The Metropole Hotel was an Art Deco style four storey building with clean lines, rectangular forms, and no decoration on the facades at the junction of the Eglinton Street and Portstewart Road. The main entrance to the hotel was from Eglinton Street and was protected from inclement weather by a fine glazed canopy extending out to the pavement. It was at the end of a row of large houses known as Salisbury Terrace.
Dating from the early years of the 20th century it was owned by Harper C. Davison J.P. a resident of Fortwilliam Park in Belfast and a member of Portrush Urban District Council. In 1908 a Mr A. Holden is named as the manager but in later newspaper reports concerning legal cases taken against the hotel Mr Holden is sometimes referred to as having leased the hotel from Mr Davison.
In 1914 an application to transfer the Spirit Licence would indicate that Mr J. W. Mason was operating the hotel. An advertisement for the Metropole Hotel in 1921 names Mr & Mrs J. W. Mason as proprietors. Their period of ownership was not to last much longer as the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph reports on Saturday 6th May 1922 that the Presbyterian Health Insurance Society has purchased the hotel as a convalescent home for its insured members. At the meeting where this purchase was approved it was stated that “In the commodious and richly furnished Hotel Metropole the society would have a hydro second to none in the United Kingdom …”.
The hotel changed hands again in 1930 having been purchased by the Stewart Brothers who also owned a large Motor Garage in Dunluce Street (now Dunluce Avenue) and operated a fleet of tour buses. The Manageress was Mrs Bryce Stewart, wife of one of the brothers. The hotel had been completely overhauled and redecorated and was advertised as having electric lighting, central heating and a Billiards Room. During the November 1931 season the proprietors are reported as having had a very satisfactory season with an increase “in English, Scotch and Dublin visitors.”
The Metropole Hotel was a popular venue for Wedding Receptions, marriages by special licence and other functions such a visiting sports teams and annual dinners and meetings of local societies and organisations. The now world famous North West 200 Motor Cycle Road Race had passed the hotel annually since 1929 but in 1938 the main Portrush to Coleraine road was to be closed between Ballysally Crossroads and the Metropole Hotel for an event called the “Portrush Flying Kilometre”. This was a time trial competition for both motor cars and motorcycles and would run from 1 pm to 6 pm on Saturday 3rd September 1938.
The Second World War started in 1939 and many people organizing events to raise funds for various war related purposes. The Stewart family played their part by, amongst others, holding a bridge and whist drive in May 1940 in aid of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society and, in September that year, holding a series of entertainments including a dance and another bridge and whist drive in aid of the Spitfire Fund.
On Tuesday 1 July 1941 a surprising notice appeared in the Belfast News-Letter stating that:
“The Metropole Hotel Portrush – Will not be open to visitors from 1st July until further notice”.
Like many large buildings in Portrush and around the province the Metropole Hotel had been requisitioned by the Government for use by the Ulster Savings branch of the Ministry of Finance. Whilst taking away one of the premier hotels in Portrush it had the benefit of providing many clerical and secretarial jobs to people in Portrush. Not only did the Ulster Savings Branch remain for the duration of the war; they stayed on until June 1964 when a new Crown Buildings opened in Coleraine and they moved to it.
The hotel never re-opened – as such, having been purchased, for £10,500, by the County Londonderry Welfare Committee, who intended to use it as a convalescent and holiday home for elderly people. Conversion work was carried out in 1968 and the home opened in due course. The home provided a valuable service for many years but was forced to close in the 1980’s because it was unable to meet ever more demanding fire and health & safety regulations. The building was used for several years as offices and outpatient clinics for the local health services until it was sold again and converted into a Holiday Hostel, The Metropole Lodge, offering low cost accommodation.
In December 2009 a fire destroyed the top floor of the building and it had to be closed. In March 2012 the remains of the building were demolished and the site cleared. Plans for redevelopment were made but to date nothing has been built on the site.