In the second half of the 19th century, the very popular Moscow baths were situated in the south-western part of Teatralniy Proezd near the medieval Kitay-Gorod Wall. The other part of the building was used as a hotel. Muscovites called both the hotel and the baths Chelyshy – in honor of the their owner Pyotr Chelyshev, a wealthy merchant.
St. Petersburg Insurance Association purchased the building of Chelyshy and rented it out to the North Homebuilding Society whose head was Savva Mamontov.
Savva Mamontov, being a patron of the arts, decided to create not just a hotel, but a cultural center, with a theatre, exhibition halls, indoor stadium, restaurants and hotel rooms. Mamontov engaged the best architects, painters and sculptors in the Metropol project.
In January 1899, a tender for the best project to construct a first-class hotel was announced. Russian and foreign architects were invited to participate. The project of the famous Russian architect L. Kekushev won the tender. Nevertheless, the forth-place project was accepted. It was created by a 28-year-old architect William Walcott. In the same year of 1899, the construction of the Metropol building began.
In March the Metropol Hotel and the restaurant opened. The luxury hotel was extremely popular among travellers, business people, cultural and political elite. The hotel was one of the first structures in Moscow to be built in the Art Nouveau style, and equipped with the latest conveniences of the time: electricity, hot water and telephones in the rooms, refrigerators and elevators. The wealthy public was especially attracted to the Metropol Restaurant (the former Winter Garden).
On October 17th, Nicholas II signed the Manifesto promising to convene the Duma and grant democratic freedoms to the people. The next day, the signing of the Manifesto was announced in the newspapers. The Metropol Restaurant was crowded that evening. The audience raised toasts to freedom; people congratulated each other and were in high spirits. The great singer Fyodor Chaliapin was among the guests. At the request of the visitors, Chaliapin, captured by the public enthusiasm, climbed up onto a table and sang a cappella famous Dubinushka, a folk song, which was considered to be very seditious at the time. After that Chaliapin took his hat, walked round the room and collected an impressive amount of money, which he later handed over to the revolutionary workers.
In late October – early November 1917, clashes for the proclamation of the Soviet regime broke out in Moscow. Metropol was one of the points of resistance of the Bolsheviks. Pupils of military schools (cadets) turned the building into a military fortress. The Red Guard unsuccessfully tried to seize the Metropol building for six days. Only by using the artillery, the Bolsheviks forced the cadets to leave the building.
Metropol – the Second House of the Soviets.
When the Soviet government moved to Moscow in 1917, Metropol became the residence of the leaders of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet state. The central restaurant, where until recently the elite had enjoyed gourmet food and wines, was turned into a meeting room. The hall witnessed the speeches of Lenin, Trotsky, Sverdlov. Some Bolsheviks – Georgy Chicherin, Nikolay Bukharin, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko – settled down in luxurious rooms. Many rooms were turned into institutions: the people's commissariats, commissions, and committees were located there.
1925 – the hotel hosts the First International Chess Tournament.
In November 1925, restaurant Metropol hosted the First Moscow International Chess Tournament featuring World Champion Capablanca (Cuba), ex-champion Lasker (Germany), famous grandmasters Marshall (USA), Rubinstein (Poland), Bogolyubov (USSR) and other great chess players. The USSR was represented by Romanovsky, Ilyin-Genevsky, Bogatyrchuk and other masters. The level of interest in the tournament displayed by crowds of Muscovites gathering around the Metropol building and keeping a close eye on the game still amazes. The daily attendance of the tournament was about 2,000 people.
1931 – Metropol regains the hotel status.
Metropol relived as a hotel. This was the place where important foreign guests and well-known foreign immigrants were accommodated. At various times, the hotel hosted Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, housed Sergei Prokofiev, Alexander Vertinsky and his family. Within the period of 1950–1970, Mao Tse-tung, Marcello Mastroianni, Marlene Dietrich, John Steinbeck, Jean Marais, Paul Mauriat stayed in the hotel.
1986–1991 – the restoration and reconstruction of the hotel.
Large-scale reconstruction and restoration of the building began in 1986. The works lasted five years. According to the old drawings, the facade and interiors were restored to their original state. By applying the latest technological developments and European level of service, but preserving identity, Metropol became one of the top hotels in the world.
December 05, 1991 – the grand opening of the renovated hotel was in the limelight not only in the country but also in the world. The presentation took place in New York, Washington, Paris. The international commission gave a five-star rating to the hotel. It was one of the first five-star hotels in the new Russia.
2012 – the change of management (A. Klyachin is the new owner of Metropol)
In August 2012, the legendary Metropol was sold into private hands. The most famous Russian hotel got a fresh start under the supervision of an international team. The main objective of the new team was to restore the reputation of the legendary hotel by following the traditions and preserving historical values of this unique architectural monument.