The increasing number of travellers to the Gornergrat meant that infrastructure had to be built to cater for guests. However, between 1880 and 1910 there were many controversial debates as to where facilities should be located.
Citizens’ Council keeps order
Even before the construction of the Gornergrat Railway, the popularity of the Gornergrat region meant that more and more providers were trying to make a profit by selling small gifts and providing refreshments for visitors. In 1876, the Zermatt Citizens’ Council decided to sell the right of use exclusively to “loyal” citizens, thus limiting who was allowed to sell their products on the Gornergrat.
In 1886, one of these loyal citizens, Stephan Biner, built a small cabin on the Gornergrat, where tourists could buy small refreshments and souvenirs.
Stephan Biner named the small hut “Gifthittji”, after the English word gift. In 1880, almost 75% of visitors came from Great Britain, America and Canada. His gift cabin sold small souvenirs and presents. In addition, he positioned the Gifthittji at the end of the route of the mule drivers and sedan carriers to ensure a sufficient number of customers.
Moderate success and criticism
But none of this helped. Biner built the simple wooden stall on the most beautiful point of the Gornergrat – today’s viewing platform. This led to a lot of complaints. He was also unable to satisfy the guests’ food and drink demands. In the end, the hut fell victim to the frequent complaints.
First hostel on the Gornergrat
In the 1890s, the civic community had the simple cabin demolished. In 1895 – three years before the opening of the Gornergrat Railway – Joseph Biner and Joseph Perren built a small hostel, the Hotel Belvédère, in its place on behalf of the civic community. Once again, the visitors criticised the location on the highest point of the Gornergrat. After all, the hotel was also at the most beautiful vantage point with the best panoramic view of the glacier world and the four-thousand-metre peaks.
Lowering of the hotel
Following the decision of the Gornergrat Railway to extend the railway to the current station, the Citizens’ Council decided to build a new hotel in a less controversial location. It was opened in 1907.