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Azorean Palace in the Clouds


Atop a dormant volcano in the Azores, the remnants of the deserted Monte Palace Lodge slowly disappear behind vegetation.  In the late 1980s this lodge was the end result of greater than ten years of planning.  It provided its visitors top-shelf lodging surrounded by million greenback views, however the enterprise collapsed earlier than its second operational birthday.

Natives know why the lodge struggled: the location is just too distant, climate too unpredictable, tourism marketing campaign too ineffectual, and there’s nothing else to do up there.  It was in all probability all of the above, plus a wholesome serving of builders exhausting financing and succumbing to monumental debt.

The lodge was designed to be purposefully unspectacular, its designers meaning to mix the construction into the panorama whereas not detracting from the magnificent views provided by São Miguel’s Vista do Rei.  Now it has been deserted for years, and lots of really feel the constructing detracts.

cowl photograph courtesy Enrique

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IATH & The French Resorts

Hoteis de Luxo ad Monte Palace Bahia Palace(courtesy Jorge Loures)

Indústria Açoreana Turistico-Hoteleira S.A. (IATH) was an organization composed of French and Belgian shareholders, based in 1977 for the particular function of investing in the Azores.  It deliberate to construct two five-star lodges on Sao Miguel: Bahia Palace in Agua D’Alto and Monte Palace at Vista do Rei close to Sete Cidades.

The development contract was finalized at Ponta Delgada in December of 1977. The architects have been Yves Roa and Olivier-Clément Cacoub – the latter a celebrated architect in Africa and Europe, recognized for being the chief architect of the civil buildings and nationwide palaces and holding the publish as Official Conservative of French Museums.  Cacoub and Roa’s resume additionally included the five-star Tunisian Abou Nawas Tunis.

Tips for the architects have been many; it was necessary to the Azorean residents that the buildings mix in with their environment and complement the panorama.

“#10: There must be a physical link between the building and the mountain to the east.”

 “#30: Neutral colors should be used to make it possible to conceal the building in the landscape, and at all costs avoid the Hotel becoming a point of tension in the landscape.”

Hotel-Bahia-Palace-Sao-Miguel-AzoresLodge Bahia Palace, Sao Miguel (supply)

Work on the first of the two resorts – the 101-room Bahia Palace – was scheduled to start in October of 1980, with the lodge opening in Might of 1982.  The unique plan was to open Bahia Palace first, and if issues have been profitable the firm would open Monte Palace later.

The construct website chosen for the second lodge was the Vista do Rei (View of the King), a picturesque alcove on a lip close to the volcanic peak.  Fairly probably certainly one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the world, Vista do Rei overlooks the lovely Sete Cidades on one aspect and the Atlantic Ocean on the different.

Sete Cidades is about inside an eight-mile caldera that can also be residence to the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, which seems as two lakes: one blue (Lagoa Azul) and one inexperienced (Lagoa Verde).

Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel, AzoresLagoa das Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel, Azores (courtesy theo nuyts)

In response to legend, the lakes’ differing hues have been the results of a princess and shepherd who wept tears of various colours over a forbidden love.  Romance-hating scientists level out that it’s truly one lake separated by a bow bridge, and the totally different colours are attributed to cyanobacteria blooms and an overabundance in improvement of rooted aquatic macrophytes and algae in the water our bodies.

No matter.  The princess-and-shepherd model is simpler to repeat to youngsters, in order that model has been the one handed down for hundreds of years.

The rock that was replaced with the Monte Palace HotelThe rock that was changed with the Monte Palace Lodge

The thought to construct a lodge at Vista do Rei was gathering damaging consideration in the area people. “A hotel in the Sete Cidades continues to be challenged by some professionals related to tourism and others; After asking if they believe in success after they are built, they simply say ‘no.’”

Development of the Bahia Palace commenced in 1980 and was initially anticipated to be accomplished on Might 28th, 1982. The whole monetary funding in the two lodges was scheduled to strategy two million escudos (then-Portuguese foreign money).  An funding by French engineering conglomerate Creusot-Loire earned the lodge tasks the nicknames of “the French hotels” in the Azorean press.

Development of Monte Palace Lodge

(click on for slide present)

photographs courtesy Jorge Loures / JmikeLrelvaL


Rocky Starting

Monte Palace Hotel sitting area, circa 1980sMonte Palace sitting space, circa 1980s

In 1982 an IATH Administrator introduced the unfinished motels can be accomplished – albeit after a delay – with a brand new opening date for the Bahia Palace anticipated to be nearer to mid-1983.

Delays stemmed from the authorities’s request that IATH improve its capital funding in the undertaking so there was extra of a stability between private and non-private funds.

Additionally slowing progress was the rising rate of interest surroundings, which elevated IATH’s value to borrow cash.  And all through the 1980s, the Azorean tourism business was nonetheless nascent, little greater than a blip on the radar of most world vacationers.

A guest room in the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores, circa 1980sA visitor room in the Monte Palace Lodge, circa 1980s

By January of 1984 there was hopeful progress in the development of the Bahia Palace in Agua d’Alto.  The challenge’s survivability once more got here beneath query when its monetary backer, French industrial big Creusot-Loire, was liquidated in June of 1984.

Then IATH Administrator Albano Manuel Neto de Viveinos, who had been with the firm since 1977 and was a facilitator in the deal, left to carry out comparable duties for the Workplace of Azorean Tourism.

Native papers introduced "the contracts are signed" for Monte Palace and Bahia Palace Sao Miguel AzoresNative papers introduced “the contracts are signed for two luxury hotels” (courtesy Jorge Loures)

IATH scrambled to acquire further financing, and it succeeded in securing one other two million escudos from Portuguese banks Banco Nacional Ultramarino and Banco Pinto & Sotto Mayor.  This capital injection allowed the first of the two five-star motels to be accomplished; on August sixth, 1984, the Bahia Palace was formally opened.

Monte Palace, which was nonetheless underneath development, must watch for its debut.  An deadlock that lasted from December of 1984 till March of 1985 prevented the developer from making progress on the second lodge.  A February 1985 article attributed the standstill to a scarcity of communication between the builders and financiers of the venture.

Notably painful to IATH and the Bahia Palace was the cancelled NATO assembly in the Azores, which resulted in the lack of 600 deliberate rented beds and was a extreme blow to the lodge’s backside line.  In the meantime the value to construct the lodges had ballooned to double their estimate.  Each can be monetary failures and find yourself in the arms of the banks.

The Monte Palace Hotel under construction in Sao Miguel, Azores. The Monte Palace Lodge underneath development in Sao Miguel, Azores

(pictures courtesy Jorge Loures / JmikeLrelvaL)

The Monte Palace Hotel in 2010The Monte Palace Lodge in 2010 (courtesy Luis Ribeiro)


Closure of the Bahia Palace

The sign of the Monte Palace, circa 2013The signal of the Monte Palace, circa 2013 (supply)

The monetary stalemate reached a boiling level in late March of 1985. If the banks and IATH can be unable to succeed in an settlement, the Bahia Palace can be pressured to shut.  IATH Worldwide president Dr. Gozzi claimed the lodges would solely open if their Madeiran financiers “stopped blocking the process.”

In November of 1985 the Bahia Palace Lodge closed for the remainder of the yr, with administration saying a re-opening in March of the following yr.  Nevertheless the Bahia Palace Lodge wouldn’t re-open in 1986; a report in February of that yr famous the lodge cancelled all reservations after the monetary issues weren’t resolved throughout the break.

The banks behind the financing – Banco Nacional Ultramarino and Banco Pinto & Sotto Mayor – refused to remark.  By the center of 1986 the state of affairs had develop into farcical.  Newspaper headlines introduced the motels have been the island’s “mockery of the century.”

Bathroom tile at the Monte Palace destroyed by vandals, circa 2013 Toilet tile at the Monte Palace destroyed by vandals, circa 2013 (supply)

In February of 1988 the collectors met with the lodge operators to diagnose the state of affairs and try to find out a plan of action.  If no different options might be discovered, chapter was a feared potential outcome.  The result of the collectors’ assembly stunned many, revealing a keep of execution for the inns for an additional two years.

Throughout this time the inns would reopen underneath managed administration and in accordance with an settlement.  The amassed debt to financiers Nacional Ultramarino and Pinto & Sotto Mayor had reached twelve million escudos; a re-structuring of possession in the enterprise gave the banks shares of the firm inventory in change for forgiveness of a few of the debt.

With a short lived deal in place, the lodges have been set to re-open. A part of the deal resulted in new directors at IATH comprised of board members from the two funding banks.  In the meantime, the Azorean authorities granted the two-year challenge a “refundable subsidy” towards the restore and restoration of the Bahia Palace and Monte Palace lodges.

A former suite in the abandoned Monte Palace, Sao Miguel, Azores, circa 2009A former suite in the Monte Palace, circa 2009 (courtesy theo nuyts)


Grand (Re-) Openings

Monte Palace atrium as it appeared in the 1980sMonte Palace atrium because it appeared in the 1980s (courtesy Jorge Loures)

On April 15th, 1989, the Monte Palace lastly opened its doorways.  At the similar time the Bahia Palace in Agua d’Alto was re-opened for the first time in virtually 4 years.  Newspapers confirmed that the Bahia and Monte Palace Inns have been now open and eventually contributing to the island’s financial system; Monte Palace by itself employed greater than 100 individuals.

When the Monte Palace opened the enterprise was in debt to the tune of twelve million escudos, which included each legacy debt from the ten year-old development of Bahia Palace, and the new debt used to complete Monte Palace and restore Bahia Palace.  Such debt service was untenable for the fledgling resorts, who once more flirted with collapse until one other outdoors investor might present stability.

Then ESTA obtained concerned with a fifteen-year settlement to handle the properties.  ESTA is an acronym for a lodge administration affiliation comprised of corporations with expertise in tourism: Estoril Sol and TAP/Air Portugal.  After ESTA had carried out its due diligence, the group was much less captivated with the deal.  In response to ESTA administrator Dr. Carlos Beja, the resorts collectively introduced “drama” with solely the Bahia Palace being “viable in terms of hotels and markets.”

Stated Beja, “you have to separate the two units.”

Monte Palace atrium as it appeared in the 1980sMonte Palace atrium because it appeared in the 1980s (courtesy Jorge Loures)


Monte Palace Lodge

Monte Palace Hotel Sao Miguel Azores logo insignia signMonte Palace Lodge insignia

Typically incorrectly labeled the “first five-star hotel in the Azores,” the Monte Palace was truly the second (after Bahia Palace).  By all accounts the Monte was the grander of the two buildings, however its location frittered any hope for fulfillment.

The Monte Palace Lodge had 83 normal rooms, 4 luxurious suites, and one presidential suite.  Downstairs was a bar, a discotheque, and two eating places.  Additionally inside the lodge have been three convention rooms, a financial institution, and a hairdresser.  In the basement have been the nightclub, stage, a service supply entrance, and a collection of tunnels.  These mixed to unfold throughout a five-story, 507,000 square-meter complicated.

Designs for the Monte Palace Lodge

(click on for slide present)

pictures courtesy Jorge Loures / JmikeLrelvaL

Close to the again of the foyer a big winding spiral staircase led guests to their rooms, every of which (on sunny days) had spectacular views – one aspect of the lodge missed Sete Cidades and the different aspect the Atlantic Ocean.  Rooms have been tastefully adorned in numerous interval colours and featured floor-to-ceiling glass home windows with personal balconies.  Every was outfitted with sitting furnishings and televisions.

A guest bathroom in the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores, as they appeared in the 1980sMonte Palace visitor toilet in the 1980s (courtesy Jorge Loures / JmikeLrelvaL)

The eating places have been the Dom Carlos and the Grill Dona Amélia, whereas the American-styled bar was the D. Urraca, and the Nightclub was the Discoteca Chamarrita.

In accordance with former worker Paulo Viveiros, “in the two restaurants there were silver cutlery, crystal glasses and embroidered cloth napkins,” and “the walls were lined with French fabric…  It was a very luxurious hotel for the time. There was no parallel in the Azores.”

Whereas Monte Palace beds weren’t a hit with vacationers, its eating places and nightclub have been common with native residents.

Monte Palace atrium as it appeared in the 1980sMonte Palace atrium because it appeared in the 1980s (courtesy Jorge Loures)


Grand (Re-) Closures

Results of 1990 meeting see Monte Palace closed by ESTAOutcomes of 1990 assembly see Monte Palace closed by ESTA

By late 1990 the two lodges have been once more scuffling with low occupancy and excessive prices.  By itself the Monte Palace was dropping 16,000 escudos per 30 days.  In November of 1990 ESTA adopted by way of with Dr. Beja’s suggestion and introduced it will shut the struggling lodge.

The Monte Palace formally closed on November 26th, 1990.  For all the money and time invested since 1977, the lodge had been open for simply nineteen months.

Sister lodge Bahia Palace survived for simply two extra years earlier than being closed by ESTA in 1992 after it confronted comparable visitors points.

Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores atrium before and after photoMonte Palace atrium, then and now

The Monte Palace by no means re-opened.  For the subsequent twenty years the lodge was occupied by a lone safety guard accompanied by guard canine.  When the funding for safety ran dry in 2010, the guard moved out and the lodge was shortly conquered by vandals.

In the mid-1990s, Madeiran funding firm Grupo SA bought the two lodges and promised to re-open them; nevertheless solely the Bahia Palace was re-opened. It misplaced some facilities, was decreased a star, and was re-opened as a four-star lodge.

Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores atrium before and after photoMonte Palace atrium, then and now

In 2005 the SIRAM Group – one other funding firm from Madeira – bought the Monte Palace Lodge.  Beneath SIRAM there was no redevelopment, and it was beneath the stewardship of SIRAM that funds used to pay the safety guard disappeared in 2010.

Between 2012 and 2013 vandals destroyed lots of the Monte Palace’s home windows, and the damaged glass started to pose a hazard to vacationer security.  As a result of the Vista do Rei remained a well-liked cease for guests, authorities have been pressured to take motion and take away all remaining glass.

This appeared to additional encourage vacationers to enter, with many taking souvenirs (akin to this customer who walked off with a binder of unpaid Monte Palace payments. Notice: please don’t do that – take nothing however photographs, depart nothing however footprints.)

Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores atrium elevator bay before and after photoMonte Palace atrium elevator, then and now

(photographs courtesy Jorge Loures / JmikeLrelvaL)


Purgatory of Financial institution Possession

Paperwork left behind at the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel in Sao Miguel, AzoresPaperwork left behind at the Monte Palace (supply)

In 2012 the Portuguese banking system was de-capitalized.  Actual property funding teams who relied on that stream of liquidity have been pressured into chapter 11, which despatched properties and different non-financial belongings again to the banks.

From 2012 till 2015 this was a catastrophe for the banks, who have been pressured to hold billions of dollars of illiquid, non-performing debt on their stability sheets.

An unlucky participant in all this was the Monte Palace, which in March of 2012 was amongst the SIRAM Group belongings bought to Banif to cowl money owed approaching two million dollars.

Somewhat greater than a yr later, in Might and July of 2013, the Monte Palace was confirmed to nonetheless be owned by Banco Banif.  Banif provided no plans or timeline for the lodge.

Before and after of the bar in abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, AzoresThe bar in the Monte Palace, then and now

And Banif was a financial institution, not a lodge operator.  The lender had little curiosity in turning the lodge round.  In August of 2015 a promoting agent revealed the Monte Palace had been on the marketplace for greater than a month at an asking worth of €380,350.  Later that month a gaggle of residents petitioned the authorities to buy the lodge and convert it right into a public leisure space.

Binders, books, and other documents left behind at the abandoned Monte Palace, Sao Miguel, AzoresBinders, books, and different paperwork left at the Monte Palace (supply)

In September of 2015 the lodge was reportedly bought for €380,000 to a gaggle of Arab and Portuguese buyers.  A spokesperson for the funding group assured the constructing can be rehabilitated and re-opened as a lodge, however he declined to supply a date for its re-opening.  Finally the sale would fall by way of, and the Monte Palace remained with Banif.

By the finish of 2015 Banif Financial institution had collapsed for the second time in seven years.  Whereas the financial institution’s properties have been acquired by Santander Group, Monte Palace landed underneath management of Oitante S.A., the personal entity that acquired Banif’s non-financial belongings.

Oitante reportedly paid a 3rd of ebook worth for the belongings, which have been then re-sold for no matter the market would yield.  For the Monte Palace this meant one other re-listing – this time in April of 2016 and with an asking worth of €1.5 million.  As of December 2016, the lodge seems to nonetheless be on the market.

Dining room at the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel in Sao Miguel, Azores (then and now)Eating room at the Monte Palace Lodge in Sao Miguel, Azores (then and now)Dining room at the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel in Sao Miguel, Azores (then and now)Eating room at the deserted Monte Palace Lodge (then and now)

(pictures courtesy Jorge Loures)


Monte Palace: What Went Flawed

Monte Palace's view, most of the timeMonte Palace’s view, most of the time (courtesy maybeknot)

At first blush the concept to construct a five-star lodge at Vista do Rei with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and Sete Cidades sounds interesting, however as earlier guests have stated in assessment: Don’t be fooled by the sunny pictures utilized by the tourism authority.

The volcanic rim is just too far faraway from the metropolis middle, and about that climate: Vista do Rei sees greater than 200 days of rain per yr, whereas being ensconced in clouds for the majority of the Gregorian calendar.

Excessive winds make it a bit chilly too, so swimsuits are out and it’s not a spot friends are going to need to spend any significant period of time in the outside loungers.  Locals appear to know this, and the joke goes that plans for the Monte Palace have been conceived by a vacationer who visited on a sunny day.

Before & after of a conference room at the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel in Sao Miguel, AzoresA convention room at the Monte Palace, then and now

One other concern was the state of the Azorean tourism business, which at the time was nonetheless in its infancy.  And regardless of being a five-star lodge, there was little for visitors of the Monte Palace to do past having fun with the view, consuming at the eating places, and visiting the nightclub.

Absent have been seashore entry, sunbathing, tennis courts, a golf course, or spa. There was no arcade, health club, or movie show.

What the Monte did have, was expansive trails and beautiful views, which made it a horny cease for hikers and photographers.

A guest room in the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores, then and nowA visitor room in the Monte Palace Lodge, then and nowA guest room in the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores, then and nowA visitor room in the Monte Palace Lodge, then and now

Its isolation was a big hurdle.  The Monte Palace was fifteen-plus minutes up an extended, winding street from Ponta Delgada.  There have been no close by companies, groceries, or purchasing.  This in flip pressured friends to rent automobiles throughout their keep.

There have been rumors the builders needed to incorporate a on line casino to draw a brand new class of vacationer, nevertheless the authorities reportedly did not authorize a allow.

A guest bathroom in the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, Sao Miguel, Azores, then and nowA visitor toilet in the Monte Palace, Sao Miguel, then and now

(photographs courtesy Jorge Loures)


Monte Palace Lodge At the moment

Monte Palace interior arches 2013Monte Palace inside arches, circa 2013 (courtesy Markus Kolletzky)

Till 2010 a safety guard resided in the lodge, and with pretty restricted means this individual valiantly fought to sluggish its degradation.  However the safety guard was employed to safe, not repair.  His price range and coaching didn’t permit for vital repairs, so when main issues like the elevators and roof failed, they weren’t fastened.

For 20 years moisture was the lodge’s important adversary. After 2010, trespassers and vandals joined the fray and have hastened its destruction.  Even earlier than then, there was proof the lodge was dropping its conflict with moisture.  One group of approved guests reported seeing peeling wallpaper and feeling squishy carpets underfoot.  The guard was ill-equipped for the battle; his fan was pointed at a small spot on the flooring, however the roof was leaking water quicker than the fan was drying the carpet.

Round the spiral staircase, carpet was starting to point out indicators of being ripped up.  In 2010 home windows have been intact, however that they had accrued a movie of 20 years’ value of filth.

Today the Monte Palace Hotel is a concrete shellImmediately the Monte Palace Lodge is a concrete shell (courtesy Markus Kolletzky)

When the SIRAM Group confronted monetary troubles in 2010, funds to the guard for the lodge ceased.  As soon as the safety guard departed, the lodge was relieved of its furnishings, desk lamps, mirrors, and rugs.   Even the elevators and lighting have been plucked from the construction, which was ultimately stripped right down to its concrete skeleton.

As a security measure to guard guests from damaged glass, all home windows have been eliminated in 2012, which sadly solely exacerbated the looting.  After the thieves got here the vandals, who took turns inscribing their necessary messages over lodge partitions.

This photo shows the deterioration of an abandoned Monte Palace, Sao Miguel, Azores, corridor between 2009 (L) and 2013 (R)This earlier than & after exhibits the deterioration of a Monte Palace hall between 2009 (L, courtesy theo nuyts) and 2013 (R, supply)

As we speak the once-great lodge is a shell of its former self.  There are not any paperwork, doorways, or furnishings left.  The ground is roofed in mud and particles.  Vegetation is making its means inside, and mould has conquered partitions not already defeated by graffiti.

In the summer of 2016 two artists visited the Monte Palace and repainted the atrium's floorIn the summer time of 2016 two artists visited the Monte Palace and repainted the atrium’s flooring (courtesy Sara Pinheiro)

In July of 2016 Catalan artist Javier de Riba visited the Monte Palace and spent every week portray the flooring of the lodge’s atrium for the island’s Stroll & Speak Artwork Pageant.  Additionally spectacular was the cleanup: the staff spent two days simply to wash the flooring of particles.

The 2016 version of the pageant targeted on “issues arising from architecture and performativity in the public space.”

[ watch video from the project ]

“It fascinated me the contrast of that colorful thing that comes from the floor with the abandoned gray places,” de Riba stated.  “It’s a thin coat of paint, which I do.  A simple skin change that also changes the perception we have of space.  The big challenge initially was to clean a ruined stone floor.”  Wanting up towards the leaking roof, he provides “then the fight was to keep it dry.”

In the summer of 2016 two artists visited the Monte Palace and repainted the atrium's floorIn the summer time of 2016 two artists visited the Monte Palace and repainted the atrium’s flooring (courtesy Sara Pinheiro)

What about the sister lodge, the Bahia Palace?  It’s nonetheless open.  Portugal’s Pestana Group bought the lodge in September of 2014.  As of the date of this text, a go to to HotelBahiaPalace.com redirects to a brand new lodge web page beneath the Pestana Group father or mother web site.

As of December 2016, the Monte Palace continues to be listed on the market (and in addition right here) for simply shy of €1.5 million.


Because of Jorge Loures / JmikeLrelvaL for the unique photographs


360-degree panoramic view of Monte Palace Lodge: