The Molitor McGallery hotel: the incredible destiny of an art-deco swimming pool in Paris – Meanderings through France
Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
In the 1920’s sports and health became a major concern to most Europeans people and swimming pools were built by the dozen in many countries. The Molitor swimming pool was built in 1929 and was since the beginning a unique one. You might remember that name “Piscine Molitor” since the main character in the 2001 novel and in the 2012 movie “Life of Pi” was named after this swimming pool. Located in the 16th district of Paris a quiet and chic area it is only at a walking distance from the Bois de Boulogne, the Roland Garros stadium where the French Tennis Open takes place every year in May-June, the Parc des Princes where the PSG team plays football games or the “Serres d’Auteuil” where 5 huge 19th century greenhouses shelter exotic plant species.
Built in the Steam Liner style by Lucien Pollet a famous architect of the time it immediately was loved by mere Parisian swimmers and celebrities. What make it unique are its two pools: a 46 m long outdoor one and a 33 m long indoor one, both of them are surrounded by several levels of blue and yellow changing cubicles topped with beautiful art-deco mosaics. Until 1970 the outdoor pool was turned into the largest ice skating rink in Paris where the French skating team came to train.
Its opening in 1929 was a big event: the Olympic champions Aileen Riggin Soule and Johnny Weissmuller who had won 5 Olympic medals before being Tarzan on the movie screens 3 years later, were the guests of honour. Weissmuller even gave swimming courses to beginners during the 1929 summer. Molitor soon was the place to be: fashion shows, swimming shows, even theatre performances drew all of Paris on its Lido with golden sand and colourful parasols! Molitor was also the first place where a bikini was to be seen in the world in 1946 worn by one of the dancers from the Casino de Paris. Who remembers that the ‘Bikini’ was invented by Louis Reard a French engineer who worked in his mother’s shop, a famous underwear shop.
All of those joyful times came to an end in 1989 when Molitor had to close, but it was saved from destruction when it was classified as an historic monument at the last minute. Sadly it didn’t save it from slow decrepitude: walls collapsed, the pools cracked and its art-deco ornaments were stolen. Open to the four winds it was invaded by graffiti artists and ravers…
But it seems that Molitor has a guardian angel and the building was saved from complete disappearance in 2012 when it was decided to turn it into a luxury hotel. It truly is one-of-a-kind hotel, no other hotel in Paris can boast of having 2 big swimming pools where guests can swim in 28° Celsius hot water all year round! Being a historic monument the architects had to respect the spirit and ornaments of the building: the yellow and blue cubicles, the white railings, the porthole windows, the friezes, the stained-glass windows have been rebuilt in total respect of the art-deco spirit. Its street art period is still present too: there are several graffiti’s on the walls and a Rolls Royce that once belonged to Eric Cantona, has been tagged by the American graffiti artist Jon One and has pride of place in the lobby!
Of course the two heated pools are the heart of the hotel surrounded by the rooms, the bar, the restaurant that all have a view on the outside one. At night, it’s beautifully lit by colourful underwater spotlights. Swimming there you will feel far away from the city. During the summer the roof garden is the ideal place for sun bathing and a snack while enjoying the magnificent view over the Eiffel Tower, the Bois de Boulogne and the Auteuil greenhouses.
The bar and the restaurant have gotten back their art-deco decoration and cosy atmosphere. The gastronomic restaurant menu was created by Yannick Alleno the 3 star chef and it changes as the seasons change using fresh and tasty produce. The wine list has been carefully chosen and the sommelier will be happy to help.
Of course sport and wellness is a must in the hotel. Beside the swimming pools you will be able to train in the well equipped fitness centre or to get pampered in the big Clarins Spa with its 13 cabins, its Turkish bath, its sauna and its herb tea bar.
The 124 rooms have a white and grey decoration in a sober and uncluttered style brightened up with hints of colour. Of course every detail is there to make your stay a luxurious one: the high quality bedding, the large rain like shower, the perfect sound insulation, not to forget the unique view on the pool!
To watch the tennis French Open or a football game, to discover the new Louis Vuitton Foundation in the close by Bois de Boulogne or to visit Paris while staying in a quiet district, the Molitor McGallery is the ideal place to stay.
A unique hotel with a unique history!
all info at www.mltr.fr
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny