?THE CHIPS OF THE HAVANA HILTON HOTEL CASINO?

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Gallery Image


The Habana Hilton Hotel, majestic building inaugurated in the last months of the republican period, with luxury and elegance that represented a landmark at the moment, is a good example to illustrate the functioning of the typical model of tourism operation combined with luxury casinos in a city that was meant to be the gambling capital in Latin America.

Built in record time with Cuban capital, to be then leased to the Hilton network, it had from its initial conception a magnificent room projected to house a luxury casino, the operation of which was granted to specialists in the field coming from Nevada. Even though it operated for a short period of time due to the political changes occurred at the end of that year, this establishment issued various chips very much sought by collectors due to their beautiful design, their mentioning the important hotel network, and their belonging to a city like Havana, loaded with legends related to the presence and participation of the American mafia in the occurrences of its life.

We will see in this page a brief summary on the history of this casino and the hotel that housed it, together with a gallery showing the collection made up by what we think are all the chips it issued, as well as several images related to the subjects such as advertisements, postcards, brochures, etc.


The hotel and its building process

The Habana Hilton hotel, designed by “Welton Beckett & Associates” and built by the Cuban architect firm “Arroyo y Menéndez”, located on the central and privileged corner of L and 23, in the so-called Ramp of Vedado, heart of Havana’s new commercial area, was by the time it was finished the biggest and most important in Cuba, and one of the four world’s biggest, not counting the United States and Canada. With 31 stories and 630 rooms, it was property of the “Caja de Retiro y Asistencia Social de los Trabajadores Gastronómicos” (Pension and Welfare Fund of Gastronomy Workers) that financed it with its own funds and loans from national bancs. It was leased for 20 years for two thirds of its gross profit to the American company “Hilton Hotels International”, a subsidiary of “Hilton Hotels Corporation”, that ran 33 hotels in several countries worldwide with a capital of 196 million dollars. With this concession to such important corporation ran by Conrad Hilton Hilton, ex husband of the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and ex father-in-law of Elizabeth Taylor, owner of the Waldorf Astoria, the Stevens, the New York Plaza, the Statler network, the Castellana in Madrid, and many others, the establishment had secured a prosperous future. The general manager was José A. Menéndez, a Cuban who became naturalized in the United States, an executive in the corporation married to Conrad Hilton’s daughter.

The hotel was informally inaugurated on March 19th 1958 with the presence of several important figures, among which Hollywood celebrities like Esther Willians, Ann Miller. Fur such occasion, the Conrad Hilton himself visited the country, and he was received by the President at the Presidential Palace. The First Lady, Martha Fernández de Batista, was an outstanding figure in the official inauguration that was celebrated three days later.

The Casino and its chips

The Casino, located in a luxurious room on the first floor designed for such purpose, was operated by brothers Roberto and Mario Mendoza in association with the Americans from Nevada Clifford Jones and Kenneth Jonson, who obtained the lease, granted on January 1958, for a million dollars a year.

However, despite the establishment was very well organized and began to operate with a great fanfare and large profits, this only lasted for a few months. On December 31st that year the existing regime collapsed and a new stage began. That day, the hotels respectability and location spared its casino from being destroyed like others, and the facility remained intact.

During the first few months of the revolutionary government, despite the fact that gambling was soon banned, due to pressure put on by gastronomy workers this was one of the casinos allowed to reopen. However, the swift drop of tourism, internal problems of organization and disagreements among the different governmental bodies in charge of its operations lead to it functioning for a very short period making more loss than profits. Already by the end of 1961, it was closed down and its facilities dismantled, meeting the same fate as all centres of its kind. In our image gallery, we include a document belonging to Mr. Esteban Ayala, the casino manager in the revolutionary period that reads about these occurrences.

As to its chips, the quality of the series issued was proof of the establishment’s seriousness and distinction. Among these, the most extensive and important was made in the United States by the “Burt Company”, with values of 1, 5, 25, and 100 pesos in addition to chips with no value meant for the roulette tables, identified with numbers from 1 to 6 and the five traditional colours: blue, red, yellow, green, and cream. There’s also knowledge of another set of plastic chips type 8, of national manufacture, that had various values even up to 1000 pesos. These chips, pretty rear, show the R letter in its centre that, according to versions, indicated their use in roulette payments. Given the centre’s short existence, these chips are generally obtained in a very good state of preservation.


Details of the sample

The way in which we have organized the exhibition of the images that make up this page’s gallery is the following:

First, there are the 46 chips that constitute our collection of this casino.

These are followed by several images related to the history of the hotel and the casino that appeared in various publications of the time, advertising brochures, postcards, etc. In this last group, profiting from the fact that a magnificent group of photos showing the different construction stages of the hotel fell in our hands, we will include 50 unpublished shots showing from the original grounds where it was built up to the moments preceding its inauguration. There are very interesting aspects to be found, such as the original drafts, the investors’ previous meetings, views of its foundations, of the impressive steel structures that shaped it, of its different stories and facilities as they appeared, and even a little covered visit of Conrad Hilton to the works before the inauguration. Even when these pictures are not directly related to the subject of the casino, we didn’t want to waste the opportunity of showing them due to their great documentary and historical value.

The list of these images is the following:

No. -- Description -- Color

A-01 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip value 1 Peso – Set habana hilton casino with logo -- Yellow / Black

A-02 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip value 1 Peso – Set habana hilton casino with logo  -- Blue / Gray

A-03 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip value 5 pesos – Set habana hilton casino with logo  -- Red / Blue

A-04 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip value 5 pesos – Set habana hilton casino with logo  -- Red / Yellow

A-05 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip value 25 pesos – Set habana hilton casino with logo  -- Red / Yellow

A-06 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip value 100 pesos – Set habana hilton casino with logo  -- Black / Gray

    

B-01 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 1  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Blue

B-02 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 2  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Blue

B-03 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 3  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Blue

B-04 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 4  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Blue

B-05 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 5  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Blue

B-06 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 6  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Blue

    

C-01 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 1  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Yellow

C-02 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 2  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Yellow

C-03 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 3  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Yellow

C-04 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 4  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Yellow

C-05 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 5  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Yellow

C-06 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 6  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Yellow

    

D-01 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 1  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Red

D-02 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 2  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Red

D-03 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 3  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Red

D-04 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 4  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Red

D-05 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 5  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Red

D-06 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 6  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Red

    

E-01 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 1  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Green

E-02 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 2  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Green

E-03 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 3  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Green

E-04 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 4  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Green

E-05 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 5  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Green

E-06 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 6  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Green

    

F-01 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 1  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Beige

F-02 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 2  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Beige

F-03 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 3  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Beige

F-04 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 4  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Beige

F-05 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 5  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Beige

F-06 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 6  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Beige

    

G-01 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 4  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Wine red

G-02 -- Obverse idem reverse – Chip without value, table 5  – Set habana hilton casino -  -- Brown

    

H-01 -- Obverse – Chip value ½ Peso – Set habana hilton with R at the center  -- Gray

H-01r -- Reverse – Chip value ½ Peso – Set habana hilton with R at the center  -- Gray

H-02 -- Obverse – Chip value 1 Peso – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Yellow

H-02r -- Reverse – Chip value 1 Peso – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Yellow

H-03 -- Obverse – Chip value 10 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Azul oscuro

H-03r -- Reverse – Chip value 10 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Dark blue

H-04 -- Obverse – Chip value 20 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- White

H-04r -- Reverse – Chip value 20 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- White

H-05 -- Obverse – Chip value 50 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Olive green

H-05r -- Reverse – Chip value 50 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Olive green

H-06 -- Obverse – Chip value 100 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Wine red

H-06r -- Reverse – Chip value 100 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Wine red

H-07 -- Obverse – Chip value 500 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Light green

H-07r -- Reverse – Chip value 500 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Light green

H-08 -- Obverse chip value 1000 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Light blue

H-08r -- Reverse chip value 1000 Pesos – Set habana hilton with R at the center -- Light blue

    

M-01 -- Page 1 of resolution about the casino dated July 18, 1960  

M-02 -- Page 2 of resolution about the casino dated July 18, 1960  

M-03 -- Article in the “Gente” magazine about the construction of the hotel  

M-04 -- Article in the “Bohemia” magazine about the casino.   

M-05 -- Photo in the newspaper “Avance” of January 8, 1959  

    

N-01 -- Front cover of a propaganda booklet published by the casino   

N-02 -- Page 1 of a propaganda booklet published by the casino   

N-03 -- Page 5 of a propaganda booklet published by the casino   

N-04 -- Back cover of a propaganda booklet published by the casino   

N-05 -- Image of the hotel from a propaganda  

N-06 -- Front cover of a propaganda folder  

N-07 -- Front cover of a propaganda folder  

N-08 -- Page of a fólder with an image of the lobby  

N-09 -- Page of a fólder with interesting information about the hotel  

    

P-01 -- Post card with the image and logo of the hotel  

P-02 -- Post card with the image of the hotel  

P-03 -- Post card with the image of the Caribe saloon  

    

R-01 -- Image of an ashtray of the hotel  

    

S-01 -- Photographic reproduction of a model of the hotel  

S-02 -- Reproduction  of another model with some differences  

    

T-01 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 1  

T-02 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 2  

T-03 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 3  

T-04 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 4  

T-05 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 5  

T-06 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 6  

T-07 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 7  

T-08 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 8  

T-09 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 9  

T-10 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 10  

T-11 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 11  

T-12 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 12  

T-13 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 13  

T-14 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 14  

T-15 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 15  

T-16 -- Visit of Conrad Hilton to the hotel in construction – Photo No. 16  

T-21 -- Visit of the U. S. ambassador Mr. Gardner to the hotel in construction  

T-22 -- Another photo of the previous visit  

T-26 -- View of the mural made by Portocarrero with a sight of the painter and other people   

T-27 -- View slightly similar to the previous one, but from another angle  

T-28 -- Same photo as the former but in vertical position  

    

U-01 -- Photo of the block where the hotel was built before the start of the construction  

    

V-01 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 1  

V-01a -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Detail of the previous photo  

V-02 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 2  

V-02a -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Detail of the previous photo  

V-03 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 3  

V-04 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 4  

V-05 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 5  

V-06 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 6  

V-07 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 7  

V-08 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 8  

V-09 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 9  

V-10 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 10  

V-11 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 11  

V-12 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 12  

V-13 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 13  

V-14 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 14  

V-15 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 15  

V-16 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 16  

V-17 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 17  

V-18 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 18  

V-19 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 19  

V-20 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 20  

V-21 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 21  

V-22 -- Time of construction of the hotel – Views of the work – Photo No. 22