Hamilton Hotel: An Iconic Landmark for More Than 150 Years

Hamilton Hotel
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

Since the arrival of the early European settlers in Brisbane, Hamilton and its environs have always been regarded as a highly desirable area to reside. One local landmark that has stood the test of time for over 150 years is Hamilton Hotel, a place that history also credits for giving the suburb its name.

Early Beginnings

Gustav Hamilton, a prominent solicitor from Toowoomba, opened the Hamilton Hotel in 1865 for horse racing patrons. Gustav, a prominent landowner in the Eagle Farm district, built the hotel which still stands on the same site today.

Located at the corner of Kingsford Smith Drive (formerly Hamilton Road) and Racecourse Road, the hotel first catered to horse-drawn wagons travelling from Breakfast Creek. Because of its strategic location, the hotel was part of a major travel route in Brisbane. 

Hamilton Hotel, Hamilton Reach, Racecourse Road
The white building is possibly the Hamilton Hotel on the corner of Racecourse road.
Photo Credit: Lost Brisbane/Facebook

Hamilton Hotel was a large wooden structure, similar to a huge homestead, set by the banks of the Brisbane River.

Frequent guests fondly referred to the hotel as “The Hamilton,” which became the main reference point of the district, especially since there were not a lot of busy and prominent establishments in the area. It wasn’t long until “Hamilton” came to informally refer to the entire area, not just the hotel.

Local Resources

Wealthy Enclave. Destination Location.

It was Hamilton Hotel that launched the suburb as a destination location as its patronage increased and the suburb’s residents grew. The hotel promoted the scenic surrounds of the locale and provided the community and guests with both convenience and socio-cultural enrichment. 

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From the 1860s to the 1880s, the suburb of Hamilton also became known as the “gentlemen’s estates” as settlers built their large villas and mansions here, spurring a boom for the residential sector.

Even then, the subdivision allotments that went up for sale in Hamilton were priced two or three times more than the blocks in nearby suburbs, such as Mitchelton.

Hamilton subdivision allotments
Photo Credit: Lost Brisbane/Facebook

Hamilton attracted old wealth and everyone regarded the suburb as an ideal place to live because of its premier location. The elevated lands gave residents a sweeping view of the beautiful river scenery, the central business district, and the surrounding suburbs. 

View of reach
Photo Credit: Queensland Places

When Gustav retired to Toowoomba, he sold Hamilton Hotel to Sam Hamilton who made the most out of the famous family name and sustained the venue’s popularity.

In 1904, Hamilton was officially recognised as a town and the owners of Hamilton Hotel changed hands a number of times. Among its previous operators were J.R. Ahern and his wife, and E.J. Stewart of the Stewart Hotels.

Modern Transformation

By the 1960s, then-owner Castlemaine Perkins Ltd completely rebuilt the hotel as a modern two-storey brick building, with a concreted car parking facility that could accommodate more than 200 cars. The hotel also had a bar and lounge that could accommodate hundreds of guests at a time. 

Tom Wilson, the managing director of Castlemaine Perkins Ltd, planned the rebuild of the hotel carefully into two sections to improve the efficiency of the hotel’s operations.

The new Hamilton Hotel introduced an unusual ventilating system that eliminated cigarette smoke indoors. Its design also took advantage of the natural light for the public bar facing Kingsford Smith Drive, whilst a private bar for 200 guests fronted Racecourse Road.

Hamilton Hotel, 1960s rebuild.
Photo Credit: Hamilton Hotel 

Hamilton Hotel became known as luxury accommodation with an upstairs and downstairs dining room, as well as a food dispensary that provided guests with choices of quick snacks and a wide-ranging menu that could satisfy the most discerning taste.

Eight cold rooms were built at the back and three rooms with walls that can be dismantled were added for other uses. This made it easier for the hotel staff to serve bar guests refreshing drinks and good food.

All the self-contained rooms on the second floor had their own toilet and bath, Hallstrom refrigerator, television, and telephone. There was also a built-in table in each room so that traveling businessmen can make their quarters their temporary office.

In the 1970s, another renovation added venues like the Pioneer Grill Room, the Tally Ho Bar, and the River Rooms fine dining area to the hotel, allowing it to accommodate more events such as business seminars, birthday parties, and wedding celebrations.

Hamilton Hotel Today

The ALH Group, under Bruce Mathieson, took ownership of the hotel as its expanded its business in Queensland in 2000.  In 2015, Hamilton Hotel commemorated its 150th birthday and has remained a popular and trendy social venue for both locals and tourists. 

Today, Hamilton Hotel is pegged to benefit from the upcoming multi-stage development of Northshore Hamilton, the massive event space and recreational centre, prior to the 2023 Brisbane Olympics. Stage 1 of this development is underway.