It began as the Barwon Heads Coffee Palace, then it became the Mt. Colite Hotel, was burned to the ground twice, rebuilt in the 1930s, modernized and extended in the 1980s and today the Barwon Heads Hotel is one of the most popular seaside hotels in Victoria.
|Articles on this page with permission from GREG WANE, are taken from the Barwon Heads,Ocean Grove, and Wallington news .||Issn 13290371|
Published by Whistler Publishing
PO. Box 358, Ocean Grove
Editor Greg Wayne
BARWON Heads was first surveyed for a future town in December 1870. But it wasn't until about eight years later when the Barwon Heads Coffee Place opened to the public. The single storey weatherboard building attracted many people during the holiday period and was used for many public gatherings and meetings. One such public meeting on 21 January 1892, met to discuss the possibility of having the railway line extended from where it terminated at the Geelong Racecourse to Barwon Heads. People at the meeting argued that a railway line to Barwon Heads would be a boost for the fishing industry and a Lara businessman expressed an interest in starting a limeburning kiln near the bluff. Visitors to the town during the early 1890s numbered more than 10,000 people and the railway line would have meant a boon to the local shops and businesses. However cost to construct the 14 miles of railway line were estimated at 65,000 pounds and this figure was considered horrific and the idea abandoned.
But the Barwon Heads Coffee Palace continued to attract both locals and visitors. The Coffee Palaces of the 1890s (most towns had a coffee palace) were described as temperance hotels. Hotels during the Victorian era were very much a men-only place "and indeed 'gentlemen' did not frequent such establishments". But the coffee palaces were places where both men and women could congregate socially and no alcohol was served.
As social trends began to change after the turn of the century many coffee palaces became hotels and guest houses. The Barwon Heads Coffee Palace was purchased by Mr G. Golightly and he secured a victuallers license, refitted and renovated the building and it became the Mt. Colite Hotel. Among the many features of the modem hostelry included a recreation hall, tennis courts and well appointed guest rooms. In total there were 27 bedrooms, four sitting rooms, dining rooms, kitchen, hotel bar and several bathrooms .
The name Mt. Colite was the name given to the Bluff during a coastal survey in 1840 and the name later appeared on various maps published between 1850-1890. The word Colite is believed to be aboriginal meaning 'sight'. The bluff is one of the highest points along the coastline.
The Mt. Colite Hotel was later sold to Mr Rand who lived in South Yarra and the licensee's name was Parer In 1923 Miss E. McDonald took over as licensee and five years later a disastrous fire de-stroyed the familiar old building.
Tenders were called for the construction of the the new hotel during September 1932 and a Melbourne architect Mr A. W Purnell was appointed to supervise the building works.
Finally completed in June 1934, it was opened in a blaze of publicity. The new hotel became the Barwon Heads Hotel and it formed the basis of the present day structure. Built in Spanish mission design with broad verandah and balconies the two-storey brick structure offered spectacular views over Bass Strait. The entire furnishings were supplied and fitted by Geelong firm,Solomons Pty Ltd.
A series of newspaper advertisements published during July 1934 claimed: "Graced with a hotel that would reflect credit on the French Riviere, Barwon Heads should prove the Mecca of future holiday-makers from all Parts of the Commonwealth ". The advertisement continued:"From the large decorative windows, with their artistic hangings, broad views of river, ocean and fishing fleet and inward bound steamers are Constant The hotel comprises 15 bedrooms, extra sleep-outs, a self contained flat for the manager staff quarters, lounges and dining rooms; also the balconies which contain green enamel chairs and tables and gay Spanish style sunblinds for the warmer days. The airy bedrooms have gay patterned curtains and matching bedspreads and the dining hall can cater for 60 guests. The kitchen suite is most hygienically designed with deep wooden sinks in the silver pantry to prevent scratching The bar with its beer stores and wine cellars promises a supply of cool beverage even on the hottest of days".
The hotel continued to cater for locals and visitors to Barwon Heads and a succession of owners and licensees followed the Ziman family who financed the 1934 building.
The abolition of '6 o'clock closing' licensing laws in 1966 allowed hotels to cater to a wider group of patrons with either 10pm or 11.30pm closing.
The Trew family owned the hotel in the late1960s and they saw an opportunity to attract a younger crowd and booked a young Geelong band called 'Portrait' in 1971 to play the lounge on Saturday nights. Some of the band members included: John Ferguson, Jack Green and Monty Oswald who dressed in weird costumes to entertain the crowd. The Barwon Heads Hotel became a 'legend' and the lounge became a popular rock venue. Teenagers and young adults travelled from Melbourne, Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula to the hotel on Saturday nights often having to queue at the front door and out into Ewing Blythe Drive, waiting for admission.
In 1978 the present owners, the Taylor family took over the hotel and in 1985 made extensive renovations and additions to the building. A modern bottle shop was added to the west side. An outdoor beer garden on the south side was demolished and a new lounge and entertainment area was built on to the existing building. An outdoor meals area was added to the front of the hotel and in the early 1990s the hotel added gaming machines.
Today in 1997 the Barwon Heads Hotel is one of the most popular seaside hotels in Victona, perhaps even Australia. Seated in the lounge you can gaze through the Barwon River entrance and out to sea and you begin to wonder how many others have done the same since the days when They called this spot a coffee palace.