Monday, May 6, 2013

Eden's Hotel Australasia - a local hub & the heart of the town:

A landmark building in Imlay Street for more than a century, the Hotel Australasia was the last of Eden's nearly two dozen hotels to be constructed & the most recent to close it's doors.

Mrs. Sabina Pike purchased the one acre allotment that would become the site of the hotel in late 1904, paying £500. This was reportedly the highest price paid for land in the township for a forty year period. In the wake of the purchase, local media reported on Mrs. Pikes intention to build "...a large up to date hotel..." on the block & by December 1904 she had awarded the construction contract to Mr. John Hines. With plans to erect a two-storey 43-room brick structure "...on up to date lines...", it is believed that the move was made in response to the expectation that Twofold Bay would become the site of the Australia's federal port.

Eden's Hotel Australasia, C. 1908.

At the time, the search for Australia's federal capital site was continuing & with Southern Monaro sites such as Bombala among those being strongly touted, Eden business people & residents were looking forward to the establishment of the Bay as federal port & elevating the township to a position of importance. Local media, writing of the new hotel, commented that Twofold Bay was being raised to a rank of "...prominence..." as a result of the "...strong representations made in favor [sic] of Southern Monaro..." becoming the Federal Capital site. Even as far away as Lismore, Mrs. Pike was being acknowledged as looking forward to the time when Twofold Bay took its place as the federal port.

Hailing from Moss Vale, building contractor John Hines arrived in Eden in early 1901 & was responsible for the construction of a number of important public & commercial buildings both in the township & throughout the district, including Bank of NSW (1904), Robinovotz's Store (1904) & lock-up & lock-up keeper's residence (1914) in Eden, as well as the police sergeant's residence at Pambula (1901). Remaining in the district, he married Rachel Davidson of the Twofold Bay whaling family.

A horse team carting sleepers outside Hotel Australasia, C. 1908
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Hines erected brick kilns near the town cemetery in late 1904 to take advantage of the onsite clay & it was here that the bricks for the Australasia were burnt. The same year, he erected a saw milling plant north of Lake Curalo to utilise the ready supply of timber, & there milled the timber for the hotel.

In December 1904, local media commended Mrs. Pike for her "...enterprise & energetic action..." in undertaking what was an extensive local development & later the same month, Mr. W. A. Robertson was granted the first license for the Hotel Australasia.

Work on what would become one of the district's premier tourist accommodation centres commenced in December 1904 with the marking out of the foundations, while Mr. Hines' workmen began carting "...large quantities..." of bricks from his local works to the site.

January 1905 saw the laying of a solid concrete foundation & Hines' kilns were in "...full blast..." turning out bricks for the building. Carting continued on a daily basis to meet the demand of the outer walls, which were 18 & 14 inches thick, with inner walls of 9 inches.

A gathering outside Eden's Hotel Australasia, C. 1908.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Providing employment for "...quite a small army of men...", the ground storey was completed by mid-April 1905 & by July, the roof had been put on. Wunderlich pressed metal ceilings that were described as "...neat & handsome..." had been fitted, giving "...a light & airy appearance to the whole of the rooms...", much of the flooring had been laid, staircases were ready for installation, & with brick work of the parapet completed, plasterers were busy adding a "...very attractive design..." which "...when completed, will show a very handsome front..."

With work "...proceeding apace...", by August all upstairs rooms had been plastered, with downstairs "...undergoing similar treatment...", while the front balcony was nearing completion & within a fortnight the rear example had reached a similar stage. An arched vestibule at the main entrance presented "...a very pleasing effect..."

Occupying a "...commanding position..." overlooking the ocean & bay, building design took advantage of the glorious views of Twofold Bay, Boyd Town, "...the distant verdure clad hills & mountains...", Mount Imlay, & the mountain ranges & valleys by boasting wide balconies & verandas at both the front & rear of the building.

Local media were reporting on completion  of Eden's "...handsome addition..." by mid-October 1904, noting that it was "... credit to the contractor...& an ornament to the town..." Acetylene gas fittings were completed by the end of the month, showing the whole building " great advantage..." when lit. A 17,000 gallon underwater tank at the rear of the building supplied the hotel with water while another of 3,000 gallons provided for the stables.

Shortly afterwards, the new building was the subject of a lengthy & highly complimentary write up. Noting the enterprise & energetic action of Mrs. Pike in her "...endeavour to further the interests of this district in meeting the demands for additional accommodation...", the writer commented that the growing demand of visitors from "...various parts of Australia..." for accommodation year round "...would seem to justify the erection of an hotel of an up to date & substantial character..."

Carrying an extensive description of the Hotel Australasia, the Eden Observer & South Coast Advocate noted many details about the newly completed building, including:
  • Forty-four rooms, including twenty-five bedrooms;
  • The main private entrance via a large double door;
  • Private entrance leading to a hall 11 feet wide & 34 feet long;
  • Two large dining rooms, including a private dining room, located on the left of the hall "...richly furnished & choicely papered with a handsome three light chandelier hanging in the centre of the ceiling..." & a "...roomy & comfortably..." public dining room in close proximity to the kitchen;
  • Corridors branching off the main ground floor hall, on both sides of which were "...roomy well ventilated bedrooms, all of which are beautifully furnished, the drapery being very choice..."
  • A "...splendid roomy kitchen...", scullery & two pantries;
  • A "...handsome..." kauri pine staircase providing access between the ground & upper floors;
  • Another "...fine hall..." running along the upper level, with two more corridors on either side & a number of  bedrooms, as well as access to the back balcony overlooking the north bay & ocean;
  • The "...large & roomy..." front balcony with two "...nicely furnished..." bedrooms opening on to it, this area being set apart for tourists, which was noted to be "...of a strictly private character...";
  • Two bathrooms;
  • A smoking room;
  • Sitting room;
  • Two public parlours along with a private parlour;
  • Store room;
  • Luggage room;
  • Tap room & bar, with another office attached;
  • A six feet deep concrete & brick cellar under the public bar;
  • A garden at the rear, enclosed from the more public part of the yard;
  • A "...spacious aviary..." adjoining the hotel on the northern side & boasting Australian native bird species "...many of great interest to the student of natural history & attractive to all persons...";
  • A "...large space of ground..." at the rear of the building, divided into two distinct areas, partly for use as a vegetable garden & partly for stable quarters.
  • A twelve-stall stable;
  • Out offices;
  • Two separate sample rooms for commercial travellers, one attached to the main building with office attached, & the other alongside the servant's ironing room;
  • The whole building, with the exception of bedrooms, fitted with acetylene gas with a Hopper Patent Acetylene Gas Machine, patented by Sydneysider Mr. C. Bissaker;
The article concluded that "Altogether the Hotel Australasia is a very fine building...having an imposing front & situated in a position of attractiveness. Mrs Pike has not, apparently, spared expense in placing in her new hotel a superior lot of furniture, which accords well with the style & finish of the building."

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia second from left, C. 1910.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Finally opening its doors to guests in early January 1906 under publican Mr. W. A. Robertson, building owner & developer Sabina Pike had taken over the reins by the following month & was to remain as licensee of the Australasia for almost two decades. A divorcee with a wealth of experience in the hotel trade locally, "Aunty Pike" as she was fondly known, had previously operated Eden's Commercial Hotel with her former husband James during the 1890s, before taking over as publican of the Great Southern Hotel for at least a decade. It was only when  the Australasia was nearing completion that she relinquished that position & in January 1905, the license & goodwill was transferred to Sam Solomon.

Writing of her business acumen, the Australian Town & Country noted that Mrs. Pike's successful local business activities had led to her establishment of "...the splendid hotel..." where she managed the business personally & did "...everything possible for the comfort of her guests..."

Describing the business in 1906, an journalist noted that the Australasia was "...the largest & most modern building in Eden...", commenting that it was "...thoroughly up-to-date in all its appointments & is furnished most elaborately...", which, combined with the "...magnificent views..." of ocean & harbour, made the premises " ideal place at which to stay..."

Local residents gathered in front of the Hotel Australasia for a trip to the Pambula races, 1910.

With such glowing reports appearing in metropolitan papers, the Hotel Australasia soon began to attract a notable clientele, including politicians & other public figures. During his 1907 tour of the region, Australian Governor-General Lord Northcote & his vice-regal party were entertained by at a public banquet the Australasia before spending the night as guest at the hotel. Impressed by a tour of the bay & harbour, he made mention of the "...greatly enhanced popularity that Eden & its beautiful port of Twofold Bay would enjoy as a health & holiday resort were its attractions & advantages more generally known..." The following year NSW State Governor Sir Harry Rawson & his daughter toured the region, during which they were also treated to a banquet entertainment at the Australasia. Expressing his admiration of Twofold Bay's beauty, His Excellency said that he "...anticipated a great future in this district, & felt sure that from what he had seen of it, his good wishes for its prosperity were ere long be realised." By 1909 Mrs. Pike was advertising that the hotel was "Under the Patronage of his Excellency Lord Northcote, late Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, & his Excellency Sir Harry Rawson, late State Governor of New South Wales...", while the 1912 edition of the Illawarra & South Coast Steam Navigation Company's Illustrated Handbook described it as " of the finest hotels in the State."

Eden's town band standing in front of the Hotel Australasia, C. 1911.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Always keen to maintain her position as hostess of the town's premier hotel, Aunty Pike's Australasia was also the venue of choice for local residents holding functions, including public farewells, birthdays & fund raisers, among other events. In 1916 she was advertising the "...large airy rooms..." & "...commanding magnificent panoramic view from front the back balconies of ocean & bay...", noting that coaches met all steamers & boats & launches could be arranged for visitors.

Hotel Australasia, C. WWI (1914 - 1918).
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Mrs. Pike also looked forward to the growing needs of her clientele & was continually updating & improving the Australasia. In 1911 she "...lately had considerable improvements effected to the Hotel in the way of addition lighting..." with gas illumination laid on to all sides of the building making it " of the best lighted on the coast..." Later the same year,  Mr. F. Kellsall "...thoroughly renovated..." the taproom, including repapering of the walls & laying linoleum on the floors. By 1912, with automobile travel gathering popularity, a motor garage was added & in 1916 a "...fine motor repairing pit..." of sleepers was constructed by Mr. C. Gandon. Electric lighting was installed in 1922.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia, C. 1915.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
In June 1923, Sabina Pike's license for the Australasia was renewed by the Eden Licensing Court, but the following month, after almost two decades at the reins of the Hotel Australasia, local media reported that Mr. H. B. Gunter (or Gunton) of Melbourne had purchased the property & goodwill as a going concern. With the new owner taking over in July, the township farewelled Mrs Pike, who was departing to take up residence in Sydney, but the following year the woman who had done so much for the commercial, social & tourism development of the town returned to Eden after purchasing Mr. Frank Dawson's "...seaside home..."

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia, C. 1915.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

The business remained a popular one with locals, tourists & visiting officials alike. During 1929, NSW Minister for Agriculture Harold Thorby & his ministerial party were publicly entertained at a dinner hosted by the Australasia, while in 1938, English, Scotch & Irish representatives of the British Empire Rifle Team were accommodated en route from Melbourne to Sydney.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1920s.
Next to take over the Australasia was David Bourke, who purchased the property from Mr. Gunton in 1925. No new comer to the business, Bourke had taken up employment at the hotel by 1917, &, described as Mrs Pike's "...right hand man...", had remained involved with the business for more than a decade before leaving the area briefly to run Adaminaby's Australian Hotel. Returning to take up the reins at the Australasia, the license was transferred by the Bega court in March, & the new owner wasted little time promoting his business as "The best place to stay...", noting the "...superior accommodation & cuisine..." as well as mentioning the "Vice-Regal & other Distinguished Patronage..."

Hotel Australasia, C. 1926.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Under his management, the Australasia underwent further renovations & extensions. In 1925, Mr. A. Mawson completed additions, including "...two large bathrooms upstairs..." & constructed an underground water tank to enlarge the hotel's supply. Three years later, Messrs. Bray & C. Gandon undertook exterior renovations to the premises.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1930.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

1929 saw Bondi's George Impey take over the business & in the wake of American author Zane Grey's interest in big-game fishing at nearby Bermagui, local potential began to be explored. Keen to see the sport developed from Twofold Bay, Mr. Impey made a standing offer to reward the master of the first fishing boat to bring a marlin into Eden. The challenge was answered in 1936 when Sale (Vic.) angler Mr. W. A. Borthwick landed a 240-pound Black Marlin from the deck of the Dorothea & the local boat owner & master Art Goulden found himself collecting the £5 reward. By 1946, hotel proprietor Lance Robinson was promoting Eden's "...famous fishing...", offering launches for hire & during the 1950s, advertisements in Melbourne newspapers for the Hotel Australasia were referring to Twofold Bay as the " resort of Australia..."

Marlin hanging from the veranda of the Hotel Australasia, probably C. 1930s.
During 1935, William Alexander Greig and his son Ron re-roofed the premises, while 1937 saw further improvements carried out by Mr. Denholm. In 1941, what was referred to as "...extensive works..." were undertaken, including alterations in addition to four new bedrooms erected at the north-western end of the of the building.

Imlay Street, Eden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1930.

 After almost a decade, George Impey sold out to Andy Graham in 1939, & following this, there was a rapid changeover of publicans. Mr & Mrs. J. King had taken over by September 1940, but disposed of their interests in the business that month to Mrs. Julia Dingle who installed Mr. E. Ritson as manager. By the early 1940's, Lance Robinson was in charge, followed by Mr. Winrose who became publican in 1942. The following year, Mr. George Moore purchased the hotel lease, but by 1945, Lance Robinson was once again behind the bar as publican.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1930s / 40s.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Despite the business occupying a central place in the heart of the community, Eden residents were not averse to taking action against publicans if they felt their interests were not being considered. Such was the case with both the Hotel Australasia & the Great Southern during 1945 when the town's two hotels were declared "" during an open-air meeting attended by a group 60 & led by one of "...the principal trawler owners..." Alleging overcharging & not adhering to opening hours, a deputation waited on the publicans in an attempt to secure agreement with their demands, but upon receiving a reply that the hotels would carry on as usual, pickets were set up to " for defaulters..." It is believed that this may have been the catalyst that led to the establishment of the Eden Fishermen's Club.

Imlay Street, Eden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1940s.
Mr. Robinson, together with by Eva Chapman & Miss Roberts, remained in charge until Towamba farmers James ("Jim") Love & his wife Irene (fondly known to many as "Mum" Love) purchased the property in early June 1958 paying a £3,000 deposit on the £30,000 overall price. Taking over the following month, the couple's reign was to be very short lived & after Jim took his own life the same month, Irene returned to their Towamba property. Robinson & Chapman again took charge of the Australasia until 1960, when ill health forced Lance to relinquish his position, Peter Cesco taking over the business in April that year. It is believed that it was during the 1960s that the facade underwent the major change to its current appearance.

Rear of the Hotel Australasia, showing vegetable gardens, out buildings and water tank, C. 1940s.
Mr. Cesco was followed by Harold & Agnes Bennett between 1962 & 1965 & after they sold to Arthur Meahan, Doug & June Patience arrived to manage the business. The couple had previously operated Meahan's Town Hall Hotel in George Street, Sydney, prior to their arrival at the Hotel Australasia.

Hotel Australasia's fee schedule, C. 1940.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Around the early 1970s, Brian Horner took over as publican of the hotel, remaining until 1975, when the Parkers replaced him. By about 1976, Jim & Noni Greenhill had taken over, followed by Frank Stanmore in about 1977. An Australian & NSW rugby league five-eight great of the 1940s & '50s, Stanmore played representative football in 1947, moving to Sydney to play for the Western Suburbs. A member of the club's 1948 grand final winning team, he was selected for Sydney & NSW that year, but despite being also selected to join the Australian national team tour of New Zealand, didn't play a test match as result of a dispute between his former club at Cessnock & Wests. During the 1950s he was selected to play in the victorious Australian team against Great Britain during the Ashes series; represented both Sydney & Australia against France & played in the 1952-53 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain & France, playing in four tests & captaining the Kangaroos to victory in seven out of seven matches. Although retired from professional football by the time he arrived in Eden, there is little doubt that he would have fitted in well with the town's avid rugby league tradition.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1940s.
Around 1980, Stanmore moved on & Larry & Betty Galloway took over. Among the other names that have, in more recent years, been associated with the Australasia were Brian & Dawn Linklater, John Crosby, Donna Shannon & Dennis Lees, the Slater family & finally the Taits, who held the license when the historic venue closed it's doors without warning on 23 May, 2010.

Now popularly referred to as "The Pit", it was apparently during Frank Stanmore's time that the name had its origins. According to one source, when it came around to official closing time, the publican would shut the premises to the public, pull sliding doors across what was then the main lounge area & continue to serve to the private party. The "Snake Pit", as this arrangement was referred to, was a common occurrence during the brisk trade of the local tuna fishing season. Eventually shortened to "The Pit", this is a name that has remained in common usage locally right through to the present day.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia on left, C. 1940s.

It was also around this time that the up market roots of the Hotel Australasia's early years changed radically. Becoming more working class in its clientele, the customer base tended more towards the bush workers of the timber industry, along with the rough & tumble of the seasonal tuna fishermen, many of whom, according one source, had been "barred" from the Fishermen's Club. This was also the era when the so-called "Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll" movement hit Eden, & the Australasia was to play an integral role in that lifestyle locally.

In more recent years, the Australasia moved to what some would perhaps consider a surprisingly egalitarian establishment where men & women from all walks of life, educational backgrounds & socio-economic levels from young professionals to the die-hard "Pit Crew" of old mixed with ease & mutual respect. As one local resident recently put it, it was "The heart & soul of Eden..."

Following the hotel's sudden closure, the property was placed on the market & after being passed in at a March 2012 auction, sold to Artarmon-based retail development company Great Southern Developments Pty Ltd in April 2013. With proposals including redevelopment to encompass a large format supermarket, it then came to light that the building had never been included on the Bega Valley Shire Council's Schedule 5 or Schedule 6 Local Environment Plan (LEP), despite its obvious heritage value.

Local residents are seeking to rectify this situation, with a nomination for inclusion of council's LEP having been recently submitted, but the wait for Australasia's fate must continue as government officials assess the relevant issues & come to a conclusion as to the future of one of Eden most recognisable historic landmark structures.

Bega Valley Shire Council met and considered the issue of including the Hotel Australasia on their Local Environment Plan on July 24, 2013. However, despite the fact that an assessment by their heritage adviser Pip Giovanelli recognised the historic value and significance of the property and recommended its retention, a majority of councillors voted not to list the Australasia.

In response, an online petition has now been set up to allow residents and interested individuals to express their concern. Anyone wishing to sign the document can do so by going to

At their March 2014 meeting, Bega Valley Shire Councillors voted six-two in favour of listing the historic Hotel Australasia building on Schedule 5 of the Comprehensive Local Environment Plan, providing recognition of the property's heritage significance.

In April 2014 Hotel Australasia property owners Great Southern Developments lodged an appeal in the NSW Land and Environment Court against Bega Valley Shire Council's decision to reject their Development Application for demolition of the building and construction of a retail complex on the site. A decision is still pending.

The developer is now looking to sever the applications to demolish the building; and construct the proposed new supermarket complex. There is a very real possibility that this could result in the building being demolished and the town being left with nothing in its place but a vacant site. A petitions has been got up, which is being carried by local businesses in hard copy; and you can also sign on line asking Bega Valley Shire Council not to allow the DA to be split into stages:

Article links:
Eden Magnet, April 11, 2013:

ABC Open, September 30, 2013:

Eden Magnet, March 27, 2014:

Eden Magnet, April 16, 2014:

Inheritance, April 25, 2014:

Eden Magnet, April 29, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 1, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 10, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 30, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 31, 2014:

Bega District News, July 31, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 31, 2014:

Batemans Bay Post, July 31, 2014:

ABC NSW, August 3, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 4, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 6, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 13, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 15, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 1, 2014:

Eden Magnet September 1, 2014:

Canberra Times, September 7, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 9, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 10, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 19, 2014:

ABC South East, 25 September, 2014:

Eden Magnet, November 13, 2014:

© Angela George.

Adelaide Mail
Australian Town and Country Journal
Ballantyne, Kathy, Pers. Comm., 5 April, 2013
Bega District News
Bega Standard
Bennett, Mick and Vicki, Pers. Comm., April 2013.
Canberra Times
Chester, Kerrie, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Dunn’s Almanac, 1921
Eden Magnet
Eden Magnet and Pambula Voice
Eden Observer
Eden Observer and South Coast Advocate
Farrell, Bronwyn, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Geraghty, Lesley, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Gibson, Gail, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Gippsland Mercury
Gippsland Times
Harris, Lee Jane, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Henry, Geoff, Pers. Comm., 9 April, 2013
Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company Illustrated Handbook, 2nd edition, 1912
Korner, Joanne, Pers. Comm., April 2013
McDonald, Margaret, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Melbourne Argus
Miller, Christine, Pers. Comm., 15 April, 2013
Moore's Almanac and New South Wales Country Directory, 1930
Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser
Northern Star
Pambula Voice
Ralph, Brett, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Raymond, Pat, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Smith, Jennifer, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Stanmore, Frank, Wikipedia entry,, retrieved 14 April, 2013
Sunday Herald
Switzer, Denise, Pers. Comm., 15 April, 2013
Switzer, Simon, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Sydney Morning Herald
Turner, Tania, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Twofold Bay Magnet
Vogt, W. Stanley, Picturesque Travel: Princes Highway Bairnsdale to Bega, Bairnsdale, ND: [C. 1915/16]
Whiter, Allan, via Robert Whiter, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Whiter, Peter, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Whiter, Robert, Pers. Comm., April 2013


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Robert, I'm not familiar with the name "George Scolero"...what was it with regards to?

    2. Hi Robert, I'm not familiar with the name "George Scolero"...what was it with regards to?

  3. Well done Angela, well done mate.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.