Down memory lane: History of the William St hotel
THE building at 114 William St has a coloured past in Rockhampton's history, including a connection to one of Australia's greatest sportsmen, Rod Laver.
Old newspapers cite William St "as the main outlet of the town at the time and this thoroughfare fairly bristled with hotels right out to Gracemere”.
The site became a hotel site around 1861, when it was Freemasons Arms Hotel. The first licensee is believed to have been William Hill.
In 1879-80, the licensee was James Barclay. In 1883, James Kelly was a licensee and in 1884 the licensee was K.J Kettle. In 1888, Thomas Murphy held the license and in 1890 it went from J Morrissey to C Butler.
This hotel burnt down and was rebuilt around the 1900's. Lawrence Connolly had the lease at the time.
In 1900 the hotel was under quarantine because of the Bubonic plague. The person who contracted the disease found a dead rat while cleaning up the yard which he believed was diseased. All of the staff had to be sent to quarantine and the building was cleansed. Two people in the town at the time died from the disease, one being a 13-year-old boy.
Around 1910, Catherine Barrett had the lease. In 1917, the name was changed to Hotel Central by Margaret Ann Arratta. In 1918, the Central Hotel sold to Mrs H Walters.
In 1924, the licensee William Hogan Ryan was charged with keeping the premises open out of prohibited hours. He was fined five pounds, three shillings and six pence for costs of court.
In September 8, 1930 a fire broke out in a bedroom on the top floor but only minor damage was done.
Around this era, weekly tournaments of iron quoits were played at the club.
In 1938 Thomas McLaughlin & Co rebuilt the hotel with fine brick. The Morning Bulletin reported at the time a complete new wing was was added to the eastern side with nine large bedrooms for accommodation that opened onto spacious balconies. The westerly wing was refurnished and repainted to bring it into keeping with the new section. Downstairs, the hotel was transformed into one of the most modern in the city. The McTavishs' were the licensees.
At the time, the Girls' Central School was across the road.
Francis Nevil Coates (Nevil) took over the lease around 1946 and later died from a heart attack in 1960.
In 1954, The Morning Bulletin reported a sum of money had been stolen for the first time in six months. The days takings was 95 pounds and 10 shillings.
The hotel is mentioned in Rod Laver's biography when he was around 10 years old which would have been 1948. He remembers his coach, Charlie Hollis, living in a hotel in Rockhampton. He and his brothers would sit on the back steps of the hotel and wait for him to come downstairs and take them to tennis.
Over the years, the hotel through its many names is frequently mentioned in police court reports, mostly for drunk behaviour.
In 1975 the hotel was purchased by The Rockhampton and District Masonic Club. In 2016, the club changed its name from the Masonic Club to Citizen's Club in a bid to attract more patrons.