My world grew too small. But the summits offered me the view to faraway places. The serenity prepared me for an intensive life. It kept my spirit free for new ideas. The goatherd became a king. The farmer’s son traveled the world. Instead of herding goats I now entertain the powerful. I reinvented hospitableness. But – I inherited all this in a mountain valley. This is where it drew me back to eternity. Because I’m Ceasar Ritz.
Niederwald, situated at 1251 metres above sea level, is one of the most untouched settlings full of character in the Goms. Because Niederwald is partly built in rows on a steep hill, the close building style results in a very effective staggering of the gables. As if the village square had been pushed to the edge of the dense village, it is surrounded by general purpose buildings on the one hand and some magnificent houses on the other. In the centre of the square there is the Caesar Ritz well, which was given to the village Niederwald by Monique Ritz - the daughter-in-law of Caesar Ritz and the last representative of the Ritz dynasty. But who thinks of a little Goms village named Niederwald when hearing the name hotel «Ritz»? Even so the famous Caesar Ritz, whose name can be found on noble hotels around the world, was born in Niederwald, which was inhabited by not many more than a hundred souls during his youth. Niederwald was a very small community, and has remained as such until today. The birth house of Caesar Ritz is still to be seen, which has remained inhabited to this day.
Caesar Ritz was born on the 23rd February 1850 in Niederwald in the Goms valley. He was the 13th and youngest child of Anton and Kreszentia Ritz-Heinen, a Goms mountain farmer's son like all the others, however he was a very special boy.
His mother thought she sensed a fine creative side to him even when he was very young - a time when nobody thought that this bright boy would once become the «King of hoteliers and hotelier of kings». As a fourteen year old he left his home village for the first time and went to a French speaking school in Sion.
When Caesar Ritz showed little commitment and gratefulness, his father sent him to Brig to the «Hotel Couronne et Poste» to do an apprenticeship as a waiter where he made first contact with the catering world and the patron disappointed him by saying: «You will never become a real hotelier» (Citation: Joseph Escher, former director of the hotel «Couronne et Poste» in Brig).
LEARNING AND TRAVELLING
«Stepping out into the world, with a winged spirit and a burning desire in the heart» (Citation: Raymond Wirthner). The smell of adventure in the busy town of Brig fascinated Caesar Ritz and lured him to a new world.
It was the attraction of the world exhibition in Paris in 1867 that drove him away. He found a place as waiter in the «Hôtel de la Fidélité», and gained a reputation as «César le rapide» but also raised heads by breaking lots of cutlery.
In many different hotels he worked his way up from assistant waiter to head waiter and even to manager. At the young age of 19 he seemed to have almost reached the height of his career: he got to know the habits of the noble society in the renowned «Voisin» and worked successfully. In the «Voisin» Caesar Ritz also learned the secrets of the art of cooking, important knowledge for a future hotelier.
Here he met the already then famous French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), who created the desert «Peach-Melba» amongst others. Auguste Escoffier accompanied Caesar Ritz in many important stages of his career, became an indispensable assistant and advisor and also a true friend.
Due to the Franco-German War Caesar Ritz returned to Niederwald in 1871. But he couldn't let go of Paris; one year later he had taken the job as waiter in the luxury hotel «Splendide» and was later promoted to head waiter.
During the world exhibition in 1873 in Vienna, he learned the way of mixing with sophisticated guests like monarchs, diplomats and politicians at the restaurant «Les Trois Frères Provençaux». Amongst all these prominent people there was one person who influenced him significantly: The Prince of Wales.
Caesar Ritz decided to work in seasonally run businesses. He soon acquired the position as restaurant-manager in the «Grand Hotel» in Nice.
In 1874 Caesar Ritz travelled to the summer residence «Hotel Rigi Kulm» on Lake Lucerne. There as well as later on at the hotel «National» in Lucerne he amazed guests and personnel with creative and extravagant ideas again and again: he made brass plant pots into proper radiators when the heating stopped working, for a wedding he let lighted fountains spring up from the lake side or prevented the «Grand National Hotel» from bankruptcy by motivating the staff to best performances.
After his work in many different restaurants and hotels Caesar Ritz was fetched back to Lucerne by the director of the hotel «National» with the following words: «I haven't forgotten you, you are my man. My beautiful house is in trouble. You will save it.» Caesar Ritz took the chance of a great future. Together with Auguste Escoffier Caesar Ritz turned the hotel into a work of art where the guests were always the centre of attention.
In the 1880s one of Caesar Ritz's encounters was to be of great importance for his future: he met Marie-Louise Beck, the daughter of a hotelier, who gave him love, dedication and flexibility from then on. She gave him two sons, Charles and René Ritz.
When he bought the two businesses «Restaurant de la Conversation» in Baden-Baden and the «Hôtel de Provence» in Cannes, he was one step closer to his dream of a business according to his ideas and imagination. «He gives his hotel all the refinements that a prince could find in his own residence.» (Citation: Louis Mettler). He had the right intuition and the necessary luck - soon enough guests like the German Kaiser or the Italian Prime Minister brought him success. He always came up with new fancy ideas which brought him acknowledgement and delighted guests.
Caesar Ritz enjoyed the growing fame and esteem; he knew how to benefit from criticism. When he attended the opening of the hotel «Savoy» in London he noticed lack of quality in many areas. Soon later the hotel business was in the red.
Ritz stepped in as last minute saviour and committed himself as manager of the «Savoy» while he still remained in charge of the businesses in Baden-Baden and Cannes.
Together with the fine team at the Savoy he continued to develop his philosophy. He attached great importance to furnishing, paid great attention to detail, attended to the guests personally and individually and organized elaborate festivities. Through this the hotel «Savoy» and Caesar Ritz became a prime example to which one looked up to in terms of taste and art of hoteliers.
The Metropolis Rome called for the hotel of all hotels in 1891. The «Grand Hotel» was to be designed according to all the ideas of the world famous hotelier Caesar Ritz. The management of the building of this hotel used up all the strength of Caesar Ritz and he was forced to sell his establishments with which he had enjoyed his first success as independent owner and hotelier: the «Hotel Minerva», the «Restaurant de la Conversation» as well as the «Hôtel de Provence«.
Caesar Ritz created new standards for hygiene and lighting: the first hotel in the world to have a bathroom in every room was the «Grand Hotel». Additionally he put to use his idea of indirect lighting. When his new lighting cut out exactly on the day of the opening, the hotelier was ready with thousands of candles, and once again turned the event into an unforgettable one. And once more the whole world was talking about Caesar Ritz's creativity and ingeniousness: «Caesar Ritz conquers Rome.» (Citation: Media, Rome).
The travelling hotelier and expert
Between 1890 and 1900 Caesar Ritz undoubtedly reached the peak of his successful career as hotel expert. As first president of the «Ritz Hotel Development Company» in London - their aim: the construction of luxurious hotels on the continent and the establishment of a world wide hotel chain - Caesar Ritz designed plans for such establishments in Cairo, Madrid and Johannesburg and fulfilled the plan of building his own hotel in Paris. As hotelier and expert he overlooked no less than eight hotels with more than 2000 beds. The first success of the «Ritz Hotel Development Company» was the acquisition of a property in London City for a second «Ritz» - the «Carlton».
HOTEL «RITZ» PARIS
For a long time Caesar Ritz fostered the dream of implementing his ideas and visions on his own prototype in Paris.
In a former prince's residence on the Place de Vendôme - which was already an art monument in itself- the «Hotel Ritz Paris» was built. It was opened in 1898 with a celebratory ceremony. «The guests came. And they came in gaggles.» (Citation: Louis Mettler).
What they called the «Ritz-Philosophy» became reality here: carefully planned, refined architecture, unlimited satisfaction for every guest, intuition for change in society and trends, luxury and creative cuisine.
«The hotel Ritz is a small house of which I am very proud to see my name attached to.» (Citation: Caesar Ritz).
ILLNESS AND DEATH
The star of the hotel business, who managed to run up to ten hotels at a time, had reached the zenith of his accomplishments. Shortly after that he began to suffer from breakdowns and depression. His illness forced him to pass over his business to his wife Marie-Louise Ritz. She carried on her husband's hotel empire as first hotel manageress in the world.
Caesar Ritz retreated to Central Switzerland for the 16 years to follow. A slight improvement of his health allowed him to travel to his beloved home village Niederwald from Lucerne with his wife once more.
Caesar Ritz had great plans for his home village Niederwald. Among other things it should be equipped with electric light, the alleys and paths should be cleaned.
He wanted to offer the young learners a possibility to have an education, so that they would be able to travel and experience the world later on in life. His ideas were put to life by his descendants in form of the "Caesar Ritz Stiftung Niederwald" later on.
On the 26th October 1918 the world lost a special person, when Caesar Ritz, the "King of hoteliers and hotelier of kings", died a lonely death at the age of 68. It was lonely because his wife Marie-Louise Ritz couldn't get to her husband on time, due to immigration difficulties.
Marie-Louise Ritz had to travel back to Paris with her husband's coffin just two months after the funeral of their son René Ritz. Caesar Ritz was buried in the cemetery "Père Lachaise" in Paris next to his son. Later his remains were returned to his home village Niederwald, where he had once departed from as a bright, curious boy.
On Saturday 14th January 1961 a special train from Paris stopped in the small mountain village of Niederwald. In a small coffin the deceased Marie-Louise Ritz, in a larger one the disinterred bodies of Caesar Ritz and his son René Ritz. The two coffins were laid out in the birth house of Caesar Ritz on the upper skirts of the little village. The village people waked loyally until Monday and prayed for there great son and his family. On Monday morning the two coffins were laid out on the village square next to the Ritz Memorial Well, coffins in pale oak wood with silver fittings and crucifix. On the same day a special train brought the mourners. At the head of the group was the first born son of the great Caesar Ritz, the 70 year old Charles Ritz, the owner of the Hotel «Ritz» in Paris. The whole village of Niederwald took part in the burial of «their» Caesar Ritz, who the older generation of the village all knew personally. The press of the world was also present at the burial in Niederwald. But also the recently deceased widow of the king of hotels was known to every child in Niederwald, because she had visited the birth house of the family Ritz for many years for a few days.
In the small mountain church built in 1666, the organ couldn't even be played during mass because the infrared heating had blown the electricity fuses. But the village church choir, which replaced the organ, was just as devoted.
The plain grave of Caesar Ritz can be visited in Niederwald, where he rests in peace alongside his wife Marie-Louise Ritz and his son René Ritz.
Caesar Ritz - what stays behind, lives on. It's not just the memory of a hotel genius, but also his visions and ideas which are still important in the catering and hotel business today.
Caesar Ritz knew in which ambiance a guest feels comfortable. He grasped the essence of the hotel business: It is always the hospitality which defines the wellbeing of the guest.
At this point it would surely be Ritz's wish to thank all the people who are dedicated to their guest's wellbeing.
CAESAR RITZ FOUNDATION NIEDERWALD
The Caesar Ritz Foundation Niederwald was founded in 1929 by Marie-Louise Ritz, wife of Caesar Ritz, in the spirit of Caesar Ritz. The foundation capital was contributed by the Ritz family. The charitable foundation financially supports young people from Niederwald and the mountain valley Goms in their education.