ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel- A Short History

A Short History of The Victoria Hotel

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ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel has had a long and rich history as one of the jewels of Melbourne. As of November this year, the hotel will have reached its 135th birthday. Adjacent to the Melbourne Town Hall, The Victoria has transformed from being an alternative to the rowdy pub accommodation that existed in the late 19th Century, to a historic, yet vibrant accommodation options for those seeking convenience and comfort in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

The hotel has undergone many a name change and has been known by the following:

  • The Victorian Coffee Palace (1880 – 1924)
  • The Victoria Palace (1924 – 1952)
  • The Victoria Hotel (1952 – 1990)
  • The Victoria Vista Hotel (1990 – 1998)
  • The Victoria Hotel (1998 – 2006)
  • The Victoria – an All Seasons Hotel (2006 – 2013)
  • ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel (2013 – present)

Throughout its history, the hotel has always offered a quiet respite for those travelling to the busting capital of Victoria. It remains as one of Melbourne’s oldest remaining hotels and is loved by both generations of Victorians, and interstate/international visitors.

Here’s a brief history of each leg of the hotel’s journey to where it is today:

The Victoria Coffee Palace

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The morning paper in Melbourne ran a notice on November 1 1880 announcing the opening of a new establishment in Collins Street. This notice was to declare that a magnificent café, restaurant and hotel would be open for business on that day.  It would offer the ‘finest dining hall in all of the Colonies’ and would boast smoking, reading and billiard rooms.

The opening of The Victoria Coffee Palace coincided with the era of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’. The city had been through a period of substantial growth, primarily due to the discovery of gold in Victoria during the 1850’s. This surge of wealth and people cemented Melbourne’s future as a major city. The establishment of The Victoria Coffee Palace also came at a time when there were a number of ‘temperance hotels’ were established, where the consumption of alcohol was banned. The Palace was one of these establishments and was a success from the moment it opened. During the collapse of the land boom in the 1890’s, the hotel was the only one of its kind to survive intact.

The Victoria Palace & The Victoria Hotel

In 1924, the hotel moved away from the term used to denote temperance hotels in the 19th Century and became known as The Victoria Palace Limited. The 1920’s was a prosperous time for the hotel as occupancy rates soared and investors were rewarded with substantial returns. By offering the public up-to-date facilities and consistently good service for 50 years, the prosperous hotel had developed, and by 1929 was the largest non-licenced hotel in Australia.

At the beginning of the 1930’s, serious difficulties were faced by many business ventures due to the Great Depression. The hotel survived this period. During World War II, the American Army occupied a large portion of the hotel for many months.

During the 1950’s, occupancy at the hotel still remained strong, at times maintaining 100%. During the 1960’s, a holding company called The Victoria Holdings Limited was formed to acquire capital of The Victoria Limited. In effect, The Victoria Holdings Limited acquired all the issued stock in The Victoria Limited, which became a subsidiary of the new company.

 

In 1975 one of Australia’s most infamous businessmen became a director of the hotel. A takeover offer for the issued shares of The Victoria Holdings Limited was received- which, after an extended takeover struggle, was eventually successful.

On November 1880, The Victoria Hotel celebrated its 100th anniversary. This was a significant milestone for an establishment that had been set up in Melbourne’s boom years and had withstood severe economic downturns, two world wars and a forced takeover. This anniversary marked a turning point for Victoria Holdings. In the following years the company had developed interest in a number of other hotels around Australia. In 1980, Victoria Holdings purchased the share capital of Sheraton Hotels (Melbourne) Pty Ltd and subsequently took over the operation of the Sheraton Hotel on Spring Street. Victoria Holdings continued to expand its portfolio and by 1989, it had took over Four Seasons (Australia). This acquisition also included two properties in Alice Springs, a leased property in Darwin and the management of several other properties.

The Victoria Vista Hotel

During the early 1990’s, Melbourne was in a recession that started to affect hotel occupancies. The assets of The Victoria Holdings Four Seasons Group of hotels were purchased by Morning Star Holdings, an Australian hotel investment, operation and catering firm and the hotels came under the management of Vista International Hotels Pty Ltd. In 1995, Malaysian United Industries acquired The Vista Hotel Group, including Victoria Holdings. Despite the fact that The Victoria was re-branded Victoria Vista Hotel in 1990, the hotel was largely left to its own devices.

The Victoria Hotel & The Victoria – an All Seasons Hotel

Changed conditions in the Malaysian economy caused Malaysian United Industries to put the Vista Group up for sale in 1997. In September 1998, The Victoria Hotel was sold to Australian owned Schwartz Family Company. The owners during this time set out quickly about making changes to the buildings. In 1999, the foyer was significantly upgraded and many of the features which are present today were added. Another change that happened soon after the new owners took over was the upgrading of the hotel’s heritage rooms, which were in a run down state and in dire need of an overhaul. 2002 saw an upgrade of conference facilities and 2003, a rooftop fitness centre was installed.  In 2006 the hotel commenced a complete renovation of the entire Centre Block rear section, which is to become known as South Wing. The $3 million project included the installation of en-suite bathrooms in all rooms and electronic key cards to enhance guest security.

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ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel

To this day, business continues at a steady rate for the Victoria Hotel. Major renovations have been completed which has reduced the number of available rooms, however retaining relevance and up to date facilities. The hotel is now run by Dr. Jerry Schwartz and has rebranded to an ibis Styles in 2013. The hotel will start a soft refurbishment in 2016, which will include the changing of carpets, curtains, beds, furniture, TVs, paintings and bed throws.

Have you stayed at ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel during any of these periods of change? Let us know your stories on Facebook or by e-mailing stay@victoriahotel.com.au – we would love to hear from you.

Staying at ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel and want to know an in-depth history about the hotel? All of our hotel rooms contain a copy of Home Away From Home, Celebrating 125 Years of The Victoria Hotel.