The Denison Hotel was first licensed in 1847 was named after William Denison who served as Governor of Van Diemen’s Land between 1847 and 1855. This building is a very elegant two storey premises containing 10 rooms and twin cellars which had been originally arranged with considerable care for the overall convenience of the proposed business. At the time, Macquarie Street was one on Hobart’s busiest roads and the location and convenience of the hotel were all designed to deliver the most profitable result for the owners as possible.
The Denison Hotel was originally owned by Joseph Taylor and the property extended down to the Hobart Rivulet. Taylor also built six small cottages which became known as “Taylor’s Rents” along the western side of Denison Lane next door to the hotel. The cottages were in high demand as they provided low cost rental accommodation. Unfortunately the cottages were not well maintained and by the early 1900’s, they had been demolished.
The Denison Hotel found itself in the public spotlight in 1900 when advertising on the exterior wall of the hotel was thought by some of the Hobart public to be threatening common decency. The buildings western wall had been painted with a mural which was designed to capture the attention of people travelling down Macquarie Street…..and capture their attention it certainly did!!
Apparently the painting depicted the interior of a bedroom with all the furniture depicted and a number of women in various stages of undress, taking off their footwear etc. A letter sent to the newspaper stated that it was nothing less than a public scandal and called for something to be done to prevent such a disgrace to the city. I’m not sure what ultimately happened to the mural but can only imagine that its removal was eventually ordered. I wonder if the mural still exists under the layers of paint on the existing building.
An interesting part of owning a pub in those days was that the publicans had to apply to have their licenses renewed every year. The process was normally a formality but in 1918, the Hobart Licensing Court decided to write to 32 license holders advising them that they were required to attend the court sessions in person and present evidence as to the suitableness of their premises to have their license renewed and the necessity for a public house to be operating in their locality.
The Denison Hotel was one of those pubs identified for review. The court heard evidence from the police that the pub was well kept but they didn’t believe that it served any suitable purpose at all. Following two weeks of hearings, the court delivered its decision and announced the closure of 13 pubs, including the Denison Hotel. The decision of the Licensing Court was ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court but the original decision was upheld and the Denison Hotel was forced to finally close its doors.
This has probably been a blessing in disguise as the façade of the building may well have been altered if the place remained as a pub. This beautiful building has stood the test of time and remains in fantastic condition and currently operates as the office for a medical services business.
Main Text & Information Source –
“The Story of Central Hobart – Street By Street” – Donald Howatson 2015