced for the first time in this Colony.” The upper storey, with its “quaint dormer windows, pediments, Mansard roof, and capola (cupola)” and tower were removed in later years and its “red pointed brickwork and artificial stone facings” have long since been plastered over.
The original construction was to a plan by the Dutch architect, Anthony De Witt, who came to South Africa in 1879. William Black, an Australian architect, undertook extensions in about 1900. The prominent verandah that is shown in early drawings on both the Long and Castle Street façades was originally supported by cast-iron columns. During a rebuild, possibly in the 1920s, the verandah was re-erected on four sets of concrete pillars on Long Street only. The projecting concrete balconettes and window hoods on the upper floors also probably date from this time.
Although situated in the same block as the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), the hotel was largely ignored by YM residents in the 1950s, as most of us could just about afford board-and-lodging at the YM, let alone “eat out”. In later years, however, when I worked in Bree Street, lunching on the hotel’s enclosed terrace became extremely popular with Capetonians during weekdays and it was necessary to arrive early to ensure a lunchtime view of the passing traffic below in Long Street. Recently upgraded, the hotel ranks as one of the city’s top hotels and continues its proud tradition of providing fine accommodation and cuisine for locals and tourists.