Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

Hotel Esplanade  (aka The Espy)

The Esplanade, St. Kilda

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Location

Eastern side, occupying the block between Pollington and Victoria Streets.

Memories

Personally, I don't recall ever visiting the Espy, but Ron Bird assures me it was much favoured by the early engineering group for after works drinks and Bob Hammond’s favourite pub around 1964-65..\

History

Perhaps rather surprisingly, the Esplanade was one of the later additions to the inner-southern hotel scene, first licensed to James Hay - he remained until at least 1895.

site, had, however been used for an earlier hotel, initially The New Baths Hotel when first licensed to William H. Johnston in April, 1857; (amongst other interests, he was part-owner of The Argus newspaper).  This hotel was also known as the Criterion from 1861 to 1862.

The building then appears to have been used by a group calling itself the Victorian Hydropathic Institution in conjunction with the sea-water baths until early 1867 when it was sold at auction "substantial buildings to be removed".

The current-day hotel was designed by Smith and Johnson Pty Ltd whose other works included the Victorian Law Courts and was completed in 1878, one report suggesting that the site was bought by a James Orkney who originally commissioned the architects to design a row of terrace houses, but was convinced instead to build a new hotel on the site.

The Hotel Esplanade like its later counterparts the Hotel Victoria and the Beaconsfield was designed very much for the accommodation of visitors to the sea baths that line the beach front through this section of St. Kilda.

The hotel was modernised in 1974 at a cost of $50,000.

The Espy's current fame as a venue for live music is far from new.

The hotel was taken over around 1920 by businessman Thomas Carlyon, also the proprietor of Melbourne largest taxi company at the time; Carlyon's tastes were very much influenced by time he had spent in the U.S.A. and during the forty years he remained licensee the hotel became a premier jazz venue.  

During the 30s and 40s, big bands provided weekly entertainment; traditional jazz and be-bop took over in the 1950s and 1960s, and disco in the 1970s.

The building was extended in 1930 with the addition of another 29 rooms, or 169 in total, the new features including an electric pressing room for lady guests, a library, writing room and a telephone and hot and cold water bathroom attached to each guest room. (it was note the Espy then had 90 permanent guests and resident staff, this level maintained through to the 1960s).

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(above) The Esplanade, Rose Series postcard, 1955 (below) The Espy, 2007, showing the encroaching residential towers Esplanade Hotel, circa 1881.  The Italianate lacework is believed to have been removed and the American-influenced facade introduced during renovations around 1920.