Summer Reading: History central

The Central Hotel on the corner of Wellington Street and Forrest Place in about 1928. Image courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

HISTORY buff RICHARD OFFEN is the author of Lost Perth, and the former executive director of Heritage Perth. In this week’s HERITAGE CORNER he tells us all about the “infamous” Central Hotel in Forrest Place.

THE Central Hotel once stood on the northern side of the GPO Building in Forrest Place. This hostelry started its life as the Miners’ Arms Hotel, which appears to have opened some time during the 1880s, although it has so far proved impossible to establish an exact date.

Throughout its history the hotel was continually in the news, usually for all the wrong reasons!

During December, 1898 for instance, not only did the landlord have his licence cancelled for “wilfully delaying the admission of the police to his hotel”, but a ‘daring robbery took place when a man calmly walked into the hotel, up to one of the bedrooms and stole money out of the trouser pocket of the room’s occupant, whilst he was still wearing them. Six months later one of the guests committed suicide in the building.

Eyesore

By the beginning of the 20th century, the hotel was clearly considered to be a ‘dive’ and was purchased by Daniel Mulcahy who, according to the Sunday Times in June, 1901, transformed the building: “As evidence of how an eyesore can be changed into a beauty spot, one has only to pay a visit to the Central Hotel, Wellington Street, immediately opposite the railway station, where Mr. Mulcahy has effected a complete transformation.” The report continued, “…on the eastern side of the public entrance is a large and beautifully fitted threepenny bar, at the back of which is the sitting room, while on the eastern-side is the saloon bar, a charmingly pretty place, artistically laid out.

Immediately behind is the billiard saloon, a well ventilated and bright room, where a pleasant hour can be whiled away with the cue.”

The report then concluded, “Mr. Mulcahy intends giving the Central his personal supervision at all times, and hopes that his efforts will be rewarded, insomuch that the malodorous name which the place had when it was the Miners’ Arms will be entirely eliminated.”

The hotel was once again renovated in 1923 as part of the creation of Forrest Place, when the new GPO building next door was completed.

Two years later Mulcahy died and the property was acquired by Thomas Deane. Yet more trouble was to ensue.

In 1928, there was a scuffle in the bar, when two men were refused service.

This resulted in one of the barman dying two days later from injuries caused during the fracas.

Several other minor incidents were reported in the newspapers during the ensuing years until 1944 when the Daily News noted, “Licensee Thomas Deane, of the Central Hotel, Perth, was charged in Perth Police Court today with having on December 8, 1943, attempted to influence Harry Ottewell as a juror in the event of his sitting on the jury in the trial of Lavus O’Connell Gorman.”

Deane, along with another man, was convicted and had to forfeit the hotel license, which was transferred to his sister, who a year later was fined for “for not having had every door or other entrance by which admission could be gained to the bar room closed and locked at a time when the premises should not have been open for the sale of liquor.”

The lease on the hotel, which was situated on land owned by the federal government, expired in June 1953 and the building was converted into commonwealth government offices.

It was then demolished in about 1989 to make way for Albert Facey House.

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