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    Party

    George A. Kessler hosted one of the most spectacular parties the hotel has ever seen, held in honour of King Edward VII, in July 1905.

    This was the famous Gondola Party, held in the old courtyard of the hotel (built over in 1910, it became the sight of the ballroom, known as the Lancaster Room). The doorways around the courtyard were sealed with putty, and the courtyard was flooded to a depth of three feet. Painted Scenery round the sides of the courtyard represented buildings in Venice, and a huge (stationary) silk lined boat, strewn with 12,000 carnations, built by the hotel’s workmen in the centre of the courtyard held the table and chairs for 24 guests.

    A bridge linked the boat to the hotel and enabled a twelve course banquet to be served by waiters, dressed as gondoliers. 400 hand-made paper lamps were illuminated, in the air above them 100 white doves flew. Fish were added to the water, and swans swam around this artificial pond. One final touch was to add washing blue to the water to colour it. Unfortunately it turned out that washing blue was poisonous for both fish and birds, and the dead and dying creatures had to be quickly scooped out of the water and disposed of. However the dinner itself went off without a hitch, and culminated in a five-foot high cake, brought over the bridge to the boat on the back of a baby elephant borrowed for the occasion from London Zoo. An additional touch was three impressive lions carved out of ice bearing trays of peaches and glace fruits while a bevy of Gaiety Girls drank to the health of the monarch with Moet et Chandon champagne.

    At the climax of the evening the famous tenor Caruso appeared and gave a performance crooning “O Sole Mio”. The entire evening was organised by the hotel’s General Manager, Henri Pruger and the total bill, paid for by Kessler came to £3,000.

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