Lost Moruya – The Commercial Hotel

This article on the Commercial Hotel is Part 5 of a series of articles Hotels in the Eurobodalla written for the MDHS Journal by Susan Pryke. 

The earliest notice of the Commercial Hotel in the files of the Moruya and District Historical Society is a small advertisement for Thomas Staunton’s Commercial Hotel, listed in the Moruya Examiner, 7 December 1878. It was built on the site of the former Gold Diggers Arms on the corner of Vulcan and Church Streets. By 1881 Honora Cummins had become the licensee. She placed an advertisement to notify the general public:

she will be happy to see her friends and supporters and do all in her power to secure their comfort.” The Commercial Hotel had good stabling and “a large room, suitable for displaying samples, and holding public entertainments.”[1]

At the time of the Special Licensing Hearing in May 1908, the report for the hotel read as follows: “Contains 19 rooms, built of wood, two storeys, condition good, furniture good. Closets (2) good. Stabling fair. License fee £20. Rent assessed £80 15s. Business: bar good, residential fair.” Malachi McKeon was the licensee.

The Commercial Hotel was the only hotel in Moruya that was not required to give any evidence at the hearing. At the conclusion of the first day, the Commercial was given a vote of confidence by Judge Fitzharinge and allowed to remain open

In his reminiscences, Down Memory Lane, Bob Colfax described the Commercial as

“a large two-storeyed building with a very high, very wide verandah protecting the footpath and an equally large balcony upstairs. The latter was encased with the old style cast iron figured work extending the full length of Vulcan Street and down Church Street. There was a billiard room opening onto the main street.”

Vulcan Street Moruya 1932 from the MDHS Collection

Mr Jack King purchased the hotel and demolished it (circa 1938). In its place in 1939 he built the Monarch Hotel, a very modern brick building, designed and furnished by his wife Marie. Born in Switzerland, Marie King was an outdoor enthusiast. She is described as being

“happiest of all when … horse driving outback to find wild flowers.” Her obituary noted: “Whenever she came across a new flower she would at once send it to a botanist to get its name. Her ability in catering was renowned, being expert in continental cookery, and would cook all types of what we would regard as ‘weeds’ but she called herbs as greens. She would often send ‘greens’ away for analysis to ascertain their food value. With Mrs. King cookery was an art.” [2]

Around 1947, Mr. King leased the hotel to Jack Preddy, and later sold it to Russ Martin. In his memoirs, Bob Colefax said:

“Russ thought that Jack King let the Monarch go for such a reasonable price that he assured Jack King that he could always return and make his home there if he wished. Jack King was a great lover of race horses and after a number of years he returned old and tired to accept Russ Martin’s generous offer. He made his home there until his death in the hotel he built and once so proudly owned.”[3]

In 1972, the hotel changed ownership, with the owner at that time, Bert Farnsworth, selling to Mr. M. Nader.[4] The business is still going strong today as the “Hotel Monarch Motel”. Its art deco facade, with the date “1939” prominently displayed, is a reminder of the flamboyant modernism characteristic of the era.

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[1] Moruya Examiner, 28 May 1881.
[2] Moruya Examiner, 2 July 1943.
[3] Down Memory Lane, Bob Colefax.
[4] Mr. Nader later purchased the Moruya Hotel and converted it to the Air Raid Tavern.

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