Tag Archives: Eltham Hotel

ThrowbackThursday: Pitt Street, Eltham from Hotel to Milk Bar, c.1966

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to the corner of Pitt Street and Main Road, circa September 1966 where we will commence our walk eastwards to Bible Street.

Eltham Hotel, corner of Pitt Street and Main Road, c. September 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

On the southeast corner of Pitt and Main we see the iconic Eltham Hotel with its sunny Beer Garden out back and Drive In Bottle Shop accessed from Pitt Street. A sign on the left advises us of roadwork ahead.  Reconstruction of Bible Street and a number of the cross streets was undertaken by the Shire of Eltham as part of infrastructure upgrades from 1966 through 1968. Typically the underground services would be completed then new footpaths and nature strips along with many of the characteristic rock retaining walls. Lastly, the new road surfaces would be sealed.

Eltham Hotel, corner of Pitt Street and Main Road, Eltham, October 2017 (Google Street View)
Looking east along Pitt Street, Eltham, c. September 1966, Stebbing Cottage on right ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

As we head towards Bible Street we have to walk along the road. Pitt Street is still unsealed and there are no footpaths on the nature strip, just the odd track. On the left we see some of the large underground pipes placed on the nature strips in preparation for the roadworks that are under way. On the right we see a glimpse of Stebbing Cottage at 88 Pitt Street, built by George Stebbing over 100 years ago around 1860. In the distance we can see Pitt Street climbing the hill east of Bible Street.

Looking east along Pitt Street near Stebbing Cottage (on right), September 2016 (Google Street View)
Looking east along Pitt Street towards the intersection with Bible Street, Eltham, c. September 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

As we dip down the hill towards Bible Street we can now see the local Milk Bar on the southeast corner of Pitt and Bible streets. A Bulla delivery truck is pulled up out front delivering a fresh load of milk, cream and ice cream. A red Telephone Box stands on the nature strip. Apart from the Milk Bar, no other buildings or houses are visible on the southern side of Pitt Street and only a few on the northern side as we look up the hill. Some children are riding on bikes.

Looking east along Pitt Street towards intersection with Bible Street, Eltham, September 2016 (Google Street View)
Local neighbourhood Milk Bar, corner of Bible and Pitt streets, Eltham, c. September 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

As we arrive at Bible Street, also unsealed, we notice the red kerosene warning lanterns placed on stakes on the road verges around the intersection in preparation for the road works. The Bulla truck just pulled away. A little girl walks past us carrying a bag and heading up Pitt Street. The local Milk Bar also offers a Delicatessen and Self Service Grocery and Drive Through customer car park. Perhaps she just picked up some groceries from the Milk Bar for her mum who has promised to bake her a cake for afternoon tea.

What memories do you have of the Eltham Milk Bar and other local neighbourhood Milk Bars? It remains a survivor in our time poor, modern society; a link to a more leisurely pace in our past. There used to be two others within a short distance; one in Hartland Way and one in Eucalyptus Road, both now re-purposed more than a decade ago.

Eltham Milk Bar at intersection of Pitt and bible streets, September 2016 (Google Street View)

Eltham and District 1865

The Victorian Gazetteer – 1865

37º 44’ S. lat., 145° 10’ E. long. (Co. Evelyn), is a postal village in the parish of Nillumbik, and electoral district of Eltham, situated 14 miles from Melbourne on the road to Queenstown. The river Yarra is 1½ mile distant. There is a steam flour mill (Dendy’s), a brewery, and a tannery in the village. The neighbourhood is generally elevated and rangy, except along the course of the creek. It is principally pastoral, with but little agricultural land. In several of the gullies in the vicinity gold has been found in small quantities, but there is no gold field known by any distinctive name. From 3 to 4 miles N.W. are two quartz reefs, known as Phipp’s and Orme’s reefs, both on private property. The nearest towns are Warringal, 6½ miles S.W.; Templestowe, 3 miles S.; Greensborough 2½ miles N.W.; and Kangaroo ground 6 miles N. There is communication with Warringal and the Kangaroo ground by coach, but none with the other places, except by horse or dray. The distance from Melbourne is 14 miles, and there is communication up and down on the Wood’s Point line each day. The hotels are the Eltham and the Fountain. There are no regular carriers or coaching offices, but parcels left at the hotels are taken up by the coach, and goods are taken to New Chum, Wood’s Point, and Melbourne, both by horse and bullock drays. Eltham is under the control of a road board, the population is about 350; and the geological formation is upper silurian rock with sandstone shales, &c.

The Eltham electoral division commences at a point on the river Plenty due W. of the southern boundary of portion 1, Section 12, parish of Morang; thence E. to Arthur’s creek; thence by that creek to a point due W. of Stevenson’s bridge; thence E. to the said bridge; thence S. to the river Yarra-Yarra; and thence by the rivers Yarra Yarra and Plenty to the commencing point.

The Eltham road board district has an area of 344,960 acres, and an estimated population of 1500 persons, the number of dwellings being about 150. The total value of rateable property amounts of £55,000; the estimated annual value of rateable property amounts to £6,800; the revenue from all sources to £1614 13s. 10d.; and the expenditure to £2,082 17s. 9d.

Benjamin Wallis and the Eltham Hotel

by Russell Yeoman

In our Newsletter No. 217 July 2014 there was an article about Benjamin Oliver Wallis who was a prominent Eltham resident, publican and Councillor during the second half of the nineteenth century. He owned the house that is now the Nillumbik Living and Learning Centre at 739 Main Road Eltham. The article concluded by indicating that further research was required on Wallis’ ownership of the Eltham Hotel.

That previous article followed an enquiry from Christopher Wallis, a resident in Germany and it transpired that Benjamin Wallis was a member of the same family that came from the Cornish village of Newlyn. Christopher Wallis has now provided the results of his research complete with reference sources and it includes significant additional information on Benjamin Wallis and his connection with the Eltham Hotel.

What follows here is summarised from Christopher Wallis’ article, which starts with the background of the Wallis family in Cornwall where Benjamin trained as a mason and built a number of houses. He migrated to Melbourne in 1853 but his wife and children remained in Cornwall for a further 10 years. Later in 1853 Richard Warren engaged Wallis to build the Eltham Hotel and it opened in 1854 or 1855. The Fountain of Friendship Hotel on the opposite side of Maria Street (Main Road) opened at about the same time.

In 1858 Warren fell into financial difficulties and had to sell the hotel. Wallis bought the hotel and obtained a publican’s licence in 1861. In the 1850s the Fountain had been the more popular hotel but after that the Eltham Hotel became more popular.

The article argues that in about 1857 Wallis probably built the “Living and Learning house” for tanner John Pearson. In 1868 Pearson became bankrupt and Wallis acquired the house and he lived there until his death in 1896. For some of this time the house was in the name of Benjamin’s son Richard but he died in 1888 and ownership reverted to his father.

Much information is provided about Wallis and his family and especially his standing in the Eltham community. He was a member of the Eltham Jockey Club and in 1867 his wife Anna rode her horse Charlotte in the Annual Races. Anna was also an angler and is reported to have caught a large perch in the Yarra River. She died in 1887.

On 16th September 1886 Wallis sold the hotel to Christopher Watson (Snr). Watson died in 1887 and the hotel passed to his son Christopher Watson (Jr) who owned it for many years. It eventually passed to his son Herbert. Our Society records have to date not recorded the fate of the original Eltham Hotel although diligent research of the local press would have answered this question.

Assumptions have been made that the hotel gradually evolved from that building to the present day complex. However Christopher Wallis’ article and other recent research by Alan Sheehan shows that the hotel was demolished in 1925 when Herbert Watson was still the owner. A new hotel was built that included the façade currently standing at the corner of Main Road and Pitt Street. Many subsequent extensions have completely changed this hotel from its beginnings in the earliest years of Eltham’s development.