WHEN the General Gordon Hotel opened for business at Sydenham in 1932, “news travelled like wildfire, and thirsty individuals scrambled for places in the bar”, the Sydney Sun newspaper reported. The reason? There was free beer served between 5.15pm and 6pm.
Today after a closure of almost three years, the General Gordon, in Sydney’s south, re-opened with the completion of a major restoration and rejuvenation project after a fire gutted the historic pub in 2018.
There was no free beer at today’s re-opening. The relaunch, in fact, was a little more subdued than when men reportedly “stood seven and eight deep, while 10 barmen served them” during the opening of 1932.
The Australian Pub Project dropped by for lunch and a couple of cold Resch’s today for the relaunch and we were impressed at how tastefully the old girl has been brought-back to life.
The ‘GG’, as it’s affectionately known, has a rich history.
The pub was named in honour of Major-General Charles George Gordon, a British army officer, also known as Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum. He saw action in the Crimean War as an officer in the British Army. But he made his military reputation in China, where he was placed in command of the “Ever Victorious Army,” a force of Chinese soldiers led by European officers.
In the early 1860s, Gordon and his men were instrumental in putting down the Taiping Rebellion, regularly defeating much larger forces. For these accomplishments, he was given the nickname “Chinese Gordon” and honours from both the Emperor of China and the British.
In a land far away, he was honoured with the naming of an Australian pub. Six months after Major-General Charles George Gordon’s death in Sudan during battle, John S. Paris was granted a license for a two storey brick hotel on the corner of Sydenham Road and Bolton Street, Sydenham in 1885.
The pub traded on Sydenham Road, opposite what was then a level crossing, for almost 50 years before the license was transferred to another site in an updated building.
After the Sydenham Road level crossing was closed and replaced with an overhead bridge on Gleeson Avenue, owners Tooth and Company decided to rebuild a new pub to replace the General Gordon on Bolton and Hogan Avenues.
A final order of removal to premises erected at Burrows-avenue and Swain-street, and fronting Gleeson Avenue, was granted to Kathleen Tansey in December 1932.
The Sydney Sun reported on Tuesday December 13 1932 that “news travelled like wildfire, and thirsty individuals scrambled for places in the bar” at the opening of the General Gordon Hotel, Sydenham, when free beer was served between 5.15pm and 6pm: “They stood seven and eight deep, while 10 barmen served them.”
Designed by the famous Aussie architect Sidney Warden – the bloke behind the classic Light Brigade in Paddington, the Lansdowne at Chippendale, The Old Clare on Broadway, and, of course Surry Hills’ iconic, Broadway Hotel, a busy crowd kept staff busy, and parking was at a premium today when the restored General Gordon Hotel re-opened for business.
After two years, the pub known as ‘The Pride of Sydenham’ is back!
Interestingly the layout of the old public bar has changed little from the original, with a good selection of beers available on tap from a bar-counter that sits roughly in the same corner position as before the disastrous fire.
We thoroughly recommend a visit to the new-look historic landmark. The food was delicious, and the beer was crisp and cold.
For more on the history of the General Gordon visit the Time Gents’story: Road trip: a few Marrickville pubs
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