New National Trust Heritage Tour of Hotel Kurrajong Canberra Takes Visitors to Birth of Nation’s Capital
Hotel Kurrajong Canberra and the National Trust will take visitors on a specially curated journey through time, from the dawn of our nation’s capital in the 1920s to the present day, in a one-day-only history and architecture tour on 14 April as part of Canberra and Region Heritage Festival.
Hotel Kurrajong Canberra is an iconic Heritage-listed hotel that first opened in 1926 and is most famous for being home to Prime Minister John Curtin and his Treasurer Ben Chifley during the dark years of the Second World War.
It was designed by Commonwealth Chief Architect, John Smith Murdoch, also renowned for designing Old Parliament House and built during the Australian Capital Territory’s alcohol prohibition years. It was initially designed to accommodate officials transferred from Melbourne to set up Australia’s new capital, Canberra.
The hotel hosted officials and press for the opening of Parliament House in 1927 and continued as a home to Members of Parliament, their families and public servants for years to come.
Before the war ended, Chifley replaced the late Curtin as Prime Minister and chose to live at Kurrajong rather than the Lodge. His Labor Party was to lose the next election but Chifley stayed on at the Kurrajong, where he suffered a heart attack while working in his room on the evening of 13 June, 1951. He was taken to hospital but died that night. On hearing of Chifley’s death, then-Prime Minister Robert Menzies cancelled the next night’s Jubilee Ball at Parliament House in honour of the man he had long respected.
In 2014 the Heritage-listed building was fully restored and reopened in December that year with a distinct art deco theme, via a joint venture between the National Roads & Motorists’ Association (NRMA) and TFE Hotels, who run it today.
The hotel tour on 14 April will be hosted by the ACT National Trust. Historian, Dr Peter Dowling and Heritage Architect Eric Martin AM, who have meticulously researched the building and its history, will share the its fascinating stories and those of its occupants.
Dr Dowling said the tour would include a visit to the room Chifley called home for 11 years.
“The Kurrajong has had a long history closely associated with the politics and indeed the development of Canberra,” he said. “Unfurling its stories will be exciting for the tour attendees and any future visitors to the hotel.”
Visitors to the hotel will be struck by the 1920’s-inspired decor and hospitality from the moment they arrive. The cosy fireplace, the library stocked with historic literature and the photographs from different periods along the hallways imbue a sense of the building’s history.
The pavilion-style buildings with their pretty terrace gardens are nestled among trees between Lake Burley Griffin and Capital Hill, having lived various incarnations as a boarding house and hotel school since first opening as a hotel in 1926.
Its 147 rooms houses 26 in the heritage wing and include four executive suites, four balcony rooms and eight terrace rooms.
Chifley’s Bar & Grill is named after the former resident Prime Minister and pays homage to the past, with inspiration from today. The team creates a unique experience for diners in a classically elegant dining room, which extends to a glassed-in terrace overlooking the hotel gardens. The menu features locally foraged and seasonal produce, actively adopting a paddock to plate philosophy to ensure freshness and flavour.
The Canberra and Region Heritage Festival celebrates Australia’s cultural heritage through a program of tours, exhibitions and events in the Australian Capital Territory from 2 to 18 April.
The National Trust history and architecture tour will be held at 4pm at Hotel Kurrajong Canberra on 14 April. To book phone (02) 6230 0533 or email[email protected]. Entry fees are by gold coin donation. More information can be found here.