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‘A pub most splendid’: The Australia Hotel

Sydney 1926

The Australia Hotel on Castlereagh is Sydney’s finest establishment. ‘The Hotel of the Commonwealth’ offers the refined atmosphere of classic London and European hotels to the city’s most distinguished visitors and residents, with an international standard of comfort and service.

The ‘Australia’ is situated in the very heart of Sydney, a modernist Art Deco building of black and silver glass, shining steel, Carrara marble and polished Australian timbers. Its opulent interior is a streamlined, padded realm of endless mirrors and sweeping elliptical stairways, bedecked with Australian landscape paintings. A massive mahogany grand staircase complete with stained glass windows ascends ten floors for the convenience of guests yet to overcome their distrust of mechanical elevators. Glass showcases feature Parisian perfumes and diamond wristwatches, as well as model mechanical harvesters and the very latest chemical sheep dips. Its that kind of place.

It’s a fancy pub, but a decent pub, a pub most splendid.

The hotel is the place to stay and be seen by the upper echelons of society. Here you will meet Viennese divas, Russian emigres, American actors, visiting members of the outback squattocracy, and the idle rich of every creed and nation. Some of them are not what they seem.

The Australia hosts some 200 bedrooms, ranging from suites on the lower floors to smaller single rooms on the upper floors. Apart from accommodation for guests, rooms are also provided in a separate wing for servants, who have their own dining room.

The Australia offers the very latest in civilised artifice, including electric lifts; telephones and international telegraphy; full plumbing; and electric lighting and heating throughout. Bedroom amenities include free-running hot water, electrical power, and asbestos fires for the winter comfort of guests.

With entrances from Castlereagh Street, Martin Place, and Rowe Street, the Australia is the entertainment and social showcase of the city, with a banqueting hall, several bars and more inmate rendezvous for the well-to-do and the wishing-to-be.

Located on the first floor, the Winter Garden is a refined bar and tea room, famous for its morning and afternoon teas, light luncheons, and theatre suppers.

The Bevery provides a more intimate dining area.

The Moorish Lounge is the place for pre-dinner drinks; it leads into the Emerald Room, an ornate banqueting hall with a soaring ceiling and Italian chandeliers. The speakers dias rises above a white marble fountain and neoclassical statues, and the entire room is engulfed in palm court style shrubbery.

The Sportsman’s Bar, better known as the Long Bar, is famous throughout New South Wales. It has one long bar stretching down the length of the room, allowing patrons standing on one side discrete observation of those opposite. Frequented by professionals and white-collar workers, it is also popular amongst the city’s theatrical and homosexual communities. Regulars form polite cliques with little interaction. One entrance to the Long Bar discretely opens onto Rowe Street, a bohemian laneway and ‘camp ghetto’.

The luxurious Smoking Room has a resident tobacconist.

The Reading Room has a small library and recent editions of international newspapers and magazines.

On the ninth floor, the Nepal Room is a little-known meditation space, decorated with hangings and pillows and (somewhat anachronistically), a bronze statuette of Shiva Nataraja. It contains theosophical and spiritualist tracts, and discrete notices for theosophical meetings, seances and private readings.

Next to the Australia, across bohemian Rowe Street, stands the famous Theatre Royal, with a number of other theatres nearby.

The department store David Jones Limited maintains a small branch in the hotel, providing luxury goods for visitors, hampers for sending to Old Blighty, and tasteful souvenir Australiana.

The Commercial Travellers Club is situated on Castlereagh Street directly opposite the hotel’s main entrance.

Hidden from guests, the Australia’s basement contains electricity generators, the hot water supply, lift mechanism, laundry, bakery, staff dining room, beer and wine cellars, cold storage rooms, an ice room and baggage storage.

The Ravens

Cecilia Winterbloom was courageous, sharp as a pin, and unwavering in her passion for the truth. We all knew it would end badly.

DAZ Studio and Photoshop. Adapted image is Ahasuerus at the End of the World (1888) by the pre-Symbolist Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl.

“The peace and safety of a new dark age”


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’

Created in DAZ Studio and Photoshop.

Waratah Investigates

Waratah was shocked to discover that Colonel Nightshade was more than just an avid stamp collector. DAZ Studio and Photoshop.


close shave



Razorhurst, Gunhurst, Bottlehurst, Dopehurst – it used to be Darlinghurst, one of the finest quarters of a rich and beautiful city; to-day it is a plague-spot, where the sporn of the gutter grow and fatten on official apathy. By day it shelters in its alleys, in its dens, the Underworld people. At night, it looses them to prey on property, decency & virtue, & to fight one another for division of spoils. Truth, 23 September 1928.

Razorhurst, Sydney, 1926. That wild and haunted city. The Turn of Midnight Waters. Rendered in DAZ Studio and Photoshop. Click for full size image.