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Tradition & History

Hotel Walther – a house of character

100 year jubilee book by Christian Walther - "Im Turm war niemals eine Suite" (PDF)
History of Hotel Walther (PDF)

"Ursolina, daughter of Johannes and Natalina Badrutt-Pidermann. I was born on October 27th 1873 in Sils-Baselgia at the home of my beloved grandfather, Johannes Badrutt-Berry…” These lines come from a yellowed paper belonging to the granddaughter of the Kulm Hotel founder. Together with her husband Claudio Saratz, she has been the owner of the Hotel Steinbock since the close of the 19th century. She was in a perfect location to be able to take advantage of the surge in visitors at the time of the tourism boom. At that time, rather than tackling an expansion of the modest inn, she started to think about building a sumptuous new construction on the adjoining property.

The plans for the project came from the Zurich-based architect Arnold Huber who had already worked at Lake Geneva, Zurich and Pontresina (Schweizerhof, Collina, Müller). The plans were realised in 1905. Sketches from 1904 bear witness to the original intent for a duo-faceted architectural design that would represent both the grandiose and more classically touristic styles. On the other side of the street, the baker, Kochendörfer, was inspired by this boom in construction – so much so that his baking kept Claudio Saratz awake and ended up sparking a dispute. After all, billows of smoke emanating from the bread oven don’t exactly go hand in hand with the touted fresh mountain air.

Saratz only backed down after the neighbour threatened to sell his bakery to the Catholic Church, to build a house of prayer there. Saratz therefore opted for the billowing smoke rather than the clanging church bells, along with a promise to buy his bread from the bakery for 5 years. The hotel was completed in an impressive single phase of construction between 1905 and 1907.

The Palace of Pontresina

The new hotel, named the Hotel Palace, certainly lived up to the expectations of its former guests in terms of grandiosity and quality. Additional modern-day conveniences such as air conditioning, heating and electric lights also attracted new guests. The construction costs are estimated to have been in the order of 2.5 million Swiss francs, which would be about 20 million Swiss francs today. Art-Nouveau as well as Domestic Revival styles are represented by crests and mountain scenes, accompanied by turrets, stained-glass and typical lighting fixtures. The 106 guest rooms with a total of 120 beds are furnished simply, with an ingenious design that enables three or more rooms to be combined to make one large apartment.

The hotel’s luxurious splendour is particularly evident in its focal areas including the Damensalon bar, the loggia, the reception area and the main lounges, lounge and dining hall.

The dining room features ornate décor including stucco, plush marble and carvings – the perfect backdrop to the hotel’s culinary delights. The room’s magnificent ceiling stands at an impressive seven metres high, creating a spacious, contemporary atmosphere. Here, guests enjoy the freedom of sitting at a table of their choice, as opposed to imposed seating. As the night falls, guests head for the Clubhütte one floor below, a mountain-lodge-themed venue. Legend has it that the first Pilsner beer to be tasted in the Engadine was back in 1917, by none other than the revolutionary leader Lenin, who wrote in the lodge book: "Le monde sera, mais il sera d’une autre façon."

“Herberge zur Glückseligkeit”

The new hotel, majestic and yet welcoming, was rapidly up and running, accommodating up to 140 guests daily in the years 1910/1911. But sadly the horrors of the First World War also hit Pontresina, ending this brief spell of happiness. The hotel emptied abruptly and ownership passed to the Graubünden Kantonalbank. Following this, anxiety coupled with a serious illness led to the untimely death of the hotel owner, resulting in his widower losing everything but the right to residency and employment until 1937.

During the two World Wars, the bank provided the house to soldiers as a place in which to sleep. In 1929, the hotel underwent a massive overhaul, with running water and central heating being installed throughout.

However, despite the boom experienced in Pontresina during the period between the two World Wars, the summer seasons following the Second World War proved to be rather unproductive. There are barely any winter seasons in Pontresina.

The Walther alliance

In 1934 in Brunnen, 200 kilometres northwest of Pontresina, Hans Walther had just resigned from his management position at the Vierwaldstätter-Hof to take on the management of what are today known as the Sport Hotels Pontresina, together with his wife Mary. On 1 June 1945, the Graubündner Kantonalbank entrusted him with the challenging task of rebuilding the Palace and Steinbock Hotels.

It was not until the economic boom of the 1950s, and in particular in 1956 when Pontresina bloomed into a ski resort thanks to the Diavolezza railway, that Hans Walther swapped his tenant’s role for that of owner of the Walther-Palace Hotel. In 1963, Barbara and Christian stepped into the role, becoming the next in a succession of generations. They proceeded to rescue the hotel from its structural issues by carrying out substantial renovations. The shortening of the name to Hotel Walther marked the beginning of the successors’ journey – distancing themselves from the somewhat dusty image of a “plush palace” and differentiating the hotel from the nearby Gran Hotels. For 40 years they skilfully crafted a blend of conservation and modernisation, with heart and continuity. As a result of their painstaking work, the hotel today seamlessly combines Art Nouveau with structural and technical finesse. This is one of the main reasons the hotel is recognised by the world-renowned hotel association Relais & Châteaux since 1993.

Invest - until it shines

1986 sees the birth of the Hotel Walther’s wellness facilities, with the construction of the indoor pool, followed in 2002 by the creation of the relaxation oasis AQUA VIVA. Together, the two projects cost an impressive five million francs. In 1997, Thomas and Anne-Rose Walther took over the oeuvre of Christian and Barbara Walther, taking on the responsibility of maintaining the hotel’s 100-year-old high-quality standard. Thanks to their commitment, they obtained the hotel classification "4-star superior" on 1 January 2007. They recently injected a further breath of fresh air into the 100-year-old heritage, with the creation of a new logo which represents pride, dynamics and sustainable value.

Since 2008, 15 GaultMillau points have been awarded to the redesigned La Stüva restaurant, which is the epitome of Alpine chic. Add to this a refurbishment of the bar and smoking lounge, as well as the wellness oasis, with high-quality, indigenous materials. Two years later, the ski room was equipped with modern ski lockers and the garden terrace relandscaped, meaning that the hotel was now able to operate during the winter season. Next came the third step in the “Walther alliance”: extensive renovations saw the former Diavolezza-Gondel transformed into the Gondolezza. The next major change took place in 2012/2013 with the construction of an underground car park accommodating 130 parking spaces. The land above ground was turned into a hotel park featuring numerous oases perfect for relaxation and retreat.

In 2013, work continued on the interior, with the construction of four new junior suites in which emphasis is placed on beautiful materials. 2014 saw the refurbishment of one more suite as well as the installation of new TV sets and faster Wi-Fi. As of the summer of 2015, a new lift is available in the underground car park. Relaunch homepage: easy handling with responsive design. Further 4 Junior-Suites more have been carefully renovated in autumn 2015. 2017: Major renovation of the ground floor: hotel lobby, reception, lounge, smoking room, hotel bar and Grand Restaurant.

Redesign

The new edition of the Hotel Walther! As part of the anniversary summer in 2017, we have given our Grand Hotel a makeover. The entrance, reception, lobby, corridor, bar, smokers lounge and two dining rooms will all be completely redesigned. The Walther hotels distinguishing characteristic values and qualities remain highlighted and will be newly-staged by innovative design, targeted architectural interventions and selected works of art. The careful #redesign of the ground floor brings tradition in-line with modern day, creating the perfect setting for a relaxed modern ambience.