Hemingway and Monroe's beloved French Riviera hotel to reopen after 50 years as high end homes

Hôtel Provençal opened in 1927 and quickly became a magnet for the rich and famous in the Jazz Age, with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel and Winston Churchill all having visited
Hôtel Provençal exterior
Hôtel Provençal is to become 39 new residences aimed at the super-rich
Emma Magnus2 minutes ago

A faded Jazz Age hotel on the French Riviera is to find a new lease of life as a luxury residential development aimed at the super-rich.

Hôtel Provençal is a grand, 10-storey building on the Cap d ’Antibes, the chic, moneyed Mediterranean resort. It was a playground for the rich and famous, visited by the likes of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin.

It was where Ernest Hemingway would drink; where Coco Chanel invented her beach pyjamas for her stays; where Ella Fitzgerald serenaded onlookers from her balcony in 1960. But now, it has been closed for almost 50 years.

Historic photo of the Hôtel Provençal
The hotel has been closed since 1977

Built in 1926 by American financier Frank Jay Gould, the 200-room Hôtel Provençal quickly became an exclusive, glamorous destination – and a magnet for stars.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who had moved to the French Riviera in 1924, rented a villa on the same street (now also a hotel) which was where he wrote Tender is the Night.

The sun-soaked promenades and rich, rudderless visitors formed the backdrop of the novel, with its protagonists, Dick and Nicole Diver, believed to be based on a wealthy expat couple that the Fitzgeralds had befriended in France. The book opens with a description of the town, the fictional Hôtel des Étrangers and its “bright tan prayer rug of a beach”.

“We’re coming home in the fall, but I don’t want to,” Fitzgerald wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, in 1926. “I’d like to live and die on the French Riviera.”

“We’re coming home in the fall, but I don’t want to. I’d like to live and die on the French Riviera.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the years that followed, Hôtel Provençal would receive Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, The Rolling Stones. But in 1977, it all came to an end.

The Gould family sold the hotel to the Paris-based jeweller Alexandre Reza in 1972. There were reported disputes over Reza’s plans for the property, as well as staff pay. In 1977, Reza closed to the hotel for renovations which never took place.

The hotel has been closed since, with some abortive attempts to rescue it. In 2014, it was acquired by John Caudwell, the British billionaire businessman and founder of Phones 4u. He purchased it from property developer Cyril Dennis, who had intended to turn it into luxury apartments.

Restored Hôtel Provençal
The building’s façade and Art Deco interiors have been restored

“Le Provençal is a magnificent Art Deco palace with an illustrious heritage,” said Caudwell. “Our restoration project is transforming this Côte d’Azur landmark into one of the most sought after ultra-prime residential schemes on the French Riviera, securing the future of this important historic building and creating a legacy for Cap d’Antibes.”

Caudwell’s £300 million new development, set for completion in 2025, will turn the 256,000 sq ft hotel into 39 residences.

These will include lateral apartments, penthouses and garden villas, ranging between one and six bedrooms, plus three triplex penthouses along the top of the building, each with a private terrace, pool and panoramic views over the coastline to Nice, Monaco and Cannes. The first apartments are priced between €4 and €8 million, with marquee residences upwards of €15 million.

“Our restoration project is transforming this Côte d’Azur landmark into one of the most sought after ultra-prime residential schemes on the French Riviera.”

John Caudwell, property developer

The building’s façade, meanwhile, is being completely refurbished, while its opulent, Art Deco interiors —including sculptured wall panels, frescos and ceilings with stepped borders— will be restored.

Renamed Le Provençal, the former hotel will offer residents six acres of landscaped gardens, as well as an Art Deco cinema, cocktail bar, health spa, restaurant and children’s playroom. And hopefully, it will breathe life back into this faded Jazz Age building.

Lars Christiaanse, director of sales at Caudwell, said that interest has been “extremely high”, with almost a quarter of the apartments sold off-plan to buyers from France, the UK, northern Europe, Germany, America and Asia. Christiaanse believes that the marquee residences and penthouses will also appeal to buyers from the Middle East and —thanks in part to the F. Scott Fitzgerald effect— “American buyers wanting the very best trophy homes on the French Riviera”.

“Le Provençal is a beautiful Art Deco palace which is a much loved and respected architectural landmark in the local region,” said Christiaanse. “F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife chose to live on the French Riviera, attracted by the glamour and beautiful backdrop, and to this day the location continues to attract visitors and homebuyers from around the world. Americans especially love the F. Scott Fitzgerald legacy.”