The Criterion was built in 1903 by James Jones, an experienced hotelier who had run a number of hotels in Newcastle and Sydney prior to setting his sights on Kurri Kurri to establish business.
Jim was licensee of the Terminus and Criterion hotels in Newcastle before moving to Sydney where he took over the license of the Lyceum Hotel. Returning to Newcastle, he became licensee of the Criterion Hotel, but seeing great possibilities in the coalfields of South Maitland, he sold out with plans to build a grand pub at Kurri Kurri.
Jim purchased a £1000 allotment at the first sale of Kurri Kurri township allotments with plans to build his grand hotel on the site. However, he failed to secure a license for the site and turned his attention to the first sale of the Weston subdivision, where he bought largely.
In 1903 he built a fine hotel, several stores, and cottages, and considerably improved the streets near the Criterion. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported on August 26 1903:
PROGRESS OF THE TOWN
This township is making great progress at present. Mr J. Jones, late of the Criterion Hotel, Newcastle, is building a large hotel in Station-street. Mr Jones is present superintending the work, and great progress is being done with the building. When completed it will be an acquisition to the town.
Jim was regarded as one of the pioneers of Weston. He retired from the Criterion Hotel in 1905, and died in 1908.