August 4, 2022
The Grand-Hôtel de Saigon was founded by Henri Chavigny de Lachevrotière (1883-1951), a Eurasian journalist, plantation owner and businessman who is perhaps best known as the editor of the leading colonial-era newspapers L’Impartial (1917-1926) and La Dépêche from 1928 to 1940.
Chavigny de Lachevrotière founded the Société du Grand-Hôtel de Saigon in 1924 and opened a café at the intersection of Rues Catinat and Vannier. He purchased the franchise for the new Majestic Hotel in 1925, and in 1929, his company began construction on the 68-room Grand-Hôtel de Saigon. It was founded in 1930, and its first director was Chavigny de Lachevrotière. In fact, the Grand-Hôtel de Saigon only lasted two years before Chavigny de Lachevrotière sold it to a French Corsican businessman named Patrice Luciani in 1932 deputy prison governor who worked both at the Maison Centrale in Saigon and on the prison island of Poulo-Condor in the Côn Đảo archipelago.
Although no images of the original Saigon-Palace Hôtel exist, a 1929 newspaper advertisement boasts of “all modern comforts,” including “comfortable rooms and lounges at guests’ disposal” and a restaurant known for the quality of its Corsican soup, Aoli (Provençal sauce), and French wines.
The new Saigon-Palace Hôtel became also one of the city’s most successful hotels during the 1930s with its terrace cafe and nightly concerts. Its large “salle de réunion” was frequently used for meetings by local organizations. After Luciani retired in 1939, the Saigon-Palace Hôtel was purchased by another French Corsican businessman named Antoine Giorgetti, and it was converted into rented apartments untill 1940s.
Graham Greene is said to have used these rented apartments as the model for Thomas Fowler’s “room over the rue Catinat” in his novel The Quiet American in the early 1950s.
After 1955, the Saigon Palace was reinstated as a hotel under the Vietnamese name Sài Gòn Đại Lữ Quán, but became shabby and down-market. Although in 1989 it was renamed the Đồng Khởi Hotel.
Following a major renovation in 1995-1998, the hotel reopened as the Grand Hotel and was awarded four stars in 2004. Since, it remains today one of the most iconic hotels in Ho Chi Minh City.