210 Napier Street, Fitzroy (Napier Hotel)

Image held by Fitzroy Library. Napier Street, view from the Town Hall, looking North towards Alexandra Parade. Date: 1929

“This corner hotel was constructed in 1916 and replaced an earlier hotel, likely to be the original hotel on this side of 1866.  This hotel like many others in the Melbourne suburbs, replaced a hotel that was considered of inadequate standard by the Licensing Reduction Board.  The Licensing Reduction Act of 1906-07 established high standards, many of which were met by the existing hotel.  A permit was issued on the 30th October, 1916, with W. Cooper listed as the builder.  It is possible that Smith and Ogg who were the Brewery architects at that time, designed this hotel, but there is no such record.  At this time the Brewery had one staff architect, Weaver, who also may have been responsible for this building.  In 1925, Smith, Ogg and Serpell untook alterations to the hotel (nature of works uncertain) and so it appears likely that the firm designed the hotel 9 years earlier.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.142)

“The exterior of the hotel is intact, and the composition is dominated by a corner tower, a standard feature of hotels built at this time.  However, the tower, a standard feature of hotels built at this time.  However, the tower on the Napier is unusual, with a similar, but inferior, tower appearing on the Royal Oak Hotel in Bridge Road, Richmond. The square nature of the tower differs completely from other corner towers and results from continuing the flat plan of the door up into the tower. The timber brackets supporting the roof appear to be a Queen Anne derivative. An unusual rose-bush decoration decorates the corner panel. The origin of this corner tower and rose-bush decoration is unknown, but appears so distinctive that one person may have been responsible for its creation. It is possible that Robert Haddon who worked for Smith and Ogg in 1912 may have influenced this work but this has not been substantiated.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.142)

“The composition is symmetrically placed around the corner entrance. The side entrances are echoed by a projecting Dutch gable motif which extends beyond the parapet. A foliated crest with the initials ‘NH’ is contained within a recessed arch below the gable end. An unusual wide projecting cornice treatment supported on timber eaves brackets unify the composition at eaves height. This is repeated by horizontal bands at first floor level (with raised name), and at ground level with a solid bank of green tiles. Unlike many hotels, these tiles form a vital part of the hotel design and compliment the very fine predominantly green lead lighting to the ground floor windows. Fine wrought iron lamp brackets overhang each entrance door and window balconettes decorate the two side entrances. The interior has been altered but pressed metal dadoes survive in the hall and billiard room, the corner internal entrance joinery is intact and the bar appears to be original. Otherwise on the ground floor there is nothing of note. The unusual composition and features of this hotel, combined with the intact, well preserved and face brick façade, combine to make this hotel of unique architectural significance. The enigma surrounding the architect responsible or the source of inspiration does not lessen its importance.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.142)

Nicola, doesn’t see the hotel in quite the same way: “Another of the basically Edwardian hotel buildings on which Art Nouveau decorative motifs were crudely carved on the façade with no real feeling for the spirit of that movement. Missing was the overall turbulent, sweeping effect so characteristic of European Art Nouveau; in its place was a series of organic decorations – a rose bush on the square tower (a straight line was abhorred by the disciples of Art Nouveau!); a bunch of leaves elsewhere – a method of approach which just reinforced the already staccato appearance of this Edwardian-style-building” (Hotels in Fitzroy up to 1906, Nicola A Piccolo, 1971)

Committee for Urban Action (Melbourne, Vic.) 1970-1974 – Identifier CUAFY33/2 – (State Library)
Committee for Urban Action (Melbourne, Vic.) 1970-1974 Identifier: CUAFY101/10-11 (State Library)
View from Napier Lane – Committee for Urban Action (Melbourne, Vic.) 1970-1974 – Identifier CUAFY101/112 (State Library)
1986 – Napier Hotel Plans – By Laura Amerena (State Library) – another 3 images are available at the Library.
1986 – Napier Hotel Plans – By Laura Amerena (State Library)

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