IN retribution to the owner of the Stuart Arms Hotel deciding to go into the grocery business, Northern Territory legend, Lycurgus ‘Ly’ Underdown, decided to open Alice Spring’s second pub in 1933.
Underdown had been operating a grocery store in Alice Springs since 1919 when the owner of the Stuart Arms, Joe Kilgariff also began selling groceries from his pub.
Uncle Ly as he was known, was born on his parents’ cattle station near Oodnadatta, South Australia in 1904, and became one of the outback’s great characters.
On the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Alice Springs Hotel in 1954, ‘Uncle Ly Underwood’, as he was known, recalled: “If it was okay for Joe Kilgariff to sell groceries it was okay for us to sell beer”. He talked about the history of his landmark pub in an interview with the Centralian Advocate on Friday, September 3, 1954:
HOTEL HISTORY RECALLED
ON Saturday evening the Hotel Alice Springs celebrated the 25th anniversary of the opening of a small grocery store by Mr. Ly Underdown, from which eventuated the massive hotel still in the course of completion.
Twenty-five years ago Mr. Ly Underdown opened a tiny 40 ft. by 20 ft. tin shed with a flat roof. Then, in 1933 he and Mrs. Underdown snr. opened the first “Hotel Alice Springs.”
Ly recalled this week that they went into the hotel business because the only hotel then in town, the Stuart Arms, decided to go into the grocery business as well. “If it was okay for Joe Kilgariff to sell groceries it was okay for us to sell beer,” Mr. Underdown said with a grin.
To celebrate the occasion, the new upstairs bar and beer garden was opened. The man who officially declared it open, Mr. Creed Lovegrove snr., was the man who, when he was Sgt. of Police in 1933, declared the first Hotel Alice Springs open.
Mr Lovegrove recalled that in 1933 there were only about 300 people in Alice Springs — now there are 3,000. He paid tribute to the Underdowns for taking on the massive project of building the new hotel. This project began about seven years ago. The old building was pulled down in 1948.
The hotel will have over 55 rooms, 36 with bathrooms attached when completed. The new open beer garden seats over 100 at tables on the huge verandah. Always a tremendously keen follower and practical supporter of all sport in Alice Springs. He is president of the cricket association and football association, and donates many trophies, Ly Underdown has plans to attach sporting facilities to the hotel. He wants to establish a bowling green on the site.
“We will have one there whatever comes or goes, because I think it would be a great asset to the town,” he said.
Last Saturday night was also Ly Underdown’s 50th birthday. With others we congratulate him on both anniversaries — he has come a long way and achieved much since he first banged up an old tin shed to sell groceries in 1929.
The Alice Springs Hotel later became infamous for its never-ending additions and roof-top cricket matches. Uncle Ly built a large beer garden beside the pub. This soon became known as “Madison Square Garden”, for the townspeople claimed there were more fights there than the real Madison Square.
In its final years the pub was known as the Telford Hotel. Sadly, the landmark burned to the ground in November 1984.
Uncle Ly Underdown died aged 80 soon after his beloved pub was reduced to ashes.
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Categories: Northern Territory hotels
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