The Art Deco Pub is an iconic part of country town Australia and there are some that have survived intact despite the tendency to tear them down.
One of the these pubs is located at Dungog, the Royal Hotel.
Tucked away in the quiet backwaters of the Upper William’s River Valley Dungog is a sleepy little town with an interesting present and a more interesting past.
The Royal Hotel is the fourth pub on the site and was rebuilt in an Art Deco style in 1939. This hotel has survived the waves of redevelopment that have struck the large urban areas. Luckily urban gentrification has not made it to this part of the world yet.
According to the Dungog Historical Society the first hotel on the site was a single storey timber construction in 1850 built by Alexander Donaldson. This was replaced by a two-storey rendered brick building in a Victorian Georgian style which had a shingle roof and a upper balcony. Initially known as the Durham hotel is was later called the Royal. This building was demolished in 1912 and rebuilt in a Federation style.
The pub is indicative of better times for the town when the dairy industry was in full bloom from the 1890s and city investors saw a future in these rural communities. The town had a small building boom in the 1930s with a number of fine homes built with a new Catholic Church and bank buildings. The construction of the Chichester Dam in the 1920s created a prosperous time for the town.
The six o’clock swill and 6 o’clock closing drove the hotel design. It is typified by an efficient delivery of beer to customers in the shortest possible time. The bar area is tiled and can be hosed out after closing for ease of cleaning.
Six o’clock closing laws encouraged an endemic culture of binge drinking that was only re-enforced by licencing restrictions that were not overturned in New South Wales until the 1960s.
These type of Australian hotels like the Royal differ markedly from their British ancestry which were cosy and family friendly.
The typical Australian hotel, like the Dungog Royal Hotel, is two storeys high with accommodation upstairs and a spacious bar area downstairs.
The Royal Hotel is an imposing structure at 80 Dowling Street, the town’s main commercial street and thoroughfare. The hotel is typified by its clean efficient lines and utilitarian design with the paint-on-glass artwork and branding and advertising. These are an iconic part of the history of commercial design and artwork in Australia.
The Royal has typical rounded Art-Deco curved façade with added decorative elements. The classic influence of modernism. The hotel had a commercial kitchen and a flash dining room to serve the latest in moderne dishes to its country clients.
Tooth & Co purchased the Royal Hotel in 1921 and the company rebuilt in 1939 at a cost of £20,000.
Tooth & Co had a significant expansion programme in the Interwar period and purchased a number of breweries and hotels. In the Lower Hunter Valley it acquired the Maitland Brewing Company in 1913 and a Newcastle brewery in 1921.
Tooth’s hotels were tied to the brewery to sell only Tooths product. This anti-competitive practice was banned in the 1970s.
Tooth & Co used architects Copeman, Lemont and Keesing to design the hotel, which they also did with many hotels of this period particularly in the Sydney area. The hotel builders were Field and Roach.
The Noel Butlin Archives at the Australian National University has a number of images and notes about the history of the Dungog Royal Hotel. The archives states:
On completion of rebuilding in 1939 the hotel was a two storeyed brick structure with a fully tiled ground floor exterior and an asbestos sheet roof. The architectural style is known as P. & O. Ship Style because of its similarities to ocean liner forms.
In 1939 the Saloon Bar was described as
View of stools in front of a curved linoleum-topped bar faced with rectangular tiles. The room has a linoleum floor, walls partially tiled with square tiles, wall fans and spherical lights hanging from the ceiling. On the counter beneath a shelf light is a cash register and there are advertisements attached to the shelves for Tolley’s Hospital Brandy and for Skee Whiskey.
The public bar area is described as
View of curved linoleum-topped bar faced with rectangular tiles and in the background, the door to the Parlour. The room has a linoleum floor, walls partially tiled with square tiles, a wall clock and spherical lights hanging from the ceiling. On the counter is a cash register and there are a number of advertisements on the walls, including a poster reproduction of a pub painting by R. Weuban.
The Dungog Heritage Inventory describes the Royal Hotel as:
Modern Art Deco style hotel in light brick. Recessed balcony on upper level with high parapet above. Curved and decorative brickwork.
The heritage consultants maintaining that the building is a good example of its style and period.
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