‘Grand Dame’ of Canberra hotels celebrates 90th Anniversary
The hotel opened as the Hotel Ainslie in 1927, on the same day as the launch of Old Parliament House. Amongst the VIP guests staying at the Hotel Ainslie on its debut night were the architect of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin, and the designer of Old Parliament House, John Smith Murdoch.
Since the hotel opened its doors, Canberra has seen 23 Prime Ministers sworn in and the population has grown from under 9,000 to almost 400,000.
Built in English deco style, the hotel has enjoyed a venerable role in Canberra’s evolution as Australia’s capital city and today is still a popular meeting point for locals, dignitaries, politicians, business and leisure travellers. Classified by the National Trust, it has been entered on the Royal Institute of Architect’s Register of Significant 20th Century Architecture and on the Australian Heritage Commission’s Register of National Estate.
Despite the illustrious start, the hotel was used as a hostel for women in the public service for much of its early history, and only became a fully fledged hotel again in 1950, as the Ainslie Rex Hotel. The Schwartz Family Company purchased the hotel in 1989 and renamed it Olims, before upgrading the hotel and rebranding it to Accor’s global Mercure brand in 2011.
“There’s tremendous history in the hotel’s bones,” says Dr Jerry Schwartz, Director of the Schwartz Family Company, who commissioned a history of the hotel following his acquisition of the property.
“When the hotel was launched, Canberra was still under prohibition, so it effectively opened as a ‘pub with no beer’, and because it was a women’s hostel through to the 1940s, it remained ‘dry’ right up till the 1950s. Mind you, I think patrons of our very popular beer garden have since made up for that, especially as the gardens have been the home of the annual Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival for the past decade.”
To commemorate the 90th anniversary, the Mercure is turning back the clock to the 1920s this Friday night (15 September) with a special dinner and show.
The Mercure’s Chef, Anthony O’Connell, is creating a 1920s inspired menu that will include arrival cocktail and canapes, main course, dessert, quality beverages throughout the night, a cabaret show and other entertainment for $129 per person.
The hotel is offering a special accommodation offer – 90 rooms will be available for just $90 per person (based on twin-share) during the month, until sold out.
Full details of the anniversary event: www.mercurecanberra.com.au