Royal Hotel, Queen Street, Brisbane: 1862-1970

The Royal Hotel, Queen Street, Brisbane, 1913. Picture: Brisbane City Council.

BRISBANE’S Royal Hotel was a popular haunt of journalists from the nearby Telegraph newspaper offices.

The pub sat almost opposite the Brisbane General Post Office in Queen Street and was established in 1862.

At the time of its construction, the four-storey structure was one of the most impressive buildings in Brisbane.

The hotel was named the Royal from the outset, and it would retain that sign for over 110 years.

In 1882-83 a large extension was added to the rear. However the greatest change came when Queensland Brewery Limited purchased the Royal Hotel in 1934.

At the time the Royal was the oldest licensed hotel in Queen Street.

Two years after purchasing the property, Queensland Brewery Limited commissioned Jack P. Donoghue to remodel the hotel into an impressive large scale art-deco building.

The building contractors were Kell and Rigby, and the work was carried out over four months, beginning in December 1936.

The Brisbane Truth reported on Sunday April 18, 1937:

Royal Hotel Has New Features
Royal Hotel Brisbane 1937
The remodelled Royal Hotel, Brisbane

ENTIRELY remodelled from roof to cellar, and the very latest ideas in hotel construction incorporated, the old Royal Hotel, for many years a landmark in Queen-street, is now one of the most modern and best appointed hotels in the State.

Careful attention in the reconstruction has been paid to Brisbane’s climatic requirements, and spacious, airy bars and lounges will maintain the reputation of the Royal as one of Brisbane’s most-popular rendezvous.

The new front to the building is ultra-modern and most original. It is something of an innovation and an outstanding contribution to the architectural beauty of Queen-street. The ground floor is occupied entirely by two bars and a lounge. The lounge bar is spacious, with two counters, each with curved ends on opposite walls. The lounge is comfortably furnished, and offers a delightful resting place for an idle hour.

Lounge Bar Royal Hotel Brisbane 1937
The lounge bar of the Royal Hotel, Brisbane

The bar counter is 104 feet, and the counters are of polished silky oak, with broad chromium bands and brass foot rails.

The wall fittings are most effective; bevelled amber mirrors, held in position with chromium studs, form a background for the plate glass shelves, supported on specially designed chromium brackets. Beneath the counter are refrigerated cabinets, and the sinks of staybrite steel with drainers, fitted with hot water glass sprays. The floor space, which is very roomy, is covered with a specially designed rubber of a pleasing color scheme. The lighting is a feature. All lights are concealed, and the soft reflected light enhances the beauty of cream walls and ceilings. No globes are visible. The ceiling, of fibrous plaster, is of a cove design and is traversed by four light troughs, in which the lights are concealed. These are of cylindrical shape, and harmonise well with the ceiling.

Queen-street elevation of the Royal Hotel, showing the cantilevered balconies, which are a feature; the tiled front, and unique glass brick trim.

Lounge bar of the Royal Hotel, which has silky oak counter with broad chromium bonds, and watt mirrors of amber with chromium studs.

Perfect natural lighting and excel-lent ventilation are afforded by a series of large steel-framed windows, which continue the full length of each wall Just below the ceiling. The panes are in shades of amber, green, and white.

An outstanding feature of the ground floor is the entrance vestibule, which gives access to both bars. The vestibule walls are flush panelled with polished silky oak, with the modern horizontal bands which are so effective. The office is also situated on this floor. The fibrous plaster ceilings of the vestibule are coved, and have the same concealed lighting, excepting that the light troughs follow the square of the walls. Lounge chairs will be used to furnish the vestibule.

Public bar Royal Hotel Brisbane 1937
The public bar of the Royal Hotel, Brisbane

The public bar is almost double the size of the former bar, and an island, counter has a tiled front in shades of amber with a decorative border of red tiles. The floor is terazzo set in brass strips, and the cream walls are tiled, with frieze and skirting.

Two large refrigerator bottle cabinets are built into the centre of the bar, and there are suspended overhead fittings; Practically the whole of the wall on the street frontage is built of opaque glass bricks, which, in the daytime, give a pleasing light effect, and obviates the use of interior lighting, while ensuring privacy. These glass bricks are much used in the newest overseas buildings, and they will be an Important feature in future home and business block construction here.

The upper floors have been entirely remodelled, and a new dining-room and kitchen are located on the first floor. Four new bath-room blocks have been built, and every bedroom is equipped with hot and cold running water. The rooms are tastefully furnished, and walls and ceiling are in warm tunings of cream.

After 110 years, last drinks came for the Royal Hotel about 1970 when it was sadly demolished to make way for the Post Office Square development.

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Categories: Brisbane hotels, Queensland hotels


1 reply

  1. Hey Mick, you may wish to add this tantalising partial colour image of the Royal Hotel in the 1950s held by Museums Victoria under “Item MM 106456: Photograph – Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd, Kodak Building on Queen Street, Brisbane, circa 1950s”, showing that it served “Bulimba Beer.
    Located here:

    The architect was J.P Donoghue and the builders were Kell & Rigby and the effective use of a band of “Agee” glass bricks placed over the front bar entrance was featured in an Decoration and Glass magazine article “.A Portfolio of Photographs showing FURTHER APPLICATIONS OF THE GLASS BRICK” in December 1937, here:

    Keep up the good work!
    – Paul

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