The origins of the Hermitage
Herrliberger’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 era
Fritz 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 tourism
When 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 extended
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.
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.
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.
A year later, the previous “Quatre Saisons” restaurant was converted and decorated in evocative shades of red – in line with its new name “Baccarat”.
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.
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. To implement this project, restaurant operations were closed down for one month since guests could not reasonably be expected to put up with the inconvenience caused by construction activities.
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.
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.
During the winter months saw a redesign of the rooms in the 1999 extension by Hermitage interior designer Birgit Roller of Casa Tessuti, Lucerne.
Standing still is a step backwards and — following a long period of preparation and to ensure the continued attractiveness of the restaurant — the Board decided to upgrade the restaurant as well as the kitchen between January and March 2015. The interior design concept was developed by Büro Bert Haller of Mönchengladbach while construction planning was handled by Stadelmann Baumanagement of Lucerne.
On the 25th anniversary of the “new” Hermitage on March 19, 2015, the opening of this additional milestone in the company’s history was celebrated with a large number of guests.
A stroke of (mis)fortune
On 8 September at 5 p.m., a fire broke out in the kitchen of the Hermitage. The cause of the fire turned out to be a defective thermostat in one of the fryers. As a result of the tremendous amount of smoke, the building was evacuated. The Lucerne fire department arrived with a massive force and managed to put out the fire. The all-clear signal was given at around 8 p.m. Nobody was harmed and the Hermitage fire measures proved their worth.
Thanks to the great effort of all employees involved and a subsequent night shift, operations resumed on the morning of 9 September, albeit under more difficult conditions than usual. The renovation works lasted until the end of November at a cost of half a million Swiss francs.
On 22 May 2017, Mr Fritz Kopp Z’Graggen, the long-standing Chairman of the Board of Directors who was later bestowed the function of Honorary President of the Hotel Hermitage Luzern AG, passed away at the age of 89.The management and staff hold lasting and dear memories of the deceased, of his personality, and of the heritage of his work and engagement for the Hermitage hotel company.
In spring, the Hermitage together with the Alpiq E-Mobility company put into operation the first quick-charging station with the “Grand Tour of Switzerland” label; moreover, this makes the Hermitage the first hotel in the city of Lucerne with a quick-charging station.
With an output of 50 kW DC, it takes less than four hours to fully charge a vehicle, making it five to fifteen times faster than a conventional electric service station. The batteries charge to up to 80% in less than an hour, which is equal to a range of 250 kilometres.
A new baby
An original US Airstream food truck, constructed following an own design at the Roka Werken in Limburg Germany, took up service in the middle of May for the summer months in the lake garden. This innovative, international food concept replaced the long-standing grill service.
During the other months of the year, the food truck is used for catering under the slogan– HOT / Hermitage On Tour.
In order to better meet the needs of customers, which grow continuously discerning, the Board of Directors approved an investment to fit the guest rooms with an air-conditioning system. The planning phase was completed at the end of 2018, with renovations slated to take place over the months of January and February 2019.
“Partir c’est toujours aussi un peu mourir” (Whenever one leaves, one dies a little)
With a spectacular feast and a large number of guests, during which the Chairperson of the Board of Directors Ms Barbara Kopp Döös offered a laudation, the long-standing Director of the Seehotel Hermitage Thomas P. Egli was bid adieu on 7 June.
Thomas Egli, who already oversaw the new construction of the Hermitage in 1990, was the director of operations for 28 years. During this period, the hotel was expanded several times, underwent renovations, and now presents itself as a successful 4* superior holiday and business hotel with a wide range of catering and event offers.
Thomas Egli shall continue to contribute to operations in his new function as a Member of the Board of Directors.
The young hotelier Pascal Rhyner (33), a graduate of the Hotel Management School of Lucerne, took up his new posiion as the Director of Operations of the most-beautifully situated hotel in Lucerne on 1 June.