Grand Hotel – A Grand Old Lady

Grand Hotel Mornington – A Grand Old Lady

THROUGH the late 1800s, opulent coffee palaces sprang up across Australia in response to the temperance movement which sought to promote alcohol-free hotels. In 1889, Cornelius Crowley commissioned prominent architect William Pitt to build the Grand Coffee Palace in Main Street, Mornington. It was a two-storey brick building with three bays and a central tower. Next door was the Cricketers’ Arms Hotel, built in 1868 and also owned by Cornelius Crowley.

In 1892 he transferred his liquor licence to the adjoining building and renamed it the Grand Hotel. The railway line reached Mornington in 1889 and the Grand was conveniently located as a destination for visitors. It also became the centre for official functions, especially sporting ones.

The Grand has had over thirty licensees; some have stayed for just a few months and others for a number of years, but two are of special significance. The first was the Harrison family (1907-1918). Lou Harrison was very active in community affairs — of note, he was Chairman of the Mornington Racing Club and President of the Mornington Peninsula Football Association. Lou was also President of the Mornington Football Club for three years including 1915, when they won the premiership.

The three Harrison boys (Lou Jr., George and Tom) all played football for Mornington and George was being groomed to take over the running of the Grand.

Then came World War One: George was one of the first to enlist from Mornington. He was evacuated twice from Gallipoli, only to be killed in France in 1916. Then Lou Sr., aged 51, died suddenly at the Grand in August 1918 and the Harrison era came to an abrupt end.

Over the course of its life, the hotel has had a number of makeovers. The first was in 1919, when the building was extended and renovated internally. Further renovations took place in the late 1940s but 1948 saw the removal of the tower, which had been a landmark for sixty years. Apparently it had developed a bit of a tilt, swaying considerably in windy weather.

The story goes that it would have cost 75 pounds ($150) to have the tower made safe and 50 pounds ($100) to have it removed. The fact that the licensee’s sleeping quarters were immediately below may also have been a deciding factor in consigning it to the tip!

The second significant period of ownership at the Grand has been that of Bernard John Taylor (1976-present). Almost forty years after taking over the licence, Bernie Taylor still keeps an eye on things even though the day-to-day management is in the hands of his daughter (Pir) and son-in-law (Cameron Price). Cameron was named as the licensee in 2012.

Exactly two years to the day after Bernie took over, major alterations and renovations commenced. Since then, further alterations have taken place to accommodate the arrival of Pub Tab (1991), poker machines (1992) and alfresco dining in front of the hotel (1994). However, perhaps the most significant alteration to the structure was the realization of one of Bernie’s dreams: the reinstatement of the iconic tower (1987).

The building has been expanded but always with its heritage in mind so that it still retains the charm of the magnificent Grand Coffee Palace of 1889.

Today, the Grand hosts music and events, and dishes up some of the best pub meals on the Peninsula.

Open 7 days, stop by to explore the historic photo’s of Mornington adorning the walls, grab a pint at the old bar or relax in the Main Street facing beer garden, enjoy a meal and watch the world go by.

Grand Hotel Mornington

124 Main St

P: 5975 2001