The Hotel Príncipe Alfonso: Once a landmark of luxury and extravagance in Campamento (San Roque), was a hub for the most influential socialites of its time. It was a place of recreation, business meetings and enjoyment, which attracted the most illustrious and wealthy individuals, not only from around the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar, but from all over Andalucía. ReachExtra wanted to find out more about what this establishment really was.
Today, not a brick remains of what once was the grandiose Hotel Principe Alfonso. However, photos posted by people like Alberto Velasco, the creator of the Facebook page “La Línea a través del tiempo” (“La Línea through time”), which boasts over 20,000 followers, give us an idea of the significance of this hotel.
The level of interest that this hotel continues to generate is so great that it even has its own dedicated Facebook page, “Hotel Príncipe Alfonso” created by someone who goes by the name of ‘Lydia’, a photography enthusiast who said that she would rather remain anonymous. Lydia is one of those people who succumbed to this enchanted building and what it once represented; a story from the golden era that deserves be remembered.
At ReachExtra, we wanted to find out more about its history, so we contacted Antonio Pérez Girón, the official chronicler of San Roque. What struck us was the fact is that the hotel, despite being advertised as being in La Línea, was actually located in Campamento, San Roque.
Construction on the Príncipe Alfonso hotel started in 1915, and only one year later it opened its doors to the public. The company that would then come to own the hotel was formed in March 1918. The capital stock amounted to 250,000 pesetas, a sizeable investment at the time.
According to the former chronicler of La Línea, Francisco Tornay, the location of the hotel was chosen to take advantage of its proximity to a theatre that once existed in Campamento. It was the perfect complement. Campamento was also renowned for polo matches at the time, drawing many Gibraltarians to its facilities.
In fact, some of the shareholders of Principe Alfonso were also members of the Andalusian Horse Racing Society. Tornay indicated at the time that the founders of the hotel were Antonio and Matías Murto, Gibraltarian Andrés Ferrari and La Línea resident Pedro Freddi, as well as other individuals who he has not been able to identify.
However, the hotel’s greatest attraction was undoubtedly its casino. According to Pérez Girón, it raked in a significant amount of money from the tables and from the popularity of its bars and restaurants. Among the casino’s regulars were members of the Larios family. Pablo Larios, who frequented the casino the most in his family, lived in Gibraltar.
“There was so much interest from all around Andalusia and Gibraltar that a transport service made up of four vehicles, driven by Juan Sánchez, Luis Marcenaro, Ramón Santi and Andrés Silla, was available to their customers,” according to documents provided by the official chronicler of San Roque.
Alberto Velasco, creator of the Facebook page La Línea a través del tiempo, explained that the vehicles were made by Ford and were available to customers for their trips in the area but also to cities such as Seville or Jerez de la Frontera.
In addition to this, at the hotel there was a service made up of six horse carriages that transported customers to nearby areas, such as Algeciras, La Línea or Gibraltar. Some of its drivers were Juan Orrán, Pedro Vejer and another nicknamed “Peluca”.
To increase the hotel’s attractiveness, the owners wanted gastronomy to be another of their strengths in addition to the casino and other services, and they hired a chef from Alcalá de los Gazules, creating a restaurant located in front of the hotel which they called “La Bola de Oro” (“The Golden Ball”). In that same area there was a very crowded picnic area called the Prince’s picnic area.
In addition to wealthy punters from Andalusia and Gibraltar, the hotel also hosted matadors who participated in the bullfights of La Línea and San Roque. There were also performances by prominent artists from the world of flamenco. In fact, Pepe Pinto made his debut at just 17 years old, who was a croupier (cards dealer) as a young man.
It was undoubtedly an elegant establishment for a niche clientele which put quality above everything. Hotel employees all worse uniforms, with a team of bellboys who would receive generous tips in addition to their salaries.
The hotel was also famous for its extravagant parties, with the hotel advertising them in newspapers and magazines throughout Andalucía as well as further afield in other regions of Spain. Some of these ads which have been well preserved highlighted the quality of their drinks – a common brand of beer, “Ind. Coope” could be found among wines such as Marqués de Riscal, Viejo Oloroso and La Ina.
José Antonio Ledesma wrote in his book “Memorias del tiempo con Antonio Bernal” (“Memories of time with Antonio Bernal”) that the Hotel Principe Alfonso’s casino had a vibrant atmosphere, always busy and bustling with life; one of the liveliest places in Spain with a massive influx of Gibraltarian clientele, which was significant at the time.
The hotel represented excitement, class and elegance right up until the Dictator, Miguel Primo de Rivera enforced a ban on gambling in 1923 – the Hotel Principe Alfonso was the first casino to be closed in the entirety of Spain.
This was the catalyst for the hotel’s decline until it finally disappeared in the early 1930’s. The building which once was the Hotel Principe Alfonso was demolished in 1974 and in its place the Crinavis ship repair yard was built.