Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

O'Connell Centenary Hotel

 93 Montague Street, South Melbourne

#top O'Connell Centenary Hotel, circa 1980 (below) and today

Location

South-eastern corner of Montague and Coventry Streets, South Melbourne

Memories

Ron Bird remembers the O'Connell Centenary offering was a great venue for the biggest steaks  in the back room dining room run by three ladies.

It was (and is) in somewhat out-of-the way location, and while I remember an occasional CDA visit there, I think it started to take the restaurant side a little too seriously and the prices became a little too steep.

History

Although often referred to O'Connell’s, the correct name has always been the O'Connell Centenary Hotel since its opening in 1877. The name reflects the  centenary celebration of the birth of the prominent Irish nationalist, Daniel O'Connell.

The original hotel was built by Matthew Mackey (sometimes shown as Mackay) and he maintained the license until his death in August, 1882.  He was one of literally dozens that went to meet their maker while still actively serving as a publican, but Mackey’s demise was unusual in that died from injuries after he fell down the stairs of the hotel.

The O'Connell Centenary was perhaps the most fortunate of the hotels to survive the Reduction hearings of 1926 – it was mentioned as likely to go in a "two-horse race" with the Shannon and Shamrock to the south, and was classed as the least desirable of the Nelson and Star and Garter to the north and east.  It was even suggested by police that the hotel was not required, even if it was rebuilt.

The Board heard the hotel had 12 rooms, but only one available for casual accommodation, had no demand for meals and none were supplied (the kitchen being described as unsatisfactory), and that there were no permanent boarders.  The building was described as a "fair type" on land 42 by 61 feet.

The hotel at the time was owned (along with the Silver Gate Hotel which he ran for over 40 years) by prominent local councilor and sometimes Mayor, Cr. John Drake Pearson.   Although the Silver Gate was not under direct threat, Pearson announced plans to rebuild both hotels, suggesting work on the Centenary Hotel would cost between £3,500 and £4,000 and take around seven months to complete

Counsel for Pearson suggested his client was the landlord of adjoining properties which could be used for enlargement, to which the Chairman simply replied "We do not want you to spend a penny on putting up rooms that will never be used ... where was the need ... there have been many hotels closed in the neighbourhood yet this house still does not do a house trade ".

Today

Other than the lower brick section now being rendered in white, the hotel is largely unchanged today, although there is al fresco light meal seating in Coventry Street.  It's not clear whether there was a building to the right or just a shadow, but this section is now a car park.

Although there is a small bar remaining, the ground floor has for many years functioned as a restaurant of somewhat higher quality than most hotels (with prices to match).


1 The Silver Gate was rebuilt at a cost estimated at £6,000.  It was noted "... with the proposed early construction of the Spencer Street bridge the new building would be of importance and it would have extensive accommodation for guests". It was delicenced and demolished in 1978 due the construction of the West Gate Freeway which is immediately over the site, It was replaced by a single-storey McDonald's.