Colourful past for Royal Hotel

FOR around 140 years the corner of Mary and Monkland Sts in downtown Gympie has been a hub of food, beverages and entertainment.

The Royal Hotel was known as the Exchange Hotel and Varieties Theatre when built in 1868. The then newly established local paper The Gympie Times ran an advertisement that year extolling the virtues of the venue where "every comfort and delight" could be found.

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Musical companies and agents found large and enthusiastic audiences. In the Gympie Mining Handbook, published in 1887, A Leek wrote the Royal's theatre and dancing room, built behind the hotel, "was crowded with audience pretty well every evening".

"If there were any entertainers, the audience sat and drank and smoked in calm enjoyment, but the evenings were generally passed in the festive dance ... the spirited proprietors engaged an extra number of waitresses who could on occasion dance with the diggers as long as the libations consumed were of respectable value," the author wrote.

FLOODED PAST: Onlookers gather at the back of the Royal Hotel during the 1935 flood.
FLOODED PAST: Onlookers gather at the back of the Royal Hotel during the 1935 flood. Contributed

"There was a fiddle and piano for band, and there was a bar also, which almost goes without saying."

Those early glory days came to an end in 1875 after a cyclone destroyed part of the theatre and floods submerged most of the town.

The licence was cancelled, but in 1882 architect Hugo Durietz designed a two storey timber building for the central spot.

It was officially opened as the Varieties Hotel and Theatre and once again became the place that drew crowds looking for light entertainment.

The hotel became the Royal Hotel in 1885, then in 1910 it was called the Theatre Royal.

Tragedy struck again in 1935, when the building was razed to the ground.

The Gympie Times reported the disaster:

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"There was removed from Gympie a building which had been the scene of many social and political events, which had its historic interest and for the few remaining pioneers, its cherished associations".

The hotel was missed but not for long.

After Bulimba Brewery purchased the site in 1938, the newly built Royal Hotel, with an elegant Art Deco facade, opened its doors to eager patrons.

It is the iconic building that stands today.

It has been inundated with flood water countless times over the years, but each time the muddy waters have subsided, the doors have opened to customers.

It closed for two years then reopened in 2007, having undergone a million dollar facelift which restored the hotel to its former glory.

The current Royal Hotel manager Stacey Lowe said after all these years, it still followed the tradition of providing great entertainment.

"The Royal Hotel is a piece of history," Ms Lowe said.

"It's a historical building and a cornerstone of the Mary St landscape."

Ms Lowe said the focus of the hotel was to serve great food and offer first-class entertainment.

She wants people to have the same great experience she had herself as a hotel patron.

"There are a lot of memories here for me. It was a place where we all came to drink in our younger days.

"Everybody's got a memory of the Royal."

Gympie Times


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