YARRAM - PORT ALBERT
|FEDERAL COFFEE PALACE|
|Although not the first brick building to be built in the town,
the Federal Coffee Palace is the oldest remaining brick building in Yarram
(Victoria, Australia). The actual construction date is uncertain, but some
historical records show that it was built in 1888 by Charles Stockwell
for James Buckley, whose initials are on the corner facade. The date of
1901, also on the facade, is not necessarily the date of construction
as is generally thought, but the year of Federation of Australia. Quite
a number of buildings were adorned with this year giving respect to the
historic occasion. It is significant to note that the township of Yarram
Yarram was gazetted on 8 December 1893. Having written this many years
ago, based on early photographs and in particular John Adam’s book ‘From
These Beginnings - History of the Shire of Alberton’, further information
has come to light which contradicts these assumptions.
The following article in the Gippsland Standard, dated 8 October
1901, clears up the construction dates and provides further insight into
the objectives of the owner, James Buckley.
The FCP building was constructed on land made available at a major land
auction on 18 November 18, 1885. The land, facing Commercial Street (as
it was called then) between James Street and Devon Street, was part of
Yarram Park, the vast estate of the Nicol family. Blocks were auctioned
by Mr. A. Gellion. The initial building, on the corner of James Street
and Commercial Street, consisted of a thirty-foot frontage along the main
road. This first building can be easily identified as it did not include
the section with the arches. (Note the photographs).
It is interesting to note from the Gippsland Standard article of 1901 that it appears Buckley’s initial objective was not to construct a building of hospitality, ie a hotel or coffee palace, but as business premises. In fact, James Buckley's objective was indeed to run a hotel. However, the Yarram Hotel, opposite in Commercial Street (on the land where the DCNR building now stands), was granted a renewal of its license and Buckley’s new building was opened as a boarding house and adopted the name Federal Coffee Palace.
Such a name was not unusual. Each major town had a 'coffee palace' which appears to have very little to do with coffee, nor were many regarded with any likeness to a 'palace', but they did indicate a teetotal establishment which catered for travellers. Melbourne had its famous Federal Coffee Palace, later Federal Hotel I believe, pulled down for 'development' sometime in the fifties.
It is important to note that there was another ‘coffee palace in town - the Yarram Coffee Palace was located in the Stockwell building which still exists next to the Club Hotel on Commercial Road, some fifty metres up the road from the Feberal Coffee Palace. The two ‘coffee palaces’ have often been confused. During extensive renovations around 2005, an original inside wall in the Stockwell building was exposed showing clearly the words ‘Yarram Coffee Palace’. (The wall is that on the ground floor at the far south of the building next to the lane bordering the Club Hotel. Sadly, it has now been overpainted.)
It is stated in the historical records prepared by John Adams' In
These Beginnings, published by Alberton Shire Council.1990, that: E.
(Edmund) Buckley opened the Federal Coffee Palace in 1888 on the James
Street Corner; and that on 19 October 1887, Charles John Stockwell opened
a new accommodation house in Yarram, the Yarram Coffee Palace with nine
bedrooms, Yarram’s first brick building. Stockwell was a stonemason and,
when he was unable to find a good brickyard, he turned to some good clay
in James Street near where he planned to build an make his own bricks for
the building. The Yarram Evening Club, with fifty members, was established
in late 1892 with members paying for their own private bar and club room
facilities. This was in Stockwell's Coffee Palace. Stockwell went
on to build the Yarram Club Hotel next to his (Yarram) Coffee Palace in
1893. (This would have been the old Club Hotel, not the current building.
There also appears to be some contradiction here with Edmund Buckley opening
the Federal Coffee Palace ‘in 1888 on the James Street Corner’. If this
was the case, it may have been in a previous building on the site.) Stockwell
gained a licence for his (Yarram) Coffee Palace in 1902 when William Dwyer
took it up placing it in the name of Mrs. Eliza O’Callaghan and then, after
her death, of Mrs. John Barry. The Yarram Club itself, with Jack
Stockwell as secretary, moved to James Buckley’s buildings on the corner
of James Street and Commercial Street (Road) in 1906.
It is noted by Adam's that James Buckley had 'planned a large two storey building for the Club at this time boasting a frontage with arches and cemented pillars and a generous balcony linked with his Federal Coffee Palace'. This gives us the first indication that the Federal Coffee Palace building, as it now stands, in fact two buildings - the first built in 1900/1901 with just the two windows on the Commercial Street side as shown in the above photograph, and the second construction added to the first in 1905/06, as shown in the photograph below.
In 1905 or 1906 (the date has only been established from photographs), James Buckley built the second section of the building characterised by its three arches, facing Commercial Road. John Adams, in From These Beginnings, states, "James Buckley ... had planned a large two-storey building ... boasting a frontage with arches and cemented pillars and a generous balcony linked with his Federal Coffee Palace". Unfortunately, Buckley never went through with the balcony, but he did 'join' the two buildings together upstairs. If you look closely at the front of the building above the arches you can see the original bolts that Buckley had planned to hold his balcony.
Men's clubs were the major venue for entertainment in those days, and the Yarram Club, with Jack Stockwell as secretary, moved from its original venue at Stockwell's (Yarram) Coffee Palace , to "Buckley's buildings on the corner of James Street in 1906". (This assists the dating of the building).
Perhaps it should be mentioned at this stage that the Stockwells and
the Buckleys were owners of large tracts of land and buildings in town.
On 19 October 1887, Charles John Stockwell opened a new accommodation house
in town, the Yarram Coffee Palace with nine bedrooms, Yarram's first brick
building. Stockwell was a stonemason and, when he was unable to find a
good brickyard, he turned to some good clay in James Street near where
he made his own bricks for the building. (The Yarram Coffee Palace has
frequently been confused with the Federal Coffee Palace, aided not inconsiderably
by the fact that the Federal Coffee Palace was for a time, later, called
Yarram House, and signwrit accordingly).
Edmund Buckley was a neighbour to Henry Bodman at Trenton Valley, and grazed a total of 23,020 acres and in common with other squatters, held runs over a large area. Kenneth Cox writes in Land of the Pelican, "He represented a class who were bold and adventurous, gamblers unafraid iof risks, who held dominion over large tracks of country during times of drought and prosperity. In one season they scarcely knew the extent of their wealth, followed by years of struggle and depression during which they were kept afloat by money-lenders and creditors." His father Edmund Buckley (Snr) was thrown from a horse in 1859 and killed, whilst returning from the second Agricultural Show at Tarraville. James Buckley died in St Kilda in December 1923, and was buried in Brighton Cemetery.
Yarram's Federal Coffee Palace was run by Edmund Buckley, James Buckley's father, and it is sometimes thought that he was the builder and owner of the property. This may well have been so, however legal deed documents available document the first entry on 24 November 1899 with James Buckley as being the owner. James became a leading citizen in the town and a councillor. It is generally thought that the building was built by Charles Stockwell for Buckley.but the Gippsland Standard of 8 October 1901 contradicts this.
In its one hundred years, the Federal Coffee Palace has seen a number
of owners, but throughout, even to this day, it has provided 'permanent'
rooms for boarders. It is a credit to Stockwell and the builders of the
time that the building is still in an extremely sound condition. Stockwell
probably obtained the bricks for the Federal Coffee Palace from the same
clay quarry in James Street where he obtained bricks for his 'coffee palace'.
It should be noted that the Federal Coffee Palace is triple-brick for the
first storey, and then double brick for the upper floor. It is thought
that the bricks came from this same clay quarry in James Street.
Pride of the early owners was the large billiard room directly behind the aches fronting Commercial Road. To this day the 19ft x 27 ft room still retains its original narrow-pitch corrugated metal ceiling and timber dado walls. The single billiard table was mounted, not directly on the baltic floor, but securely on eight concrete stumps flush with the floor. These may still be seen in this excellent room. It is not known when the last game of billiards was played in the room, and what use was subsequent made of the room - and whatever happened to the billiard table? Adams records that “In February 1933 the old billiard rooms at the Yarram Coffee Palace were opened as rest rooms by Cr. A.C. Davis.” There is also a records that was used later as “Rest rooms of the Country Womens Association”. I believe Adams has confused the Yarram Coffee Palace with the Federal CoffeePalace.
Some time after 1974 the owners of the building partitioned the
large room into two sections and used this as part of their residence,
in conjunction with the self-contained flat behind the room. The partitions
have now been removed and the old billiard room was used a book depository
for Oceans Enterprises, publishers and distributors, for many years from
1991. In 2008 it became a music room, delightfully restored by piano teacher
Lisa Blackman, and used to this date (2011).
Ownership of the building, and proprietorship of the Federal Coffee
Palace as a boarding house, changed hands several times. It is recorded
on the Deed of ownership that Lily Elizabeth Buckley and Josephine Monica
Buckley, spinsters, assumed ownership on 27 July 1910. Their relationship
to James Buckley is not recorded - possibly sisters, or maybe daughters.
On 20 September 1916, an advertisment in the Yarram Standard stated
: "Mrs Weir has pleasure in announcing that she has leased the Federal
Coffee Palace and hopes to receive the liberal support accorded her predecessor."
Lily survived Josephine and the deed was placed in her name on 20 June 1946, together with Angela Merie Chenhall, 'married woman'. It is believed the Chenhall's ran the boarding house up to the time when the McConville's took over. Mavis June McConville, 'married woman', was noted on the deed as of 21 January 1957. The deed also indicated that Mrs. McConville had her property mortgaged to Frederick George Jeffs, and then to Frederick Charles Orchard on 23 March 1961, discharged 13 April 1967.
On 13 April 1967, Henry Claremont Pyke and Mary Ada Pyke were recorded as ‘Yarram Boarding House Proprietors'. The McConvilles and the Pykes are remembered to this day as having run an excellent boarding house during the peak development of Yarram. Their rooms were generally full, particularly in the fifties and sixties when Yarram was undergoing positive growth. Many of the rooms were taken by couples, the men working on the railways, the timber industry, building, and on the land. There are many interesting stories to tell of these years, but this is not the place for such scandal. However - its is known that a death occured when a man fell down the stairs after an altercation, a lady made profitable use of her time in one of the rooms, and a prominent Melbourne barister spent his last days in excile here after a legal scandal..
On 2 January 1974 Frank Wanka, 'shoe repairer' and Maria Elfreda Wanka,
'married woman', became Joint Proprietors. Elfreda ran the boarding house
with Frank establishing a honey business, the bees in the back yard perhaps
not totally appreciated by the townsfolk. By now the concept of the boarding
house as a major means of accommodation was dwindling, and the number of
residents diminished accordingly.
By the time writer and publisher Peter Stone bought the building on 27 November 1990 the whole top floor, with some thirteen bedrooms, was devoted to only three boarders. Peter Stone and wife Wendy Bouker initially resided in one of the groundfloor units before moving upstairs and commencing wholesale renovations. Boarders, as such, are no longer taken in. A separate self contained wing along Commercial Road with four bedrooms, was initially used for boarders but is now for long term residents who share facilities. One vert content tenant has remained, in the same room, for over thirty years.
It is interesting to note some specific features of the building - or
should we say, buildings. Remember that the construction consists of two
buildings built at separate times. This can clearly be seen, both in its
design, and construction. Initially, when the first building (on the corner)
was constructed, Stockwell probably realised that there would be another
separately-owned building built next door abutted to his, so internal bedrooms
were fitted with skylights but no windows. The original skylights are still
there but windows were installed probably at the time of construction of
the second building in circa 1906. These 'renovations' can be clearly recognised
and were pointed out by an historic-building expert from Canberra. From
a design point of view, it seems strange to some that on entering the front
door from Commercial Road, under the arches, one enters a short corridor
- which leads out to the back yard. Only one other door leads off the corridor
- into the old billiard room. This corridor also contains a large window
from the first building, an opening that was clearly built as an external
window. This window is now covered. It is not possible to go from the groundfloor
of the first building to the 'billiard room' in the second building without
first going outside. (A covered walkway now provides weather protection).
All this seems to be poor design until the history of the building and
its construction is realised.
Some major remodelling to the ground floor rooms was done to the building sometime around the 1920s, the date being determined from the materials used. There is a large self contained flat that borders James Street, with a 12ft high ceiling. The flat had an entrance into the main downstairs area of the original building, but is now boarded up by the present owners to isolate the area into a self-contained flat. It is understood that the large living room in this unit was once the main dining room of the boarding house.The original floors and ceilings are all of baltic pine. Lathe and plaster is the main medium for internal wall construction, and this continued up until the 1920s. The requirements of a boarding house are of course different to the needs of an hotel and the downstairs area was extensively remodelled. The original floor plans are not available, and it is difficult to determine where the original internal walls were. The main entrance to the proposed hotel was, presumably, from the corner of James and Commercial Streets. This would probably have been for the public bar area, with the main residential entrance in James Street. This later entrance would have opened into a large foyer. Until recently, the entrance area was partitioned into bedrooms. Thid was demolished in 1994 to provide a large and attractive entrance to the main residential area from James Street. It now forms on entrance to the book business Oceans Enterprises.
The external areas include the large 'stables' of some 30ft x 40ft,
now concreted throughout, with an external entrance from the lane behind
the block, and from within the back area. This is an ideal garage and workshop/storage
area for which it is currently being used. The extrernal entrance to the
lane is boarded up. This was actually the entrance for the stage coach
which would come in from the laneway. (The stage travelled from Sale and
on to Leongatha, with the overnight at Yarram). There is also another storage
shed, and a covered garden-tools area. Interestingly, when the current
owners were working in the unloved backyard, they found teeth and bones.
Somewhat alarmed, they were soon to realise that the bones were those of
a horse,but the teeth were human. It turns out that a dentist, Bill Ottie,
had once plied his trade from the small shed (which is lined) and disposed
of his surplus teeth by simply throwing them out the window. The backyard
is now covered with Besser pavers. A second area is grassed and paved,
with a clothesline and fruit trees. One of the flats has a small private
garden/entrance off James Street. There is also a huge well, some thirty-feet
deep and at least fifteen feet in diameter, narrowing to a 'neck' of three
feet. This is permantly filled with water at the natural level of the water
table. It was used for rubbish until the 1960s, but now has a heavy concrete
cover. Incidentally, the concrete 100-Mile post to Melbourne is down this
well. But that is another story.
The Federal Coffee Palace was in a sad and sorry state when taken over
by the Stone-Boukers in Novenmber 1990. A large hand-painted 'Honey For
Sale' sign greeting visitors to Yarram coming in from the south, giving
rise to the building been known for these latter years as 'the honey house'.
The building had not seen a coat of paint for many decades. Indeed, whoever
painted the bulding in the first place should hang his head in shame, as
the original brickwork was tuck-pointed. It was probably first painted
in the late thirties/forties. A complete facelift has given new life to
the building, with a coat of sadly needed paint, and the 'restoration'
of the original name FEDERAL COFFEE PALACE along the
Commercial Road fascade. (The name was also along the James Street side
but this has not been redone). An exciting time was had with the painting
of the original coat-of-arms on the building. This is in the tradition
of the times, with the shield bearing a ram's head, sheaf of wheat, anchor,
and sailing ship. The shield is guarded by a kangaroo and an emu. An attempt
to determine the original colours failed as the official coat of arms for
Australia was only established in 1906. The Stone-Boukers however copied
the colours of an identical coat-of-arms on the old market building in
To improve the property, as they lived in the building after their purchase
in 1990, Peter Stone and Wendy Bouker extensivly renovated the property:
gates and fences were installed, the back yard paved, the roof replaced
(in part) and the remainder attended to, the stables waterproofed, electricals
replaced, a complete new plumbing system installed from the meter, two
new hot-water appliances installed, a huge slow-combustion heater installed,
a new staircase built at the front of the building (giving private access
to boarders), walls demolished where required to expand the small original
bedrooms into serviceable living areas, two new kitchens installed, two
bathrooms installed, a new residence foyer constructed and the building
completely repainted. The prime concern of the Stone-Boukers was to ensure
that the self-contained flats were in first class condition before concentrating
on their own living area.
Whilst the Stone-Boukers were in residence, the Federal Coffee Palace
was configured as follows: a large private residence with private entry
from James Street into a large foyer and stairwell, leading upstairs to
an open dining room, kitchen, and a corridor for entry to two bedrooms,
huge 15ft x 15ft bathroom, a library and a very large 30ft lounge. Downstairs,
off the foyer, were two more bedrooms, one used as a private study. The
'boarders area' (as it was called - the permenent residents unit) is accessed
from the front stairwell (just behind the arches) and enters into a long
corridor in the Commercial Road wing, giving entry to four small bedrooms,
a bathroom and a lounge-kitchen area. This area is completely self-contained
from the main residence. Pweter Stone initially used the residential unit
behind the billiard room as his Oceans Enterprises office; the office was
later moved to the residential area upstiars, and the unit reverted to
a two-bedroom flat. There is also a sing;e-bedroom flat on the ground floor
fronting James Street.
In August 1999 Peter Stone and Wendy Bouker moved to a country property ten minutes from Yarram to raise their son born that year. They retain ownership of the building, renting out three residential units, the Federal Coffee Palace Restaurant, and the music room. Peter retains the upstairs James Street wing as his office for Oceans Enterprises, a publishing and book distribution business.
There is always work to be done on the buiklding. All other areas have been remodelled and repainted and simply require reqular normal maintenance. The beauty of all this is that, nomatter how much effort is put itto the building, Yarram's Federal Coffee Palace will live for at least another hundred years. The building was painted in 1991 and now needs a repaint which will hopefully be done in 2011.
FEDERAL COFFEE PALACE RESTUARANT
The Federal Coffee Palace Restaurant was opened 6 December 1997 by Federal MHR Peter McGauran. On opening it was, and remains, the only licensed restaurant and wine bar in Yarram. Peter McGauran, then federal Minister for Agriculture, remarked, “You can't help but be taken by the beautifully extravagant colour scheme and the eye to detail that has gone into the planning of the restaurant”.
After Sandra and Tristan moved on, the Harris family operated the restaurant from May 2000 to December 2005. It was then taken over by Melissa and Chris Edwards who retained the original ambience of the restaurant, and added an imaginative and delighful menu. In September 2007, Jenny and Hans Gierens bought the business and now, Jenny and Anna Moore continue to develop the popular restarant as a comfortable meeting place in town for the locals and a welcome respite for travellers. And the coffee is great!
See deails on the "Coat of Arms" featured on the building.
|If in hardcopy, this is a printout from the website http://yarrampa.customer.netspace.net.au. Prepared by Peter Stone. I am indebted to the late Di Nicol and Port Albert Museum archives for the use of historic photographs and research material. Also to Melva James and the Yarram Historical Association for the Gippsland Standard, dated 8 October 1901. Appreciation is also expressed to the many people who have stayed in, owned or managed the building during the past century.|