The Commonwealth Hotel (now the Hyde Park Hotel) was designed by liar and architect, William Woolf. Born 1855 in New York, Woolf always claimed he studied architecture at Heidelberg, Germany. There was no such education facility there at the time.
In 1891, he was accused of swindling a servant girl out of £220 in Melbourne, In WA, he was regularly in court for failing to pay his bills, but still managed to design many great buildings. His most significant contribution to Perth’s architecture is His Majesty’s Theatre.
The Commonwealth’s first landlord was Charles Simms. He had been a publican in New South Wales, South Australia, and in Fremantle. However, getting a licence for his new hotel was to prove a little difficult in 1901.
Like any good police officer today, Inspector Drewery opposed the application, but this time it was on account of the manner in which the applicant had conducted his other hotels.
The Inspector read the bench a list of Simms’ convictions over the previous four years. Disorderly conduct on licensed premises; supplying liquor to an underage boy; allowing prostitutes to congregate in his bar; Sunday trading; trading after hours; employing staff after hours; and, again allowing prostitutes in a pub.
After hearing Simms’ excuses for each conviction, the bench adjourned.
After lunch, they said that “after very anxious consideration,” Simms could have a licence, since they did not like to “take the responsibility” of refusing the application in this instance.
So, Charles Simms did become the Commonwealth’s first landlord after all. But only just.