Post Office Hotel, Cloncurry

News of the day

Northern Miner, Monday 18 January 1932, page 2



CLONCURRY, January 17.

With startling suddenness the Post Office Hotel was completely destroyed by fire in the early hours this morning.

At approximately 3.10 o'clock people in the immediate vicinity were awakened by screams from the rear of the hotel, where the staff quarters were situated, and in a very short time practically the entire population was gathered at the scene to witness the biggest blaze in Cloncurry for many years.

The fire had not been noticed until the rear was a mass of flames, with the result that many narrow escapes from death were experienced, and the staff and boarders, numbering 17 in all, saved practically nothing.

The licensee, Mr. Casey, and his wife had an exceptionally narrow escape, being cut off in the rear portion of the hotel. They just managed to get along the burning verandah and down the back stairs, saving nothing but their night attire. Mr. W. Morris, late representative of Samuel Allen and Sons, did not awaken until his room was enveloped in flames, and in making a getaway he was silghtly burned on the face. Mr. Harry Simpson, of Brodie and Co. was the last to leave the burning building, and as the back portion of the hotel was well alight, he had to make his escape by climbing over the front balcony. Mr. Venon Wettenhall suffered severe lacerations to the body sustained while climbing through a broken window. Fireman A. Howarth was injured to the extent of a severe laceration on the face, caused by flying glass from a bursting bottle.

The building was well ablaze before anyone was aware of it, with the result that the fire brigade was on the scene too late to direct attention to the hotel. As it was seen the total destruction of the building was inevitable, their attention was diverted to A. J. Smith and Co.'s buildings on the south side of the street and a string of shops on the north side, separated from the hotel by a distance of approximately 30 feet. The firemen did excellent work, and their efforts were rewarded with success, although the closest building, the office of Mr. J. H. Harding, commission agent, was partially destroyed and the contents damaged. Had the fire not been checked in this quarter, a string of six shops would have been gutted. The Post Office directly opposite, was in constant danger when the conflagration was at its highest. A. J. Smith suffered damage to the extent of a broken window and slight damage to stock. The blaze was an extraordinarily large one and must have been seen for many miles round. The building burnt fiercely for fully an hour.

This fine building was known as the most beautiful hotel in North West Queensland, and it will be sadly missed in our town. It was rebuilt by Mr. C. M. Shimmin, contractor, in 1914, after a fire which then destroyed a whole block of buildings, the property of the present owner, Mr. J. R. Bennett, Mindi Selection, Cloncurry, who stated that the hotel was insured with the New Zealand Insurance Co. and other sub companies, but to what extent he was not aware from memory.

The contents of the shop occupied by J. H. Harding were insured with the Royal Insurance Company for £75 and the South British for a further sum. Peter Dawes, who occupied the billiard saloon and barber shup in the hotel, lost everything, and Is not yet certain how he is situated regarding insurance.

Vernon Wetthall also had the misfortune to lose his brand new Dodge Six utility car, which was parked in close proximity to the rear of the hotel. Several court house officials were successful in saving Land Ranger Creighton's car from the hotel garage.

It Is not known how or where the fire originated.

Mr. Bennett said to-day it was not his intention at present to rebuild.




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