Queensland Places - Grand Hotel, Victoria Parade, Thursday Island

The present day Grand Hotel, Thursday Island, replaces the earlier, original, Grand Hotel, which was built in around 1890, surviving for a century before being destroyed by fire in 1990.

Various newspaper references to the former Grand Hotel, particularly during the hotel’s early years, describe it as one of the best hotels in North Queensland and this is echoed by the Grand’s own advertisement in an 1897 commemorative calendar, held in the State Library of Queensland’s John Oxley Library.

Grand Hotel, Thursday Island, 1897

Grand Hotel, Thursday Island, 1897

In this advertisement, as pictured, the hotel is described as “…commanding a full view to both entrances to the harbour as well as the surrounding islands.  It is situated that is derives the fullest benefits from the prevailing winds from every quarter.  The House contains large and spacious bedrooms, smoking rooms, reading room, coffee and drawing rooms and is divided into wings and suitable for families and tourists.  The spacious balcony is over 260 feet long and there are showers and a plunge bath…”

The advertisement also shows us external and internal views of the hotel.  We see that the balcony surrounded the building on two levels.  The image of the hotel’s dining room shows that it was very luxurious and newspaper references of the time again show that the hotel was well regarded and was a venue for many important events and visits by dignitaries.  For instance, on 23 December 1892, the Queensland Premier and his ministerial party visited Thursday Island aboard the government steamer Lucinda and were entertained to lunch at the Grand.  We can surmise that this and other important events took place in the hotel’s dining room, which we see in the pictured advertisement as being formally set for such an occasion.

It is also recorded that the noted author, Somerset Maugham, stayed here and there has been speculation over the years that he may have written some of his work on the Grand’s verandahs.  The hotel’s first proprietor, James Doyle was also a prominent and well known resident for many years becoming a Justice of the Peace as well as being heavily involved in community affairs.

The present day Grand Hotel therefore shares and continues the long and interesting history of its predecessor.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

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