In this, the 27th and final article in the Horsham hotel series, we cover three hotels with a difference.
The Temperance Hotel
The name of this hotel, at first sight, appears to be a contradiction in terms.
The word "hotel" originally meant a hostel or place of accommodation whereas today it is regarded as a place for entertainment, food and drink.
Thomas Ward arrived with his family from South Australia about 1867 and set up a six-acre farm at what is now 71-75 McPherson Street. At the time Horsham was a village of about 500 people and the business centre was some distance away, at the western end of Wilson Street.
Ward's land was on the route people took to the town centre so in about 1874 he built a boarding house and called it the "Temperance Hotel". True to its name, the Temperance Hotel was never licensed to sell liquor.
It was probably managed by Ward's wife Fanny as a sideline to their farming activities. In 1880, at age 45, Fanny died. Thomas then employed Herbert Arthur as manager.
Being so far from the town centre proved problematic and Ward closed the Temperance Hotel in 1885. He sold the property to one of his sons, Charles, and turned his attention to carting goods and farming on his selection at Dooen. He died in 1904 at 80 years of age.
The hotel property was sold in 1906. The northern portion was later owned by the Beveridge family and the much larger southern portion by the Wimmera Fresh Foods company and ice-works, up to 1956. About 1970 Puls Engineering was established on the site and since 2014 it has been occupied by Mitre 10 Hardware.
Ironically, Thomas' son, Charlie Ward, became licensee of the Bull and Mouth Hotel in 1903 and another son, Tommy "The Corrigan" Ward was known as a colourful character inclined to overindulge in drink.
While the Temperance Hotel was a hotel without a licence, our next oddity is a licence without a hotel. William Downie, a Melbourne entrepreneur, saw potential in the relatively undeveloped northern end of Firebrace Street.
In about August 1936, through his agent, Jack Friedman, Downie purchased a house and land that once belonged to Dr Black, at 9-11 Firebrace Street. The 1880s house was demolished and in its place he erected the "Garden Outdoor Theatre" extending behind two shops that had been built on land originally owned by Dr Black, which Downie had also purchased.
A few months later Downie purchased the adjacent land at 5-7 Firebrace Street on which he constructed the two-storey "20th Century Theatre", completed about August 1937. After this the Garden Outdoor Theatre was rarely used and in 1938 Downie proposed a grand hotel in its place.
On 22 May 1939, after a prolonged effort to get a liquor licence for the "Hotel Horsham", the Licensing Board approved the application. A legal challenge by another hotelier meant the licence was not ratified until October 1939.
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The three-year-old Garden Theatre was then dismantled to make way for the new hotel. The plan was to demolish the Firebrace Street shops later in the construction phase.
The architect's drawings showed a three-storey brick hotel with 26 single rooms, 34 double rooms and 18 bathrooms. The estimated cost was 20,000 pounds.
Deep footings were commenced in late 1939 to counter the unstable soils of Horsham. The expected date of completion was July 1940.
Unfortunately for Downie, the intervention of WW2, declared in September 1939, resulted in a shortage of workers and supplies so nothing more was done.
In November 1945, two months after the War ended, Downie's agent, Jack Friedman, tried to recommence construction. However, the project stalled and the site remained empty.
In 1951 the land was sold to Slorach Auto Limited of Hamilton for 13,012 pounds as an investment property. "Slorach's Buildings" consisted of ten shops and 11 upper-floor offices at 9-11 Firebrace Street. It was completed in mid-1954 and still stands today.
Murra Warra Hotel
About 1877 David Griffiths built a hotel at Murra Warra on a block of just under four acres on the western side of the Blue Ribbon Road, about 150 metres south of the Dimboola-Minyip Road. It was midway between Horsham and Warracknabeal.
Retired Murra Warra farmer, Col Thomas, has described the hotel as being a wooden, eight-roomed building with a wide verandah all round. In addition to the hotel, Murra Warra consisted of a general store, a blacksmith's shop, a post office, a church and a school.
About 1883 William Gowers became licensee of the Murra Warra Hotel and tried to transfer the licence to a house in Dimboola. This application was refused.
On 13 December 1886 James Jackson, a butcher, successfully applied for a new licence for the Murra Warra Hotel and changed the name to "The Halfway House Hotel".
Jackson constructed extensive yards at the hotel at which monthly stock sales were held.
Three years later Jackson sold the Halfway House Hotel to blacksmith Henry Witney. Barely a year later, in September 1890, Witney left the hotel business but remained in Murra Warra as a blacksmith. It appears that after this the hotel's licence was allowed to lapse.
In 1980 Col Thomas visited the site of the Halfway House Hotel with two bottle collectors to excavate the hotel's cellar with a backhoe. They found redgum planks and around 25 iron barrel hoops from old beer casks and many broken bottles, but no intact bottles.
Today the only evidence of the village's existence is the school site, marked by a plaque, and some sugar gums.
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