By MICK ROBERTS ©
THE bloodied body of 29-year-old George Norton, found at the rear steps of the Southern Cross Hotel in Adelaide one Summer night in 1954 immediately sparked the suspicion of authorities.
Police at first suspected foul play, but as Norton appeared under the influence of liquor when last seen alive it was decided not to investigate further, and authorities determined he had fell over the balustrade.
The first Southern Cross Hotel, on King William Street north of Grenfell Street, was established in 1846 by James Day.
Day arrived in South Australia in 1840 at the age of 12, with his parents and brothers, in the ship Diadem. With his father and eldest brother, John, he was connected with a farrier’s business in King William street.
In 1846 James and John established the Greyhound Hotel in King William Street, later changing the name to the South Cross Hotel late in 1847. John was granted a license on March 25 1846. The Adelaide Observer reported on Saturday April 18 1846:
Mr John Day, eldest son of a worthy old colonist from the South of England, last evening invited his friends and neighbours to a genuine sample of English hospitality, in the form of a free dinner, on occasion of the opening of his new house “entertainment for man and horse,” in King William-street, named the “Greyhound” Hotel. Covers were laid for one-hundred and twenty guests, and if ever substantial tables “groaned” under the accumulations of the substantial joints and seasonable delicacies, which constitute good cheer — Mr Day’s tables must doubtless have creaked under the extraordinary pressure.
The forerunner of the South Australia Hotels Association, the South Australia Licensed Victuallers Association, was formed in the Southern Cross in June 1849. James and John later went to the Bendigo goldfields where they had successful strikes before they returned to South Australia to become agriculturists. James became the first mayor of Edithburgh. He died in 1910 leaving a widow, Mary, six sons and two daughters.
Day’s original 1845 two-storey pub, described as having seven rooms and a popular billiard room, was demolished in 1874. The second Southern Cross Hotel was built on the site in 1879.
The second Southern Cross Hotel was designed by Daniel Garlick, and built by Charles Farr. It was an Italian style and richly ornamented, of three storeys with a balustraded parapet and deep balconies. The front facade was of freestone with cement dressings, with the other walls of brick.
There were 20 bedrooms on the upper floors. The “new” pub traded for almost a century before it was demolished to make way for a shopping mall.
Norton, a part-time barman and roustabout at the nearby Union Hotel in Waymouth Street, where he also called home, had a few drinks under his belt when deciding to visit the Southern Cross. He was climbing the old wooden stairs at the back of the pub, which were described as in need of repair, when he toppled to the yard below.
“I think that while ascending the stairs he must have lurched against the railing and fallen over into the courtyard,” the coroner said at the hearing into his death.
Detective C L. Cameron Smith said in evidence that the timber stairway needed repairing and would have been unsafe and dangerous to a man under the influence of liquor. An open finding was given into his death.
The Southern Cross Hotel was demolished in 1974 when the license was relocated to 21 James Place, Adelaide. At first trading at the Southern Cross Tavern, the new pub now has the sign of “James Place Hotel”.
A shopping arcade was built on the site of the original Southern Cross Hotel in King William Street, and was named the Southern Cross Arcade.
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2017
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