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Albert/Commercial Hotel

80 High St, 1882/1908

[Note that the Orient Hotel was called the Commercial 1849-1851.]

The first hotel on the site was the Albert Hotel, built for Captain John Thomas in 1869. The first meetings of Town Council were held here, for several years from 1871.
I'm guessing that the hotel was named in honour of the consort of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, who had recently died, in 1861.
George Andrew Seubert (originally Schubert) was a German-born ship’s captain and pioneer pearler who later owned the Albert (also known as Seubert's) Hotel. He married Charlotte Francisco in 1869 and died in 1885. For his obituary, see The West Australian, 14 July 1885.

Library:
The Hotel Albert was owned and built by John Thomas. The Commercial Hotel was later built on this site. Note gas lighting. The wooden structure [to the right] next door is William Leach's bootshop. Fremantle Library Local History Collection photo no. 2046B.

Hitchcock 1919:
Next came the Albert Hotel on the site of which the Commercial Hotel now stands. The Albert Hotel was owned and kept by the late Captain John Thomas, who died a few years ago at the great age of 94. He used to trade to Batavia, Singapore, and Mauritius, first in a little cutter of 25 tons, and afterwards in a 100-ton schooner named the Empress. He it was who, after his retirement from the sea, taught most of our old-time coasting skippers all they knew of the art of navigation, and that was very little, as most of them used to find their way about by instinct or rule of thumb. In those go-as-you-please days certificates of competency were unheard of and anyone could be a shipmaster, doctor, or dentist without his qualifications being put to any test. There was consternation amongst the ancient mariners when certificates were first brought into vogue. Many of them, though they were splendid seamen, and had been sailing ships for years, could not pass even the very elementary examination then required until after several attempts, and some never succeeded in passing at all.
Next to the Albert Hotel were several small wooden shops occupied respectively by W. Leach, bootmaker; Miss Leach, fancy goods; Theophilus Carter, watchmaker; E. Wellstead, cabinetmaker; D. B. Francisco, auctioneer; and Rankin and Watson, retailers. Then came a tiny little cottage having a neat flower garden in front and occupied by ‘Paddy’, the wheelbarrow man. Paddy was an eccentric character, the butt of all the small boys, and made a comfortable living by removing luggage, etc, with his barrow, the town not having yet reached the carrier’s cart stage. On the next allotment was a greengrocer’s shop and firewood yard kept by Mr. Weeden, adjoining which was the Era newspaper office. Fremantle could boast two newspapers in those days – the Herald and the Era – though it has since often been without even one.

Library:
Fremantle Library Local History Collection photo no. 1325, c. 1900: Originally the Albert Hotel, the Commercial Hotel was built prior to 1888; as an advertisement appears in the West Australian on 13.10.1888 about the sale of the original hotel. It was rebuilt in 1908 with three storeys. The Mulcahys owned the hotel between 1897 and 1904.

The name was changed to the Exchange in 1882 and the Commercial in 1888. The hotel was rebuilt in 1908, to a design by architect John McNeece.

My snap with an iPhone8, 2018.

SLWA photo 243035PD, 1952. The 'Ladies Lounge'? There's at least one lady at each table. Posed? (The barmaid is smiling at the cameraman, but everyone else is ignoring him.) Not a great selection of alcoholic beverages on show - though there are more through the doorway in the corner. Did the beer come out of that tap on the wall?

Photograph of a painting by Toby Leek, courtesy of the artist.

Heritage Council:
The current Commercial Hotel was built on the site of an earlier hotel (Albert Hotel, owned and kept by Capt John Thomas, [who was] on [the] Fremantle Town Trust 1849-51, 1853-54, 1863-66, 1870, [and] Chairman of Town Council 1873-75. There is a stained glass window in St John's in his memory.) It was known as the Exchange Hotel from c. 1882 to 1888, then Commercial from 1888, according to rates records. (There are also references to it being called the Southern Cross Hotel c. 1905 in Daily News 8/12/1976.)
The hotel was rebuilt in 1908 by architect John McNeece; the builders were Bradley and Rudderham. Costing £8,000, it originally had three-storey verandahs and balconies, and stables and coach-houses at the rear.
Castlemaine Brewery Co. purchased the hotel c. 1920; later bought out by the Swan Brewery from c. 1930. Repairs and renovations were carried out in 1941 (Allen & Nicholas Architects), 1963-64, 1985 (James Christou Architect) and 1994 by MRSA, Miller & Assoc. Building Designers. Grande Development carried out these recent changes.
It has been Sun Dancer Resort backpackers' accommodation, with a bar on the ground floor since c. 2002.
Three storey tuck point brick prominent building, with rendered banding on the columns and pilasters. The decorative parapet has the name 'Commercial Hotel' in raised stucco and central decorative pediment. The first and second floors have stucco architraves and recesses with timber and glass French timber doors and six-paned transom windows, some have rounded metal balustrade balconies. The ground floor has an arcade effect veranda with stucco archways and banded columns; the awning (not original) onto the footpath has metal columns. Heritage Council.

The metal columns, which were not load-supporting, were removed c. 2020.

References and Links

Stout's photo of Leach's bootshop next door to Albert's hotel is shown in John Dowson's 2017 article: 'Rare and important: early photography in Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 9: 1-14. It is better better able to be appreciated on a full page of John Dowson's 2003/4 book Old Fremantle: 94.

Daniel Mulcahy was licensee in 1898, West Australian, Tuesday 6 December 1898, p. 5.


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