The Sir Joseph Banks Hotel

The ornate and historic Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, in Anniversary Street Botany, reminds us of a past era of grandeur and seaside pleasures. The hotel was a major resort for Sydneysiders of the 19th Century. The original hotel was built by early settler, Thomas Kellett, in 1844 on his 75 acre land grant. This is the Georgian building on the south side of the property, which once faced Botany Bay. It is hard to imagine today that the waters of Botany Bay were only 30 metres away! Kellett also organised regular sporting events to attract patrons to the hotel, and advertised in the newspapers regularly.

Sydney Morning Herald 21 December 1844 pl
 Sydney Morning Herald 21 December 1844 p1
Sir Joseph Banks Hotel Botany Bay 1853
Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, Botany Bay 1853.Watercolour by John W. Hardwick
Image State Library of NSW

 William Beaumont leased the hotel in the 1850s and introduced the Sir Joseph Banks Pleasure Gardens and zoo. In the 1870s and 1880s Frank Smith added to the hotel, including the impressive filigree building that faces Anniversary Street today. He also built a running track and introduced the pedestrian races that attracted thousands of spectators in the late 1880s.

By 1908 the hotel was known as the Olympic Recreation and Picnic Grounds and was still popular as a venue for dances, concerts and picnics. A portion of the estate was subdivided in 1920 and a new hotel was built facing Botany Road. The name and license were transferred to the new hotel. Further subdivision took place during the 1920s, when lots were sold and houses were built in Anniversary Street.

The old hotel stood vacant for some time until it was bought by James Ruttley at auction in 1930. Ruttley was merely passing by along Botany Road on business on the day of the auction. Fearing that the hotel would be demolished, he promptly placed the winning bid to save it. It was occupied by his widowed daughter, Doris Rutley for many years until her death.

Renovations, 2000
Renovations, 2000. Image City of Botany Bay
 In the 1990s the hotel was once again sold, restored and converted into apartments. It remains an important Botany landmark and a reminder of the grand seaside resorts of a former era.

Jenny MacRitchie, Heritage Librarian



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