Brief History of the Peninsula Hotel
The Peninsula Hotel is located on Railway Parade in Maylands , Perth. The hotel was built in 1906 by well known building contractor, Friederich Wilhelm Gustave Liebe. Today the grand old hotel seems oddly out of place along the busy street but in the early 1900’s the area would have been a buzz. Especially considering the Maylands Railway Station was right across the street opposite and the Mephan Ferguson’s foundry just down the road. I am sure it was frequented by many the workers from the factory who were making pipes for the Goldfields Water Scheme.
An Eye For Detail
Liebe was born in Wittenberg, Germany in 1862. Prior to Leibe’s arrival to Australia in 1885 he attended and graduated from one of Europe’s finest schools, Vienna Technical School of Building. Liebe worked in both Adelaide and Melbourne before moving to Perth in 1891. He was involved in the construction of many prominent buildings in Perth including Queens Hall (1899) His Majesty’s Theatre (1904) and the Public Art Gallery (1908). The Peninsula was Liebe’s dream hotel building and he took great care in achieving the design he desired.It is unknown who the architect was who designed the hotel for Liebe, but some suggest it was Liebe himself. Liebe originally built the hotel for himself and included servant quarters and stables out the back. Inside was a dining room, smoking room, bar, billiard room, bottleshop, kitchen, office and three staff bedrooms. Upstairs was a breakfast room, two suites, upper parlour and seven additional bedrooms. The hotel features a massive zinc clad square dome (now with a dragon weathervane atop) and beautifully carved wooden architraves above the wide doors . The interior of the hotel features a jarrah staircase, floral tulip motif on the wood, glass and plaster and pressed tin ceilings. Based on the 19th century German Mansion hotels the building is believed to be one of Perth’s finest examples of a Victorian Hotel building. Liebe in his later years became a successful wheat farmer and sold the hotel in 1936 to the Swan Brewery. He died in 1950 at the age of 88.
Going, Going …..
The Swan Brewery continued operating the hotel however in 1974 the management decided to demolish the hotel to create 68 car parking bays for the tavern next door. As you would expect there was a huge public outcry. In 1976 demolition commenced but was stopped before any harm could come to the much loved landmark. In 1980 the Swan Brewery transferred the title deed to the Peninsula Association Incorporation. The Peninsula Association, now the owners, were not eligible for government funding for its preservation and restoration. Fortunately in 1994 things changed and the Association now receives grants from the Lotteries Commission Heritage Program. Additional income is also generated through the leasing out of a number of offices and public meeting rooms. Volunteer members of the Association manage the building.
While I was at the library researching the Peninsula Hotel I found two inaccurate articles which I later discovered weren’t true. The story however, had become quite the urban myth at the time so I thought I would share .
This is how the story goes…
Liebe originally named the building Hotel Dusseldorf and it became the meeting place for the German Club. However in 1914 following the outbreak of World War I, all Germans in Australia were interned and their property confiscated (Liebe and the members of the German Club included). The hotel doors were closed and the property put up for auction. It was eventually purchased by the Swan Brewery for next to nothing. When the hotel was reopened it was called the Peninsula Hotel effectively removing all traces of its German past. The myth was further reinforced by the swastika-like looking tiles in the foyer (in Sanskrit it is an ancient symbol for good luck). See, not a bad story, but unfortunately it is only an urban myth.
Another rumour which had also been circulating, was Liebe had to sell the hotel after losing his fortune on the 1929 stock market crash.