Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Federal Coffee Palace, Hobart

The term “coffee palace” was primarily used in Australia to describe the temperance hotels that were built in the last decades of the 19th century. Built in response to the worldwide temperance movement, which reached its pinnacle in the 1880s in Australia, coffee palaces were hotels that did not serve alcohol. Although tea has long been considered the beverage of sobriety, it was coffee that came to be regarded as the very antithesis of alcohol.

This was a unique time in Australia’s architectural development as the economic boom fueled by the gold rush in the 1850s, and the demand for ostentatious display that gathered momentum during the following years, afforded the use of richly ornamental High Victorian architecture and resulted in some very majestic structures; hence the term “palace”. Coffee palaces were much more than ordinary hotels—they were often multi-purpose or mixed-use buildings that included a large number of rooms for accommodation as well as ballrooms and other leisure facilities to attract people away from pubs. The temperance movement was concerned about the evils to society being caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

In the late 19th century in Hobart, the encouraged the opening of coffee palaces such as the Federal Coffee Palace, which was located on the corner of Murray & Despard Streets and which provided meals and accommodation in an environment that was free from the evils & temptations of alcohol.

While the temperance movement lasted well over 100 years, the life of the coffee palaces was relatively short-lived. The Federal Coffee Palace operated during the 1890's but like most of the coffee palaces across the country, it turned out to be a bit of a late Victorian fad. Hobart's Federal Coffee Palace went on to become a bakery, which it remains to this day, whereas, rather ironically, some of the other coffee palaces around Australia turned into licensed hotels.

Although the temperance movement’s attempt to provide an alternative to the ubiquitous pubs failed, coffee has now outstripped the consumption of tea and today’s café culture ensures that wherever coffee is consumed, there is the possibility of an exchange of news and dissemination of ideas and information in a sober environment.

Main Text & Information Sources - 
"The Story Of Central Hobart - Street By Street" - Donald Howatson 2015

Historic Photograph