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Home | History Hub | History | Early Hotels

Early Hotels 

By: Andrew Eyden

Published: 24 February 2024

Freemasons Hotel

Albany’s grandest hotel of all time was the Freemasons, sadly demolished in the 1970s. It began as a single storey building in 1890 extended to two and then in 1912 to three storeys; its embellishments included a vast dining room, 62 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, gas and electricity including electric. There are many reports of grand functions including mayora hosted for visiting dignitaries in its eighty-year existence.

There was intentions to replace it with a supermarket, but bankruptcy left the vacant lot, which remains a car park. The response to increasing population and especially to many more travellers arriving in the town continued until well into the twentieth century. The other important hotel built in the last decade of the 19th century was the Premier Hotel still occupying the site on the southeast corner of York and Grey Streets.

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Albany Hotel

The building was built by John Moir in 1887 as his intended personal residence but leased to the Club in 1894 and later sold to them; the nineteenth century two-storey façade with iron lace balcony has given way to a plainer twentieth century appearance.

The 1890 Albany Hotel retains its original style and the two wings are linked by a covered veranda.  An interesting link with history is a signature by Herbert Hoover in the 1900 guest book. In 1908 it was refurbished by the then owner Mrs McNorrish and since that time has had many licensees.

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Premier Hotel

The Premier is a two-storey brick building with arched windows and moulded chimney capping; originally its balcony faced York Street but in 1913 was extended along the entire Grey Street façade of the hotel. Since that time much of this superstructure has been removed.

The first meeting of the Albany Roads Board was held in the hotel dining room in 1896 marking an important development in both local and state administration. From 1912 until his death in 1929 the owner of the Premier Hotel was R R Burridge, the licensee M A O’Grady. It was sold at auction for £6,550 to William Harper, the building described as having 20 bedrooms, a sitting and dining room and two large bar areas; by 1930 this description had been inflated to 26 bedrooms, bars, dining rooms, commercial rooms, bathrooms, hot water service, electric light and sewerage throughout.

Earl of Spencer Inn

There was little change to Albany’s hotel scene until the 1880s when the building that became the Earl of Spencer then owned by Richard Hawkins Nesbitt obtained a Eating, Boarding and Lodging House License for his Spencer Inn in 1884, having opened this business as a boarding house in 1874. Nesbitt obtained the licence and started operating the Spencer Inn, where the family also lived. After Nesbitt’s death in 1899, his son Thomas Henry Nesbitt – who was born in Albany in 1845 - applied for and was granted the licence to sell wine, beer and other liquors in order to continue the operations of the Spencer Inn.

 

It was delicensed in 1925 and traded as Nesbitt’s Cash Store until 1978. The building was extensively renovated and re-licensed by new owners in 1988; it continues to thrive as the Earl of Spencer Historic Inn. 

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Chusan Hotel

The Chusan Hotel survived these vicissitudes and was renamed the London Hotel, finally bricked in and enlarged, securing its career which in various incarnations survives to this day. At the turn of the century the proprietor was H C Sims; photographs taken at that time show a substantial two-storey building with four windows facing the street and doors at either end, full length verandah and upstairs balcony.

About 1920 the London was renovated with an elaborate fretwork façade on both the downstairs verandah and the upstairs balcony; this was removed completely in the 1960s, the present entrance being a few stairs under a covered archway. The inscription ‘LONDON HOTEL 1909’ remains at the top of the building with the current name ‘LIBERTE’. Liberte is operated as a coffee shop, the upstairs area now used as Backpackers’ accommodation.

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