1952, the year in which Isabella Rosellini is born, Eve Perón steps down, Isabel II becomes queen after the death of her father, George VI , Spain enters into UNESCO and eliminates one of the last reminders of the Spanish Civil War: ration cards.
On April 19 of the same year, at 8 Velázquez, in Madrid, Baltasar Ibán Valdés, a businessman in transportation and the founder of a breed of fighting bulls that carry his name, finalized his dream of opening a five star, luxury hotel of the highest standards.
He built the hotel in the Salamanca Neighbourhood, which owes its name to its promoter, José de Salamanca. De Salamanca wanted to develop a new city model planned on his personal property, which is what the Salamanca Neighbourhood became. He purposely built the neighbourhood within a certain distance from the centre of the city, a trait that is reminiscent of the Madrid of 1857 and the reign of Isabel II.
José de Salamanca (1811-1893) who was known for being the Count of los Llanos and the Marquis of Salamanca, mayor of Monóvar and Vera, member of Parliament in 1836, and minister in Pacheco’s (1847) and García Goyena’s government and whose project is now known as one of the most prestigious, stately and elegant neighbourhoods in Madrid. With streets such as Serrano, Goya, Villanueva, Ortega y Gasset, Jorge Juan and Paseo de Recoletos and plazas such as Marqués de Salamanca, Independencia or Colon this neighbourhood offers you the possibility of shopping in the highest end stores, the best antique shops and eating in the best restaurants in Madrid.
The Salamanca neighbourhood has been the home to many famous and important people such as Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer and the Nobel Laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez. The brothers Serafín and Joaquín Álvarez Quintero lived at 76 Velázquez and the Nobel Laureate of 1989, Camilo José Cela, lived at 91 Claudio Coello, where he wrote his first novel, “La familia de Pascual Duarte.” Emilio Castelar y Ripoll, the president of the First Republic, lived at 40 Serrano and the old Huerta Palace, the building that is now the United States Embassy, is where Antonio Cánovas del Castillo lived and held meetings with his ministers. Benito Pérez Galdos, Gregorio Marañón, Francisco Pi y Margall, Rubén Darío, Federico García Lorca, Santiago Ramón y Cajal and Miguel Hernández are more examples of the countless celebrities and important figures who have lived near Hotel Wellington.
The extension of Hotel Wellington is found at 6 Velázquez , where the famous Torreón stood at until July, 1936. The famous Torreón was where Ramón Gómez de la Serna worked his universal magic. Gómez de la Serna wanted to make Madrid a central reference point that was at the same time both local and universal, worldly and yet true to its city roots. An avant-garde and the most post-modern of all the modernists, Gómez de la Serna was an exceptional creator of language who possessed great intuition of the world in which we lived, as described in his books “Las Greguerías” and “Los Ismos”.
In a place where his guests could walk from Retiro Park by way of a wide and majestic avenue, Baltasar Ibán in 1944 asked the architect Luis Blanco Soler to carry out this important project at a time when the hotels and tourism industry, as well as the economy in general, was uncertain.
Differences in opinions and advice didn’t stop the initial plans for the hotel being drawn up. Not even starting with a modest plot with its façade facing “calle Villanueva” kept Baltasar Ibán from his dream of acquiring a corner plot on “calle Villanueva” and “calle Velázquez” to build his great hotel project. At last he found just such a space: a building with two elegant façades proportional to both streets, which is now Hotel Wellington. A building that is catalogued and protected in the architectural Heritage of Madrid.
The hotel criteria that were applied in Europe and America at the time were changed in Hotel Wellington. The 160 rooms were differentiated between three types: rooms with a bathroom, rooms with a sitting room and bathroom and suites that consisted of two bedrooms with independents bathrooms, a dressing room and a sitting room.
The Reception and Concierge were placed in the elegant entrance along with a nightclub, a private dining room, shopping centre, restaurant, bar, reading room and lounge. Contrary to necessity and against technical advice, Baltasar Ibán gambled on also building a parking garage, which today differentiates Hotel Wellington and raises it above the rest.
After its first few years in business the hotel became so popular that an expansion became necessary. This was done, as said above, in 1976 at 6 Velazquez, where, until 1936, Ramón Gomez de la Serna had his famous Torreón.
On April 19, 1952 Hotel Wellington was inaugurated by the General Director of Tourism, Luis Bolín and the Count of Bailén along with a number of other famous political, cultural and social celebrities of the 1950s.
The first guest to sleep at the hotel left a message in the registry saying, “It is with great satisfaction that I sign this registry as the first Spaniard to stay at this magnificent hotel; a hotel comparable to the best in the world.” Since that April in 1952 until now a great many guests have passed through these hotel doors continuing to make Hotel Wellington, after so many years, a leader in the hotel industry in Madrid.
Our rooms have hosted the likes of Gene Kelly, Xavier Cugat, Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway, Severo Ochoa, the Dukes of Wellington y Cuidad Rodrigo and the comedian Gila. Their Majesties the Kings of Spain, their Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Asturias and their Highnesses Princess Elena and Princess Cristina have all put their trust in Hotel Wellington along with an innumerable amount of people who represent all aspects of society both in and out of Spain.
From all the historic moments that Hotel Wellington has lived through the moment that stands out is May 22, 2005, when his Majesty the King of Spain chose Hotel Wellington to host the guests of the royal wedding between Prince Philip and his bride Letizia as well as choosing to use our accomplished staff to help develop the wedding banquet at the Royal Palace in Madrid.
Some of our most recent guests have been people such as actors Adrien Brody and Matt Damon, the President of France Nicholas Sarkozy, the Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus, the Petits Chanteurs de Saint Marc Choir (the choir that appeared in the film Les Choristes) and the actress Paz Vega, winner of the 2001 Goya Award as best new actress.
To speak of bullfighting in Madrid is to speak of Las Ventas (Madrid’s bullfighting ring), and to speak of Las Ventas is to speak of Hotel Wellington as it was born with a call to bullfighting from the very moment Mr. Baltasar Ibán, a great livestock farmer, placed the building’s first stone.
During the 1950’s, Curro Romero, a promising matador apprentice, established his residency at Hotel Wellington. Since then the hotel has become a place where these masters fight against their superstitions, their moments of waiting and their dreams. This is where the bullfighters follow the bullfighting rites, its liturgy, in the moments just before they dare to once again cross into Las Ventas; dreaming about returning afterwards through the Grande de la Monumental, the main door of the plaza, just as Sebastián Palomo Linares did on May 22, 1972. It was on that date that, after getting dressed in Hotel Wellington, Linares returned with the ears and tail of the bull Cigarrón.
Bullfighters such as Paco Camino, Jaime Ostos, Rafael de Paula, Manuel Benitez “El Cordobés”, El Niño de la Capea, Manuel Caballero, Finito de Córdoba, Ortega Cano, Cesar Rincón, Luis Francisco Esplá, Espartaco, Francisco Rivera Ordóñez, Dávila Miura, “El Cid”, Sebastián Castella and the promising Alejandro Talavante are a small example of those who have stayed at Hotel Wellington because they know that we understand their traditions and necessities.
Bullfighters aren’t the only celebrities of this art that grace our halls. Rejoneadores (bullfighters who fight atop a horse) along with bullfighting businessmen, cattle-raisers and bullfighting journalists are some of our regular guests.
We could never forget the bull of Baltasar Ibán’s livestock that, after being killed in Alicante by Paco Camino, was proudly stuffed and displayed for many years within the Hotel Wellington.