It is nearly a century since the Midland Grand hotel, the Victorian palace attached to St Pancras station, last flourished, and 76 years since it was a hotel at all. It is almost a half-century since the struggle began to rescue it from oblivion, 26 years since it had any full-time use and five since construction started to return it to its original purpose as a luxury hotel, now with some apartments attached. On 14 March the first guests will enter the St Pancras Renaissance hotel, as it is now called, where the rooms will cost from £250 a night in a modern extension, up to the many-roomed Royal Suite for £10,000. It will have cost £200m of construction to get this far.
Meanwhile, it has stood, like the weird house of a crazy old lady in some village, unmissable, spooky and inaccessible. The life of the city swirls around it and under it, in and out of some of the busiest train and underground stations in Europe. It has been possible to see inside on the occasional tour, and its interiors have been shown worldwide to unknowing millions, as locations for Harry Potter, 102 Dalmatians, Batman, Richard III and other films requiring lavish gothic creepiness. Now, its restoration nearly complete, it feels like both a lost world and something familiar, that has always been part of the furniture of London,
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