Friday, April 9, 2010

Hotel Orient

Brisbane architect Richard Gailey has appeared in this blog before. Gailey was an Irishman from Londonderry who emigrated to Brisbane in 1864, establishing his own practice in the following year. His work in Brisbane extended over the next sixty years until his death in 1924. What better canvas for an Irish architect's talents than hotels? Gailey was involved in the design or refurbishment of more than thirty of Brisbane's hotels, including the Empire in Fortitude Valley, the Regatta at Toowong, and the subject of today's post - the Orient Hotel on the corner of Queen St and Ann St at Petrie Bight. It is pictured below in 1936.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #106575)

Writing these pages has made me wonder about hotels: why were there so many of them in a relatively small and still-young city? And why is it that so many have survived to the present day, many of those now heritage listed? Plenty of other types of building have not been so fortunate, but hotels and churches seem to have had charmed lives in Brisbane. Perhaps it is because they were the most used buildings, although church attendances have certainly declined in recent decades. Of course, successful hotels do generate lots of revenue, of which the government gets its fair share in the form of licencing fees, tax on alcohol, and now taxes on gaming machines- could that be a factor?

Anyway, ponderings suspended (with no conclusion having been reached), let's get back to the Orient. Originally called the Excelsior Hotel, it was constructed in 1875 in a wonderful postition - right on the main thoroughfare from Fortitude Valley to the city, and brilliantly designed by Gailey, including his further extensions in 1884, to take advantage of a triangular block of land - this can be appreciated in the old photo. Like many of Gailey's pubs, this one also had elaborate verandahs in its original guise, but these had already been removed when the hotel was photographed back in 1936. (Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The Orient is one of the oldest surviving, still operating, hotels in the city, and can be seen in my recent photo (above). Only four other hotels pre-date it, and they include the Port Office Hotel in Edward St and the Treasury Hotel in George St. The Orient is situated only a block away from where the National Hotel once stood on the corresponding Queen and Adelaide Sts corner. The Hotel Orient doesn't seem to be as heavily patronised as it may have been in the past. Sometimes I catch a bus from right outside, and the silence is deafening.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Anyone for Tiffin?


  1. Great stuff. Was the Orient originally built as shown in the first photo? It looks as though some changes may have already been made between 1875 and 1936.

    When I was studying the architecture of the Victorian gold fields, I had the same question. Why would a small town have 14 pubs and 5 churches, even before it built schools, town halls, parks, port facilities, hospitals or any other communal resources?

    The pub part is easy. Men worked at hard labour with bugger-all chance of a good financial return. Drinking after work was blessed relief. Church was a lesser blessed relief, of a slightly different kind :)

  2. i patronised the Orient in the late 80s and through into the late 90s. i knew people who worked there in the late 80s, and they often had bands that i liked there in the 90s

  3. I was unable to find any earlier photos, but the hotel originally had verandahs that must have been removed prior to the 1936 image.

  4. I worked there in the early 90s as an apprentice chef and saw some great bands,Powderfinger and Caligula to name a few.It was a busy pub then and we used to do alot of food.

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  6. I found a photograph of the hotel as a drawing on the state library of qld site. from 1889 just beautiful


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