Originally constructed in 1896 by Mr Spear of Summer Hill, the Palais Royale started out as two separate cottages named Glen Eric and Hillside. In 1900, the Sisters of Charity took possession of Glen Eric to use as St Canice’s Convent, and in 1905 both cottages were joined to become Mount St Mary’s College – a day and boarding school for young ladies that offered languages, mathematics, needlework, art, callisthenics and music.
By 1912, after the college had moved to purpose-built premises, Glen Eric was operating as a guesthouse for the first time. Two years later, both cottages were again united and relaunched as the Hillside Guesthouse, which was run by a Miss Nichol, who retained the Hillside name when she moved on.
Some time between 1914 and 1924, Mr and Mrs A.E. Marsh took over ownership of the guesthouse, which they advertised as the Palais Royale. Applying her fine eye for elegance and sophistication, Mrs Marsh had a stylish new façade added to the building’s exterior, and it was painted cream for the first time.
When Mr and Mrs Marsh won a public lottery, they added a second story to the building and indulged their passion for ballroom dancing by creating the Grand Ballroom – a magnificent mirrored space inspired by 18th century French design and featuring leadlight windows and intricate cornice work.
The Palais Royale could accommodate 130 guests and was known as the place to stay in the Blue Mountains – a reputation that extended well into the 1950s. By the 1970s, demand for accommodation in the area went into decline, and the property was acquired by the Assembly of God and converted into the Commonwealth Bible College, with the famous ballroom utilised as a lecture theatre.
New owners purchased the Palais Royale in 1997 and carried out a multi-million-dollar restoration. Over 15 months the property was transformed into a private boutique hotel with 40 beautifully appointed guestrooms, three lounge areas, a heated spa and sauna, the reinvigorated Grand Ballroom and Gazelles Restaurant – a spacious dining room that seats 140 and still retains its original floorboards, fireplace, light fittings and colour scheme, with classic dining chairs recreated from old photographs to match those first installed by Mrs Marsh.
The current owners are committed to ensuring guests enjoy exceptional service and make the most of the Palais Royale’s charming environment, wonderful facilities and fabulous location. These days the Grand Ballroom serves as a glorious function space complete with a sprung dance floor and fabulous chandeliers, and guests enjoy a delicious hot buffet breakfast in Gazelles Restaurant, which was named after the fabulous animal figures appearing on the terrazzo tiles at the hotel’s entrance.