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Birdsville Hotel

  • 600461
  • Burt Street, Birdsville

General

Classification
State Heritage
Register status
Entered
Date entered
21 October 1992
Type
Retail, wholesale, services: Hotel/inn
Themes
3.1 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Feeding Queenslanders
3.11 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Lodging people
Construction period
1884–1990, Birdsville Hotel (1884c - 1990s)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century

Location

Address
Burt Street, Birdsville
LGA
Diamantina Shire Council
Coordinates
-25.89851389, 139.3515722

Map

Street view

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Significance

Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The Birdsville Hotel, erected c1884, survives as an important link with the earliest establishment of pastoral settlement in the Diamantina district of far western Queensland.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

The place is rare as one of only three surviving masonry buildings in Birdsville, the others being the c1883 former Royal Hotel and the 1888-90 police station and courthouse. These contribute significantly to the historic character of the town which, in the last quarter of the 20th century, became a principal Queensland tourist attraction.

The Birdsville Hotel is also a rare surviving late 19th century outback hotel, and besides being important in illustrating its type, also has the potential, through physical investigation and documentary research, to reveal important information about the design, form and function of far western Queensland hotel complexes of this period, and about the people who erected such buildings.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

The Birdsville Hotel is also a rare surviving late 19th century outback hotel, and besides being important in illustrating its type, also has the potential, through physical investigation and documentary research, to reveal important information about the design, form and function of far western Queensland hotel complexes of this period, and about the people who erected such buildings.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

The Birdsville Hotel is important in illustrating the principal characteristics of a vernacular style of masonry construction that spread throughout central Australia, across South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland in the late 19th century, efficiently controlling the extremes of temperature in the hot, arid interior of the continent, and compensating for the lack of locally-available timber.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The place is rare as one of only three surviving masonry buildings in Birdsville, the others being the c1883 former Royal Hotel and the 1888-90 police station and courthouse. These contribute significantly to the historic character of the town which, in the last quarter of the 20th century, became a principal Queensland tourist attraction.

The place has aesthetic value, and is important in defining the Birdsville townscape.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The Birdsville Hotel has social value as an outback cultural icon of national significance, a place that has become part of central Australian legend.

History

This singled-storeyed sandstone building was erected c1884 as the Birdsville Hotel, Birdsville, for publican William Blair. Although European explorers had passed through the Diamantina district in the 1840s and early 1860s, pastoralists did not occupy this semi-arid region until the mid-1870s. Annandale, Pandie Pandie, Glengyle and Roseberth were taken up in 1876; Sandringham, Cacoory and Haddon Downs in 1877; and Dubbo Downs in 1878. Monkira, Mt Leonard, Cluny and Coorabulka were other early holdings.

In the early 1880s the towns of Birdsville and Bedourie were established to service the newly taken up pastoral holdings of the Diamantina. Reputedly, a merchant named Matthew Flynn, who carried stores for the stations, built a rough depot in the late 1870s at the site of the present town of Birdsville, then known as the Diamantina Crossing, on the stock route from Boulia south to Adelaide. By mid-1885, when the township of Birdsville was officially surveyed, a number of buildings had been erected at the Diamantina Crossing, including a police lock-up [1883], Groth's Royal Hotel [c1883], Blair's Birdsville Hotel [c1883], Curtain's Tattersalls Hotel, and at least 3 stores and 1 shop. Diamantina Shire was established in 1883, and its headquarters were at Birdsville until moved to Bedourie in 1953.

The name Birdsville was not adopted until the 1885 survey, and is thought to have been suggested by Robert Frew, owner of Pandie Pandie Station, who also had a store and shop at the Diamantina Crossing, in reference to the profuse bird life of the district.

Birdsville, over 1,000 miles west of Brisbane and 7 miles north of the Queensland-South Australian border, developed as an administrative centre for police and border customs. Nearly all the trade of the town was with Adelaide, and it became an important marshalling point for cattle being driven south to markets in South Australia. By 1889 the population of Birdsville was 110, and the town had 2 general stores, 3 hotels, a police station, school, 2 blacksmith shops, 2 bakers, a cordial manufacturer, bootmaker, saddler, auctioneer & commission agent, and a number of residences. The population peaked in 1895 at 220.

Almost all the buildings in the town were of local sandstone, there being no local timber available. Distance and the lack of good access roads or a railway created prohibitively high transportation costs, so imported building materials were kept to a minimum.

The earliest section of the Birdsville Hotel is likely to have been constructed in 1883 [possibly from stone quarried at a site about 16 kilometres from the town], as the first license for this hotel was issued to William Blair in that year. On the official Birdsville town survey plan of mid-1885, the building is marked as Wm Blair's hotel. On 24 February 1886, Blair purchased from the Crown, for £206, the allotment at the corner of Adelaide and Burt streets which contained the hotel. A month earlier he had bought for £12 the allotment at the rear, which contained a fenced yard and had frontages to Burt & Graham streets; also an unimproved allotment adjacent to this, fronting Graham Street, for £8. Each block comprised 2 roods.

Following Blair's death in 1898, title to all three blocks passed to Queensland Trustees [Charles H Morton was the licensee during this period], then to the Hayden family in 1912, the Gaffney family in 1918, and the Dixon family in 1947. The building continues to function as a hotel, and has become nationally famous. With it's longevity, romantic remoteness, and as a focus for festivities associated with the annual Birdsville Races, the Birdsville Hotel has become an outback icon.

It is understood that in 1905 a cyclone destroyed all of the structures on the site other than those constructed in stone. In 1964 the southeast corner of the building collapsed, also as a result of a cyclone. This section was reconstructed c1990-91, although not to original detail. A fire destroyed the front bar, also in 1964; this has been rebuilt. The major changes to the building have been the replacement of the front verandah, additions to the northern end, and reconstruction of the southeast section. Internally, no original finishes appear to exist as the floors have been laid in slate, walls plastered and painted, and ceilings altered. The building however retains its essential character.

Description

The Birdsville Hotel is a single-storeyed building constructed of local stone rendered and scribed. It has elevations to Burt and Adelaide Streets and the corner of the building at the street intersections has been truncated marking the original main entrance. The hipped roof is clad with corrugated iron and is concealed by a low masonry parapet raised at the corner to carry the words 'Birdsville Hotel' and 'Established 1884'. An awning of corrugated iron supported by timber posts runs and decorated by a scalloped timber valance runs along the street elevations and is also truncated at the corner. Quoining at the windows and doors is picked out in a dark colour, as it has been since at least the 1920s. There are extensive modern additions including a beer garden and extra bars.

Image gallery

Location

Location of Birdsville Hotel within Queensland
Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016

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