Fremantle Stuff > hotels > Orient Hotel
Lot 62 39 High St, 1903. Names of hotels on this site, from c. 1831: Commercial Hotel, Emerald Isle Hotel, Moloney's Hotel, Club Hotel, Orient Hotel. Current owner: Minderoo Foundation (Andrew Forrest).
Photograph of a painting by Toby Leek, courtesy of the artist.
The earliest name of the hotel at 39 High St, on the corner of Henry St, from 1849 (1831?), was the Commercial, under the ownership of Patrick Marmion. In 1876 it was called the Emerald Isle Hotel, where the publican for a time was Frederick Caesar. This is where the Catalpa incident was planned: the 1876 escape of six Fenians (not including John Boyle O'Reilly, who had escaped in 1869) from Fremantle Prison. According to Thomas Keneally, the publican at that time was Patrick Moloney, and the pub was known as Moloney's Hotel. From 1888 it was the Club Hotel. The earlier building was demolished in 1903 after which the Orient Hotel was built. It was renovated in 1995, and again in 2014.
The present building was constructed in 1902-03 following the renewal of economic activity spurred by the Western Australian goldrushes beginning in the 1890s. The Architects were Messrs M F Cavanagh FRIBA and C Cavanagh architects, Perth and Fremantle and the Builders were Law and Atkins. The site was previously occupied by the Commercial Hotel whose owner, Patrick Marmion changed the name to the Emerald Isle Hotel in 1851. In 1888 it became the Club Hotel when sixty people formed a syndicate to lease the hotel. The licensee was Adam Armstrong who had previously kept the Commercial Hotel at 80 High Street. In 1894 Thomas O'Beirne became the hotelkeeper and in 1898 acquired the property from the Estate of The Hon W.E. Marmion, the son of Patrick Marmion. In 1901 the Licensing Court removed O'Beirne's license and it took much time and litigation to regain the license. When the hotel reopened in the new building it was known as the Orient Hotel. In 1916 Mary Agnes O'Beirne sold to Joseph Monaghan, who in turn sold the property in 1922 to Mabel Charlotte Parry. The hotel remained in the Parry family until 1973. Grace Sarah Parry recalled in a 1980 interview:
Grace Sarah Parry:
The Parry family took over the Orient Hotel in April 1923 and owned the freehold for half a century, during which time it was the leading residential hotel in town. Guests included Prince Philip of Greece, Hughie Edwards (VC winner), Tom Starcevich (VC winner, farmer in wheatbelt), Commander Anthony Meares (later Admiral) and Sir Frank and Lady Gibson (resident for twenty-one years). At first there were no carpets in the hotel and the Parrys made alterations to the dining room and kitchen. The Orient was often compared with the Palace and Esplanade Hotels in Perth. It was always well run and dignified. Collar and ties were worn by patrons, in fact the Parrys had an extra coat and tie available for the businessman who arrived without them. It was also known for its beautiful silverware and white damask table cloths. In later years entertainment was provided by a singer pianist. During World War Two, twenty-four beds were reserved for American submariners while on patrol duty around Java and Darwin. Thirty people could be accommodated at one time. During the war the dining room became the US forces officers' mess, although this didn't exclude Sir Frank and Lady Gibson (of WA's Foy and Gibson department store) from taking up residence in the hotel for the duration, after turning their home over to the war effort. Sir Frank later returned to the hotel, after his wife's death and lived there for twenty-two years. The Rotary Club met at the hotel for some time and enjoyed a three course luncheon for one shilling and sixpence. Many shipping companies also enjoyed the Orient's lunches. Sixty-four could be seated at one time and the most popular dish was steak and kidney pie.
From its elegant pre-and post-war existence the hotel, like so many others of its era, was allowed to run down. The bars were taken over by bikies and raunchy waitresses and the verandahs were removed by the order of the Fremantle Council when there was a purge on verandah posts.
The Parry family sold in 1973 and a number of owners followed including Philip George Hyatt and Nominees in 1978, Ester Investments in 1979 and Cherreywood Park Pty Ltd in 1981. The Orient came up for sale in 1990 and the Sullivans, who managed the P&O Hotel, bought it and set out to refurbish the building. Extensive renovations included the reconstruction of some of the two storey verandahs on the two street facades, the end bays of each facade were left without verandahs as were the corner bays and the opening up of the ground floor to form interconnected entertainment areas.
The Orient Hotel is a three storey building with Federation Classical facades facing onto High Street and Henry Street. Each facade consists of a central section containing arcades of three arches on the ground and first floor levels and five arched openings with supporting Corinthian pilasters at the second floor level. The central sections are protected by verandahs at the ground and first floor levels. The verandahs are bullnosed corrugated iron roofed with lace balustrades at the first floor level and have circular posts with brackets at the verandah beam at first floor level and at the ground floor valance. The central sections are flanked by slightly projecting bays containing rectangular openings The facades are topped with a cornice decorated with dentils for their full length. Above the cornices of the end bays are pediments surmounted by a parapet consisting of cornices staggered at two levels. The ground floor wall surfaces are articulated with bold string courses, the first floor with finer rustication and the upper floor wall surfaces are plain, but for cement rendered quoins at the projecting corners of the end bays. The two facades meeting at the street corner are brought together by a splayed round corner containing a door on the ground floor level and windows to the upper levels facing diagonally out across the street intersection. The different rooms of the ground floor have been combined into a series of interconnecting spaces by the removal of much of the internal walling. These spaces have been furnished with new cabinet work which is designed to impart the atmosphere of the nineteenth century.
The Orient is situated in Fremantle's 'West End', an area well known for its high concentration of historic buildings designed in the popular styles of the Victorian and Federation periods. The hotel makes an important contribution to the High Street streetscape. Australian Heritage Database.
Breslin ... returned to the port and signed in as Mr Collins at the Emerald Isle Hotel, Fremantle, whose proprietor Patrick Moloney was a former Irish policeman, a native from County Clare, who had been generous to the pardoned Fenians in 1869. Keneally: 560.
Graham, Allen 2007, 'Patrick Moloney: the story of a Fremantle publican and his connection to the Fenian Fright of 1881', Fremantle Studies, 5: 40-62.
Keneally, Thomas 1999, The Great Shame: And the Triumph of the Irish in the English-Speaking World, Doubleday.
Heritage Council page.
Australian Heritage page
Notes about the Orient Hotel in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society: Vol 2 No 6 1974, July 1995.
Garry Gillard | New: 11 October, 2014 | Now: 18 February, 2021