The Commodore Hotel, A Brief History
The Commodore Hotel was completed in 1854 and opened as the Queens Hotel. The name commemorated the fact that Queen Victoria, on her first ever visit to Ireland, had stepped ashore just a few yards from the site of the new hotel.
The hotel consisted of fifty rooms (known as sitting & sleeping arrangements), two coffee rooms, a billiard room, fresh and salt water baths. At the time the hotel function hall could accommodate approximately five hundred people. The hotel is recorded to be one of thethe first purpose built hotels in Ireland. The clientele at the time were known as the “upper class”…
The first report of an event in the Commodore Hotel was recorded in the Cork Examiner on May 25, 1855. It was about a function held in honour of the Queen’s Viceroy in Ireland, The Lord Lieutenant General, Lord Carlisle, whom Fort Carlisle is named after.
The hotel ownership changed hands in 1874 and was taken over by a Mr. Raymond. The most noted proprietor of the hotel was Otto Humbert. He owned the hotel during the First World War and focused on attracting the lucrative passenger line traffic that frequented Cork Harbour at the time. Under the Humbert’s ownership, the hotel had electricity installed and telephones. There were also stables at the rear of the hotel for dogs and a motor garage. The ground floor featured an American style bar. The war brought a lot of anti-German sentiment and this reached fever pitch with the torpedoing and sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine on 7th May 1915 only 26 miles from Cobh.
Public reaction in the town to the event forced the Humbert family to hideout in the wine cellar as an angry crowd gathered in Westbourne Place calling for the hotel to be burnt down.
When Lusitania survivors were brought ashore, ships officers and well-to-do passengers were accommodated and treated here. At this time the hotel was converted into a hospital having been commandeered by an English lady who was holidaying in Queenstown. Her husband was involved in the fighting in the war in India. The hotel has a copy of a letter she wrote to her beloved husband detailing exactly what she did at the time. There is also a mention of the hotel in Lady Margaret Mackworth’s (later known as Vicountess Rhonda) book “This was my World”. She had survived the Lusitania sinking.
The resting place of many of those who died as a result of the Lusitania sinking is located in the Old Church Cemetary only five minutes drive from the hotel. Burials were in three mass graves and a number of individual plots, all of which can still be seen. There is also a chilling picture of one of these mass graves in the hotel bar.
Following Irish Independence in 1921 the hotel changed its name from the Queens Hotel to the States Hotel. In 1939 it became the Commodore Hotel.
The O’Shea family acquired the hotel in 1968 and conducted extensive renovations. It was then made available to the general public. The hotel has now forty-two en-suite bedrooms, twenty of which overlook the second largest natural harbour in the world, Cork Harbour.
There is a function room available that can accommodate approximately two hundred and forty people seating, named after the legendary boxer and film star Jack Doyle. Doyle, a native of Cobh was once married to the beautiful movie star Movita and the couple stayed in the Commodore on their visits to Cobh.
The marriage did not last and Movita later married Marlon Brando. Jack’s story is one of the rags to riches and back to rags again. He died a pauper in London but was brought back and buried in the Old Church Cemetery. It is reported that the hotel directors’ contributed to the headstone put on his grave. Jack Doyle is forever remembered in the song by Tommy Flemming “The Contender”The hotel bar, O’Sheas Bar, has beautiful pictures and prints with a Titanic model on display.
If only the walls could talk......