Fire Finally Claims Yamba Hotel
This two-storey timber hotel was built in 1884 for Robert Muirhead, a Grafton tobacconist. It stood facing Yamba Bay and opposite the public wharf. It comprised three distinct buildings: the main two-storey building with eleven bedrooms was on the side facing the river and the other two sides were a billiard room, and a two-storey servant’s quarters and kitchen. It was originally known as Muirhead’s Family Hotel, then the Forster’s Family Hotel and finally the Yamba Hotel. Owners and/or licensee came and went over the next 40 years.
George Hayward, licensee from 1900 to 1901, was fined l shilling for permitting dancing and music on his premises. The hotel was then purchased by Henry J Holt, a former green grocer from Maclean, but Thomas Lancake Jones acquired the license and freehold from Holt just a year later and undertook improvements including the installation of acetylene lighting, eight 1000 gallon water tanks while the old hall erected in the late 1900s was replaced by a new stable. Jones proved to be a popular publican who was fully involved in community and he and his wife were given a send-off in December 1906.
Between then and 1924 the hotel had three different owners and five different licensees. Trade suffered as the harbour works’ employees moved around the district. However Yamba (dubbed, “the sanatorium of the north”) was attracting more visitors, who arrived by riverboats, trying to escape the hotter temperatures inland.
By 1924 the hotel was showing its age and a demolition order was placed on one of the buildings. Inspections revealed a number of defects in the building and vermin infestation and the hotel underwent major renovations after it was sold to William John Zietsch, hotelkeeper of South Grafton, in 1928.
The newly renovated Yamba Hotel opened on 26 November 1929 and was described as a ‘fine new premises to cater for seaside visitors’ with a new licensee – Alexander McPherson, formerly of Southgate Hotel and Post Office Hotel, Grafton.
The last unlucky licensee, George Parnell arrived in 1932. Unlucky because the hotel was completely destroyed by fire in the early hours of 26 May 1933. Only the efforts of a bucket brigade saved neighbouring premises. Later that year the license of the now burnt out hotel was transferred to a new site in Pilot Street, where the Pacific Hotel now stands.