Cockburn History: Coogee Hotel & Post Office

In 1898, Walter Powell, an accountant in Fremantle, was granted a liquor license for a small hotel opposite Coogee Beach known as Four-mile Well, a property owned by his wife Letitia. He called it Powell’s Coogee Hotel in his promotions, though it was most often simply known as Coogee Hotel.

He immediately set about extending and improving the property and turned the area into a sporting haven and picnic spot, calling it ‘The garden of the West’. It became known as the Honeymoon Hotel, attracting visitors from all over Perth and WA. Local clubs of cricket, hunting, cycling, shooting and horseracing all met at the hotel or stopped for a drink. Powell built a racecourse beside his hotel and set up prizes to encourage local owners to participate.

Picnic at Coogee Hotel c1905

A picnic at the hotel about 1905 – probably for a sporting event or a local business’s employee picnic

 

In the mid-1920s, Powell’s brother-in-law Jock McKinnon opened a small shop and post office in the hotel grounds. This took over business from the previous post office/store slightly further south, run by Powell’s siblings, Blanche and Fred, who retired to Fremantle.

Powell died in 1923, after handing the license over to his son. The license changed hands several times in the next few years, until in 1927 the De-Licensing Board decided there were too many hotels in the area and withdrew the Coogee Hotel liquor license. The hotel was offered for rent as a seaside holiday home the next year.

In 1931 the empty hotel was purchased by the Anglican Church to be a holiday home for their orphans, used only during the summer months. In 1946, fearing it would be overtaken by squatters desperate for housing in a post-war shortage, they renovated it and opened a permanent home there.

Orphan boys unloading truck, Coogee 1940s

Orphan boys unloading truck, Coogee 1940s

Orphans and staff having a bbq out the back of Seaside House, 1948

Orphans and staff having a bbq out the back of Seaside House, 1948

 

The house remained an orphanage until 1968, when Main Roads announced it was resuming the land to build a high-capacity road to Rockingham and the building would be demolished. The orphans moved out, but the Hotel was not knocked down, instead becoming headquarters for the Coogee Progress Association and various other offices.

A north wing was added in the 1990s and the site was heritage listed in 2001. It is owned by Main Roads, and there is no concrete plan for its future.


Leah

Author: Leah

I work as the Reader Services Librarian at Spearwood Public Library. I order the books, and I take requests for anything you can’t find in the library! I also research and write local history articles for the Cockburn Soundings, and for anyone who has a local history question.

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4 Comments

  1. Leah,
    I have been researching the Powell family for over a year now as my cousin’s husband was Frank Powell and her identical twin sister is married to Graeme Gibbs whose mother was Myrtle J Powell. Both link to Frank W Powell who was the son of Walter Powell.
    Walter was the son of Edwin Henry Powell who arrived in Fremantle on the Norwood 13 July 1867 as a convict (15 years for forgery, had already served a 4 year sentence in 1858 for the same offence).
    Edwin received conditional release in December 1877 and died in Fremantle May 1898.
    Edwin’s children Walter (with wife Charlotte and son Walter R) and Blanche arrived on the Fitzroy in Fremantle in 1882. Frederick arrived either in 1875 or 1882 and Kate (Katie) with her husband Daniel Arnold in 1883.
    There are links to other families in the Cockburn area such a San Miguel and Postans.
    On a final note, Edwin’s father Thomas was a publican!

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you for this information Gary. My grandfather was Henry Walter Powell who was a son of Walter.

      I went to Richmond Primary School in the 60’s and the father friend of mine, Doug Booth, was General Manager of the Robbs Jetty Abattoir. His company was a benefactor of the orphanage and I remember going to a picnic at the old hotel without ever knowing the link to my own family.

      There has been a body of work done on the de san Miguel side of the family but I have not had the chance as yet to follow up on the Powells. It would be appreciated if you could direct me to any sources of information because, as you no doubt know, families do disperse over time.

      Post a Reply
  2. Thank you for the blog. Our work team stopped at the cottage next door to do some work. Having driven past the hotel numerous times and been interested in the property, it was good to satisfy my curiosity.
    It is a beautiful property and deserves to be re-utilized
    . Ian

    Post a Reply
    • Leah

      Thanks Ian! There really is quite a bit of history to this place, and I enjoyed digging into it for this post. I would love to see the old hotel reused for a new generation of people to enjoy, particularly as it’s so close to Coogee Beach.

      Post a Reply

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Cockburn History: Coogee Hotel & Post Office

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