Australia’s first state run pub: Western Australia’s Gwalia Hotel

The former Gwalia State Hotel as it looks today. Picture:

THE Gwalia State Hotel, 233km north of Kalgoorlie, was established by the Western Australian Government in 1903 to combat the sly grog trade and to provide an alternative to the hotels in Leonora. It was the first hotel built and run by an Australian government.

Gwalia is a former gold-mining town, 828km east of Perth in the Great Victoria Desert. Today, it is essentially a ghost town, having been largely deserted since the main source of employment, the Sons of Gwalia gold mine, closed in 1963.

Just four kilometres north is the town of Leonora, which remains the hub for the area’s mining and pastoral industries.

Construction of the Gwalia State Hotel was completed in 1903 at a cost of £6,000 and it closed for business in 1964. Today the grand old building is privately owned, and can only be viewed from the street.

The Gwalia State Hotel 1903. Picture: Supplied


The building of the first hotel erected by a State Government in Australia has now been concluded, and the house has just been thrown open for business at Gwalia.

Leonora is splendidly situated as a townsite, but unfortunately its principal mine is situated some three miles to the south. As the mine was developed its number of workers increased and gradually the settlement in the neighbourhood of the mine approached, if it did not exceed, that around Leonora.

Naturally (writes our Leonora correspondent) speculative men were keen on obtaining what seems to be the first start of every town, a hotel license, and equally naturally the Leonora trades people as a body opposed the granting of such a license.

Then an effort was made by the Leonora Municipal Council to run a licensed house in order to do away with the enormous amount of illegatimate trading in liquor. They too were unsuccessful, and as a last resource, the Government decided to initiate the experiment of a State-owned hotel.

A site was selected within a stone-throw of the Gwalia railway siding, and Mr. W. E. Robertson was commissioned to draw up suitable plans. On these being approved, tenders were called, and Messrs. Gamel and Trim were the successful tenderers, the contract price being £4800.

The hotel is two-storeyed, and is built of brick, with a loft balcony running around the front and eastern sides. At the rear there is a private balcony for the use of the boarders. On the ground floor are nine rooms. The bar opens towards the railway station. Its counter is of polished jarrah and is plastered and panelled artistically.

The saloon bar has been treated similarly. The Government has evidently given precedence to West Australian woods, the staircase in the main had being an elaborate piece of work of polished jarrah, and the contractors have in the whole of these fittings shown what expert tradesmen can do with colonial woods.

In the public and saloon bars the shelving is set off with mirrors and electric fans and lamps have been installed. Mr Robertson, the Government’s architect and supervisor has had long experience in this class of work, and in this case studied was vantilation, light, and sanitation.

The cellar is 18ft by 25ft in size, and is lit with eletcric light. The best is drawn through nickel pipes with the latest gear. The dining-room measures 18ft. by 25ft., and the billiiard-room (equipped with an Alcock table), 20ft. by 26ft. The painter in charge, Mr. James Blight, has excelled himself in the decorations in the bfiliiard-room.

There is a hall, 8ft. wide, on both floors, and for convenience it would be hard to beat. The saloon parlor is furnished lavishly. The furnishings were selected by Mr. and Mrs. Robbins, who have everything arranged in up-to-date style.

The drawing-room upstairs, facing the balcony, is an excellent apartment. The same conveniences so noted on the ground floor are also to be seen here, and the privacy of each room is assured.

The extensive electric plant on the Gwalia mine supplies fans and lights for the rooms. The interior work of the building itself is an excellent advertisement for the local men who carried out the work so faithfully, and upon which the highest enconiums have been passed by the department.

Viewed from the railway station, the hotel, with its gold letters on a chocolate ground, “State Hotel,” looks imposing, having a frontage of 52ft., with a frontage to the tram line of 115ft. The stables, etc., are well away from the main building, and there is a big water supply.

Kalgoorlie Western Argus Tuesday 23 June 1903

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Categories: Western Australia hotels

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