Fondly referred to by Bermudians as ''The Pink Palace,'' Hamilton Princess & Beach Club opened its doors on January 1, 1885. Bermuda had gained international recognition two years earlier in 1883 when Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, visited for a winter retreat and called it ''a place of eternal spring.''
Harley Trott, a leading businessman at the time and head of Trott & Cox, the steamship agents and purveyors of meat for the British military, was determined to build a hotel that would attract affluent Americans, who would summer in the Berkshires and winter in Bermuda. Other seaside resorts were being built and a ''posh'' hotel would likely compete with other destinations like Palm Beach.
When the hotel opened, it was named ''The Princess'' in honor of the royal visit some years earlier. Incidentally, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies was also named for Princess Louise. For many years, because the hotels were operating seasonally, summer employees from The Fairmont Banff Springs and The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise would work at Hamilton Princess & Beach Club during the winter months.
From the moment it opened, Hamilton Princess & Beach Club was considered the gem of the island. With long shady verandas and a blue slate roof, the four-story building comprised 70 rooms, each equipped with gas lights, hot and cold running water and a five-inch mirror to allow guests to primp before stepping out for the night.
Thomas Cook Tours started to offer package tours out of New York to Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. Staff dressed in white jackets and waving pink handkerchiefs greeted luxury liners. As word got out, celebrities started to appear. Mark Twain, a regular at the hotel, loved to smoke cigars on the veranda while he signed autographs and recited poetry to adoring fans. One wartime ''guest'' at the hotel was said to have used its fish tank-lined Gazebo Bar as a motif in his novel. The famous guest was novelist Ian Fleming and the book, Dr. No.
In 1939, when the world went to war, Hamilton Princess & Beach Club was under British Censorship and home to Allied servicemen. The hotel became an intelligence center and way station where all mail, radio and telegraphic traffic bound for Europe and the Americas was intercepted and analyzed by 1,200 censors, before being routed to their destination. Nicknamed ''Bletchley-in-the-Tropics'' after the English country house where the ''Enigma'' code was broken.
The years brought changes and in 1959, American tanker billionaire Daniel Ludwig purchased the hotel. As part of the deal to build a new luxury hotel - The Fairmont Southampton on the south shore - Hamilton Princess & Beach Club was renovated: a new wing built and lounges added.
With over a century of experience, Hamilton Princess & Beach Club is sister to properties such as The Plaza in New York, The Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, The Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta, and The Fairmont San Francisco. She has famous and illustrious siblings, yet she remains the Grande Dame and oldest member of the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts family.