Hotel Habana Riviera
By Hi Joiney
The Hotel Habana Riviera, or Havana Rivera as it is otherwise known, is located on the Malecn waterfront boulevard in Havana, Cuba. The hotel has over 350 rooms.
The hotel was owned and operated by Riviera de Cuba S.A. company, which was established by Meyer Lansky. Though the incorporation papers listed the names of Miami hotel operators, a Canadian textile company and several others. It was built at a cost of US $8 million most of which was provided by the Bank for Economic and Social Development (BANDES), a state-run development bank set up by Fulgencio Batista.
Lansky investment partners included some of Las Vegas biggest power brokers, among them his old friends Moe Dalitz, Morris Kleinman, Sam Tucker, and Wilbur Clark of the Desert Inn (and of Lansky Hotel Nacional casino); Edward Levinson of the Fremont Hotel; and Hyman Abrams and Morris Rosen of the Flamingo Las Vegas (of Bugsy Siegel fame). As with all of Lansky dealings, he and his underworld associates ownership of the Riviera was hidden behind layers of managers and front men.
Work began on the 21-story hotel, located on the Malecn right next to the Meli Cohiba Hotel, in December 1956 in the midst of the revolutionary upheaval. Not since the Nacional was constructed was there such resort excitement in Cuba. Already envisioned as he Riviera of the Caribbean, it was considered the epitome of resort-construction, and certainly was one of the more costly hotels in Cuba. It was also the first of its kind in Havana to have air-conditioned rooms. Each room had a view of the Gulf of Mexico, with the hotel itself within sight of not only busy Havana but also the quiet splendor of the residential Miramar and Country Club sections.
The Habana Riviera, seen from the Malecn.
In selecting an architect for the Riviera, Lansky initially approached Wayne McAllister, who was the prolific Los Angelesased designer of Las Vegas stylish Desert Inn, Fremont, and Sands hotelsll properties controlled by Lansky associates in the leveland Gang. But Lansky insistence that the hotel be completed in less than six months led McAllister to respectfully decline the commission. Instead, Igor Boris Polevitzky, one of the deans of Miami Modern architecture, took the job. Irving Feldman served as the project general contractor.
Albert Parvin of the Parvin-Dohrman Company of Los Angeles, designed the hotel decor. Lansky also hired two of Cuba great artists, muralist Rolando Lopez Dirube and sculptor Florencio Gelabert, who designed the white marble sculptures of an intertwined mermaid and swordfish that fronts the entrance porte cochere, and "Ritmo Cubano" (Cuban Rhythm), a large lobby sculpture that depicts twirling male and female dancers rendered in bronze. Between them, the three men deftly captured the marine outdoor atmosphere. At that time the president of the hotel was Harry Smith, a prominent hotelman from Toronto, Canada. T. James Ennis, who was well known in Cuba hotel circles, was the managing director.
The spacious feeling of capturing the outdoors and framing it in the luxurious interiors characterized the entire hotel. The vast color-accented lobby was conceived and designed as an open promenade. From the promenade, bridges over sunken gardens lead to the Llegante cocktail lounge and the Liglon dining room. Extensive and practical use was made of tropical trees and plants, thus enhancing the outdoor aura.
The Al Fresco dining terrace fused into the pool, cabana club, and adjacent gardens. Particularly striking was the casino's elliptical shape. It is perfect half-dome was like a great inverted golden goblet.
The casino's exterior Malecn-Blue tile roof rivaled the fair Havana sky. From an unusual suspended ceiling hung seven out-size specially designed crystal fixtures. The gold leaf walls were embellished with large-scale designs reminiscent of Mayan jewelry. Lansky initially appointed Dino Cellini from Ohio to run the casino. Cubans had never been trained for gambling operations on such a large scale, so pit bosses, dealers and stickmen were brought from the States as echnicians and in that category were allowed to stay on two-year visas. These men, veterans of the working class of illicit U.S. gambling, eventually turned into tutors for the Cubans. The casino would make over $3 million in its first four months of operation.
The rich color accents of the entire hotel were carried into the hotel's elaborately designed nightclub, The Copa Cabaret Room. The stage, of full theatre proportions, was considered an electronic marvel equipped for any maneuver deemed necessary in the production of the spectacular and what used to be known as the xtravaganza. Lansky arranged for the top salsa orchestras to play in its famous cabaret, formerly known as El Palacio de la Salsa, where movie stars mingled with the mob.
In the main dining room known as L'Aiglon, the murals contributed a tropical note by telling the story of the Cubans at carnival time. The main cocktail lounge, L'Elegante, was a strong center of interest because of its intimate quality. There was a dance floor which had continual Latin music and casual entertainment. Behind suits and sports attire were the "formal dress" for the Al Fresco sidewalk caf terrace, which overlooked the pool and cabana club. And the Primavera coffee shop had a leisurely, yet colorful informality that is consistent with the fun-loving aspects of the entire hotel.
The Riviera also had its own elaborate bakery in which breads and pastries were prepared with a flair to delight the most discriminating palates. As for the cabana club and pool area, the seawater pool where Esther Williams once splashed, was the largest in Havana, surrounded by 75 cabanas, each of which had two dressing rooms and telephones (Lansky would reserve the largest for himself). Outdoor dining and dancing terraces were also key features. Among a host of other conveniences for the vacationer were private dining and meeting rooms. All corner suites had wide balconies overlooking the Malecn shoreline drive. Other luxuries included a buffet restaurant, an la carte restaurant, a grill bar, a 24 hour snack bar, room service, medical services, a money exchange, a souvenir shop, a tour desk and of course a casino.
After the hotel was finished, Lansky installed himself in the Presidential Suite on the top floor as his command post. When the hotel opened on December 10, 1957 the opening act at the Copa Cabaret was Ginger Rogers and her music revue (which was directed by Jack Cole). Lansky's official title was "kitchen director," but he controlled every aspect of the hotel. He complained that Rogers "can wiggle her ass, but she can't sing a goddam note!"
Within days the hotel became a symbol in Havana, attracting such acts as Abbott and Costello and Steve Allen who taped an episode of his prime time Sunday night show, The Steve Allen Show from the hotel. Celebrated guests included William Holden, diva Jean Fenn, Nat King Cole and Ava Gardner who was rumored to have dragged a bellhop into her bed.
But the seeds of the revolution had already sprouted a stronger, determined movement that would not allow the future of the Cuban nation to remain in the hands of gangsters and corrupt politicians. On January 1, 1959, after formally resigning his position in Cuba's government and going through what historian Hugh Thomas describes as "a charade of handing over power" to his representatives, remaining family and closest associates, Batista boarded a plane at 3 a.m. at Camp Colombia and flew to Ciudad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
Lansky, suffering from ill health, also flew out that night, headed for the Bahamas. With him went his dream of being at the center of Cuba's gambling operations.
On January 22, 1959, a press conference was held at the Copa Cabaret, which was attended by national journalists and some guests, and there Fidel Castro gave his response to the world in regards to the Cuban Revolution.
The new Cuban president, Manuel Urrutia Lle closed the casinos and nationalized all the casino and hotel properties including the Habana Riviera.
Schwartz, Rosalie (1997). Pleasure Island: Tourism and Temptation in Cuba. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803292651, 9780803292659.¬
"History of Hotel Habana Riviera". HabanaRivieraHotel.cu. http://www.habanarivierahotel.cu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=19&Itemid=72&lang=en.¬
^ Eduardo Senz Rovner, Russ Davidson (2009). The Cuban Connection. UNC Press. ISBN 0807831751.¬
^ Peter Moruzzi (2008). Havana before Castro. Gibbs Smith. ISBN 1423603672. http://www.havanabeforecastro.com/downloads/chpt-12-havana-riviera-pgs-182-192.pdf.¬
Hotel Habana Riviera - Official Site
Hotel Habana Riviera - fan site
v¬ ¬ d¬ ¬ e
Landmarks and attractions in Havana
La Cabaa¬ El Capitolio¬ Castillo de la Real Fuerza¬ Hotel Inglaterra¬ Hotel Tryp Habana Libre¬ Hotel Nacional de Cuba¬ Hotel Habana Riviera¬ Manzana de Gomez¬ Meli Cohiba Hotel¬ Morro Castle¬ San Salvador de la Punta Fortress¬ Sevilla Hotel¬ El Templete
Cathedral of Havana¬ Iglesia de Jesus de Miramar¬ San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary¬ Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis
Coln Necrpolis¬ Jos Mart Memorial¬ Havana Museum of Decorative Arts¬ Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana¬ Museum of the Revolution
Amadeo Roldn Theater¬ Gaia¬ Great Theatre of Havana¬ Hubert de Blanck Theater¬ Karl Marx Theater¬ National Theater of Cuba
Guanabo¬ Old Havana¬ Tarara¬ Tropicana Club¬ University of Havana
Categories: 1957 establishments | Hotels in HavanaHidden categories: Cuba articles missing geocoordinate data | All articles needing coordinates
I am a professional writer from China Manufacturers, which contains a great deal of information about wholesale camping supplies , folding quad chair, welcome to visit!
Hotels & Resorts
More Articles by Hi Joiney
More Articles about Cuba
More News Articles
Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.