From the earliest days of European settlement, Australia boasted many a venue ready with a cold drink on a hot day - or a cold drink on a cold day.
Hotels were among the earliest businesses to pop up in many towns, with those in the local area no exception.
And although sly grog shops and shanty inns appeared almost from the time white settlers arrived in area, the district got its first legally licensed premises with Boydtown's Seahorse Hotel in 1843.
Recognising the potential of the area as the lynchpin of his planned maritime and pastoral empire, Benjamin Boyd purchased 640 acres on the southern shores of Twofold Bay in March 1843.
There he founded his self-named private settlement, moving immediately to establish all the necessary conveniences - stores, wells, jetty, church, cottages and, of course, a hotel.
The "...very extensive..." 22-room building was mainly of rubble construction with some locally sourced materials, but in typical Boyd style, Pyrmont sandstone for the foundations, and cedar and oak for doors, mantles and panelling were imported.
Ever the salesman, Boyd began promoting the merits of his inn well before completion, advertising in March 1843 "...for the convenience of passengers going to and returning from Maneroo..." and in April that "...this hotel will be completed in a few weeks..." Four months later, however, it was still unfinished.
Finally, by 1845 the inn had opened its doors and in June that year publican Lawrence Corcoran transferred his license to John Abbot, who was followed shortly afterwards by John A. Kaye.
Reportedly designed from a sketch plan by Boyd himself, the Seahorse Inn offered first class accommodation for travellers and locals alike, Captain W. H. Saunders claiming in 1846 that it was "...perhaps the most commodious in the colony..."
After Henry M. Rucker, Anthony Falkner took over as licensee in mid-1847 and in 1848 advertised that "...Settlers of Maneroo and the surrounding district will find superior accommodation...together with a choice selection of wines, spirits, beers, &c..." He remained in charge until 1850 when, in the wake of Boyd's financial collapse and the decline of that settlement, he transferred the Seahorse's license and set about establishing the Shamrock in Eden.
Situated on the hill facing the wharf, Falkner advertised in December 1850 "... that he has entered upon the commodious building, the Shamrock Hotel, Eden...situated near the Jetty, where the steamer lies, and offers every accommodation for the public and passengers proceeding to and fro by the steamer..." In 1857, a writer confidently stated that "...should any Sydney gentlemen pay Eden a visit...they will...get as good accommodation at the...Shamrock...as the best hotel Sydney can boast of..."
After Falkner's wife Mary passed away in April 1859, he advertised the inn for sale or rent, noting that it was in full trade and contained "...four parlours, seven bedrooms, bar and tap room...delightfully situated, elegantly furnished throughout, and replete with every convenience..." Shortly afterwards, Joseph Walpole Silk took over and in the wake of the Kiandra gold rush, had completed "...extensive alterations and improvements..." by November 1860. Silk continued the business until his tragic drowning in 1864, after which the Shamrock's doors appear to have shut.
Both venues seemed destined for a miserable end. In 1884, a writer lamented "...I can see one house, the Shamrock Hotel, which occupied one of the best positions in Eden, tumbling to ruin, and the house going to decay; beautiful cedar tables, presses, and everything requisite for a nice dwelling house, left to the four winds of heaven; doors open; dogs, goats, &c., having free egress and ingress..." Sections of the building were gradually removed and used at other spots around the area and by the 1930s all that remained to indicate its existence was a group of Mulberry trees.
On the other hand, however, although the Seahorse Inn gradually became a shell of its former self, good fortune led the Whiter family of Lakes Entrance to the magnificent ruins. Recognising the potential of those bare bones, they purchased the property and set about restoring the building, ensuring its survival for many generations (and cold drinks) to come.
- Thank you to local historian Angela George.