Walter Powell was the son of a convict, Edwin Powell, who had been transported to Western Australia in 1866 and made his life in the colony. Walter and his siblings came out to meet their father in the 1880s and established a dynasty of their own.
More about the Coogee Hotel on the Cockburn History site.
In 1898, Walter was an accountant and a storekeeper in Fremantle. He 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.
It has been recorded that in the mid-1920s, Powell’s brother-in-law Jock McKinnon opened a small shop and post office in the hotel grounds, but newer research points towards this being incorrect. There were advertisements for the store beginning in 1901, and Walter’s siblings Frederick and Blanche Powell were involved in running the grocery and post office from it between 1901 and the 1920s. Walter’s son George took it over from them, and eventually the McKinnons (Walter’s daughter Lottie and her husband Jock) took it over in the 1930s.
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 1930 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.
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 was owned by Main Roads until 2017, when it was sold to the restaurateur and property investors who founded Little Creatures Brewery. They renovated the hotel extensively, removing some of the 1990s additions and ensuring its heritage character was kept. Their plans to turn it into a self-sufficient restaurant surrounded by vegetable gardens will be complete in late 2019.
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