Feature / History

Historic pub weathers more than a century of change

The Moreland Hotel of today is unrecognisable from the pub first built in 1890.

The Moreland Hotel today; and as it appeared in 1890.

Brunswick Voice

THIS photograph (on the right) from the Melbourne Tram Museum shows the Moreland Hotel in 1890 with cable trams from the nearby depot. 

The last pub built in Sydney Road, the Moreland Hotel, was built in 1889-90 for Donald Fraser (Brunswick Mayor 1889-90) and was recorded then as having 50 rooms – the land boom was certainly in full swing!

A number of hotels had been built during the Gold Rush and the Moreland was part of a second cluster of establishments built at the end of the 1880s land boom.  The original hotel was one of seven three-storey hotels built in Brunswick at this time.  The other buildings still exist – the Grandview, the West Brunswick, the East Brunswick, the Lomond, the Lyndhurst and the Railway. 

In 1913, Brunswick Town Clerk Mr Temple succeeded in having the three-storey Moreland Hotel  demolished citing it as ‘dangerous’ for such a busy intersection), and it was rebuilt, truncated down to two storeys, with Mr D. Muleahy as licensee. The renovated Moreland had a 40 by 65 foot public bar, private parlour, ante­ rooms, wine and spirit store, and billiard room. Billiard tournaments were held under the supervision of Mr Joe Angel, “a well-known local sport”, according to the Brunswick and Coburg Star.

The hotel was substantially altered again in 1934, and again during the mid 1970s. A proposal in 1977 to rename it the R.J. Barry Hotel failed.

The pub  had a reputation for violence in the 1970s. The son of one publican of that period, whose family lived above the hotel, reports that his mother would look out the window to count the ambulances on Saturday nights.

The impressive  entrance,  miniature Colosseum and statue of David inside date from the 1990s.  Bruce Mathieson – founder and shareholder in the Australian Leisure and hospitality  Group which ran the hotel – had visited Las Vegas and was inspired by the garish casinos there to produce something similar in Brunswick. 

Ancient Roman inspired interior of the Moreland Hotel with Michelangelo's David as the centrepiece.
Love it or hate it, the present day interior of the Moreland Hotel is certainly eyecatching.

It has been reported that the present owners are planning to  renovate and remove these casino elements.   They are also considering changing the name of the hotel as ‘Moreland’ has now been recognised as having unfortunate connotations.

Elisabeth Jackson is president of the Brunswick Community History Group and a former Mayor of the City of Brunswick.