Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky N.V.
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky N.V.
Incorporated: 1878 as the Naamloze Vennootschap
Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van het café
Sales: Nfl 67.84 million (US$34 million) (1996)
Stock Exchanges: Amsterdam
SICs: 7011 Hotels and Motels; 5812 Eating Places; 5813 Drinking Places
Long a fixture of Amsterdam’s famed Dam Square, Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky N.V. has expanded to become one of that city’s leading independent hotel and restaurant operators. The expansion of the 130-year-old Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, completed in the 1990s, has created the largest five-star hotel and convention center in the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg), with 465 rooms, including 36 luxury apartments, 20 multifunction conference halls, and a complex of restaurants, bars, and other facilities, such as the Krasnapolsky’s world-renowned Winter Garden. Since the 1970s the company also has operated another Amsterdam mainstay, the restaurant d’Vijff Vlieghen, located on the nearby Spui.
Since the mid-1990s, however, Krasnapolsky has been engaged in full expansion. In 1994 the company acquired the café-restaurant ’t Goude Hooft in the Hague; the following year, the company assumed the management of the Holiday Inn hotel in Utrecht. Another Utrecht site, the Stadskasteel Oudaen, a castle dating from the Middle Ages containing a restaurant, brewery, and conference rooms, was added in 1997. The company’s portfolio also features three landmark hotels acquired in 1996: the Doelen, the Schiller, and the Caransa. Since 1997 the company has begun looking beyond Holland’s borders for its growth. In that year the company acquired the operations of the 200-room, five-star Lord Charles Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. Krasnapolsky is actively seeking further international expansion, with an emphasis on Western Europe, the United States, and Japan. In 1996 the company posted sales of nearly Nfl 68 million.
More Than Just a Coffee Shop: The 19th Century
The Hotel Krasnapolsky originated as a coffee house on Amsterdam’s infamous Warmoestraat of the mid-19th century. A narrow, somewhat sunless street located between the Damrak, site of the city’s financial district, and the Red Light District, the Warmoestraat and its maze of flophouses and dark alleys had become a favored destination of sailors, travelers, and denizens of Amsterdam’s more unsavory side. Amsterdam itself had long been an international city, attracting people from much of the world. Many Amsterdam businesses of the period were run by foreigners, particularly Germans. In the area around the Warmoestraat, coffee houses (which served more beer than coffee) were popular meeting places, at least for the city’s male population. (“Decent” women were not expected to be seen in that neighborhood after 3:00 p.m., when the city’s exchange closed for the day.) One such coffee house was the Nieuwe Poolsche Koffeehuis (another establishment, the Poolsche Koffiehuis, was located in the Kalverstraat nearby), which catered particularly to the city’s German-speaking population.
One of this establishment’s customers was Wilhelm Adolf Krasnapolsky. Born in 1834 in Germany, of a family of Polish tailors, Krasnapolsky had come to Amsterdam with his father in 1856. Krasnapolsky found a tailor’s position in a clothing store and became a regular customer of the Nieuwe Poolsche Koffiehuis, where he became friends with one of the waiters, August Volmer. They soon became family—Krasnapolsky married Volmer’s sister in 1862. In 1866 Krasnapolsky took over the coffee house’s lease and later renamed it as the Café Krasnapolsky. Volmer remained on as Krasnapolsky’s waiter; in 1871 the pair formed a five-year partnership. By then Krasnapolsky had already begun to show his ambitions. With another of Volmer’s sisters as cook, the Café Krasnapolsky distinguished itself among other coffee houses by offering full meals at affordable prices.
The Krasnapolsky proved a success. More and more people were corning to the Warmoestraat, crossing the street, as it were, as more and more businesses involved in the city’s tobacco trade took over the restaurants and taverns on the Nes—the Warmoestraat’s extension on the opposite side of the Damstraat. In 1868 Krasnapolsky bought a building located on the Servetsteeg, behind his café. Two years later, however, Krasnapolsky prepared to move to a more prestigious location: on the Dam Square itself. His plans were thwarted, however; in 1870 Krasnapolsky instead bought the Café Krasnapolsky’s building. The following year he was able to purchase two more buildings adjacent to the Servetsteeg building, and he rebuilt the property, including his café’s billiard room, into a new, larger billiard room and summer garden.
The garden would be expanded two years later, when Krasnapolsky bought and demolished two more houses. In 1874 the café itself would be expanded, when Krasnapolsky bought the neighboring building on the Warmoestraat. In good weather, the café’s doors could be opened onto the summer garden, which itself had become a popular meeting place. To meet the growing demand for the café’s meals, Krasnapolsky built his own abattoir. The summer garden itself was soon expanded, reopening in 1878. In that year Krasnapolsky incorporated as the Naamloze Vennootschap (Limited Liability Company) tot Exploitatie van het Café Krasnapolsky.
After adding office and workspaces, Krasnapolsky next began to build a hall that would give his establishment an international reputation. Work began on the Winter Garden in 1879, as well as on a new billiard room, a buffet hall, and a building to house the café’s busy kitchen. Krasnapolsky also added, in 1881, one of the city’s first conference rooms on the floor above the café. At the end of that year the company’s name was changed again, to Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van de Onderneming Krasnapolsky, when Volmer left the company to take over the recently constructed American Hotel.
The beginning of the 1880s marked two significant events for Krasnapolsky. The first was the arrival of electrical lighting to replace the hotel’s gas lamps. To supply power to the café, Krasnapolsky built his own electrical power plant in 1881; the following year Krasnapolsky founded the N.E.M., Nederlandsche Electriciteits Maatschappij, which provided power to the new Edison light bulbs at the Krasnapolsky. Krasnapolsky’s plans to expand the N.E.M. ended in 1892, however, when the company lost its electrical power concession. The coming of the World Exposition to Amsterdam in 1883 provided Krasnapolsky with his next opportunity. For that occasion, Krasnapolsky determined to enter the hotel business, buying two neighboring buildings on the Warmoestraat and rebuilding them into an 80-room hotel wing. The following year, with the purchase of the adjoining building, the hotel was expanded again. At this time, the café and hotel were joined together, creating a single structure behind an imposing, symmetrical facade from what had formerly been six buildings. In 1885 Krasnapolsky added a new restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel wing; the former café was converted into a reading room, featuring some 250 newspapers from around the world. The newly renovated Winter Garden opened in that year as well. Outfitted with more than a thousand Edison light bulbs, the Winter Garden would quickly earn praise as “the wonder of the century.”
Approaching the Dam Square: The Early 20th Century
Krasnapolsky had not given up his desire for an address on the Dam, or at least on the important Damrak. A request for a passage between the Warmoestraat and the Damrak had been refused by the city; Krasnapolsky was able to purchase one of the buildings opposite his hotel, however, which he planned to demolish in favor of a passage. Yet that plan was stalled by indecision on where to build Amsterdam’s new bourse. Plans for further expansion of the number of the Krasnapolsky’s hotel rooms were also prevented by city restrictions on building heights. The Krasnapolsky remained hidden from view—the Warmoestraat at that time still reached to the Damstraat, blocking the view from the Dam. Nevertheless, the Krasnapolsky had become an important meeting and dining place, not only for businessmen, but for families as well.
Krasnapolsky had also become involved in other real estate developments, such as a public swimming pool, complete with terrace, pavilion, and park, and building societies meant to encourage the construction of quality residential properties in the neighborhood around his home and elsewhere in the city. In the late 1880s, Krasnapolsky also looked across the Channel, forming the Krasnapolsky Restaurant and Wintergarden Company Ltd. and opening a restaurant complex, called the Frascati, in London in 1892. The Frascati proved a success, and Krasnapolsky soon added a second restaurant in London, the High Holborn. Before the end of the decade, however, Krasnapolsky sold both of these establishments, which would remain London fixtures for some 50 years.
In the years leading up to the First World War, the Krasnapolsky continued to make improvements, including a renovation of the restaurant. Another Warmoestraat building, outfitted as office space, was joined to the Krasnapolsky complex. The company also purchased several parcels on the building’s southern side, reaching closer to the Damstraat. Yet, the Krasnapolsky’s expansion would be stopped by the building of the Polmanshuis restaurant, which occupied the corner property beside the Krasnapolsky. In 1909 Krasnapolsky, then 75 years old, stepped down as the company’s director. He died three years later, in April 1912. Later that year the company was able to purchase, for 260 guilders, the remaining parcel in the rear of the complex, expanding the Krasnapolsky’s holdings onto the Oudezijds Voorburgwal canal.
In 1914 the Krasnapolsky came closer to its founder’s dream of an address on the Dam. In that year the city decided to expand the Dam Square. Part of the western face of the Warmoestraat was demolished, joining the building lines of the Dam with the Warmoestraat. For the occasion, the Polmanshuis, now located directly on the Dam, was entirely rebuilt. The Krasnapolsky, while still keeping its Warmoestraat address, was now partly visible from the Dam. The outbreak of the First World War, despite the Netherlands’ neutral status, forced the Krasnapolsky to close its hotel for the duration; the restaurant and other facilities, however, were able to continue operations.
In the period between the two world wars the Krasnapolsky continued to develop. In 1924 it was one of six establishments to receive a license for dancing, and the Krasnapolsky adapted to the new fad, roofing over its summer garden and converting part of the Winter Garden to ballroom facilities. In 1927 the Krasnapolsky added a new hotel wing, crossing the Servetsteeg and extending the hotel’s facade closer to the Dam. The hotel now boasted some 140 rooms. That year also saw the Krasnapolsky receive James Joyce, who would later “invent” the color “Krasnapolsky red” for his novel Finnegan’s Wake.
As the dance craze—said to have sullied the Krasnapolsky’s reputation—faded in the early 1930s, the company rebuilt its ballrooms into theaters for stage and film entertainment. The company also added a number of meeting and public rooms in the mid-1930s. In 1937 the Krasnapolsky acquired the last Warmoestraat property between it and the Polmanshuis; that property was rebuilt and added to the Krasnapolsky the following year. The new extension added 17 hotel rooms—and a new entrance, closer to the Dam—but also a bomb shelter in the basement.
That shelter would become important with the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War. The Krasnapolsky, which had just celebrated its 75th anniversary, remained opened through the war. The hotel’s management, despite the presence of Germans, was able to provide hiding places for many of its employees and other Dutch citizens threatened by forced labor proscriptions and deportations to the German concentration camps. The Krasnapolsky also provided places for people to listen to Radio Orange, the Dutch government-in-exile’s broadcasts from London. By the end of the war, with the German blockade of northern Holland leading to what became known as the “Hunger Winter,” the food shortage forced the Krasnapolsky to require its guests to bring their own food.
Beyond the Dam: The 21st Century
The Krasnapolsky reopened in 1945; two years later the company took its first steps from the Warmoestraat, purchasing the Hotel Polen (the former Poolsche Koffiehuis) in the nearby Kalverstraat. Then, in 1950, the company at last realized its founder’s dream. In that year the company purchased its neighbor, the Polmanshuis. With funds from the Marshall Plan, the Krasnapolsky renovated and joined that building in 1952. There, the hotel added an entrance, and the Krasnapolsky at last had an address on the Dam Square. For that occasion, the company’s and the hotel’s name was changed, to Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. At the end of the decade, the American Express, which had long held its offices on the Polmanshuis’s ground floor, moved to the Damrak. Those offices were rebuilt so that the hotel’s main entrance was now located directly on the Dam.
In 1960 the Krasnapolsky added a new 80-room hotel wing, a new conference hall, and an open-air parking lot. At the end of the decade the parking lot was converted into a 150-car garage and an additional 130 rooms were added in a new hotel wing, bringing the hotel’s total to nearly 400 rooms. By then the company had joined in forming the Golden Tulip Hotel chain, in partnership with several other Netherlands hotels, enabling the company to preserve its independent status. Further expansion of the hotel, however, was thwarted, when the Salvation Army took over the last block of buildings on the corner of the Warmoestraat and Damstraat.
The Krasnapolsky now looked beyond the Dam Square to expand its operations. In 1970 the company began development of a new hotel on the IJ Boulevard, opening the Krasnapolsky-Paramaribo in 1974. After taking over the restaurant on the top of Havengebouw, overlooking the city’s harbor on the IJ, the company also purchased the famed restaurant, ’t Vijff Vlieghen (the Five Flies) on the Spui, in 1971.
The oil crisis of the 1970s, and the resulting worldwide recession, would slow the company’s expansion activities. In 1983 the company’s attention returned to the Krasnapolsky itself, opening two new hotel wings, as well as a renovated inner courtyard. The hotel’s capacity now boasted some 720 beds. At the end of the decade the famed Winter Garden was renovated and reopened. The company purchased the former Salvation Army building in 1991 and began plans to expand the Krasnapolsky to the Damstraat. By 1992, however, the company’s growth and improvements had gained the Krasnapolsky status as a five-star hotel.
Less successful was the company’s opening of the Lido Casino complex near the Leidseplein in 1991. Opened in the face of a worldwide recession, the Lido’s losses would mount throughout the first half of the decade, bringing the Krasnapolsky concern into the red. In 1996 the company sold off the Lido to Holland Casino. By then, the new Royal Wing, on the site of the former Salvation Army building, had opened, providing shops and restaurants as well as hotel rooms, bringing the Krasnapolsky’s total number of rooms to 465.
The company had also expanded its activities beyond Amsterdam, taking over the restaurant’t Goude Hooft in the Hague in 1994, acquiring the management contract of the Holiday Inn in Utrecht in 1995, and taking over the Stadskasteel Oudaen in Utrecht in 1997. Yet the company’s focus remained on Amsterdam: in 1996 the company took over three Amsterdam hotels, the Doelen, located on the Amstel, the city’s main canal, and the Caransa and Schiller, located on the Rembrandtsplein.
For the future, however, the company looked beyond the Netherlands for further expansion. The company began searching for suitable hotel and restaurant acquisitions in Belgium, Germany, England, and France. Yet its first international move came in June 1997, with the takeover of the five-star Lord Charles Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, adding 200 rooms to the company’s holdings.
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