Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

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John Batman Motor Inn (Eliza's)

69 Queen's Road, Melbourne

Location

South-eastern corner of Queen's Road and Lorne Street (originally Fraser Street)

Memories

Despite being the closest motel (or indeed dining spot of any description), we didn't seem to use the John Batman nearly as much as, say, the Palm Lake.

Eliza's Restaurant was on the first floor along the Queen's Road side.

History

The site first appeared in directories (under St. Kilda) in 1893, then shown as the corner of Fraser Street, the latter changed to Lorne Street around 10 years later. The earliest occupant noted was Albert G. Smith who seems to have resided there for around ten years.

The first reference to the site in Trove is in 1915, the building called "Merrileas" [1] and owned for many years by Mr and Mrs Rupert Hart.  Later family notices place the family there as late as 1946, Rupert noted as dying in August, 1945 and a son-in-law, a former Army captain of war wounds in August of the following year.

The John Batman when it opened in 1964 (shown as the head office of Capital Motor Inns Pty. Ltd), it replaced a building alternatively described as a guest house or block of flats.

Like the later President Hotel, the John Batman was built to the design of renowned Melbourne Architect, Robin Boyd.

A precise date of when the motel ceased operations is a little difficult to establish - it appeared in the 1977 telephone directory and not in the following release. 1978 and 1979 for some odd reason were combined into a single directory and the actual date of compilation is unknown.

For many years, the building next door to the south was a private hospital that appears to have operated from the 1920s and was still functioning when the John Batman opened.  I think this building remains.

Today

69 Queen's Road now presents a mystery to casual observers.  The entire building is secured and there is nothing externally to indicate its function. There is no reception area, but there are doors marked "Staff Entrance", indicating some sort of non-residential use.  

After the Motor Inn closed, the building was used by the ANZ Bank for staff training and in the mid-1980s was acquired by the Victorian Government as an Emergency Services Training Centre, but this was immediately apparent as there were usually three or four ambulances in the car park, and I haven't sighted vehicles of this nature on two recent occasions I've wandered past.

It is most probably a Government centre of some description description and possibly still used for training purposes, but just why all the secrecy?  Perhaps a Watergate style break-in may be in order!

Other than the removal of any signage that might identify the building's use, the exterior is identical to the 1964 image above.  


[1] The name came from one of the early owners, John Merrileas who resided there circa 1899, but not for very long. I couldn't trace an earlier name when Albert Smith was in occupancy.

Original sketch by architects Romberg and Boyd held at the State Library of Victoria and showing the Lorne Street aspect.