The Savoy Hotel

The Savoy Hotel served as a residence of American elites and as a recruiting hub on entering the war

The Savoy Hotel served throughout the war as a renowned centre of Americans’ activity in London. On the outbreak of war, the American Citizen Committee established its headquarters within the building to help Americans, who wished to, to return home. Yet, the movement of Americans in the opposite direction across the Atlantic reinforced the Savoy’s reputation. Arthur Guy Empey, consequently, complained how he spent his first night in the city near St. Pancras station and didn’t travel a little further to the Savoy! Additionally, Henry Gordon Selfridge relished his time at the hotel that he enjoyed ‘nothing more than escaping the roar of war by tucking into a Lobster Newberg at The Savoy.’ As such, the Savoy became a haunt of London’s American elite with a contemporary journalist labelling it ‘a haven of American refuge.’

On 2 April 1917, President Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress: ‘It is a fearful thing, to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars.’ Yet, in the space of just four, short days that is exactly what he did. Where was Walter Hines Page, the American Ambassador, when this announcement was made? He was celebrating in the Savoy!

As the war continued, the Savoy played host to the American Society of London that organised a recruitment drive for Americans residing in London to enlist. This changed the face of the Strand district, with the New York Times noting how ‘Americans in their thousands [were] coming from all parts of England to enlist.’

The presence of American society within the Savoy led to the hotel permanently displaying a bust of Abraham Lincoln as a gesture to their contribution to the hotel, London and Britain and ‘for all to see, for all eternity.’