The Hotel Metropole in Matadi was built between 1925 and 1930. It seems to have officially opened in 1930. It is a gothic revival styled building and apparently designed by architect Ernest Callebout (Wikipedia).
Regarding the architect, in the flemish version of Wikipedia it says:
“Ernest was a son of the sculptor Pieter Callebout. From 1902 to 1905 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bruges, under the direction of Edmond Van Hove, Gustaaf Pickery and Oscar De Breuck.
During the First World War he lived in England and married Mary-Lucy Campbell-Wilson. The couple came to live in Bruges after 1918. Callebout established himself as an architect and carried out many designs, including in the Belgian Congo.
Between 1908 and 1921 he was also active as a sculptor, etcher and draftsman. The sculpture mainly consisted of heads. He made, among other things, the bronze memorial plaque with medallion of Julius Sabbe, attached to his home, Potterierei 34. His etchings were awarded in Florence and in 1920 the Uffizi Museum bought an etching from him.
Callebout was one of the members of the artistic club De Mafia. He was also an active member of the La Flandre Masonic Lodge. He was one of the initiators of the foundation in 1930 of the mixed lodge Aurore – Dawn. In 1937 he was one of the seven brothers (six of whom were members of De Mafia) who broke away from La Flandre and founded a Dutch-speaking workshop under the name Simon Stevin.
His son, Peter Callebout (1916-1970), was also a noted architect.”
The old Hotel Metropole
From the Africa Museum website:
“This townscape of Matadi from the early 1930s, depicts several colonial bungalows in the forefront with -in the background- the newly completed Hôtel Métropôle, the first high-rise building in the Belgian colony. It was realised according to the plans of architect Ernest Callebout and offered comfort along American standards of the time. Travel guides of the 1950s described the hotel, which was also a major meeting place for the local white community at the time, as a ‘Florentine palazzo’.” Africa Museum
It had 67 rooms, 5 floors, 3 elevators, 2 sets of stairs (a large one and a spiral one in the central tower). The top floor had a restaurant and casino.
Closure of the hotel in 2012
According to Radio Okapi (2005):
“It is the first major hotel of its kind in the country. Aged 77, the Hôtel Métropole is now in difficulty operating, failing to recover its debts from its largest debtor, the governorate of the province of Bas Congo, reports radiookapi.net.
It owes this hotel a whopping 700,000 US dollars. An invoice due, among other things, to the accommodation vouchers issued for the benefit of various delegations of officials who came mostly from Kinshasa. According to officials of the establishment, justice has been seized of this file, but the governorate of Bas Congo refuses to pay this debt. And faced with the difficulty of functioning, they threatened to close the doors of the Hôtel Métropole from the beginning of October 2005.
The case of this hotel is not the only one in the port city, it is observed. Other hotel businesses in Matadi are facing the same problem. Since 1998 and in the name of the provincial authority, they have taken charge of army officers, agents of the security services and others from the public administration. But to date, the governorate has not paid these bills.
Some public companies and some political parties whose leaders multiply missions in this city are also on the list of insolvent hoteliers in Matadi.”
It eventually closed in January 2012 having 500 000 USD in areas to its staff and other suppliers (water, electricity, etc…) after supposedly being looted for its electronics and bedding by the tenants at the time (government officials, soldiers, etc…).
Pictures of the hotel today (January 2023)
Today, the hotel is not in use and, contrary to rumours, it is not for sale (Source: Owners of the hotel, the Njoli family who contacted me after reading this post). The Njoli family plan to renovate and reopen it.
According to the inheritors, their father Mr N’Joli Balanga Victor, minister of tourism at the time, was the owner of this hotel since 1975. He had acquired it from the Sabena group. After he passed away in 2018, the family inherited the property.
According to rumors, a well connected business woman was going to buy it but cancelled the deal at the last minute due to political instability.
To visit the hotel ask for Dany Mateka at the entrance of the building and/or send me an email. We will put you in touch with the Managing Partner of the Company.
Today, Dany welcomes visitors and assists the manager with the retail shops on the outside. His father, George Kingengo, was the technical director before him.
See the pictures below of our visit.
Note: Modifications in January 2023 after some errors were noted by the owning family. Many thanks to them for reaching out!
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