Beer and Buildings


What could be better on a cold winter Saturday afternoon than drinks with friends in a few different venues? Especially if you can introduce them to Perth’s heritage and make yourself look clever at the same time. Welcome to the Dodgy Perth ‘Beer and Buildings’ self-guided tour. At a mere 2km you will pack in a number of drinking establishments en route. We recommend pacing yourself carefully.

Drink One: The George, 216 St George’s Terrace

Meet around 2pm. You can start earlier, but a few later venues don’t open until 3pm on a weekend. When you’ve finished your first drink of the tour, step outside and look at the buildings opposite. None of them are heritage buildings, but a lot have classical references in their pillars. You’re going to see a lot of pillars today, so just soak in the fact that architects have never stopped using them.

Walk towards the CBD, passing The Cloisters (1858) on your left. Designed by Richard Roach Jewell, it was originally a secondary school. Keep going until you are opposite Newspaper House.

Drink Two: Newspaper House, 125 St George’s Terrace

newspaper house

Discover more about this 1933 building by clicking here. Then go behind the place and take a couple of flights of stairs up to Bob’s Bar. This rooftop venue (it has a retracting roof if the weather is not ideal) will provide an opportunity for a wide range of beers.

When you return to St George’s Terrace, keep going in the same direction, cross over William Street and take a right turn into Howard Street.

Drink Three: Haynes, Robinson & Cox Building, 18-20 Howard Street


Discover more about this 1907 building by clicking here. Then take the small laneway opposite to find Helvetica, one of Perth’s top providers of fine whiskeys.

Afterwards, return to St George’s Terrace and keep going towards Barrack Street. Cross over, and enter Stirling Gardens, heading towards the Supreme Court.

Interlude: The Old Courthouse, Stirling Gardens

old court

Discover more about this 1837 building by clicking here. Don’t worry too much about your next drink, it’s coming soon.

Return to St George’s Terrace and stop opposite the State Buildings (now COMO).

Drink Four: State Buildings, St George’s Terrace


Discover more about this 1890 building by clicking here. Then enter Petition Bar, either through the St George’s main arch, or round the side on Barrack Street. We recommend the tasting tray of four different beers, but your mileage may vary.

When you’ve finished the last drop of beer or wine, leave by the Barrack Street exit and head north. You will pass the Town Hall (1870) on your right, and now comes the longest stretch without beer in the entire tour. Keep going over the bridge, past the Court Hotel, until you reach Dominion League. It may be best to cross over to other side of Beaufort Street to get a good view.

Drink Five: United Friendly Societies Dispensary, 84 Beaufort Street


Discover more about this 1911 building by clicking here. A great wine list and a cosy atmosphere inside, although it can get a little busy as the evening goes on.

On the home stretch now. Leave the Dominion League, turn left towards the pedestrian crossing, go over Beaufort Street and head into the Cultural Centre. For the best view of the PICA Building look for a raised area to your right, just in front of the library.

Drink Six: Government School, 51 James Street


Discover more about this 1897 building by clicking here. Now chill out for the rest of the evening at the PICA Bar, knowing you’ve discovered all about Perth’s heritage, had a healthy walk, and possibly (just possibly) more than a single drink.

Since the tour ends here, you will find public transport back home is within a short stroll, whether you need a bus, train or Uber.

Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1841


United Service Tavern shortly before demolition

As New Year’s Eve rapidly approaches, the Dodgy Perth team will be undertaking their usual ritual of preloading followed by a night out in a pub with live music, followed by drunkenly trying to get a snog at midnight. Naturally, the venue will not be the Brass Monkey, but you probably guessed that already. (Please note that Dodgy Perth does not condone excessive consumption of alcohol. If you do, it means less for us.)

Which made us wonder which Perth hotel threw the first ever NYE party. And we believe the answer is the United Service Tavern, pictured above. Sadly, this long-standing pub on St George’s Terrace was demolished around 1970 and was replaced by a fairly ugly building.

The original tavern was opened in 1835 by James Dobbins, formerly a private in the 63rd Regiment, who had arrived on the Sulphur accompanying the first wave of colonists in 1829. Keen to attract his former military colleagues to sink a couple of pints, James called the pub United Service Tavern and painted large pictures of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington on the front. That what was passed for equal opportunities in the 1830s: both army and navy were welcome.


The original United Service Tavern, pictured here in the 1860s

In 1840, the tavern was taken over by Henry Cole, known locally as King Cole, because apparently that was funny in the 19th century. And it was Henry who seems to have organised the first ever NYE public event in the Swan River Colony for 31 December 1841. Gentlemen’s tickets were 10 shillings each, while ladies only had to pay 7s 6d. Presumably because they would eat and drink less than the blokes, rather than a tacky stunt to get more females into the bar. Maybe.


We object to gendered pricing policies. Even from 1841.

Later the building came into the hands of Henry Strickland and Stephen Chipper, before being leased by John Giles who added a new front to the original building. It was this frontage, and the 1835 hotel behind it, which were demolished in 1970, including original stables and outbuildings.

So, if you’re heading out tonight to a historic venue, remember to be thankful not everything has been knocked down. Yet.

A hotel for our boys


Darling Range Hotel in 1914

Nothing makes us sadder than the unnecessary loss of an old pub. Especially one that still has skimpies. And by skimpies, we obviously mean a long and interesting history. Yet lose it we might, if plans to demolish the Darling Range Hotel for yet another service station go ahead.

Built as the East Midland Hotel in 1905 for Thomas Wilkins, the site was chosen so patrons could sit on the balcony and watch the horses at the Helena Vale Racecourse. Naturally, it became very popular. In 1914 it was sold to a man with the wonderful name of Welbourne Keatley Lamzed, who arrived just in time to take advantage of a new source of customers: the men doing basic training at Blackboy Hill.

No one liked the way the YMCA was running the camp’s alcohol-free canteen, and a rival wet mess for the men was quickly shut down after wowsers complained to the newspapers that soldiers shouldn’t be allowed a pint after a hard day’s training. So the Darling Range Hotel, newly renamed and redecorated, was one of the few sources of beer for the men.

However, someone started a rumour that Mr Lamzed was (whisper it now) a German, and no patriot should be drinking in his venue. The rumour was, of course, a complete lie, Lamzed was born in East London, much to the relief of those doing their training. In fact, he had supplied the short-lived wet canteen at Blackboy Hill, and argued that men should drink at the camp, rather than coming to the Darling Range Hotel, since there would be less temptation to go AWOL after a few glasses.

And Lamzed said he didn’t really want all the new customers anyway, since he had bought the pub as a quiet retreat to live out an easy life after a career spent in the construction trade. As a side note, Lamzed had erected Boans first ever store, so he has more than one claim to fame.

But the wowsers won the day, the wet canteen stayed closed, and the Darling Range Hotel became the main drinking hole for those ANZACs about to serve overseas.

Today you drink in a new tavern built at the back of the old building, which has lost much of its charm with the loss of the verandahs. But that’s still no excuse for knocking over part of our military and boozing history. Go have a drink there. Take a selfie outside the original hotel, and tell JDAP to keep their planning paws off one more piece of our heritage.

Damn you, Hoover


Topless, in a Kalgoorlie bar? The Dodgy Perth team wouldn’t know about such things.


Mirror, mirror on the wall… Do you have anything to do with Hoover at all?

The Dodgy Perth team is spending some much needed downtime in Kalgoorlie. Like good historians, we booked ourselves into the Palace Hotel, which was probably much finer when it opened in 1897. Downstairs is the Hoover Bar; upstairs you can stay in the Hoover Suite. In the foyer is the famous Hoover Mirror, together with a copy of a romantic poem he sent to a barmaid at the Palace with whom he had fallen in love.

Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the USA, was a mining engineer on the Goldfields from 1897, just as the Palace Hotel opened. He was a regular visitor to the pub, and when he left town Hoover gave them the magnificent mirror as a parting gift. And the long poem addressed to his local sweetheart, the first verse going:

Do you ever dream, my sweetheart, of a twilight long ago,
Of a park in old Kalgoorlie, where the bouganvilleas grow?
Where the moonbeams on the pathways trace a shimmering brocade
And the overhanging peppers form a lover’s promenade?

They quite like Herbert Hoover at the Palace Hotel, and a great deal of their advertising likes to stress the connection. But, unfortunately (as you’ve probably guessed by now) all the above is total and utter rubbish. Except for the bit about Hoover working on the Goldfields.

The poem isn’t by Hoover at all (who, like many engineers, couldn’t write lyrically if he tried) but by Texas poet Hilton Ross Greer in 1906. It was originally set in Mexico and addressed to Carita. Someone, probably someone who had never visited Kal since it now contains references to things that were never there, simply substituted local allusions for the original:

Do you ever dream, Carita, of a twilight long ago,
When the stars rained silver slendor from the skies of Mexico?
When the moonbeams on the plaza traced a shimmering brocade,
And the fountain’s tinkling tumult seemed a rippling serenade?

As for the mirror, it’s never mentioned until after a major redevelopment of the Palace in 1936, where it suddenly becomes advertised as a tourist attraction. Originally just described as a ‘banksia-framed mirror’ in the dining room, a couple of years later it had obtained a new story about its origin.

The manageress, Mrs V Cook, spun a tale about how it had been made in Florence in the 1850s, shown at the Melbourne Exhibition in 1880, cost £1000 to make, had originally been covered in gold leaf, could grant wishes, and had been painted brown by her late husband to fit in with the rest of the furniture. Actually, we believe that last bit.

The mirror looks 19th century, and is certainly magnificent and worth the trip to Kal just to see it. Even more so now they’ve stripped off the brown paint and restored it to its original (gilt-less) beauty. But, sorry Palace Hotel, it has nothing to do with Herbert Hoover. Nor does the poem.

Sometimes, being a historian is a bit like telling kids about Father Christmas.

New Year: A time for sexy mermaids


Substantially more dressed than our heroine. But still a mermaid.

The Dodgy Perth team loves New Year’s Eve. This one will be spent reliving the ‘90s by watching Jebediah perform at the Rosemount Hotel. But it probably won’t be as exciting as one Perth event to welcome in 1935.

An impetuous little brown-haired miss, we’ll call her ‘Brownie’, asked her boyfriend to accompany her to a NYE party. Well, it was the ‘30s, and girls could get away with being unchaperoned in those days.

Unfortunately, Brownie’s boy couldn’t make the date so she decided to go on her own, knowing her good looks would easily enable her to get a lift home in the early hours. The affair was, as they used to say, a howling success. There was singing and dancing, all fuelled by the spirits the young men had brought in their hip flasks.

Of course it isn’t a party if you don’t have games, but this crowd wasn’t up for the usual kids’ activities. But no one could think of anything interesting to do until Brownie suggested a ‘stocking race’. She explained that the girls stood at one end of the room, whipped off their stockings, raced to the other end and back, and pulled on their hosiery again. The first one finished was declared the winner. The young men loved it.

After this, someone daring suggested a lingerie race along somewhat the same lines, but few of the girls were game. However, Brownie was still in the mood for fun. She promptly suggested a game of dares. All you had to do was dare someone to do anything, and you paid a forfeit if they were up for it. Since only Brownie was accepting the dares, this led to a number of—as they said at the time—amusing and exciting incidents.

Finally, it was crowned by Brownie, wearing only her undies, doing what she called a “solo mermaid dance”.

Unfortunately for our heroine, when she was being driven home by one of the lads at four a.m., she encountered her boyfriend. In an attempt to deflect any guilt, she blasted him for having failed to make a show.

What she couldn’t know is that her boy later found out about the stocking race and the mermaid dance. For her, nights on the beach with that boyfriend were over, and she would be a lonely mermaid by the water for some time.

When wowsers wuled the woost

Emu Bitter, for the hipster in you

Emu Bitter, for the hipster in you

We at Dodgy Perth don’t believe in moderate consumption of anything. If you’re going to do it, go hard and go often is always our advice.

Speaking of totalitarian health fascists, what is it about Curtin University which seems to churn them out like a production line? One wowser from that place—sorry, ‘alcohol researcher’—Tanya Chikritzhs has now announced we should stop encouraging people to drink small amounts of red wine. Because everything that is fun is bad for you. Everything.

Professor Tanya Wowser would have found a number of friends to be miserable with in Western Australia in 1921, 1925 and 1951. For in both those years we had referendums on introducing prohibition. The first two were in the middle of the American failure of an experiment, but the last is just bewildering.

Just shows how strong the dark forces of wowserism have been in WA politics, if not among the population.

In 1921, the referendum managed to confuse everyone by offering four options: were you in favour of increasing licenses, keeping the same number of licenses, reducing licenses, or having no licences? It should be noted that in Claremont they voted overwhelmingly for prohibition.

But the entire State didn’t want it, so the Government set up a ‘Licensing Reduction Board’ to force every pub and hotel to justify their existence. Massive numbers of attractive drinking venues were closed simply because the licensing board decided not enough people were boozing at the time they visited.

Since this didn’t satisfy the killjoys, so in 1925 the question on the ballot paper was much simpler: “’Are you in favour of prohibiting the sale of intoxicants in Western Australia?”

Turned out around a third of people wanted prohibition, and two-thirds didn’t.

That should have put an end to it, especially as it was easy to see how prohibition had been a disaster in the USA. But nothing stops a health fascist with a righteous cause.

So in 1951 we were asked again if prohibition should be brought in. 72% of voters told the wowsers to get stuffed.

But here we are in 2015, and they’re still at it. Perhaps it’s time for a referendum on whether all prohibitionists should be sent to Manus Island. Or at the very least forced to go on a bender so they can see what the rest of us get out of it.

The Peanut King at the Brass Monkey

Given enough monkeys one of the will produce a hotel

Given enough monkeys one of them will eventually produce the plans for a hotel along with the complete works of Shakespeare

The Great Western Hotel (now the Brass Monkey) was designed in 1896 by Michael Cavanagh, who had arrived in Perth from Adelaide only the year before. He is mostly famous for his numerous buildings constructed for the Catholic Church.

His work includes Mercedes Colleges, St. Brigid’s Convent and the Redemptorist Monastery. However, he doesn’t appear to have put a lot of work into the Great Western, simply recycling his plans for the Barrier Hotel in Port Pirie, SA, which he designed in 1892.

In November 1913, William Urquhart was enjoying a drink in the Great Western with a friend. It was Urquhart’s shout, so he pulled out a purse. As he did so, a number of coins fell to the floor.

But others had entered the bar: William Proleta, McGaskiell and William Williams, locally known as ‘The Peanut King’. As Urquhart picked up the cash, Proleta said “That’s my half-sovereign, mate.” Then he grabbed the purse and punched Urquhart in the face.

Urquhart fell, but recovered in a few seconds. Rising from the floor, he ran to summon the police. Strangely, Proleta kept calmly drinking in the bar.

When Constable Molloy accused Proleta of robbery, the young labourer replied, “I —– didn’t rob him; I don’t know him.” He was searched, but only small change was found in his pocket.

While being arrested, Proleta struggled and was thrown to the ground. His hat fell off, and a sovereign and two half-sovereigns tumbled out. The Peanut King also turned out to have unexplained cash on him.

As a strange footnote, in another court case featuring The Peanut King, he denied his wife was known as The Cocoanut Queen. Nicknames were certainly different in the 1910s.

Bottled mouse

Anyone fancy a game?

Anyone fancy a game?

When it first obtained a license in 1886, the All Nations Hotel (now Games Sports Bar) was already operating as a boarding house. The name ‘All Nations’ suggests literally that. Everyone was welcome, whether Irish, English, Italian, or whatever. It probably did not include Aboriginal people, however.

In 1905 a skittle alley (with other extensions) were added to the design of an architect we have already come across, William Woolf. When Woolf went bankrupt in 1898, he owed £470, borrowed at an exorbitant rate. He revealed to the court he had fled Melbourne and Sydney with other un-remitted borrowings. Great architect as he was, he was definitely a man who lived well beyond his means.

The Games Sports Bar does not seem to be able to keep a name for two weeks running. Originally the All Nations (1886-91), it became the Cosmopolitan Hotel (1891-1905), when new landlord, M. R. Davies, arrived from Townsville, where he had run a pub of that name. Then it transformed into Union Hotel (1905-39), Red Lion Hotel (1939-90), Aberdeen Hotel (1990-2015), and under a new name right now. But for how long is anyone’s guess.

In 1921, an odd case about the Union Hotel came before the courts. John Simopolis bought a bottle of Swan beer from the pub, and started drinking it. Suddenly he noticed a dead mouse in the bottle. Naturally he felt a little queasy at this point and, although there were no long term medical effects, he sought £25 compensation from the pub and the brewer.

A number of brewery employees testified it would be impossible for a mouse to get into a bottle during the manufacturing process. The defence lawyer claimed it was a frame-up. The judge was not convinced and awarded £10 10s damages to Simopolis.

Dodgy Spirits

Anyone want to go see a band with us?

Anyone want to go see a band with us?

The Rosemount Hotel is the work of Charles Oldham, best known for designing the magnificent AMP Building. It was during the construction of this he wrote a letter to his clients. AMP, saying the Clerk of Works had to be fired.

Oldham claimed Robert Bushby was too picky with the materials (he didn’t like the Donnybrook stone which had been delivered) and the contractors couldn’t work with him. Bushby was dismissed and immediately sued Oldham for libel. He originally won £200 in damages, although this was overturned on appeal, since the letter was deemed to be in confidence.

William Cutmore, licensee of the Rosemount Hotel, ended up in court in 1910, accused of selling potato spirits masquerading as good, honest rum. Cutmore had purchased five gallons of the stuff, and only sold one shot, before the Chief Inspector of Liquors showed up at his premises. The inspector picked up a bottle, put it to his nose, and announced, “I don’t like the odour of this stuff.”

In the lab, the spirit in question was found to be made from potato, coloured with burnt sugar, and flavoured with some type of rum essence. The ingredients of the latter included manganese dioxide and sulphuric acid, to which, birch or coconut oil had been added.

The government scientist refused to tell the court if the ‘rum’ was injurious to health, protesting “I am not a duly-qualified medical man.” But, he added, “I have my own opinion on the subject.”

Cutmore’s defence managed to establish he was an innocent victim here, but he was fined £20 anyway. In the meantime, the newspapers fretted that if too much dodgy rum hit the market, WA’s percentage of ‘lunatics’ was bound to increase by leaps and bounds.

Crying Woolf

We remember when it was much more sleazy

We remember when it was much more sleazy

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.