The Esplanade Hotel Fremantle - by Rydges and its ties go back to the early 1800s'.
The land that the Esplanade Hotel stands on was first purchased in 1829 and the premises that stood on it were used as wool stores, accommodation for convicts and merchant businesses. In 1895, William Meadly leased the premises from George Hubble and applied for the first hotel license. Renovations were carried out on the existing building and in 1896 “The Esplanade Hotel” opened its doors.
In 1903, “The Esplanade” was redesigned and renovated. However, despite its decorative finish it began to change from its original family atmosphere to a workers hotel. This was largely due to the Fremantle Trade Hall (Manor) opening across the road in Collie Street. The Trade Centre soon became the head quarters for some 50 trade unions.
With the nineteen thirties came the Great Depression and like rest of and the world, Fremantle and WA suffered through a harsh and barren economic period. Poverty and unemployment characterise this period of history, and whether it was due to the Esplanade's ability to cope through these difficult times or simply because men who were down on their luck found solace in a beer with their mates, unlike many other businesses the Esplanade Hotel managed to survive the Depression.
By the end of the nineteen thirties, Fremantle's economic climate was slowly beginning to improve. But job security, which had been shattered by the Depression, was still a difficult commodity for working men in Fremantle to obtain. The preference for casual labour led to the development of the pick-up' system, where companies recruited men to labour on a daily basis. The wooden benches on the verandahs of the Esplanade Hotel, still in existence today, was one of the locations were pick-ups occurred. The benches were placed there by Paddy Troy, the secretary for the Waterside Workers Trade Union, who hoped to give the men some semblance of dignity while they waited for company representatives to come looking for casual labourers. The toughness these men developed to cope with their harsh working conditions flowed into their social activities as well. In the late nineteen thirties and early forties, the Esplanade Hotel began to stage boxing matches to attract the local workers to its bars. Bouts were held one night each week and boxers of the caliber of Don Luff, a former welter-weight champion, and Arthur Parker, another well known WA boxer, trained in a gymnasium at the rear of the Hotel. The famous Bull' McCoy, a former bantamweight champion, is said to have coached at the Esplanade during this time as well.
The Second World War reinforced Fremantle's role as an industrial port city and radical changes to state and national immigration policies introduced after its conclusion meant working class men and their families were attracted to Fremantle, not just from within, but around the world. As such, the Esplanade Hotel continued to be a working class pub, deriving much of its business from men who came in for a drink on their way home from work and the flow of workers to and from the Trades Hall.
In 1942, Anthony and Doris Mortimer took over the lease of the Esplanade Hotel, having previously been running the Rockingham Hotel. Sadly, Anthony Mortimer died in 1963, but Doris stayed on to manage the Esplanade for another 10 years. She became a well-known figure in Fremantle, known affectionately as Mrs Mort', and her strong personality earned her a reputation as someone not to be trifled with.
By the nineteen sixties and seventies, the working class atmosphere that had dominated Fremantle society for so long was beginning to change. The economic activity in the area began to slow, and the number of waterside workers in Fremantle dropped from two thousand to four hundred. The prosperity from the iron ore mining in the state's North West that had a profound effect on the city of Perth did not filter through to Fremantle. Unlike Fremantle, Perth 's business community grew rapidly during this time and many of its old buildings were pulled down to make way for new high-rise constructions.
But Fremantle did not undergo such development and as a result, retained many of its old style buildings and architectural heritage. Due to Fremantle's economic slump and high rates of unemployment, the cost of housing was relatively cheap, and this had the effect of attracting a variety of artists, most of whom were young and fairly poor. They adapted disused warehouses into studios and galleries and soon Fremantle had become a magnet for all kinds of musicians, potters, filmmakers and writers.
Indeed, the arts played an important role in changing Fremantle from being purely an industrial, working class city. But the event that contributed most to this change was the 1987 America’s Cup Yacht Race. The whole of Australia had exploded with joy when Alan Bond's Australia Two defeated Dennis Connor's Liberty in 1984 and when it was announced that the Cup Defence would be conducted on the waters in Gage Roads, off Fremantle, the port city geared itself for a hallmark event.
In anticipation of the population explosion the Cup would bring to Fremantle, the owners of the Esplanade Hotel, Winterbottom Holdings Ltd, invested $14 million to renovate and extend the Hotel. The Esplanade Hotel reopened in December 1985 with a four star rating, and contained 140 bedrooms, function and convention facilities, a restaurant for up to 130 people, swimming pool, spa and sauna.
When the Cup Trials began in 1987, the Esplanade Hotel was inundated with travellers who came to witness the races. Tourists, attracted here by the yacht race, discovered a unique city, full of beautiful buildings and a thriving artistic community. The Esplanade Hotel embraced the influx of tourists to Fremantle, providing them with world class standards of accommodation and service.
Indeed, tourism has now become an integral part of the Western Australian economy, and the Esplanade Hotel has both benefited from and encouraged this trend. The Esplanade continued to expand and improve its facilities and services after the America's Cup was over, acquiring the Old Trades Hall, now known as Manor House, and refurbishing the building for use as a function and convention centre.
Then in 1991 the current owner, Camellia Holdings Pty Ltd, bought the Esplanade. It was a decision made by Marylyn New, who was at the time looking for a business to invest in. She was instantly attracted to the Esplanade Hotel and quickly decided to purchase it. Her instincts paid off, as the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle has gone from strength to strength, attracting business people and holidaymakers from around the globe. Under her guidance the Hotel was again extended and renovated in 1996, this time $20 million being spent on the improvements.
In August 2002, Ms Marylyn New, announced a further $14 million expansion of the Hotel's convention and accommodation facilities. Completed in October 2003, the Esplanade Convention Centre has become Fremantle's premier focus for major local, national and international conferences. It appeals to the local market as a venue for exhibitions, large banquets, cocktail receptions, weddings and product launches. The expansive 800m² pillarless Southern Cross Gala Ballroom, with its 6 metre high ceilings and luxurious fit out, can be themed to suit any event (small or large) and accommodating 1,000 delegates theatre style or 700 persons for a sit down banquet. The expansion included 41 new guest rooms, with the total inventory of 300 rooms. The new convention centre is Perth's third largest features nine meeting rooms and the very latest state of the art communication, light and audio visual facilities.
In 2005 and 2006 the Hotel undertook a major refurbishment of the Atrium and Resort wing. In 2009, the refurbished International buffet lead the way with its distinctive style and features, including a chef’s kitchen.
The 4 1/2 star International Esplanade Hotel Fremantle is not only a famous landmark, but also offers outstanding accommodation, resort style recreational facilities and multi award-winning conference venues. Guest facilities include 300 well-appointed rooms and suites, most with their own private balcony, two outdoor heated swimming pools, three outdoor spas, fitness centre, sauna, two restaurants offering a la carte, buffet and alfresco dining and a lobby bar with live entertainment on the weekends, 24-hour room service, tour information desk, valet car parking, in-house pay movies, guest laundry and business centre. A privately owned, adjoining 450 bay, multi-storey car park offers convenient parking for guests and attendees (fee paying valet parking is also available from the Hotel).
In January 2013, the sale of the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle to Western Australian company Primewest Management was finalised. Rydges Hotels and Resorts have been appointed to manage the iconic property and it will now be known as the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle - by Rydges. The Rydges group plans to build on the Hotel's great reputation for service and first class facilities while ensuring the property remains at the forefront of current hospitality trends. Changes set to take place over a period of time will include the introduction of Rydges Dream Beds throughout the Hotel, a significant upgrade of Wi-Fi services and a renewed focus on the Hotel's food and beverage offering, which is always a strong foundation in any Rydges hotel.