From the “Pension Hermitage” to the Seehotel Hermitage
The origins of the HermitageHerrliberger’s engraving of 1754/1758 shows the “Unterwartenfluh”, an idyllic, managed farm estate on the current site of the Hermitage. This rustic building was pulled down and rebuilt in 1889/90. In 1905, the farm estate owned by Franz Haas was sold to brothers Anton and Carl Buehler and ship’s captain Joseph Lauber. The house on the Unterwartenfluh was converted and opened in 1907 as the Hotel-Pension “Hermitage”. In its secluded location and best reached by steamboat, this guesthouse was an attractive counterpoint to the international atmosphere of Lucerne’s hotel zone with its palatial hotels along the newly built quay, where aristocrats and the upper class from around the world used to meet.
This atmosphere went unnoticed in the quiet and peaceful Hermitage, which was perhaps why it was so well-patronised. And, of course, because its owner Anton Buhler took guests’ wishes into account. For example, by 1931, two years after the opening of the Lido municipal beach, he created an idyllic beach in Art Nouveau style at the Hermitage. This was followed in 1938 by extensions and alterations to the existing building, which underscored its owner’s progressive spirit. Lucerne’s Tagblatt newspaper wrote about the installation of the “latest technical acquisitions”, describing the fully electrified kitchen as a shining example.
The start of the Kopp eraFritz Kopp-Dober, a dynamic and far-sighted businessman, bought the hotel in 1953, even before city centre hotels were being built or renovated. The full force of his interest and energy for his Hermitage was felt until his death in 1980. He converted the house right after buying it in 1953/54, modernising its restaurant and incorporating a room for functions. In the lakeside park, he created a miniature golf course and, in 1962, a bowling alley was also installed in the main building. Six years earlier, a bed and breakfast hotel was built on the opposite side of the road, followed by the renovation of the jetty at the Hermitage in 1973.
Post-war Lucerne and tourismWhen Fritz Kopp-Dober took over the Hermitage, Lucerne’s tourism was undergoing a revival after the Second World War. After an 11-year break, the Lake Festival again took place in 1950 and, two years later, the city of light was the venue for the world exhibition of photography. In 1957, Rotary International also held its Convention there. During these years, important tourism activities also included the opening of the Swiss Museum of Transport in 1959 and two Swiss festivals in 1951 and 1963. The “Buurelandi” in 1954 was an occasion of national importance as were the World Rowing Championships in 1962 and the Federal Gymnastics Festival in 1963. Improvements in the region’s range of excursions were also important for tourism in Lucerne: the Krienseregg aerial cableway (1952) combined with the Mount Pilatus aerial cableway (1956), the Lucerne-Stans-Engelberg Railway (1964) as a direct connection as well as the aerial cableway from Weggis to Rigi Kaltbad (1967).
In 1978, the 700th anniversary of the city of Lucerne was also of particular importance for tourism in Lucerne, which put on a year-long programme of events throughout the whole Central Swiss region. The opening of the cultural and congress centre (designed by Jean Nouvel in 1998) was another important sign of a fresh spirit that enlivened Lucerne as a tourist destination.
How tourism developed in Lucerne after the Second World War is clearly indicated by the statistics: in 1953, around 700,000 overnight stays were registered, which rose to 992,000 by 1972. Between 1973 and 1976, the oil crisis and economic recession associated with the Middle East War caused a slump in tourism as did the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the dollar bear market in 1986. In 1989 and later on in 1990, more than 900,000 overnight stays were again registered, which was also due to the increased influx of Asian visitors. The first Gulf War in 1991 again slowed down the positive development of tourism in Lucerne.
The “new” Hermitage is createdTime had left its mark on the Hermitage. Its infrastructure was no longer state-of-the-art and its rooms were inadequate. Because the fabric of the existing house was poor, Fritz Kopp-Dober decided that the reconstruction of the Hermitage in the 1970s would best meet the needs and requirements of individual guests. After an uphill battle over the development plan lasting from 1974 to 1980, a design competition was announced, which provided for the phased implementation of the new Hermitage while retaining plenty of free space on the lake-facing side of the scheduled buildings. The basis was thus given for an overall approach, although Fritz Kopp-Dober died in 1980 in the middle of the planning phase. In his place, the family corporation came under the leadership of Board Chairman Rudolf Kopp-Schenker, Annemarie Schubiger-Kopp and Ursula Gnekow-Kopp and architect Eugene Schmid, who was already familiar with the project, was commissioned to carry it out. Following the positive outcome of a feasibility study, the design plan was approved and the application for a construction permit was submitted in 1988.
The project was designed to maintain this unique lakeside parkland. The new hotel was therefore built with 20 junior suites and two restaurants with terraces, with the special feature that all guest rooms had uninterrupted views of the park, the lake and Mount Pilatus. In addition, an ultra-modern conference infrastructure was integrated into the new building to assure the hotel’s success in the seminar and conference sector. At the start of construction in the winter of 1990, Thomas P. Egli was appointed as hotel director to manage the new Seehotel Hermitage. During the construction phase, he provided valuable experience and input.
The Seehotel Hermitage is extended1990 The concept for the new Hermitage, which opened on 8 November 1990 after one year of construction, was based on the three pillars of catering & events, hotel accommodation and conferences. That the operation was moving in the right direction has been reflected by the increase in demand. Even shortly after its opening, it became evident that the capacity of the hotel was unable to keep pace with this positive development.
1999 The newly-structured joint-stock corporation with Fritz Kopp-Z’graggen as president and principal shareholder expanded the hotel accommodation in 1999 by 30 spacious, comfortable double rooms in the new guest wing on the west side of the main building. This expansion was necessary not least because, in addition to holiday and individual guests, an increasing number of seminar participants were staying overnight at the hotel.
However, not only the capacity of the Seehotel Hermitage was extended. True to the Hermitage’s claim to be the “lakeside hotel with the added extra” for its guests, the hotel’s range of services was also continuously updated and upgraded since the wellbeing of the guests was always the top priority in the Hermitage’s philosophy. At the same time as the new guest wing, the lobby bar opened in the main building, which was to become one of the Hermitage attractions. In addition, two more seminar rooms were added to the top floor with incomparable views of the city, the mountains and the lake. Amenities at the Hermitage were again enhanced not only by the spa in the new guest wing but also - for sports fans - by the tennis court on the east side.
2001 The fact that a hotel is never completely finished also applies to the Hermitage. In 2001, the Seegarten restaurant was integrated into the idyllic lakeside bathing beach, offering BBQ and buffet delicacies on fine summer evenings in unique proximity to the lake. Its special atmosphere is created by the nostalgic backdrop of the Art Nouveau changing rooms and the boathouse, which had been refurbished for the opening of the Seegarten.
2002 A year later, the previous “Quatre Saisons” restaurant was converted and decorated in evocative shades of red – in line with its new name “Baccarat”.
2005/06 The junior suites in the main building were redesigned in 2005/06 to accentuate the Hermitage's quality features – its quiet location combined with a first-class level of comfort. At the same time, the Seehotel Hermitage Luzern AG repurchased the three-star Hotel Bellevue on the other side of the road, which had previously belonged to the Hermitage. This hotel with its 19 double rooms is run on a separate basis with the Hermitage responsible for its management.
2006/07 The most recent extension work in 2007 by architect Andreas Moser of TGS Partners in Lucerne added two floors to the west wing guest rooms built in 1999. This meant an additional 18 new superior rooms and the “Lake & Mountain” suite. The new lounge caters to hotel guests’ feeling of wellbeing while the new bar terrace attracts both hotel guests and passers-by.
Overall, the Hermitage now offers a business suite, 20 junior suites, 48 double rooms as well as various seminar and meeting rooms, which can be used for events hosting up to 200 people.
2010 During the winter months, the awning system was replaced and supplemented by lateral sliding windows and sash windows facing the lake. This progressive investment considerably reduced the dependence of the patio restaurant on the weather.
2011 The months of November and December saw a redesign of the rooms in the 1990 extension by Hermitage interior designer Birgit Roller of Casa Tessuti, Lucerne. In an initial stage, the rooms on the second and third floors were completely renovated while renovation of the first-floor rooms is scheduled for winter 2012.
The ongoing expansion of the Seehotel Hermitage reflects the positive development that the hotel has undergone in all three core business areas since 1990. What is particularly pleasing, of course, is that the Hermitage’s services were updated to meet demand without any effect on the parkland and trees. However, the final phase of construction saw the complete shutdown of hotel operations at the Hermitage for one month in winter 2007 - for the first time since it opened in 1990. The Board of Directors and management decided that guests should not be expected to tolerate the inconvenience that construction work would entail.
In 2009, Mrs Barbara Kopp Döös was elected by the Board as the new Chairwoman of the Hotel Hermitage Luzern AG. She took over this position from her father, Fritz Kopp-Z’graggen, which also made her the majority shareholder.
The Seehotel Hermitage remains in family ownership under the auspices of Seehotel Hermitage Luzern AG. Since opening in 1990, the hotel has been managed by Thomas P. Egli.