Back in the days when there seemed to be a hotel on every Brisbane CBD corner and one or two in between, the one that stood on the corner of Queen and Adelaide Sts at Petrie Bight was the magnificent National Hotel. An impressive sight that by the late sixties had sophisticated cocktail bars and restaurants, this hotel became infamous in the Royal Commission into prostitution and police corruption that commenced in 1963. It bobbed up again in the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption of the late eighties.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-002-0001-0005)
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #22309)
Above (top) is the National Hotel with the Customs House in the background, and a more direct view (bottom), both pictures from around 1890. Below are later photos of the hotel in 1939 and 1972.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #78353)
(Photo: NLA; #nla.pic-vn4361600, Bruce Howard)
At the time that I first remember the National, in the late sixties, there was an extremely popular cocktail bar called "Warren's Bar" which was quite the risque venue because of the eponymous cocktail barman Warren. Warren was very theatrically flamboyant, with a witty repartee of suitable double entendres - behaviour that would perhaps now be described as "camp". Brisbane at that time was not a very worldly city, and looking back on the environment now, it is hard not to wonder at the cruel jibes that would have been heaped on Warren. I hope he survived it all. I found the following work portraying Warren by artist David Collins at the Bett Gallery in Hobart.
("Warren: The National Hotel (Brisbane)" 2009 by David Collins. Reproduced by kind permission of David Collins and Bett Gallery, Hobart)
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)
In my recent photograph (above) Customs House with its copper dome can be seen in the background, now dwarfed by the large building behind it. On the RHS of the picture, the hotel has gone, replaced by another large office tower which has a coffee shop on the ground floor. These days, there is a coffee shop on every corner of the CBD, often with one or two in between. I suppose that it's one way of humanising glass towers.
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