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A distinctive century old charm, rich with historic ambience and graceful prestige - Protea Hotel Imperial is a jewel in the heart of Pietermaritzburg. The entire hotel has recently been refurbished to embrace the old charm and add a touch of modernism. Located only moments from Provincial Parliament, Protea Hotel Imperial offers spacious single and double rooms, as well as luxurious suites. All 70 rooms have been refurbished, comprising of 7 suites, 4 family rooms, 33 double rooms, 6 singles rooms and 20 twin rooms. Our 8 conference venues, restaurant and bar area have also been refurbished. The signature Garden Room Restaurant delivers enticing world-class cuisine in fresh, comfortable surrounds. 

The Imperial Hotel was origionally a private residence built in 1877 by Mr T. Woodhouse, who was later Mayor of Pietermaritzburg.In 1878 Mr George Trhresh converted it inot a hotel.

It was named after the Prince Imperial of France who stayed there during the Anglo-Zulu War. One early traveller (1894) considered it'..." a charming old hotel hotel, an inn quite after Ruskin's heart'. A description of this old re-brick hotel followed: a rambling old house, which has been added to at various periods to suit the increasing number of visitors, and each wing has its own stoep and veranda. All the rooms are bright and airy and nicely furnished, the walls of the large dining-room being adorned with branding horns and other trophies of the a chase.

The Imperial is to my mind the perfection of a colonial hotel, with its comfortable, airy, well-furnished bedrooms, excellent cuisine and scrupulous cleanliness. Another visitor, also in 1894, spoke of it as a long, low, straggling building. Having passed the kitchen he came upon an uncovered space forming three sides of a quadrangle. Across the courtyard was a new building which resembled nothing so much as a Swiss chalet, built of 'clean, homely delicious pine wood".

The staircase of the upper rooms was outside and the roof above was slanting and eaved. Three years later, in 1897, there were additions because of a general want of accommodation in the Colony. Remodelling was begun with the erection of a substantial double-storeyed block containing forty bedrooms. When the scheme was finished there were one hundred rooms, eighty-five of them bedrooms. Provision was made for a 50ft. x 30ft. dining-room.

The plans were drawn by architect Powell and the building erected by the well-known Pietermaritzburg masonry firm, Jesse Smith and Son. The frontage was to be considerably extended and the general appearance improved and rendered 'a more handsome, solid, and substantial character'.

In 1902 the Imperial Hotel Co. Ltd, was formed and it soon proposed rebuilding the front portion, providing four large reception rooms on the ground floor and several complete suites of rooms on the first floor consisting of sitting room, bedroom and bathroom. There were to be several other rooms and lounges in the proposed building.

In 1924 the hotel was taken over by Monsieur T. A. Ettelin who had been managing director of the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg in 1909. The old building was eventually removed as the new building grew into the structure it is today.

Source: Pietermaritzburg 1838-1988: a new portrait of an African city, edited by John Laband and Robert Haswell (Pietermaritzburg: Univerversity of Natal Press and Shuter & Shooter, 1988) p. 239