This site, on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets in Hobart, has been home to several different buildings, the first of which was one of the earliest pubs in Hobart. According to Colin Dennison in the book Here’s Cheers, it opened in 1819 as the New Inn Verandah House, a name which was changed in 1820 to the Crooked Billett-New Inn.
In 1883, the owner of the building traded it for another pub in a deal with the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land, which demolished most of the building to build a bank on the corner. The billiard room of the old pub was retained and formed part of the Ship Hotel, which is still operating today.
The Bank of Van Diemen’s Land building was designed by the colonial architect Henry Hunter, who is responsible for many of Hobart’s well-known buildings including the Town Hall, St David’s Cathedral and the former AMP building on the diagonally opposite corner of Elizabeth and Collins Street, as well as many churches across Tasmania.
It was constructed in 1883 and the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land operated there until 3 August 1891, when it closed down suddenly, without notice. The bank had been established in 1823 but collapsed in 1891, when mineral prices collapsed, leaving mining operations unable to service their loans. (Source: The Companion to Tasmanian History, Banking & Finance).
The sign on the corner opposite the site says that the failure of the bank in 1891 “was a major blow to Tasmania’s economy in general; most of the savings of the past few decades of hard work were lost and the island’s economic fabric and its society would never be the same again”.
According to the history of the MBA in Tasmania by Dianne Snowden (Foundations of a Tasmanian Industry), the collapse of the bank created an economic depression and increased poverty and social instability.
As an aside, 1891 was the year Master Builders Association was founded in Tasmania. Dianne Snowden says that the depression caused by the collapse of the bank was the reason for the foundation of the Builders’ and Contractors’ Association, forerunner to the MBA, as cheap unqualified labour was undercutting standards and many builders were on the verge of bankruptcy. The association was formed to develop standard conditions of contract and to protect the interests of its members. I have a personal interest in this because the first president of the association was my great great grandfather, Alfred Dorman, who undertook work for the Marine Board as well as building the Dunalley Pub.
After the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land collapsed, the Union Bank of Australia took over the building. The Union Bank had branches in several states as well as New Zealand, and in 1951 it merged with the Bank of Australasia to become the ANZ Bank.
Back to Colin Dennison again, he says in Yesterday’s Hobart Today that the building was acquired by the ES&A Bank (English, Scottish & Australian Bank) in the 1960s when it was demolished and a new bank erected in its place. (Other sources say the building was demolished in 1958.) The ES&A Bank amalgamated with the ANZ Bank in 1970. The photo isn’t dated but I imagine, since it says ANZ, it must have been taken after the 1970 merger. You can see the Ship Hotel on the left of the picture.
When researching the history of this building I came across a post on ABC Open despairing at the loss of the “magnificent marble and cedar counters” from inside the building, which they reported had been put into landfill. What a shame! This person called the replacement building “an ugly concrete septic tank of a building”. I wonder if they were happy when the ANZ moved out in 2014 and it was demolished in 2017 to make way for a new commercial building.
I haven’t been able to find any photos of it when it was the ANZ bank in recent years, but Google Maps sourced this image from 2015, after the bank had moved out but before any plans for a new building had been made.
It stood empty until its demolition, which happened very quickly. It was there one day, a pile of rubble the next.
It took about 12 months from demolition to the new building being completed.
The first tenants for the replacement building were reported this week as including the Police Bank, a dumpling restaurant and a Chinese tea house. It’s good to see the site will continue to be occupied by a bank, maintaining the links to the past use of the site. (It also means the sign across the road (photo above), referring to “the bank opposite” will continue to be accurate!)
There is one more piece to this story and this is the St David’s Park lions. At the Davey Street entrance to the park closest to Salamanca Place are two magnificent sandstone lions. (One is hidden by the plant. Trust me it’s there.)
According to the sign in St David’s Park, the lions were carved in a tent on the footpath by Richard Patterson in 1884 for the entrance to the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land building.
The ABC tells us that Richard Patterson was a stonemason from the UK, transported to Tasmania in 1844 for burglary. After being granted a ticket of leave in 1850, he developed a reputation of excellence in his craft and worked on Tasmania’s Government House. The lions are described as his most famous and enduring work and it’s been noted that Richard Patterson made them without any model.
After the building was demolished, the lions were displayed at Port Arthur under the care of the Tasmanian Government until 1988. I couldn’t find any official information on how this was accomplished, but our ABC Open correspondent tells us that “an enterprising Italian immigrant salvaged the lions on the back of his truck and took them to Port Arthur”. The official ABC article says that the Tasmanian Government arranged it. The sign goes on to say that the lions were restored as a bicentennial gift to the people of Hobart from the ANZ Banking Group. which erected them in the park jointly with the Hobart Council. Now someone needs to prune the plant that’s obscuring the lion on the left so we see it!