An Illustrious History
Its position in the heart of the city has allowed its walls to bear witness to many events that have shaped the nation's past.
In 2015 Meikles Hotel will turn 100-years-old. It was the brainchild of Thomas Meikles who envisioned a commitment to the "highest possible standard of service and product" - something that has become enshrined in the Meikles culture. It has always been an iconic landmark of capital city Harare, one which has constantly and gracefully evolved through the colonial era of Rhodesia into modern- day Zimbabwe. Its position in the heart of the city has allowed its walls to bear witness to many events that have shaped the nation's past.
A rich heritage symbolizes Meikles Hotel
The hotel was built overlooking Cecil Square, the city’s epi-centre and where the first British settlers raised the Union Jack. In 1980 as a new African nation was born the Zimbabwe flag replaced this and the beautiful park and gardens that the hotel overlooks became known as Africa Unity Square.
This special location, along with the unwavering style of the establishment over almost a century, has resulted in it being the neutral territory of choice for some of the most important political meetings in the country’s history. The first parliament of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia met here in 1924. Since then leading African nationalists, Royalty, presidents and distinguished guests and celebrities from various nations around the world have met and stayed here.
Today the hotel is somewhat different from its original design. Although the traditional high ceilings of the colonial era buildings are no longer a feature, the unwavering ethos of Meikles’ committed service excellence has endured. There is a famous saying (“Meet You at Meikles”) that was adopted by locals and borne out of their desire to be a part of a place that is synonymous with distinction in Zimbabwe.
Structurally it is interesting that during the planning phase of the North Wing’s complete remodelling and refurbishment in September 2013 special attention was given to the findings of international research that investigated evolving trends, habits and expectations of typical five-star hotel clientele. Studies by both the Japanese and British, for example, showed that people were getting taller with succeeding generations. Meikles paid critical attention to these details and created larger rooms, furniture, beds, baths and showers.
Two beloved Lions, symbolic of strength and stability, now flank a cupola on the restructured North Wing of the hotel. They were intricately sculpted from stone in 1912 in Italy by Euletto Jotto and originally stood above the west front of the old hotel building, which was opened in 1915 and later demolished in 1972. Legend has it that whenever a virgin walks past the lions let out a roar. Two replica pairs of the lions now also occupy the main portico that faces east and the western entrance to the foyer facing the city.
Meikles Hotel: Historical Timeline
1869 - The Meikle family arrived in Africa from Strathaven, Lanarkshire in Scotland
1883 - At the age of 21 Tom Meikle, who was emerging as the dominant member of the family, moved to Barberton, South Africa to found a new transport service for the mines in the area. He achieved great success and was ably supported by his brothers Stewart and Jack.
1892 - The Meikle brothers expanded their transport business into Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
1913 - Thomas Meikle decided to pursue his vision (originally conceived with brother Stewart before he died) of constructing a hotel on the influential site of Cecil Square (now Africa Unity Square) in the heart of the capital city. He maintained his permanent home in Bulawayo but kept an apartment at the hotel for his travels to the capital.
1915 - Meikles Hotel was officially opened on November 15.
1916 - An annex was added to the hotel and the total number of rooms reached 160
1926 - A steam laundry was added and was the first such facility in the city
1933 - The Thomas Meikle Trust and Investment Company was created
1934 - Dry cleaning equipment was added to the laundry.
1939 - Thomas Meikle died on 8 February and the trust was undertaken by his widow, Winifred (nee Dalzell) who became Chairman, and their four daughters and husbands who became board members.
1947 - In response to city plans to designate all property in the hotel area as a non-business area the Board completed plans for the rebuilding of the hotel, but failed to win a permit from the city planning authority.
1950 - Reginald Moxon (husband of Thomas Meikle’s eldest daughter Marjorie) became Vice Chairman of the Thomas Meikle Trust bringing an assurance of continued firm direction at a time when most of the founder’s early lieutenants were starting to retire.
1953 - Refurbishments were made to the front entrance, hotel foyer and dining room,
1956 - The construction of a new East Wing, over the old hotel’s beautiful garden, as an addition to the existing hotel was begun and completed two years later in 1958 just in time to accommodate a French rugby team on a visit to the country. The new wing had seven stories with 120 bedrooms.
1967 - The Meikles Hotel Football Club was formed and was indicative of the continuing high morale of the staff amidst political uncertainty in the country
1967 - In October a civic banquet was held at the hotel to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the City of Salisbury (now Harare). 800 guests were in attendance.
1969 - It was announced that the Thomas Meikle Trust was to go ahead with plans to construct a new hotel in line with the international standards accorded to the world’s leading hotels.
1974 - The original hotel and adjoining buildings were demolished between March and September to make way for a modern and bigger hotel.
1974 - Construction of the new hotel began in September.
1976 - The new look Meikles Hotel was opened in November.
1980 - The 12-storey Meikles Tower Block was opened.
1991 - Five additional floors were added to the North Wing, containing luxury suites, including the current Club Rooms along with 10 additional banqueting rooms.
1995 - The Leading Hotels of the World invited Meikles to join its prestigious group, the first hotel in Zimbabwe to be given such notable international acclaim.
1997 - The South Wing, which comprises 187 rooms, was refurbished.
1998 - Meikles Hotel was voted “Best Hotel in Africa” by the International Executive Travel Awards.
1998 - The hotel became the first in Africa to achieve ISO 9002 status.
2011 - Meikles embarks on ambitious planning for a major refurbishment to take it into the modern era without sacrificing its elegant charm or rich pedigree.
2012 - Work commences on a major upgrade to restore Meikles to its world-class five-star stature in preparation for the hotel’s Centenary celebrations throughout 2015.
2013 - (September). The major US$9 million revitalisation of the entire North Wing and several public areas propels Meikles to modern new glory while retaining its traditional style, luxury and glamour.
2013 - Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents (AZTA) votes Meikles as “Best City Hotel” for 20th time. The first AZTA award for Meikles was in 1992 and there has never been another winner in this category (there were no awards in 2004 and 2005).