EAST MEETS WEST AT HARRY’S
By ELGIN REID
CHARLEVILLE, Wednesday. — Out here they call it Poppa’s Place or Harry’s place. Its official name, however, is the Hotel Corones. It is named after its proprietor, Harry Corones, one of the richest men in the west. The number one hotel in Western Queensland with a State-wide reputation for pleasant living, it is at the same time the most western and the least western of any hotel beyond the Great Divide. It is most western in its spaciousness — not the length and breadth of its rooms, but the atmosphere brought to them by the outback people who make it their town headquarters. It is made un-western by the other people who come to it — a wide variety of people who are classifiable only by the fact that they are not westerners. Some of their names in the hotel register make it read like an extract from Who’s Who?
THE hotel itself is a long white, double storied building in Charleville’s main street, built in 1929 at a cost of £50,000. Its main feature is the big green summer lounge with the marble floor which you enter as soon as you pass through the doors of Corones. This is where the westerners and the non-westerners meet and mingle and talk things over. This lounge is the hub of social life in the Warrego for eight months of the year. For the other four — the cold months — it moves up to the top floor where the same thing occurs before a log fire. At the back of the hotel there is a sun porch and a piazza.
THE tales that Charlevillians tell you about the hotel are fabulous. They will tell you how one young horseman rode into the long bar, drank without dismounting, and then made chaos. They will tell you of poker games after carnival races where thousands of pounds were won and lost in a few minutes. Of another horseman who went, horse and all, through the trapdoor into the cellar of the hotel and had to be lifted out with ropes. They will tell you of lavish bar shouts after big race winnings, of champagne parties by the hundreds. Probably not all the tales are true, but proprietor Harry with a twinkle in his eye admits that the town used to be a rather wild one. Mr. Chifley, he says, is taming it.
THE story of Harry Corones is the old success story. As a young man of Greek parentage he came to the town 40 years ago, and started a small cafe. A fire set him back, but after he became established in the hotel Charleville, and after that the present Corones. In all the present hustle of his guests celebrating the district’s centenary he’s undisturbed. Grey-haired, with a towel over his shoulder, he shuffled through his hotel on errands of supervision. Assisting him is gentle Mrs. Corones, also grey-haired. His trade connections extend beyond Corones. If you sit down in the dining-room you may use a serviette marked Hotel Charleville, or at night you may sleep on a pillow with a label from one of two hotels at Quilpie. These are all operated by his family. If you go dancing in Charleville he will probably dance in Corones’ Hall, next door to the hotel. Outside of business he takes a prominent part in the town affairs, being on the fire brigade, ambulance, and hospital boards. The up-to-date Charleville hospital is his special interest. He is interested in golf, but says he is now growing too old to play it, and extends a benevolent patronage over other sports. But Corones is his chief interest. And he is confident that one day in the distant future Corones itself will celebrate a centenary.
– Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld), Thursday 6 November 1947.
Harry Corones was born on the Greek island of Kythera.
Harry “Poppa” Corones arrived in Australia in the early 1900s coming to Charleville by 1909 where he began business as a “fruiterer”. He became the licensee of the Hotel Charleville in 1912, which he operated until 1924.
In 1926 Corones became the registered owner of the Hotel Norman, a single storeyed hotel established about 1895, a block south of the Hotel Charleville on the corner of Wills and Galatea Street.
Construction of Corones Hotel Norman (as it was then called) commenced in 1924. Replacing the old Norman Hotel, Corines wanted to build his new hotel in four stages from the south to the north to enable continuation of trade; the construction dates displayed at either end of the building testifying to the five year enterprise.
The first two stages were of reinforced concrete, the third including the ballroom and final stages of brick. Costing some £50,000 the hotel was built by day labour with preference given to men of the district. By the end of 1926 the new hotel was two thirds complete; only the bar area of the Norman Hotel remained. The final stage of building was completed in 1929. The hotel now stretched almost an entire block of Charleville’s main street. The Architectural and Building Journal of Queensland reported:
“A magnificent white building … an outstanding feature in a progressive town … the best equipped and most up-to-date hotel outside the metropolis … generally acknowledged as the calling-place of all distinguished tourists and travellers…”
For over 30 years the Hotel Corones flourished as a tourist, pastoral and CTA (Commercial Travellers Association) House. Harry Corones’ advertisements and stationery proclaimed vice-regal patronage; and in addition to wealthy local graziers, celebrities such as Amy Johnson, Gracie Fields, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were guests at the hotel. In 1936 there were on average 133 guests per week and during World War II when American servicemen occupied the local aerodrome and hospital, “Poppa” Corones did a roaring trade with dances held “every night” in Corones Hall. In 1959, the state’s centenary year, Charleville’s civic welcome to its Royal visitor, HRH Princess Alexandra took place in front of the hotel and Corones’ advertisement in the town’s centenary souvenir book could still proclaim that:
“Charleville Means CORONES because Corones is the centre of Charleville’s social activities and the rendezvous where business agreements can be made in surroundings which, by their comfort and restfulness, provide the perfect setting for quiet consideration. People who insist on the best in fine living invariably made Corones their home while in Charleville.”
Drought in the 1960s severely impacted Charleville’s economy; the heyday of both the town and the hotel was over.
In 1972 Harry Corones died; his elder son, Peter and wife Mary who had operated the hotel for some time prior to Harry Corones’ death continued its stewardship. In 1982 the hotel was acquired by Doreen and Bob Bishop. It changed hands again in 1989. In 1993, the hotel was listed by the National Trust of Queensland.
The hotel today is operated as a cultural tourist attraction. Corones Hall is regularly used for functions such as weddings and balls, tours of the hotel are conducted, and the mythology of both the man and his hotel continues.
In February 2014, the hotel was sold to ERI Partners which plans to expand the range of the hotel’s dining and entertainment options.
For further information visit: hotelcorones.net.au
– With thanks wikipedia.org