National Hotel at the corner of Queen Street and Adelaide Street, 1898


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Queensland Figaro and Punch, 6 July 1889

TOM COWARD'S National Hotel, Brisbane

The National Hotel, recently erected in Petrie's Bight, is without doubt a distinct improvement, from an architectural point of view, to the city ot Brisbane. Also is it possessed of great advantages as to site, whereby the convenience of visitors is considerably augmented; it being situated within 30 yards of the Howard Smith's wharf. The architect for the building, Mr. Gailey, may be said to have fairly surpassed himself in the design, every inch of space being utilised, the, rooms withal being on a scale far larger than what we are generally accustomed to. The edifice, with an altitude of 45ft. to the parapet, 55ft, to the top of the turret, and with a frontage of 105ft; to Queen-street, presents an imposing and handsome facade, and Mr. Watson, the contractor, is to be complimented on the thoroughness with which he has carried out the solid and artistic design laid down. Entering from the ground floor, one passes through a wide hall ornamented with ferns and pot plants, and lit from above by a handsome lamp. This leads on to the vestibule and a spacious enclosure, wherein is the office, &c. Opening from this is the dining-room, 55ft. by 15ft., and its lofty proportions are admirable. On the opposite side of the vestibule, and fronting the turn from Queen-street to Adelaide-street, are the public and private bars, most elaborately fitted with oak and cedar counters and shelves, and brilliantly lit up with chandeliers. Between the bar and the billiard room is another hall leading to Queen-street. The latter room ie 23ft. by 23ft^ and is as comfortable and well lit as could be desired. The table is one of cook's best, and the cues and marking arrangements are of the first quality.


Back in the days when there seemed to be a hotel on every Brisbane CBD corner and one or two in between, the one that stood on the corner of Queen and Adelaide Sts at Petrie Bight was the magnificent National Hotel. An impressive sight that by the late sixties had sophisticated cocktail bars and restaurants, this hotel became infamous in the Royal Commission into prostitution and police corruption that commenced in 1963. It bobbed up again in the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption of the late eighties. At the time that I first remember the National, in the late sixties, there was an extremely popular cocktail bar called "Warren's Bar" which was quite the risque venue because of the eponymous cocktail barman Warren. Warren was very theatrically flamboyant, with a witty repartee of suitable double entendres - behaviour that would perhaps now be described as "camp". Brisbane at that time was not a very worldly city, and looking back on the environment now, it is hard not to wonder at the cruel jibes that would have been heaped on Warren. I hope he survived it all.

Courtesy of the blog Your Brisbane: Past and Present


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