Built in 1927 for M. Bainier during French colonial rule in Vietnam, the building started out as a two story auto dealership/garage complex called Bainier Auto Hall. The building showcased Citroen and other European cars. From 1959 to 1975, Mr. and Mrs.Ung Thi renovated the building into a 100 room Rex Complex hotel with three cinemas, a cafeteria, a dance hall and a library.
The very first guests in the Rex Hotel in December 1961, while it was still in its final construction phase, were the 400 U.S.Army soldiers, 200 each of the 57th Transportation Company from Fort Lewis, Tacoma, Wa. and of the 8th Transportation Company from Fort Bragg, N.C.They were the first company strength units to arrive in Saigon, each with 20 H-21 twin rotor “Shawnee” helicopters, on the USNS ‘CORE” on December 11, 1961. They were billeted at the Rex for a week or so while their tents were being set up, at Tan Son Nhut, Saigon for the 57th and in Qui Nhon for the 8th. The Thanksgiving dinner, a few weeks after the actual holiday, was cooked in the field kitchens of the men on the roof top of the Rex.
It was made famous and popular by American troops during the Vietnam War when its conference room hosted a daily press conference, by the MACV, derisively named The Five O’Clock Follies by cynical journalists who found the optimism of leading US military officers to be misguided. Its rooftop bar was a well known hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents.