IN this week’s look back in time, the Vincent Local History Centre helps celebrate the Leederville Hotel’s 125 years as a magnet for locals looking for a good night out.
ESTABLISHED suburbs in Perth are filled with local pubs that have their own rich history and character.
This year, the Leederville Hotel clocks up over 125 years of serving patrons.
Built in 1896 and operated since 1897, the pub has long been at the centre of social life in Leederville.
The two-storey Federation style brick and iron pub was built to provide accommodation and slake the thirst of many newcomers from overseas and interstate flooding into Perth in the gold rush era.
While the original architect and builder of the pub are not known, its first owner was James Pearce who applied to the Perth Licencing Court in December 1896 “for a premises already built at the junction of Leeder, Oxford and Newcastle Streets, the place being ready for opening at once”(Daily News, 8 Dec 1896).
In its early years, the pub changed hands several times and was rebuilt in 1904 into a much larger hotel “worthy of the district, compact and pretentious in aspect”.
The new hotel was the first building in Leederville to have electricity.
A new era of progress and prosperity for the district was ushered in when the Leederville mayor flicked the light switch on at the hotel’s grand re-opening in January 1905.
In 1914, the hotel was sold to the Swan Brewery Company which was Perth’s most dominant beer supplier and the owner of a large portion of the city’s hotels at the time.
In the period from World War I to 1926, the hotel was run by publicans Louis and Maud Cunningham who actively supported local charities and community groups, helped develop and promote other local businesses in the area such as a billiard saloon and the New Oxford Theatre built in 1927 (now Luna Cinemas).
The hotel was extensively refurbished in 1928 by the Todd Brothers and architects Hobbs, Smith and Forbes.
It was altered again in 1950 with the addition of a women’s toilet, despite women still being segregated from drinking in main public bars until the late 1960s.
As the nearby Leederville Oval, the former home of the West Perth Football Club from the 1900s to 1994, had no bar facilities in its early days, the hotel became the club and its supporters’ preferred watering hole.
Locals Reg Axford and Harold Mundy recall Cardinals footballers from the 1950s and 1960s
“training” at the pub on Friday nights before a game.
“All this bunkum that goes on with training today – West Perth footballers used to train Friday nights at the Leederville Hotel,” they said.
“They’d be outside singing to the Salvation Army, going home as full as googs – and they’d come out on Saturday afternoon and play champion games of football.”
By the late 1960s, the hotel changed again as more cars and motels popped up in Perth, causing a decline in demand for short-term accommodation in inner-city pubs, including the Leederville Hotel.
The hotel became home to many long-term boarders who were often single men on low incomes.
One of these lodgers, “Kanga”, who ran a local betting shop, lived and died in the tower bedroom of the hotel, is said to haunt the hotel.
There are various stories of his ghostly apparition in the pub, including an episode in the late 1980s when his night time presence repeatedly set off the hotel’s alarm systems until desperate hotel staff wrote the ghost a cease and desist letter.
The Swan Brewery Company sold the Leederville Hotel in 1980.
It dropped accommodation over the years and the premises were remodelled by a succession of different owners.
The hotel was placed on the Vincent heritage inventory in 1995 in recognition of its distinct Federation architecture and social value as a social and entertainment venue. In more recent years, its iconic beer garden and Blue Flamingo bar were popular go-to venues for locals.
The pub got a new lease of life in 2021 with a major redevelopment.
The new-look Leederville Hotel and adjacent Electric Lane, which is named as a nod to its early history, has breathed new life into the hotel’s old bones and reconnected it to the heart of the Leederville community.
If you’d like to learn more about the Leederville Hotel or share any photos or information about the pub, please visit the City of Vincent Local History Centre.