The early days of a bluestone beauty

March 24, 2024 BY

Local beacon: the Tooborac Hotel in the early 1900s. Photo: FILE

THE TOOBORAC Hotel has been a landmark since it was built in the late 1850s.

In its early days, the sturdy bluestone walls provided respite for weary travellers venturing north to the McIvor diggings and beyond.

It was also a stopping place for gold escorts, with dedicated Cobb & Co stables.

But this level of traffic also led to it becoming the scene of more newsworthy events.

In late April 1864 the McIvor Times editor commented on the trial of an Edward Evans who was charged with attempted murder of the publican’s wife.

He described Evans’s actions as “one of the most cowardly crimes it was possible to imagine.

“A man who could shoot a woman in bed, when she was in the act of giving up her money to him, richly deserves hanging.”

Evans was, however, spared the death penalty, despite incompetent legal representation.

His lawyer “was what would be called drunk in the case of a labourer,” the editor wrote.

“Mr Martley conducted the examination in the manner a man would who was suffering from unusual excitement, and his questions were so irrelevant and meaningless that his Honour uttered several expressions of annoyance.”

By the early 20th century, the hotel was in the news for more positive reasons.

In May 1907, the McIvor Times noted “Mr Venturini, the proprietor of the Tooborac Hotel, is making very extensive improvements to the property, and intends bringing everything up to date.”

Cheers! Hotel patrons in the late 1800s. Photo: HEATHCOTE MCIVOR HISTORICAL SOCIETY


But he suffered a severe setback in July 1911 when “a fire occurred at Mr PA Venturini’s Tooborac Hotel…which did a good deal of damage,” the paper reported.

“The fire started in an upstairs bedroom through a chimney catching fire and igniting a piece of wood that had been let into the brickwork of the chimney when being built.”

Venturini was suffering from influenza at the time, which turned into pleurisy and this is likely to have contributed to his untimely death three years later at the age of 47 from an “affection of the lungs.”

Over many decades the hotel played host to meetings, sales and a variety of other events.

It was the favoured drinking spot for the many timber cutters in the area, while the rabbit trappers preferred the nearby Sugarloaf Hotel.

Insults of “wood chips fly” and “rabbits squeal” allegedly flew between the two groups.

The hotel was generally well regarded, the McIvor Times sung its praises in 1871 as the only public house in the McIvor Shire which met the requirements of a new licensing act.

The hotel’s reputation as a well-run establishment was also reflected in a 1918 report by the Licences Reduction Board.

Their inspector visited the Sugarloaf Hotel first, and subsequently recommended its closure.

He found it “was a one-storey building…situated in town and contained sixteen rooms, six of which were bedrooms for the use of the public.”

“The roof was of iron. Generally the building was in poor condition and poorly furnished.

“The next nearest hotel was the Tooborac, which was about 178 yards away.

“This building was of much superior class for the accommodation of the public, and was equally as well situated.”

The Tooborac Hotel was also known as the Pick and Shovel Inn at various times, but its current name was well established by the early 1900s.

These days the building is home to a craft brewery and it still attracts both locals and travellers making their way up and down the Northern Highway.