A Historical Hotel

History in Every Pint: The Broken Hill Pub's Journey from Dusty Beginnings to The Baillie Legacy

The Beginning

The hotel was built in 1886 and was originally called The Broken Hill Hotel. Originally built of weatherboard timber and corrugated iron, it was a reasonably well-appointed hotel – although stifling hot in summer!

Fred A Chapple gained control of the hotel on 22nd September 1888. Through its infancy, the hotel had a good name and was trading well, with business people and other employed men attending the pub. (Fred was involved in many community committees and was especially involved in securing water for the town. He was also involved in meetings to protect the town during this period when a number of firebombs exploded around town).

In 1889 the hotel was bought by the Freemasons. They removed the hotel to the Tarrowingee township and built the current building you see today for their members at a cost of 14,000 pounds (around $2 million dollars in today’s money). The architects were Porter & Thomas of Broken Hill.

The Freemasons renamed The Broken Hill Hotel to Broken Hill Freemasons Hotel in 1891, otherwise known as the Freemasons Hotel. This is where it began its illustrious history as the principal hotel and accommodation venue in Broken Hill. With the furnishing of the new hotel complete, it included a ladies’ drawing room, coffee rooms, a smoke room, 19 guest rooms, several new bathrooms, and leather back chairs. The luncheon was held at 1pm for a fee of 2 shillings and sixpence. It is also noted that the Freemasons Hotel had a telephone connection in 1892!

In 1902 the English Eleven Test Team were in Broken Hill. The players and managers stayed at The Freemasons Hotel and the Grand Hotel. They played against the Broken Hill 18 team at McCulloch Park, Stephens Creek in blazing hot weather. The English won fairly easily and received about 200 pounds for the game.

Huge renovations of the hotel took place in 1907 including extra rooms.

The Challenges

During the 5 month “Lockout Strike” in 1909, the Freemasons Hotel continued to trade and seemed to weather the financial storm very well. Licensee Wilhelm Riechers was found in court in June 1909 for having people on the premises out of hours and was fined 20 shillings.

In December 1911, a very important addition was placed outside of the hotel on a pole. It was a Horse Cab Phone under the verandah, for use by the Freemasons Hotel clients. Later there was some controversy as cab men would fight over the use of the phone.

Unbelievably in 1912, an abattoir strike took place and no meat was available to the hotels for meals. Rabbits were brought in large quantities to make up meals over a few weeks until the strike was settled.

Also in 1912 more restorations and improvements in the hotel were undertaken.

In June 1929 the hotel was sold for 18,000 pounds to Mrs A.M. Romain and her brother Mr McBeath. Later that year the RAA auto group in Adelaide appointed the Freemasons as a RAA house of good service, regarding their members.

As the country was now in the middle of the Depression in 1933, the owners renovated the hotel at a cost of 1,500 pounds and included a new Saloon Bar.

It is reported that the hotel was sold again in November 1936 for an amount of 16,000 pounds to Tooth & Co. The price drop of 2,000 pounds could be attributed to the Depression.

In 1937 there was a tourist accommodation report that said that the Freemasons Hotel was one of two to be considered as 1st class accommodation venues in Broken Hill.

Another massive rebuild of the hotel took place in 1940. Much of the green and cream tile work through the hotel and new construction of the interior is done at this time. The hotel gets a new roof, verandah, island bar, hot and cold water connected, refurbished staff quarters, new kitchen, and upstairs bar and lounge area. The cost of this was estimated to be around 20,000 pounds.

A question remains at this time whether this was the actual beginning of the now famous “Blonde Room” for superior entertaining and dinners for special guests. Many wedding dinners occurred here during the next few decades in this room. The colour of the timber “Blonde” is the origin of the name. It was the original old “Freemasons Hall” within the two-storey building.

Later in 1941, a major beer strike occurred as hundreds of workers in the liquor trades were affected by the strike. Many of the hotels in Broken Hill go dry over a 37-day period.

On 18th March 1954, the Queen visits Broken Hill and the Freemasons Hotel places elaborate decorations along the verandah including a large portrait of the Queen and Prince Phillip.

A major name change occurred in June 1969. The Freemasons Hotel changed its name to The West Darling Motor Inn and began a new chapter in its long history.

Sadly not long after, the heartbreaking news that the Broken Hill South Mine would close in 1972. The economic fallout hits hard.

The Recovery

Thankfully tourism started to create a new world of power in Broken Hill and continues to grow. However, come the 1980 times started to get tough as more accommodation venues opened and the drinking habits of people changed dramatically.

In August 2002, Kevin Hind became the 40th licensee of the pub. They completed some painting and maintenance on the pub and a kitchen refit.

Kevin Hind sold the West Darling Hotel in 2014 to Steve Radford and Margaret McBride. They closed the pub and started extensive renovations throughout the whole pub. This included a huge outdoor beer garden at the rear of the pub, a fresh-looking restaurant with an open loft area, knocking down walls and opening up the street front access to a stylish bar, putting in an elevator for easy access upstairs, new balcony and the list goes on and on.

The pub re-opened in January 2020 as The Broken Hill Pub (The BHP) and quickly became recognised as an establishment that provides great food and great service – in a great atmosphere. The pub survived its challenges with “Covid” lockdowns during 2020 and 2021 like a lot of other businesses in town.

And up to The Baillie's

And fast forward to now, October 2023 where The Broken Hill Pub was sold to The Baillie Family. This brings a new and exciting chapter to The Broken Hill Pub’s history. The Baillie Family have an extensive history with Broken Hill – dating back as far as 6 generations (their grandfather was a miner at the Zinc Mine). Although they are based in Sydney, they have spent many holidays in Broken Hill visiting their grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins and will continue to visit Broken Hill as often as they can.

*Credit to Paul Armstrong

These days it is a newly renovated warm and casual Pub located in the centre of Broken Hill.

Since 2020, our goal has been to deliver food and drinks through a painstaking, time-consuming process, using only the finest ingredients to yield the most delicious and unique flavour profiles available.

After you’ve perused our drinks list, indulged yourself with a meal cooked by our very talented chefs and allowed yourself to unwind a bit, feel free to make a friend or two. After all, we’re more than just drinks, we’re a community. So what are you waiting for? Drop by!