Laying the Foundation Stone of the Great Southern Hotel, Beaumaris

(From “Beaumaris Newsletter” April 1971, reprinted from “Table Talk”, 25th May 1888)


In response to the invitation of the directors of the Great Southern Hotel Company, which is now in course of erection at Beaumaris, a number of representative gentlemen left Princes Bridge station by the 12.19 p.m. train on Thursday, 17th May 1888, to attend the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of what is intended to be a new departure in hotel construction.  Arrived at Cheltenham, the Party were met by two-horse trams, belonging to the Beaumaris Tramway Company, and after a pleasant journey of some two miles reached the site of the hotel, which was prettily decorated with flags in honour of the occasion.


Situated on a most beautiful knoll, the hotel will command a lovely expanse of scenery across a bay, on the other side of which are Mentone and Mordialloc. Lovely walks abound along the cliffs and sea-shore, and the person who would not revel in the beautiful at Beaumaris must indeed be a misanthrope of the first water.


The hotel, when completed, will occupy a frontage of 180 feet, having an easterly aspect facing the sea. The portion now under construction has a frontage of 78 feet, and is so arranged as to be complete in itself until the additions are made. It will contain a large entrance hall or vestibule 14 x 28 feet, with a great staircase to the upper storey. Opening from the vestibule is a large dining room, 25 x 36 feet, with an open roof and ornamental wood ceiling. Also a billiard-room for two tables, with smoking, reading-rooms, and six sitting or private dining-rooms for excursionists. Then on the first floor there are six suites of sitting and bedrooms, with large drawing-room and sixteen large bedrooms, with fifteen bedrooms on the second floor – sixty-one rooms in all.


The service and sanitary arrangements are complete in every respect, and designed according to modern ideas.  The front and side elevations have each spacious verandahs and balconies, that on the right side being 100 feet long by 10 feet wide, forming a splendid promenade in sight of the sea. The roof is of the “Mansard” form, and this also provides a grand promenade, 13 feet wide and over 200 feet long, at a height of 40 feet from the ground.


The architect is Mr. James Birtwistle, of Elizabeth Street, and the builder for the present portion is Mr A Oliver, of West Melbourne, the amount of whose tender is £7700. Everything being in readiness, Mr Harold Sparks, JP, using a handsome silver trowel, placed cement around the huge block of Malmsbury stone, and declared the same “well and truly laid”. In a few words he stated the objects the company had in view, to erect a hotel thoroughly homely in character, to be conducted in the best American and continental fashion, where the business man would be able to locate his family during the hot summer months, and himself come down daily after business hours to inhale pure ozone, and so fit himself for the morrow’s labour. He said the building would be energetically pushed forward and opened in October next.


At the conclusion of Mr Sparks's address, the company adjourned to a large marquee where a sumptuous luncheon was served in Mr Straker’s best style, the viands, wines, and attention being alike first class. The Honourable Thomas Bent, President of the Shire of Moorabbin, presided, being supported on his right by Mr Toohey MLA, and on his left by the Honourable H. James MLC.


After every justice had been done to the good things provided, Mr Bent proposed the usual patriotic toasts, followed by the Parliament of Victoria, proposed by Mr Moloney, and responded to by Mr Toohey MLA, and Mr C. H. James MLC. At this stage the chairman, on behalf of the shareholders in the Great Southern Company, in a few well chosen words presented Mr Harold Sparks JP with a handsomely illuminated address, and a handsome eight-day clock. Mr Sparks, in acknowledging the kindness of the subscribers, spoke of the advance in the value of land in Moorabbin Shire, and especially in the Beaumaris neighbourhood, as phenomenal, and mentioned that a gentleman then present, who, at his instigation, has purchased land at Beaumaris, had been within the last few weeks offered more than double the amount he had paid for it.


After a number of other toasts had been duly honoured, a start was made for the trams, and town was reached a little after six o’clock, everybody being delighted with the charming outing afforded them by the hospitable directors of what will undoubtedly prove a highly successful hotel company.