What are your best memories of hotel?
THINK of landmark buildings in the centre of Swansea and the chances are that The Dragon Hotel will come to mind.
It was the hotel by that big roundabout on the Kingsway Circle until that traffic arrangement and its accompanying subway were dispensed with five years ago in favour of a new, largely one-way system.
The Dragon remained, though, and has now clocked up a half century of service to the city, albeit in a few different forms.
Fifty years ago one of the then town's most iconic buildings was heralded as "Belonging to the people of Swansea" by the chairman of the company behind the Dragon as he threw open its doors.
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His words still ring true for many people who hold memories of their own happy events at the hotel since that grand opening in 1961.
Now it is launching Dragon Memories, which will look back at the role that the hotel has played in the lives of the people of Swansea.
Reflecting an overwhelming fondness from the public over the last 50 years, the Dragon has consistently received pictures, letters and emails from guests and former staff recalling their times there, tales of fun and special memories of their own weddings, anniversaries and parties.
Organisers of the Dragon Memories Exhibition to take place there in the spring are calling for people to send in their memories via photographs and written tales.
Recognised by many as a much-loved staple of the evolving landscape of The Kingsway, it was one of the first major developments to be created post-war in the centre, and was heralded as the jewel in the crown as over £500,000 was invested to build it.
At the Dragon's opening ceremony on May 12, 1961, Sir Geoffrey Crowther, chairman of Trust House Limited, the company behind the building of the post-war landmark, said: "From Monday on, this house will belong, in a sense, to the people of Swansea. We hope you will use it and we hope this will become in its truest sense a house for the public of Swansea."
The hotel is still in possession of the original iconic dragon that was exhibited above the foyer entrance and also boasts several loyal members of staff who have worked there since shortly after it opened.
General manager Tim Priestland said: "Listening to our guests' stories of the memories that they have of the hotel, and receiving their letters and pictures is a real highlight and talking point. And it has become extremely evident that the hotel has a special place in many people's hearts — as it was intended.
"We are very proud and excited to be reaching our 50th birthday and it would be a superb time to gather together memories and fondness of the hotel in a public exhibition later on this year. We would ask for the people of Swansea to dig deep in their boxes of photos and to recall the memorable times that they have had in 'the house for the public of Swansea'."
When it opened in May, 1961, rooms at the Dragon cost £2.25 a night.
Rates have not been the only thing to change over the years. The name itself went missing for a while.
It closed in 1989 and reopened in 1991, after a £6 million refurbishment, as the Forte Posthouse. But the lack of a Welsh identity was condemned by the Wales Tourist Board, amongst others.
In January 2002, after a £1 million investment, the hotel had another re-brand, this time as Swansea Holiday Inn. But four years later normal service was resumed when it returned to its original name following a £3 million deal concluded by a consortium of local businessmen. Classical singer Katherine Jenkins was on hand to cut the ribbon and give a couple of numbers at the prestigious opening.
And earlier this month the Dragon kicked off its 50th birthday celebrations with a happy birthday message to itself, using the lights from some of its 106 bedrooms to display the magic figure to passers-by.
All photographs and memories will be returned to their owners after the exhibition, so contributors are asked to include their name and postal address on all items sent in. They should be sent to Dragon Memories at The Dragon Hotel, The Kingsway, Swansea, SA1 5LS.