The present day Drunken Admiral building was constructed in 1825-26 on the northwest shore of Hunter Island, partly on reclaimed land. It was built for the Leith Australian Company which was initially established to encourage Scottish families to migrate to Australia. The company imported rum, gin, wine, ale, pork, herrings, hams, tea, coffee, mustard, stationery, saddlery, snuff, and hardware such as paint, whitening, tar, chalk, nails, implements, iron and cedar.
The building was considered one of the finest in the colony, built of brick with a stone façade and roofing slate imported from Scotland, which was considered quite an extravagance at the time. The building included four store rooms, two offices, a sample room and a three-bedroom residence.
The company’s Hobart agent, Charles McLachlan, who lived in the residence, helped establish the Hobart stock exchange and chamber of commerce, was a director of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land, and a member of the Legislative Council.
The building was later leased to Ordnance Corps for storage, and subsequently as a barracks for its officers and men. It was then used as a receiving depot and temporary accommodation for military pensioners enticed by the promise of a grant of land and a horse in return for undertaking a short term of military service each year. In return they were require to act as guards on the convict ships and perform 12 days of military training per year so that they could be called up at short notice. The scheme was not successful and between 1849 & 1851 saw pensioners unable or unwilling to work, cause major damage to the building by ripping out the internal woodwork for firewood. By 1851 the building, in a disgraceful state, was handed to the Immigration Association where it was used by the as a depot for new arrivals.
Advertisements of the day in Britain encouraged single women and widows of good character from 15-30 years to better their condition by emigrating. The first passengers to be housed at the depot were from the ship “Beulah” and included 12 married couples and 10 children along with 169 single women, mainly from Irish workhouses who were brought to the colony to work as domestic staff to meet the demand for servants in the now prospering colony. The Hobart Town Advertiser of September 2, 1851 reports the ship and depot were inspected by Governor Denison and his wife who were impressed by the women and their accommodation. Domestic servants were in high demand and most soon found work.
In the 1880s the building was occupied by brothers John and James Murdoch who ran it as a flourmill and warehouse and built an additional loft. In 1923 it was acquired by Henry Jones and Co and was converted it for staff facilities with separate dining rooms for men and women.
It became the Drunken Admiral Restaurant in 1978 and still operates as such to this day.