20 April 2024

Victorian-Edwardian pubs in West Australia

600 ks east of Perth, the City of Kalgoorlie was a unique expression of gold fever. Unlike most goldmining towns, which last for perhaps a dec­ade, Kalgoorlie includes the famous Golden Mile and has an economy driven by gold since 1893. The central area, Hannan St, has fine Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Here visitors can visit the Hannon Hotel, Ex­change Hot­el, Palace Hot­el, Old Aust­ral­ia Hotel and York Hotel. Imp­ortant civ­ic buildings in the area include the Town Hall (1908) and the School of Mines Building. 

York and Orient Hotels, 1898

The Exchange Hotel is central, with the Palace Hotel to right.

In the late 1890s, Kalgoorlie’s streets were full of progress as the wealth generated in the gold mines was displayed in grand, impres­s­ive architecture. As a result, the role of hotels was crucial to the gold­fields’ social and econ­om­ic life. If mines were the sources of the miner's wages, the hotels were the treasuries into which a lot of it was poured. They provided drinks, food and accommodation, AND provid­ed men with com­f­ort­­­able surroundings.

For a city that stretches just 67sq km with a current population of 30,000+ people, the volume of pubs in Kalgoorlie was excessive.. and is now impressive. In the early 1900s, when the Goldfields were dominant, there were 93 hot­els and 8 brew­er­ies in the town. C.Y O'Connor (1843-1902) was West Australia’s Chief Engineer who created the col­ony's railways, water supply, roads and harbours. Before O’Connor estab­lished the pipeline, water was scarce and beer was better!

Most interesting pubs, architecturally-speaking:
1] The Kal­goor­­lie Hotel in Hannon St was designed in the Federation architectural style (built 1897) and is one of the oldest build­ings with a balcony in town. After dark, Judd’s Pub is popular with reg­ul­ar live music and for touring bands. The name Judd refers to publican James Judd Mahony who ran the pub from the 1960s-80s.

2] Paddy’s Irish Bar at the Exchange Hotel (1900) was designed for the Wilkie Bros who were cont­rac­t­ors for the Southern Cross to Kal­goorlie Railway line. The two complex storeys are made up of bricks, iron and a timber balustrade, a corner tower and corrugated galvan­ised iron gabled roof.

3] York Hotel opened in Feb 1901. Located over the road from the Govt Buildings Complex, this very ornate hotel was design­ed by Dan­iel Edmunds. He practised architecture in Kal­goorlie in 1899-1912 and was responsible for the City Markets. The eastern main entrance opened into a luxurious lounge hall, from which the main staircase led to the bedrooms above. Note the hand­some circular dome for light, stamped metal ceilings and finely carved woodwork.

4] One of the city's most historic pub is the Palace Hotel (1897) in Han­nan St, built for the huge sum of £17,000. Bec­ause the town was awash with gold money, Palace Hotel was designed to be the most lux­ur­ious hotel outside Perth, with its own electric­ity and wat­er proc­ess­ing plant. This two-storey hotel was made from stone quarried from the local Ashlar quarries, and the furn­it­ure was supp­lied from Melbourne. With its prominent corner position in the town, the Pal­ace Hotel has been the scene of many famous public speeches deliv­er­ed from the balconies to the street.

One of the Palace Hotel’s regulars in its early days was Her­bert Hoover (1874-1964), who as a young US mining engineer worked in the Gold­fields for several years. Hoover had fallen for a local barmaid before he returned home to marry his love and to continue his mining career in China. Long before Hoover became the U.S Presid­ent in 1929, his parting gift to the hotel was the elab­orate­ly carved mirror still in the foyer.

5] Boulder, now part of Kalgoor­lie, has 8 pubs. Tattersalls was built as a two-storey hotel on a corner site, designed in my favour­ite Fed­er­ation Fil­igree style c1890-c1915. The building once had a veranda and balcony that extended across the facades. The exterior features a balustraded parapet; and a triangular pediment that high­lights the entrance and the arched sash wind­ows. Importantly there is a bar named for the world-famous billiards star and Kalgoorlie local, Walter Lindrum (1898–1960).

6] Criterion Hotel was built in the Federation Free style, a small but imp­ortant part of the Hannan St streetscape. Built to the foot­path line with a balustraded parapet and highly decorative ped­i­ment, the timber ver­anda extends the length of the facade. It also has an unusual para­pet and some leadlight glazing in the street frontage.

7] At a licensing court in Jun 1900, plans for the stunning Vict­or­ian Oriental Hotel at Cassidy and Hannan Sts corner were pre­sented: a pub building with 12 bed­rooms near the York Hotel. Some money for the con­st­ruction came from the Wilkie Bros who built the rail line from South­ern Cross to Kalgoorlie, making it Kalgoorlie’s most exotic architecture.
The Australia Hotel, Kalgoorlie

York Hotel, Kalgoorlie

Exchange Hotel, Kalgoorlie

Kalgoorlie Hotel

Because of high maintenance costs, The Oriental Hotel was to be dem­olished in 1972 to make way for a car park, but within hours an in­jun­ct­ion was taken out; thousands of people had signed a petition to stop the destruction. Then fire erupted in the hotel and it could not be saved. Anger over the damage stopped further development.

The Kalgoorlie Race Riots started in Jan 1934 when min­er-sportsman George E Jordan was twice eject­ed from the Hannans Hotel by Italian barman Claudio Matta­boni. When Jordan re­turned to the hotel the fol­l­owing day to fight Mattaboni, he fell, broke his skull and soon died in hospital. Rumours that Mattab­oni had murd­ered Jordan sparked rioting, violence and looting of migrant-run facil­ities, the riots starting AT Hannans Hotel. The old Amalfi Restaur­ant was also burnt down.

Today the pubs are still flooded with miners (and tourists) after work, just as they were 120 years ago. And today Gold­fields Tourism Network runs excellent pub tours in Kalgoorlie and Boulder.

Photo credits


roentare said...

The town has a lot of bad press lately. These pubs and hotels are so good for photographers like me to visit. I used to work there without a chance to visit the local features

Deb said...

I remember the Oriental Hotel with its beautiful verandahs on both sides of the corner building. Terrible loss.

Andrew said...

They are all handsome buildings. The fire burning down the Oriental Hotel sounds suspicious. No doubt that was investigated by police and fire authorities and no doubt a 'correct conclusion' was reached.

River said...

93 Hotels! 8 Breweries! I guess mining is really thirsty work..
I'd love to visit there one day and take photos of my own.

Margaret D said...

Good information Hels. Have eaten in one of the Hotels a few times. We have stayed there also in the caravan and found the town to be rather lovely, though different to others as one would expect.
The pipe that carries the water is amazing to see.

Hels said...


you get around a bit :) I lived in Perth for a few years and loved it, but we visited Kalgoorlie only as a passing tourist. Now I know much more about architecture, I would love to go back and have a proper look.

I am not familiar with Kalgoorlie's bad press, but now you have raised the issue, the newspaper articles will stand out.

Hels said...


In 1972 the great goldfield hotels was lost. The Oriental Hotel, in Hannan St Kalgoorlie,
was owned by the Swan Brewery then. The demolition took place under cover of darkness, despite the protesters' desperation to save their favourite gathering place. Other pubs were also pulled down, but the Oriental might have been the greatest loss.

Hels said...


the late 19th century pubs looked like Victorian palaces, but the early Edwardian pubs were lower, slimmer and much more Australian. The verandas in particular appealed to Australians.

When the fire followed the terrible contest to destroy or preserve the Oriental Hotel, the close timing suggested the very dodgy owners could think of no other way to get rid of the property that they wanted to pull down. Not the first time I have heard of a sneaky plot like that :(

Hels said...


Kalgoorlie was hopping and jumping. Yes the goldfields were dominant, but then they had to labour on the railways, water supply, roads and harbours. More younger men than older men, and more males than females, the 93 hot­els were the centre of the town's social life. Even more amazing, the population of Kalgoorlie in 1903 was only 7,000.

Hels said...


as much as I loved visiting Kalgoorlie, I don't remember what the interior facilities looked like. Were they relatively working class and simple, or did they make better dressed customers feel at home? I might look for a photo and add it onto the post.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Damn what a good post I would love to visit WA one day if I am lucky it will happen, my parents had a wonderful time exploring different parts over there including Kalgooolie

CherryPie said...

The architecture is stunning.

Hels said...


Before our parents' generation could afford to travel abroad, they loved travelling around Australia in their cars. My parents also loved exploring around the southern half of Western Australia and you will too.

Interstate holidays were the only good thing that came out of three years of Covid.

Hels said...


The surviving architecture IS truly attractive. Can you imagine what the cityscape would have looked like, had they not pulled down 80 Edwardian architectural delights?

My name is Erika. said...

This sounds like a great place to visit, especially for any pub afficinado. It sounds like there’s a lot of ghost towns, but it’s good they all don’t go that way. Hope your week is going well. .

Hels said...


a lot of effort was put into preserving the best buildings. Lucky for me.. I don't enjoy our national drink - beer - so I visit the Victorian and early 20th century pubs because of their amazing exteriors and interiors. Oops I do love wine :)