It was like stepping back into the 1920s with last night’s grand re-opening of the Hotel Kurrajong, a beautiful heritage-listed hotel that has been restored with an art deco theme. Most famously known as the home of Prime Minister Ben Chifley (and the place where he suffered his fatal heart attack in 1951), this is one of those elegant old-world style buildings that Canberra folk treasure.
Built in 1926 as one of two hotels in equal walking distance from Old Parliament House, Hotel Kurrajong is part of the fabric of the National Capital. The other hotel, now beautifully restored as the Hyatt Hotel Canberra, was traditionally where Liberal Party MPs stayed. Labor folk stayed at the Kurrajong, with Chifley preferring its down-to-earth cosiness over the grandeur of The Lodge.
It was somewhat of an irony, perhaps, that Prime Minister Tony Abbott was the special guest at last night’s official opening, delivering his speech alongside the old leather chair that Chifley used when he stayed at the Hotel Kurrajong between 1943 and 1951 (in room 205 – and, yes, the room is still available to guests).
NRMA chief executive Tony Stuart said the history behind the hotel married well with the NRMA’s proud history in Canberra as Australia’s largest mutual organisation. TFE Hotels’ chief executive, Rachel Argaman, said they had aimed to keep the essence of the hotel while creating a modern, comfortable place for guests to stay.
The hotel was designed by the Commonwealth’s Chief Architect, John Smith Murdoch, who was also responsible for the design of Old Parliament House. Style and heritage combine effortlessly in the refurbishment, with the hotel retaining many of its historic features including pavilions, deep verandas and radiating courtyards. Andrew Parr of SJB Interior Design oversaw the project.
The cosy fireplace, the library that is full of historic literature, and the collages of historic photographs along the hallways provide a sense of the hotel’s history. The hotel has 147 rooms, 26 of which are located in the heritage wing, four executive suites, four balconies and eight terrace rooms. Its lovely garden retains most of the original plantings that were established by the then Superintendent of Parks and Gardens in Canberra, Thomas Charles Weston.
The Champagne flowed, swing-jazz band The Velvet Set created the mood, and girls in flapper dress fluttered around. Welcome back, grand lady. It’s great to have you back.
If you go:
Hotel Kurrajong Canberra
8 National Circuit
Barton ACT 2600
Tel: +61 (0)2 6234 4444