The Palace Hotel in Southern Cross is today owned by Sanctum Resources Pty Ltd. With a modernisation in progress as of April 2018, the Hotel and corresponding accommodation will look very different to the pub that was built in at the turn of the 20th Century. The History of this great Western Australian landmark is fascinating - and thanks to the Western Australian Heritage Society we know the following....
History since 1910
Palace Hotel, Southern Cross is a substantial two-storey corner hotel built in 1911 in Federation Filigree style to a design by architect Christian Frederick Mouritzen. The place was enlarged in 1935 with elements of Inter-War Art Deco style by architects Cavanagh and Cavanagh, and restored with modern facilities and reconstructed verandahs in 1991.
In the 1850s, pastoralists began to move further afield from the settled Avon Valley in search of good pastures, and large leases were taken up in marginal country. In 1887, Charles Glass discovered gold in pieces of quartz on his property at Mujakine while sinking a well. The Government immediately provided a grant of £300 for further research into the find, as it was believed that only
agriculture or mining could provide sufficient export income to make the Colony economically independent. Gold was located at Golden Valley and at Eenuin. Early in 1888, R. Risely and his Phoenix prospecting party followed the Southern Cross constellation to a line of ironstone hills and named their subsequent gold find 'Southern Cross'.
The camp that developed at Southern Cross grew into a provisioning centre and starting point for further prospecting. On 1 October 1888, the Yilgarn goldfield was declared. The Yilgarn was not a profitable field for the alluvial miner, so most men worked for the mining companies who developed the reef mines. Four Hotels were among the first buildings at goldfield settlements and Southern Cross was no exception, with the Club and Exchange hotels in existence in their early form in 1888 and 1889 respectively. The Exchange, which included a store, was owned by William Cameron and was located near to the Fraser Mine. When the townsite of Southern Cross was surveyed, the Exchange was located on Lot 1 and Cameron also owned the adjoining Lots 2 and 3, on the corner of Antares and Orion streets, across which the hotel was gradually extended to include shops as the town grew.
Southern Cross was declared a municipality on 16 February 1892. In 1893, the Government began construction of the Eastern Goldfield Railway from Northam. Government buildings of stone were constructed consisting of a court house, post office and warden's quarters, and a miners' institute, two churches, public hospital and school were soon established. By the time the Northam-Southern Cross section of the Eastern Goldfield line was opened on 1 July 1894, the goldfields at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie had been established and work began immediately on extending the line to those areas, which became the focus of the eastern goldfields. The railway brought a steady stream of prospectors and businesses flourished providing supplies for their extended journey further east. The Railway Hotel was built in 1894, directly opposite the new station and a population of 500 was
recorded for the town in that year. On Lots 2 and 3, a grocer, clothier and ironmongery store was run by McHenry & Clarke and a bakery, produce and grocery store by Schnippering & Eyles and later by Wilkinson. Two small shops in the Exchange Hotel operated as a barber and a chemist between 1894 and 1896. Tenants of all the shops changed rapidly. In 1896, William Cameron replaced the original 10-room Exchange Hotel with larger premises of 25 rooms, under the same name. Cameron died in April 1899
and the properties were held by his estate until 1903, when Lot 1, with the Exchange Hotel, was transferred to Thomas Humphries and Lots 2 and 3 to Archibald Torrance Wilson.
A c.1904 photograph of the Exchange Hotel shows a simple timber-framed iron clad structure offering 'good stabling' and 'first class accommodation'. The Goldfield pipeline reached Southern Cross on 30 October 1902, providing reliable water at a much lower cost. The railway line and the pipeline encouraged more intensive agriculture along the route, which was further encouraged
central wheatbelt and linking to the Eastern Goldfield line at Northam, Merredin and Southern Cross. Despite generally declining gold production in the 1900s, Southern Cross continued to flourish due to gold mines operating at Marvel Loch. In 1910 there was a new gold find at Bullfinch, which was believed rich enough to rival the Kalgoorlie Golden Mile. In that year, Frank Snook purchased the Exchange Hotel and adjoining shops. He then demolished the shops on Lots 2 and 3 and had Palace Hotel, Southern Cross built on the site.
The Exchange Hotel on Lot 1 remained but was vacant for a number of years. Frank Herbert Snook was born at Fremantle in 1866 and at sixteen was apprenticed in the cabinetmaking trade. He arrived in Southern Cross in 1893 and established a carpentry and undertakers business and was responsible for the construction of the Commercial and Southern Cross hotels (neither extant) for their respective owners, and in 1903 became the licensee of the Southern Cross Hotel. He was a town councillor and Mayor, a Justice of the Peace, and involved in various organisations in the town including the Freemasons, where he served as treasurer for the Southern Cross Lodge. Palace Hotel, Southern Cross was designed by Christian Frederick Mouritzen. Mouritzen had studied architecture in Denmark prior to working in South Africa, and then at Charters Towers, Queensland. Subsequently, after a period at the Croydon Goldfields he came to Western Australia in the wake of the Western Australian gold boom and obtained employment in the Public Works Department as a draughtsman. He rose to become Supervisor of Works and Architect in the Eastern Division before resigning to work independently as an architect and contractor. He had various other business interests, including the Perth Hotel, a pastoral property at Burracoppin, and mining interests at Bullfinch, which later brought him into contact with the Southern Cross community. As well as founding Calyx Porcelain (still trading, now as Australian Fine China) with works at Subiaco in 1918, Mouritzen also established an architectural practice with George Temple-Poole in the 1920s, and under this partnership was responsible for a number of structures including a large four-storey commercial building on Hay Street for Levinson & Sons in 1926, and Temple Court which included the 4,000 seat Capitol Theatre and parking building on the corner of William Street and the
Mounts Bay Road in Perth (demolished c.1980). Mouritzen was also known for establishing the Mouritzen Architectural Travel Prize which lives on in the Peter Hunt Travel Prize. Mouritzen was one of the few architects who immigrated to Western Australia to
assist with the widespread building projects spurred by the 1890s gold boom.
In 1895 there had been only 15 architects in private practice in the colony, but five years later there were over 100. Many of these immigrant architects, whether they arrived from the eastern states or overseas, had been trained in Europe. Their work significantly shaped Western Australia’s visual landscape from the Federation era and well into the twentieth century. Frank Snook himself supervised the building of Palace Hotel, Southern Cross, with the work done by day labour.
The place opened on 30 September 1911 and a note in The Southern Cross Times of that day, alerting residents to the opening, stated: "Mr F H Snook's Palace hotel, the building of which has occupied some months, will
be open for business today. Visitors are requested to wipe their feet before walking
on the new linoleum and not to smear the mirrors with their greasy thumbs".
A report in the following issue gave a description of the place: "The building, constructed of bonded red brick, stands on the corner of Antares and Orion-streets, presenting a frontage of eighty three (83) feet to the former and one hundred and seventeen (117) feet to the latter. The style of architecture is not in any way ornate or ambitious, but the building has a massive appearance which, taken together with the broad balcony running end to end of it, seems to please the eye with promise of coolness in the days when the mercury starts to boil..."
The first brick was laid on the foundations on March 17 by Cr E. C. McInnes, and the last brick on the 19th of June by Miss Snook... The building contains forty-six rooms, twenty of which are bedrooms available for visitors, and fifteen of those latter being single-bedded rooms. On the ground floor is a commercial room 35ft. x 25ft.; saloon bar and billiard-room... 39ft. x 22ft.; dining room 30ft. x 22ft. Besides these are a large front bar and lounge bar; two parlours, pantries, bedrooms for staff, etc. All the ground floors are thirteen feet in height. The upper floor, reached by a handsome jarrah staircase, is occupied by drawing room; smoking and writing rooms, bedrooms, two bathrooms, lavatories, etc. All these rooms have walls eleven feet high. An efficient hot water system utilising heat from the large range in the kitchen, is installed, and connected with the bathrooms on the upper floor. The ceilings were of plaster 'instead of the commonly used metal' and the brick construction of the upper floor was supported on heavy rolled steel girders over the large open rooms on the ground floor. In Australia, much steel construction material was still imported in the 1910s. There were several steel manufacturers listed in the WA Post Office Directory in 1911, but only one steel rolling mill; Frodingham Iron and Steel Co Ltd, Melbourne Rd (later Milligan St), Perth.
Following a 1922 Royal Commission into the liquor industry, amendments were made to the State's 1911 Licensing Act. This saw a reduction in the number of licensed premises, particularly in the goldfields, as the new State Licensing Court concerned itself with the upgrading of hotel facilities. Physical evidence indicates that extra accommodation was added to Palace Hotel, Southern Cross around this time with an extension to the south-west wing, marked by a change in floor level on the upper floor. While the Licensing Court placed an emphasis on accommodation, J. M. Freeland, in The Australian Pub, states that 'from 1920 to 1925 was the period in which the Australian pub swung away from being a building in which the bars were physically only a small part of whole to the present situation where they form by far the greater part' with hotels being 'disembowelled to make room for the herds pressing for a place at the bar'.
These changes are not likely to have had a great affect on Palace Hotel, Southern Cross as the bars were already of considerable size, due no doubt to Frank Snook's knowledge of the hard-drinking mining community, but at some time the saloon bar has been opened up into what was probably the front bar, based on the 1911 description of the place and the current layout. Palace Hotel, Southern Cross was the upmarket hotel in Southern Cross, charging £0 12 6 a day for a room in the 1920s, compared to the ten shillings charged by the Club and Railway hotels. The place was listed as having 24 bedrooms. Frank Snook died in 1923 and title to Palace Hotel, Southern Cross passed to his son Clyde Frank Snook, hotelkeeper, and son-in-law Sydney Atkinson, commercial agent and proprietor of the Perth Holden dealership Sydney Atkinson Motors, as the executors of his estate. In 1931, title was transferred to daughter Gladys Bella Archer Atkinson of Crawley as tenant in common with Clarkson Brothers Ltd of St Georges Terrace, Perth.
In the 1930s, the goldfields experienced another small boom. Claude de Bernales had raised £1 million in London to work his Wiluna leases, and the Wiluna Mine opened in 1931. Its successful production was an encouragement for the revival of other gold mines, and together with the Commonwealth Government's one pound an ounce gold bounty resulted in many unemployed men flocking to the fields to try their luck during the Depression. It was common for people coming to work in rural towns to live at a hotel as that was often the only accommodation available. In 1930, teacher Erna McCrea (later Erna Forrester) boarded at Palace Hotel, Southern Cross. The code of conduct for single women at that time meant that she could not spend much time during winter in the warmth of the open fire in the commercial room because of the commercial travellers, who of course were male, and had instead to spend most of her off work hours isolated in her unheated room. When her fiancé, William Forrester visited her, the door to her room had to remain open in observance of the social proprietaries.
In 1935, Palace Hotel, Southern Cross was acquired by the Kalgoorlie Brewing and Ice Company Limited, who immediately enlarged the place with additional bedrooms to cater to the increased population of the 1930s mining boom. Architects Cavanagh and Cavanagh were engaged for the work, which was carried out by builder J. Moore at a cost of £4,709.33 Physical evidence and later plans indicate that the work involved the erection of an accommodation wing at the centre rear and a men's bathroom in the south-west wing upper floor. Included in the work were decorative alterations in Inter-War Art Deco style. In the 1940 Western Australian Tourist Guide, licensee T. E. Murphy listed Palace Hotel, Southern Cross as having 35 bedrooms available, with a tariff of £0 10 6 a night and £2 15 0 a week.
The Kalgoorlie Brewery, under its director and owner Jim Cummins, was one of three major competitors to the Swan Brewery. Following Cummins' death, his daughter Alice Cummins took over as managing director. She extended the Brewery's production with the manufacture of a sweet lager that proved 'enormously popular' and increased the Company's profitability and market
share. Following the sudden death of Alice Cummins in June 1943, aged 45, the Swan Brewery was able to acquire the Kalgoorlie Brewing and Ice Company Limited, together with its hotels. The Kalgoorlie Company continued to operate under its own name as a subsidiary company and in 1949 became the Kalgoorlie Brewery Co Ltd. The mining boom had been cut short with the advent of the Second World War and Palace Hotel, Southern Cross struggled to remain economically viable in the 1950s and 1960s. The old Exchange Hotel on Lot 1 was removed in 1950. It had been occupied as a motor garage since 1928.38
In 1969, Palace Hotel, Southern Cross was purchased jointly by Gladys Riddell, proprietor of the Railway Hotel at Southern Cross, and farmer Giuseppe (Joe) Divitini of Tirono Farm, Ghooli. The place was delicensed and became the Anniversary Hostel boarding house on the Palace Corner, run by a Mrs M. Willis. Little money had been spent on maintenance over the previous decades. When Joe Divitini became the sole owner of the place in mid 1971, he removed the verandahs, which were in danger of collapse, and sold the decorative lace ironwork. There was another mining boom in the 1980s when new technologies made it possible to treat ore that had previously been uneconomic due to the low amount of gold present. The Anniversary Hostel continued to function and in 1987, Valerie Dawn Velic, boarding house proprietor, is recorded as the owner of the place.
By 1990, Palace Hotel, Southern Cross was in danger of demolition due to its poor condition. Local resident and mine owner Lloyd Marchese, through his company Malak Pty Ltd, purchased the place with the intention of using it to house his mining staff, but decided it was worth restoring to its former position as the best hotel in Southern Cross. Lloyd Marchese owned the Bayswater Hotel, which he had recently restored. He engaged Oldfield Knott Architects Pty Ltd to design the refurbishment of Palace Hotel, Southern Cross. The most obvious change was the reinstatement of the double height verandahs, with timber balustrades to the upper level. Modern bathroom facilities were provided with bathrooms to the ground floor rooms in the south-west wing creating motel style accommodation, some with a spa bath, and extensive shared bathroom facilities for the upper floor bedrooms. The following report appeared in The Western Liquor Guide: During September 1991 Malak Pty Ltd was successful in relicensing the Palace Hotel in Southern Cross... The building has continued to deteriorate even though it operated as a boarding house, despite the presence of an in-house ghost. Other licensees in town and surrounds opposed the application but it was demonstrated that 85% of its business would be generated from passing trade. The man behind the application was Lloyd Marchese whose relationship with Southern Cross goes back to childhood.... He formed the idea that the Palace would make a splendid traveller's hotel and major upgrading would be necessary. It would provide reasonably priced accommodation, a good class restaurant, lounge facilities, counter lunches, saloon bar and function room... While initially only 19 rooms will be restored, there are an additional 12 bedrooms which can be restored. Within two years some 30 rooms would be available. The cost will be close to $700,000 on top of the $200,000 purchase price.
Cost of restoration rose as more work was found to be needed than originally considered. The plumbing needed to be replaced throughout as did the plaster ceilings. Removal of these uncovered the heavy rolled steel girders described in the original newspaper item on the opening of the place in 1911. The girders have been made a feature of the bar. Another discovery was that the building had been constructed in four sections, which is thought to have been done to allow for rocking during underground explosions at the nearby Frasers mine, which was an operating mine at the time the place was built. The restored wood panelled bar is described as being 'more opulent than the original'. The place was owned by Craig and Susan Dunlop of Southern Cross for several years and since 2005 has been owned by Stanley and Julie Davidenko. Changes made since 1991 include the use of the entire upper floor south-east wing as an apartment, the removal of several walls in the public spaces on the ground floor and conversion of the lounge to a dining room.
What is in the future?
As it stands now the Hotel is about to undergo arguably it's biggest transformation in it's history as the mining boom re-ignites. The plans in place will see the bar and rooms renovated and modernised, the latest technology introduced and a new level of entertainment and hospitality established. Current Publican Josh Payne brings years of experience to the role and will without doubt take the Hotel to the next level.