Originally designed by Sir Thomas Deane in 1813, the building was initially used as commercial rooms for city merchants. In 1816 the structure was extended to serve as a hotel and coach yard for the visiting business people, traders and merchants.
Many famous figures throughout history have stayed in the hotel over the years including Fr. Mathew, The Temperance Priest, writers Sir. Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens.
One of the most famous figures was Michael Collins who negotiated the Irish Free State Treaty in 1921 and who spent his last night on earth in room 115 at the Imperial before he was shot on that fateful day in August 1922 at Béal na Bláth, West Cork.
The Committee of Merchants of Cork commissioned young Cork architect, Thomas Deane, to design and build the Commercial Rooms on the South Mall. The dignified façade of Deane’s building stands virtually unchanged today and forms the front portion and main entrance of the Imperial Hotel.
The choice of South Mall was an inspired one. As recently as twenty years before it had been one of the many open channels of water on which modern Cork is built, others being Patrick Street and the Grand Parade. The surviving stone steps on the Mall recall the days when merchants moored their boats at the front door and loaded their goods into the cellar. But in time the Mall became one of the most gracious avenues in the city, with its lines of trees and its long sweep of redbrick Georgian houses interspersed with banks built in the classical style from local limestone.
The Committee of Merchants requested Deane extend the original building along Pembroke Street to serve as a hotel and coach-yard.
Those first guests arrived at the Imperial Hotel in 1816 when all of Europe was still talking about the battle of Waterloo and its two outstanding personalities, Napoleon and Wellington.
But the long saga of the Napoleonic War had been important to Cork, not only as a matter of news, but as an affair of big business.
Perhaps the most distinctive of Deane’s many buildings in the city is the Gothic quadrangle of the University, and the Savings Bank at the east end of the Mall is worth noting as much for its interior as its exterior proportions. Rivals to Deane in building nineteenth century Cork were the Pain Brothers, and their former County Club can be seen just a few paces from the hotel.
The striking church of the Holy Trinity, erected in the Gothic style in 1832, can be seen by the riverside, parallel to the South Mall. The Imperial Hotel is therefore, very much part of the growth and life of Cork from 1816 onwards. Its coach-yard in Pembroke Street witnessed all the excitement of the arrival of the stage coaches with the pageantry of the coach master, the guard, the ostlers, the blacksmith, the steaming horses, the baggage men and the travellers for whom the hotel was journey’s end.
After negotiating the Irish Free State Treaty in 1921, Michael Collins spent his last night on earth in room 115 at the Imperial before he was shot on that fateful day in August 1922 at Béal na Bláth, West Cork.
The Imperial Hotel has welcomed many other notable guests coming by coach or by car, the great Irish painter, Daniel Maclise stayed here, the novelist William Makepeace, Thackeray took tea in the lounge with Father Theobald Mathew, the Apostle of Temperance, Charles Dickens gave a reading in the Clarence Room, Daniel O’Connell addressed a glittering assemblage there and Liszt gave a Piano recital.
In more recent years, George Best came to stay, got into a fight and left! The late Maureen O’Hara frequently dined here, actor Brian Dennehy and star of TV sitcom Murder She Wrote, Angela Lansbury, are both regulars.
In July 1998, the Imperial Hotel was purchased by the Flynn Family, from Hanover International UK.
An investment of €10 million by the Flynn family to redevelop the property into a luxurious hotel was undertaken. The redevelopment saw the inclusion of 125 bedrooms, and the renovation of what was then called The Clouds Restaurant, now known as The Pembroke Restaurant and Lafayette’s Brasserie. In the same year, the Flynn family launched what is now the hugely popular Escape Spa.
Almost €1 million was spent on upgrading and renovating the Imperial Hotel, in preparation of its 200th anniversary in 2016. All 125 bedrooms were renewed and refreshed, a new fitness suite, the Escape Gym, was installed, and a brand new bar called ‘Seventy Six on the Mall’ was created. This new bar is a stylish and elegant space to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails, informal cuisine or tapas. It is located just off the lobby, where the old South’s Bar used to be.
The Imperial Hotel celebrates its 200th anniversary. This beautiful four star property has long been regarded by many as the ‘Grand Dame’ of Cork city.
This wonderful, elegant dame has hosted politicians, movie stars, writersand musicians, and all the while has served the people of Cork with the most wonderful classic, Irish hospitality.
Many of today’s guests will have driven from Dublin in less than 2 hours in their horseless carriages, or flown from London in little under an hour. Such has been the incredible march of progress in transport and tourism. Yet we like to feel that the Imperial has remained old fashioned in the ways that matter, in its traditions of courtesy, hospitality and discreet personal service.
€400,000 investment in iconic Imperial Hotel in keeping with synonymous old world charm. The refurbishment sees 45 of the property’s bedrooms upgraded to ensure that hotel guests experience the perfect night’s sleep in the iconic city centre, Flynn family owned hotel.
€300,000 has been spent on the bedrooms which feature specially sourced, bespoke fabrics and furniture designed and sourced by leading Dublin based design company, Global Design Concepts. A vibrant colour scheme of orange, contrasting with light blue, has created an easy on the eye, inviting space for guests to enjoy and relax in, while maintaining the character that the hotel is synonymous with. Each room features King Koil Club Pocket luxury beds, and newly installed state-of-the-art flat screen, fully interactive, high definition capable in-room entertainment systems; while upgraded bathroom facilities include rain head showers, heated towel rails, upgraded luxury towellery from Lissadel, and upgraded Orla Kiely bathroom amenities.
Works were not purely aesthetic, and the hotel worked with ecoCOOL on a €100,000 upgrade to the air conditioning system, with the installation of the latest Living Environment Air Conditioning System from Mitsubishi. This new in-room system will reduce the property’s energy costs, and ensure the highest level of comfort for guests in their rooms.
The works in the Imperial are part of a €3m investment in refurbishment works across the Flynn Hotel group’s four properties, which also include the Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny; Old Ground Hotel, Ennis; and The Park Hotel, Dungarvan; and this is not the first significant investment in the Imperial by the Flynn family, who purchased the property in 1998. Prior to the latest upgrades, €10m was invested in a redevelopment that included the addition of the hotel’s Escape Spa in 2006; while in preparation of its bicentenary celebrations in 2016, almost €1 million was spent on upgrades which included a new fitness suite for residents’ use, and the introduction of ‘Seventy Six on the Mall’, a new bar and food offering located just off the lobby, where the old ‘South’s Bar’ used to be.