Money was poured into lavishly decorated banks, hotels and coffee palaces. Towers, spires, domes and turrets dominated the city sky line. Lace work appeared everywhere. Cast iron was used to decorate verandas, which grew from one to two stories. By 1870 Australia was producing its own lace work which began to feature Australian flora. During the prosperous 1870s-80s speculative builders built thousand of tightly packed terraces in the inner cities to cope with a rapidly growing population distinctly Australian in style.
A particular feature of the city's boom years were the temperance hotels/coffee palaces. A small number of hotels had always refused to sell alcohol. But the coffee palace, as a viable alternative to hotels, was a Rechabite concept introduced to Melbourne in the 1880s. Coffee palaces were actually much grander and more multi-purpose than pubs.
So the construction of buildings for the temperance movement coincided with a economic boom in Australia and use of richly ornamental High Victorian architecture. I love the high-status names that these hotels were given eg The Grand or The Royal, suggesting that clients should be well dressed and well behaved.
First known as Victoria Coffee Palace 1880, the Vic Hotel was founded by a Temperance League as an alternative to rowdy, bawdy pub accommodation. The original lobby is still in use today.
An extravagant temperance hotel, designed by Charles Webb in the Second Empire Style, was the Grand Hotel (1883) in Spring St Melbourne. Now called the Windsor Hotel, it was built for a shipping magnate who in the late 1880s sold it to a Temperance Party supporter. At first having 200 rooms, this Second Empire style building was extended to 360 rooms to accommodate overseas and interstate visitors to Melbourne’s 1888 Centenary Exhibition.
Grand Hotel 1883, now The Windsor
The Federal Hotel at the corner of Collins and King Sts Melbourne was another example of French Renaissance design by William Pitt. The Federal Hotel was superseded in the land-boom, when the Federal Coffee Palace 1888 was built, also by Pitt, but in a far more opulent high-Victorian manner. In fact this massive, opulent building best epitomised the speculative land boom which was 1880s Marvellous Melbourne.
Federal Coffee Palace, then Hotel
The Federal had 7 floors crowned by an iron-framed domed tower. Bed rooms were on the top 5 floors, while the lower floors contained majestic dining, lounge, sitting, smoking and billiard rooms. There were 6 lifts, gas lights, electric service bells and a basement ice-making plant. The temperance movement fell out of favour in 1890s and the Federal Coffee Palace became the Federal Hotel which was licensed in 1923. The irony of licensing a coffee palace was not lost on temperance supporters, but at least it kept the building alive and in use. Eventually, however, the entire building was demolished in the 1970s.
Coffee palaces really survived best in beach suburbs of Melbourne. The Victoria Hotel in Albert Park, now converted into flats, looks over the sand and sea. The palm trees gave the coffee palace something of a tropical feel.
Victoria Hotel, Albert Park
And they survived well in country resorts where, even after the interest in temperance had faded, families still needed good quality, clean places to stay. Many of the truly beautiful hotels in Queenscliff, for example, had started life as coffee palaces and temperance hotels. Once the railway line from Melbourne reached this beach town in 1879, many splendid places went up within a very short decade, including Baillieu Hotel (1881), later renamed Ozone Hotel.
The "Humble" Blog mentioned that the principal building at Barwon Heads in 1893 was the Coffee Palace which, although only three years established at the time of writing, had won golden opinions from its numerous patrons. The palace had 34 bedrooms, parlours, dining room and sitting-rooms. A different Humble ancestor, a zealous Methodist, staunchly supported temperance and was a director of the short-lived Geelong Coffee Palace Co. in 1888-89.
Warrnambool’s truly splendid Ozone Coffee Palace was erected in 1890 during the fashion for temperance hotels. By 1910 the palace was struggling financially and was in very bad condition; by 1915 the building was closed and remained so until 1920 a local businessman installed a picture theatre and ballroom and reopened it as the Hotel Mansions. Nothing remains of Ozone Coffee Palace today.
Ozone Coffee Palace, Warrnambool, 1890
Because the coffee palace movement was strongest in Victoria, it is more difficult for me to find histories and photos of coffee palaces in other states. But clearly there were several very fine buildings in Sydney, Launceston and Hobart etc. Grand Central Coffee Palace Hotel in Clarence St Sydney, for example, seems to have been operating by 1889. Alas we catch only glimpses of it. Labour History mentioned that “protesters paused for speeches outside the Hotel Australia and the Grand Central Coffee Palace, where the well-heeled had gathered for the evening” (1893).
Grand Central Coffee Palace Sydney, 1889
People love coffee but it seems difficult to keep their interest in temperance for very long. And I don't suppose the terrible recession starting in 1893 helped. Timing is, of course, critical.