Hotels often occupied prominent street-corner locations. Typical mid-19th century hotels were two-storey timber buildings with a verandah and sometimes a first-floor balcony. A few were English village-inn style with no verandahs. Later hotels were constructed from brick and stone and were larger and more elaborate in style.
Hotels had many different types of rooms.
- Small hotels had bars and dining areas on the ground floor with bedrooms upstairs.
- In large hotels, dining rooms, public bars and private bars were usually on the ground floor, and sitting rooms were on the ground and first floors – sometimes they were located between bedrooms on the quieter upper floors.
- Larger hotels often had rooms for smoking, reading and playing billiards, and some had sample rooms for travelling salesmen to display their wares.
- Bathrooms were usually communal.
Most 19th-century New Zealand hotels were modest enterprises. But some grand establishments were erected as cities grew larger, often financed by brewery profits. In the heyday of the gold rushes, Hokitika’s hotels were admired for their luxury. The town is now a quiet backwater.
Matthew Vaughan ran a hotel in a hollowed-out kauri log, near Pūriri in the Thames–Coromandel district during the 1870s. He stabled his horse at one end, cooked for his guests on an oven in the middle, and served food on the tree-stump outside. Where his guests actually slept is unknown!
Perhaps the grandest hotel of all was Warners Hotel in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square, ‘one of the finest hotels in the Australasian colonies’. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1901, and boasted over 120 rooms, including ‘one of the largest and handsomest [dining rooms] in the colony’ with private and public bars ‘fitted with handsome cedar fittings and bevelled plate glass mirrors … furnished with numerous luxurious couches, upholstered in crimson velvet … and well supplied with … choice wines, liquors and cigars.’1
Private hotels and boarding houses
Private hotels and boarding houses supplied accommodation and dining – without liquor – for short- and long-term guests. Some went a step further and identified themselves as temperance hotels, attracting guests for whom abstinence from alcohol was a way of life. The Salvation Army opened three liquor-free People’s Palaces in Auckland (1903), Wellington (1908) and Christchurch (1912).
Most purpose-built private hotels were much the same as their licensed counterparts, containing public and private dining rooms, sitting, drawing and reading rooms, and communal bathrooms.
Boarding houses were typically converted private residences and are still a common form of accommodation, though these days they tend to attract long-term residents rather than visitors.