THE original Australian Hotel, leased to John Murray, sat at 116 Cumberland Street on land within the Observatory Hill precinct.
However, the history of the hotel’s license can be traced back to 1824, when a pub traded on George Street, next to where the Museum of Contemporary Art now stands.
The Sydney Gazette announced that the Australian Hotel was officially opened for business on George Street on August 12 1824. When the plague hit Sydney in 1900, many buildings were pulled down to prevent further outbreaks, including the Australian Hotel.
The license was then transferred to a new building at 116 Cumberland Street.
In 1907 plans were made to realign Cumberland Street which included the demolition of the hotel. In 1911, Murray made an application to build a new hotel on the corner of Cumberland Street and Gloucester Street.
Murray was granted a lease for the new hotel in 1912, which began operation on January 1 1913. Prior to construction, however, the 50 year lease was transferred to the brewery, Resch’s Limited.
The residential buildings on the site were demolished by 1914 and construction of the new hotel completed towards the end of that same year.
On May 8 1914 the Municipal Council approved the construction of a two storey hotel plus cellar and two shops adjoining (one in Cumberland Street and one in Gloucester Street), the plans having been prepared for and submitted to Council by Resch’s Limited.
The structure was two storeys in height with brick walls and an iron roof. A basement, or cellar, was located beneath the split level saloon bar. Two shops were also built on the site, one of which (fronting Cumberland Street) was used as a grocery store.
In 1915, Resch’s Limited sublet the hotel to John Upjohn who was later convicted of selling adulterated rum.
Resch’s Limited merged with rival brewery, Tooth & Co. Limited in 1931 and the lease was transferred to Tooth & Co., with Upjohn remaining licensee until 1939.
In 1948, the whole of the ground floor was renovated and in 1955, the hotel was re-roofed. Upon the expiration of the 50 year lease in 1963, Tooth & Co. stayed on as monthly tenants. Under the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority Act of 1968, the hotel and surrounding area came under the jurisdiction of the Authority.
In 1991-1992 an extensive program of conservation works was carried out, including the rebuilding of the Cumberland Street shop within the existing shell after fire damage.
The building is a unique, attractive and well preserved example of Edwardian style architecture with quality and taste present throughout the hotel, from the tiling through to the tap faucets. The Australian Heritage Hotel still has many of its pre-existing features, such as the metal awnings, etched signage and saloon style bar doors.
The Hotel is listed on the State Heritage register and the Conservation and Heritage Register for Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority; it is also listed on these non-statutory Heritage registers, like the Register for the National Estate and Register of the National Trust of Australia (NSW).
– Adapted from NSW Government Architect’s Office, 2006 and the Australian Heritage Hotel website.