One thing the illegal demolition of the Corkman Inn late last year showed us was the deep connection many Melburnians have to historic pubs and the shock at seeing them disappear needlessly to development and gentification.
The Lord Mayor and the Planning Minister were right to express outrage, but we can’t forget that under their watch a number of equally significant pubs are currently slated for demolition or under threat in the city.
Pubs in the CBD have been gradually vanishing in the last 20 years, but the pace is accelerating, due to demolition, facadism, or being turned into other uses.
The Stork Hotel, a meeting place and poetry corner opposite the Queen Victoria Market for over 150 years, was approved for demolition in 2008 (and is now replaced with a generic apartment tower), because charming art deco alterations meant it wasn’t “original” enough to protect.
The Queensbridge Hotel was doomed to a similar fate at this time despite being the only historic building still extant along in Southbank within sight of the Yarra. In 2012 the Celtic Club (originally the 1872 West Bourke Hotel), was approved to be completely facaded for an apartment tower that may not include the club.
Then came the closure of the Elms Family Hotel last year which, despite heritage listing and its social history going back to the 1850s, will soon become just facades on the podium to an office tower behind, a fate perhaps just as bad as outright demolition.
Soon after news of the Elms, we learned the Duke of Kent Hotel on LaTrobe St, with it’s unique Greco-Egyptian facade, and storied history as the pre-war birthplace of Australian avant-garde theatre in the upstairs New Theatre, is to be completely erased for another apartment tower and driveway, with no objection from the City of Melbourne or Planning Minister since it had never been heritage listed.
Then just before Christmas, a planning application to completely demolish the gold-rush era bluestone Greater Western Hotel on King St was lodged which, despite a history as full as the Corkman Inn, also has no heritage protection and seems likely to be destroyed for an apartment tower.
We hear something on the grapevine that Metropolitan in William St may also be threatened. That would leave only seven pubs in the CBD that operate like pubs, but only Young & Jacksons is really completely safe.
While the outrage shown by those in power over the illegal loss of the Corkman was warranted, we wish more thought would be given to the equally significant but unprotected pubs that are steadily being lost to the wreckers with the full approval of those who could do more to protect these quintessentially Melbourne icons.