The National Hotel might be considered an iconic fixture in the centre of Fremantle, but its mere existence today on the corner of High Street and Market Street in the port city is a testament to centuries of survival through surprising levels of change and challenges. Opening in 1887, The National was originally a destination for those making landfall in WA to try and capitalise on the gold rush, but after multiple fires, renovations and changes of ownership it has become something else entirely today. The National Hotel is opening its doors for a special tour for Open House Perth 2018 this Saturday, November 10 and Sunday, November 11. We got a taste of the intriguing backstory to the establishment, including the murders, the bar room brawls and the colourful patrons that have checked in throughout its history.
The National Hotel has been around since the late 1800s, what kind of place do you think it was in the early days and what sort of people would you have found there?
When the hotel opened in 1887 I think it would have been a rough and ready port hotel, it was demolished in 1902 and re-opened in 1903. It was built by rich Irish gold boom brothers who made it very opulent with two lifts, a billiards room, miles of stained glass windows, and electricity, before it was introduced to Freo in 1905. Over the years it saw plenty of action before becoming a run down low end hotel. Since the fire in 2007 it has been reborn along the lines of the original intentions.
And how has the National Hotel changed over the years to become what it is today?
In 2007 is was almost completely wiped out in a fire. Since then at great expense the building has been restored to look like it did in 1903 on the outside. The interior has been completely rebuilt with new layouts and once again aiming at the top end of the market.
I’ve heard there are stories of murders and bar room brawls at the Hotel…what are some of the most interesting or intriguing stories in the hotel’s history?
The first landlord of The National shot and murdered a town councillor in 1887 outside the brand new Town Hall. He was the last man hanged in Perth Gaol as they moved all executions to Fremantle after that. They botched his execution and he was left hanging for 15 minutes on the end of the rope before suffocating to death. There were also a number of fatal brawls during World War Two, including one where a British sailor was beaten to death in the toilets by his own shipmates in a drunken rage. There have also been four fires have that have ripped through the building over its history.
The National Hotel are opening their doors for Open House Perth 2018
Where: 98 High Street, Fremantle
When: Saturday, November 10, 12pm – 4pm & Sunday, November 11, 12pm – 4pm
Learn more here.