Places of interest in Montreux
Grand Hôtel Territet - Alcazar
Deep Purple recorded their album Machine Head in the corridor at the entrance of the former Grand Hotel building located in Territet, opposite the station and 10 minutes walk from Montreux. A commemorative plaque was installed in 2018 at the back of the building (more information at the bottom of the page).
The tracks on this album, including "Smoke on the Water", were recorded in less than three weeks between December 6 and 21, 1971, following the fire that destroyed the Montreux Casino. A complete report of this fascinating story is available on Montreux Celebration in the page dedicated to Deep Purple.
You will discover here a complete history of the Grand Hôtel de Territet, now called the Alcazar.
History of the event
This imposing building, classified of national importance, was built in 1888 by the architect Eugène Jost. It is decorated with stucco and neo-baroque paintings by Marcel Chollet.
The "Grand Hôtel des Alpes", as it was called in 1890, offered all the comforts with, what was extraordinary at the time, a swimming pool, medical baths and an elevator. The Hotel was also equipped with one of the very first internal phone in Switzerland.
The Empress of Austria honoured the "Grand Hôtel des Alpes" with further visits in the autumn of 1895, as well as in the springs of 1897 and 1898. Emperor Franz Joseph came to join her for eight days in 1898. Her many walks, especially along the Roses Trail, led her regularly to Caux, where she stayed from August 30, 1898 before being murdered on September 10 when she left the Beau-Rivage Hotel in Geneva.
Since 1902, a memorial statue in honour of "Sissi" has been placed near the English church not far from the Alcazar.
The Hippie Era and Deep Purple recording
From 1969 to 1974 a large Hippie community took up residence in the Grand Hotel. A complete story of this period can be found on the dedicated page of our website. In 1971, following the Montreux Casino fire, the band Deep Purple took possession of the Grand Hotel corridor to record their album "Machine Head".
Buyout of the Grand Hotel by Dad Regné
In 1980, Dad Regné bought the building and carried out major renovation work.
On 29 January 1984, at around 6:25am, the alarm went off at the Montreux fire station, the "Théâtre de l'Alcazar" was actually in fire. About sixty firemen were then sent on site, trying to protect the stuccoes and sculptures while others tried to limit the water damage. At 7:45am the fire was over, it was definitively extinguished at around 11 am. The investigations conclude that a cigarette was the cause, having slipped under the stage, and was at the origin of this accident, whereas in 1984, the hypothesis of a short circuit was favoured.
On November 12, 1989, the "Théâtre de l'Alcazar" escaped narrowly a second disaster. Indeed, Dad Régné was the owner of a rare and nice collection trailer, parked just behind the theatre and it burned to the ground in the night threatening the building. "This is the sixth time in 10 years that we have intervened in this building," notes chief of fire brigade Pierre Pittet.
32 companies, and 2 million of swiss francs, have been invested to carry out the necessary restoration work following the 1984 fire. The insurance companies paid 80%. In the future, the theatre will be used as much as a venue for concerts with around 400 seats as it will be for banquets or company parties with a capacity of 280 people at the table.
Qualified as "Versailles of the bourgeoisie" by specialists, the west wing of the former Grand Hôtel and Hôtel des Alpes complex was officially classified as a historical monument in December 2001. The future of Territet's little architectural gem is now assured.
"Today, we are extremely careful about fire risks. We have a detection system so sensitive that it sometimes triggers because of the candles on a birthday cake," joked Dad Régné in 2005.
The city's fire brigade was notified shortly before 9pm because the roof of the theatre caught fire. About 40 firefighters where trying to control the flames. Seven people residing in the building were evacuated. As early as 2006, two fires broke out in the same corridor on the ground floor, two weeks apart. Dad Régné does not believe in bad luck. He says: "The building is not cursed! But it is a delicate construction, so it is more subject to this kind of incident. No matter what happens, I will never abandon it! I have owned this place since 1980 and I intend to keep it until my death!" He concludes with: "I don't have an enemy that blames me that much! In my opinion, it is clear that these are accidents."
A year later, in 2013, we learned that Patrick Régné, Dad Régné's son, had taken over the management of the theatre, his father having been placed in a medical establishment.
The same year, according to the courts and following the 2012 fire, the police report concluded that the fire was probably of technical origin, without being able to exclude human intervention. "The cost of the total restoration is estimated at 7.5 million francs, an amount that we do not have, higher than the purchase price" says Patrick Régné.
Thursday, January 11, 2018 at around 12:30am, the emblematic Alcazar building burns again in part. The disaster occurred this time in an office inside the building under construction. As this part was not inhabited, no one was inconvenienced or injured and no evacuation was necessary.
Faced with the threat of deterioration, the State of Vaud decided to take over and replace the owner in order to carry out emergency work, including the construction of a temporary roof to save the building.
Deep Purple unveils a commemorative plaque
On July 4, 2018, before performing at the Stravinsky Auditorium as part of the Montreux Jazz Festival, the group Deep Purple returned to Territet where they created their hit "Smoke on The Water" in the corridors of the Hotel and thanks to the mobile recording studio they had rented from the Rolling Stones. The resulting gold disc, owned by the Montreux Municipality, is on display at the Montreux Museum. The mythical rock band inaugurated a commemorative plaque in the presence of Montreux Mayor Laurent Wehrli. (Photos at the bottom of this page).
We learn, at the end of 2018, that an auction of this classified monument will take place in spring 2019. The Alcazar will be sold to the highest bidder. The owner was unable to raise the necessary funds of several million to rehabilitate this building, which has been terribly damaged by the repeated fires.
"Anything can still happen, but it is highly unlikely that the Montreux Municipality will make an offer," says Laurent Wehrli, the Mayor of Montreux.
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