Hotel Corones Tour - Charleville

Hotel Corones Tour - Charleville


Posted 2022-11-09 by Susan J Bowesfollow
Whenever I travel to Western Queensland, I marvel at the historic buildings in small towns, which are grand in structure as well as history, and I wonder what difficulties must have occurred when the materials were transported to these outback areas in the early 1900s.

On my recent trip to Charleville , I was given a tip by a young man at the Cosmos Centre who said that if I saw nothing else, I must take a tour of Hotel Corones. You can book this tour from Rachel's Clothing Rack next door to the hotel or at the Visitor Information Centre as I did and Hotel Corones , with ticket prices being $30.00pp for an Adult, Concession $28.00pp and Children - Years 4-14 are $15.00; however, an adult must accompany children. Tours usually operate from 2.00pm each day, however, if this does change unexpectedly, you will be advised.

Our tour guide Rachel, who also has a special connection to the hotel, had an incredible amount of knowledge of the history of Hotel Corones , and passed this on to us with spirited enthusiasm and a passion that flowed from each story she orated.

Haralmbos (Harry) Corones was born on the Island of Kythern, Greece in 1883. Before he ventured to Australia, he performed his military service in the Greek Army, which was compulsory in Greece at that time. Migrating to Sydney in 1907 with his twelve-year-old nephew, he did not know any English and only had a few coins in his pocket. Firstly, he and his nephew stayed with people he knew in Sydney before moving to Brisbane to work with his cousins. After another year in Brisbane, Harry decided it was time to go it alone and seeking another adventure, he borrowed one-hundred and twenty pounds and headed to Charleville in 1909

From there, Harry purchased a run-down café in Alfred Street and in a short period of time, he had turned it into a successful business providing great service, tasty food, warm hospitality. His good business sense was acknowledged when a travelling salesperson from Perkins Brewery suggested Harry should take over the lease of the Charleville Hotel, which was owned by the Brewery.

In 1912, Harry signed the lease on Hotel Charleville for a rent of six pounds per week and also became an Australian Citizen. A couple of years later Harry left Charleville for a visit to Sydney, leaving his nephew in charge while he was away. In Sydney he married Eftyhia Phocas (Effie), and they both returned to Charleville to settle down and start a family. During his time away, the hotel burnt down, but on his return, he rebuilt it in a very grand style and signed the lease on the new hotel.

Harry was a shrewd businessman, but also wanted to give back to the community that had welcomed him some years prior. He and three partners opened Charleville's first cinema in 1915, which was lit by electric light and quite novel for those times. In 1916, Harry leased the Café to his cousin Jim Locos, which allowed him more time to be involved in the community. He was invited to join the Hospital Board and became a member of the inaugural Board of the Ambulance & Fire Brigade.

As he was very passionate about aviation, he later became one of the original shareholders of QANTAS . In 1921 he purchased the Quilpie Hotel and in the following year when the first QANTAS flight left from Charleville, Harry supplied the first inflight catering.

Two years later Harry purchased the Norman Hotel and in the same year he commenced designing and rebuilding what is now known as Hotel Corones. With the assistance of Architect William Hodgen Junior and Builder George Barber, Hotel Corones was opened in 1929. Costing approximately Fifty Thousand Pounds with a frontage of two hundred- and ten-feet, Hotel Corones was equipped with the most up-to-date amenities and was the calling place of many distinguished tourists and travellers.

One of those travellers was aviator Amy Johnson who, while staying at the Hotel requested a Champagne bath. As always Harry was accommodating to his guests and his staff filled the bath with twenty-four bottles of Champagne. After her bath was finished, shrewd businessman Harry thought he would re-bottle the Champagne as he could make money by selling the bottles which Amy had bathed in it. For some unknown reason, re-filling the bottles took twenty-four bottles instead of the twenty-three originally used! Today, you can still ask for a Champagne bath; however, you will receive a Champagne bubble bath for your relaxation.

During the two-hour informative tour, we heard lots of interesting facts like the Amy Johnson one and were afforded the viewing of rooms not available to the public or guests, other than those taking the tour. One such is the Drawing Room, complete with mannequins in period costume, memorabilia displayed around the walls in glass cabinets, and a dining table set as would have been for guests long ago. We also viewed the room in which Harry passed, complete with antique furniture and the hint of his ghost lingering. Harry's vision for grandeur was not lost in the building of this Hotel; with long verandahs on each side, one much wider than the other, and three suites at the top of the building with an open patio for the guest's privacy.

Other notable guests have included Australian and International Entertainers, Australian Politicians and Royalty. There is the story, that in 1941 Robert Menzies visited Charleville to give the nod on the Secret World War II American Army Base , but no one was to know he was in the town. Unfortunately for him, the whole town was booked out and when he came to Hotel Corones he was quite desperate to get a room. Someone recognised him and yelled out loudly, "who would like to give up their room for the Prime Minister of Australia?" One chap did and Room No. 29 become notable as the room Mr Menzies stayed in for the night.

At one time the dining area downstairs had inside and alfresco style dining outside; however, over the time Harry realised that his customers preferred to dine inside, and this area was closed in to incorporate a larger room. We noticed that many of the windows were stained-glass but there was a portion of them in the same block of windows that was clear. Rachel told us that originally all the windows were all stained-glass, but Harry realised that no one could see in, so for people to be prompted to come inside, he changed part of the stained-glass windows to clear.

In the early years, dances were a large part of everyone's life and so Harry built a dance hall, complete with a stage for the band. Photographs of long tables set up for festive occasions and a wooden floor for dancing can be seen in frames on the walls inside the Hotel. These days, this building is now the Bottle Mart, where you can also purchase a bottle of Red or White Wine with the HC (Hotel Corones) gold label. I purchased a bottle for my family, and they advised that they enjoyed it.

Taking the tour into the bar area, we were told that when it was built it was the longest bar in Australia and was constructed in a rectangular format where everyone can see each other sitting at the bar. At the end of our tour, we were given a free drink of our choice, whether that be non-alcohol, beer or spirits, which is typical of the hospitality you will receive when visiting Hotel Corones.

The initials "HC" are found frequently throughout the Hotel – on the tiles at the entry door, on each column around the bar and when asked by a fellow customer that Harry must have felt highly of himself to do this, Harry answered that the letters stood for 'high cuality', being Harry's poor and spelling and pronunciation of the English Language.

The Hotel Corones Tour was one of the highlights of my stay in Charleville. I have only scraped the surface of the history told to us on the day of our visit. Harry and his wife are buried in the Charleville Cemetery and if you pick up a brochure on the Cemetery Walk, it will give you the exact location of the crypt .

A man of meagre beginnings, yet a person of great vision and determination to leave a legacy of such grandeur, is to be admired. I certainly left that tour with a feeling of pride in what can be achieved. Hotel Corones was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1997.

149696 - 2023-06-14 03:22:24


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