The site now occupied by The Ritz at 150 Piccadilly has previously been home to several similar businesses. The Old White Horse Cellar was once one of the most famous coaching inns in England, later the site was occupied by the Bath Hotel and then the Walsingham House Hotel, which was demolished to make way for The Ritz.
The actual design of the hotel is the work of architects Charles Mewès and Arthur Davis. Mewès, a Frenchman and London born Davis had worked with César Ritz before on the Hotel Ritz in Paris, and The Carlton in London. For The Ritz London they drew up a stunning French chateau-style masterpiece with a wealth of clever details; light wells allowed rooms with no outside windows natural light, projecting dormer windows and tall chimneys broke the skyline. Some of the details are less functional; the copper lions on the corner of the roof are purely decorative.
Construction of The Ritz began in 1905 and the building was completed remarkably quickly, in large part due to the efforts of Swedish engineer Sven Bylander who designed its steel frame, something of a rarity in European buildings at the time.
Inside, the French theme continues; Mewès designed the interiors with a single Louis XVI theme incorporating all of César Ritz's many requirements like double glazing, a sophisticated (for the time) ventilation system, a bathroom for every guestroom.
Leading off the lobby is the Long Gallery, a vaulted space that runs almost the whole length of the building. The absence of walls or doors means it's possible to see down its whole length, through The Restaurant and out over the hotel's Italian Gardens and across Green Park.
Off the Long Gallery are many of the hotel's key rooms, all with their own fascinating histories: The Restaurant, often described as one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Europe features so many chandeliers the ceiling had to be specially reinforced to cope with their weight.
During the Second World War, The Marie Antoinette Suite, a smaller private dining room was used as a venue for Summit Meetings by Churchill, de Gaulle and Eisenhower.
The Palm Court, venue for that most English of traditions, tea at The Ritz is also found off the Long Gallery, as is a more recent addition; The Rivoli Bar, a striking, streamlined bar in glorious art deco.
Throughout its illustrious history The Ritz has played host to many prominent figures from all walks of life. A roll-call of past patrons includes King Edward VII, King Alfonso of Spain and Queen Amelie of Portugal who met at the hotel, Russian Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova who danced here, the Aga Khan, Paul Getty and Charlie Chaplin, who needed 40 policemen to escort him through an army of fans. Noel Coward immortalised The Ritz in song, and the American actress Tallulah Bankhead famously sipped Champagne from her slipper during a press conference in the 50's.