Facelift for Jhb Carlton Hotel

Facelift for Jhb Carlton Hotel

2005-03-31 19:53

Johannesburg - Door knobs are being polished, elevators and toilets fixed up, and 1970's style furniture and decor brought back to parts of Johannesburg's Carlton Hotel - empty and unused since 1997.

The hotel, part of the ambitious 1970's Carlton Centre complex in Johannesburg's city centre, will now be used for the launch of a new Volkswagen product, a VW spokesman said on Thursday.

"We are trying as hard as possible to make it look exactly as it did in the Seventies - including the doorman and the guy who offered a shoeshine service downstairs," said spokesman Songezo Zibi.

The Carlton was once one of the most prestigious hotels in the city, hosting people like Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State in the Nixon era, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In later years, singer Whitney Houston and veteran rockers The Rolling Stones stayed there.

When the African National Congress won the first democratic elections in the country in 1994, the Carlton Hotel was the venue for the party's ecstatic victory party.

However, when business moved out of central Johannesburg, the hotel faced bankruptcy and it closed in 1997. The building is now owned by Transnet.

Zibi said the first and third floors of the once plush hotel would be restored to their original condition, and the 35th floor would be redone in a more modern in style.

"We are hoping that this will provide yet another boost to the Johannesburg inner city."

However, he did not know whether anyone was seriously considering re-opening the hotel.

The present Carlton Hotel replaced an older 1906 building, the brainchild of mining magnate Barney Barnato.

It was modelled on a hotel in London and formed the centre of social life in early Johannesburg, according to the book "Meet me at the Carlton" by Eric Rosenthal.

In 1972 Anglo American built the luxurious Carlton Centre and Hotel as an African imitation of the Rockefeller complex in the USA.

In the late 1990s the building began to fall into disrepair and was mothballed in 1997.

"The Carlton Hotel and the Johannesburg city centre setting are the ideal venue for our function on Wednesday next week," said VW general manager for sales and marketing Mike Glendinning.

The company has chosen to keep all information on the product launch a secret at this stage.