100 years of ghosts and beers
THE Rosewood Hotel burnt to the ground 100 years ago, but like a phoenix it has risen from the ashes to become a haven for local patrons and international film and music superstars to call their home.
The Queensland Times of January 5, 1914, reported that the fire broke out on the Saturday morning of January 3 and destroyed nine premises, including the Rosewood Hotel and Royal Bank. Eight thousand pounds worth of damage was done, but no one died.
The article says, "the material and bats belonging to the Rosewood Cricket Club were stored at the Rosewood Hotel, and they were completely destroyed".
"There was soon a large gathering of residents from all directions, and all did their utmost to prevent the fire from spreading," the QT article continues.
"It was quickly apparent that the fire was going to be a disastrous one, as one building after another rapidly caught fire. When the fire had spread to Wendt's hotel, the heat was intense, flames leaping to an enormous height."
The article states that the hotel was owned by Mrs F.M. Ruhno and tenanted by Harry Wendt. When the QT visited Mr Wendt on the Monday he was, incredibly, still serving beers.
"Mr Harry Wendt has his sample room fitted up as a bar, and is carrying on business as usual, although under great difficulties," the article records.
It was suggested the blaze may have been caused by firecrackers.
Current Rosewood Hotel co-owner David Pahlke says the hotel that was in existence in the 1880s was rebuilt in the months following the fire.
"What I like about this hotel is that it is architecturally intact. It has only been modified to a minor extent since 1914," he says.
The pub has become famous for its various ghosts - the Negro soldier ghost, the old lady ghost and Rusty the Scottish red-headed ghost, also known as the water ghost.
The previous owner was sitting in the front bar when water gushed from nowhere into the room.
Guests have opened suitcases to find them mysteriously full of water while Rusty has played other tricks over the years.
Pahlke has affection for all his ghosts.
"An American Negro soldier got shot dead in that doorway there in the Second World War," he says while pointing at the doorway.
"I know that is a fact because Jack Peace, who was a Moreton Shire councillor back in the '70s, told me that he was a little boy in the main street that night.
"We don't hear from the soldier ghost much.
"When we moved here Rusty the red-haired ghost dominated, but now he doesn't.
"The old lady ghost dominates now. She is seen at the top of the stairs in a matronly-type outfit.
"One clairvoyant says her name is Lizzie and that she waits on the back veranda for a man to come back. I'd say she was hired help because she wears a white top, bun hair and wears a black dress.
"Lisa Wang is now one of the part-owners of the lease and she had a Chinese spiritualist come out, and she said that the spirits were friendly. I always thought they were."
The pub is now a hub for filmmakers and music video producers due to its authentic country hotel feel.
Ernie Dingo made a census ad at the hotel.
French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg was there to shoot scenes for the film The Tree.
Mabo, the telemovie, was also shot in the front bar as was the soon-to-be released film 500 Miles.
Pahlke also recalls how the pub famously had "Ben Lee the pop singer dancing on the bar singing I Love Pop Music" as his music video was being made.
"At the start, I didn't know who Ben Lee was," Pahlke grins.
"I got a call and I thought the guy said, 'Ben Reid wants to do some filming at the pub'. I said all right, and thought to myself, 'Who is Ben Reid?'.
"Then Saturday morning I came back and all these young people were dressed up and Ben Lee was here. I got my photograph taken with him ... and he was a lovely guy."
Pahlke says, "You often find pubs are part of the social fabric of any town or community".
"And this one is no different.
"You get the different drinkers with their nicknames. We've had the Gaz's, the Daz's, the Shorty's, the Longy's and the Rusty's."
A bloke named Shorty was there when the QT visited, and it turned out he'd been sipping on quiet ones at the bar since 1971.
Pahlke says there are "some great stories" associated with the pub, too many to recount here.
"A bloke told me once that in the 1930s the publican had all these show bantam roosters and chooks down the back," Pahlke grins.
"Some smart alec, travelling guy at the bar went down to the back shed, brought one back to the front bar and sold the publican one of his own fowls.
"I'm told there was once an amorous liaison going on upstairs in one of the rooms. The husband found them and the guy jumped out the window and broke his legs.
"In 1926 there was a murder here. An 18-year-old lady got pregnant to a married man and was murdered.
"There was a lot of emotion involved and I am told there were over 20 police stationed in town and they sat on the veranda while the trial was being held across the road.
"I've had couples come back here 50 years after they were married to tell me they met at the Rosewood Hotel."
Pahlke, who bought the pub in 2004, has leased the hotel out for five years but will likely return to a more hands-on role when that time expires.
"Pubs have changed so much over the years," Pahlke says. "They are not the cash cows that they were in the '70s and '80s because of liquor licensing, drink driving and the overheads of running a small business. But I am in love with this hotel.
"I don't want to sell it. It is a beautiful old building."