Drunken Admiral

Tasmania 2014: Hobart – Part 3

Tramping in Melaleuca

Mid-morning, Fin from Par Avion Wilderness Tours picked us up at The Henry James Art Hotel and drove us to the airport in Cambridge for our tour of the Southwest National Park. This magnificent park encompasses over six hundred thousand acres of wilderness and is the largest park in Tasmania. Much of the land is remote and retains the same wildness that once characterized new frontiers.

Our plane, a twin-engine “prop job” as I called it, sat on the tarmac. I knew the plane would be small, so the size came as no surprise, and I didn’t blink an eye that Par Avion’s hangar is number thirteen, as I’ve never found the number unlucky, even on a Friday. But what did catch my attention was that Fin, the young man who met us at the hotel, was also our pilot. He must have read the astonished look on my face, as he was quick to reassure me that he had been flying since he turned sixteen and he was now twenty-four. Flying helped him pay for college. We boarded, along with Michael, our guide for the day. Twice, Fin tried to start the engines. He was unsuccessful because of the chilly morning, and his ground crew had to hand-crank both. Young pilot? Hand-cranking the engines to start them?

Stop worrying, I told myself, but soon after we took flight, Fin informed us he would be landing on Bruny Island to “meet up with some birdies.” Two takeoffs and two landings? “No worries,” he said, easing my anxieties throughout the flight with good communication. “Bumpy through this area,” he’d alerted us. “I fly this route all the time and I’m familiar with the changes in current and the zephyrs. No need to be concerned.”

Elevated metal walkways through the peatlands.

We landed on Bruny Island and our four “birdies” climbed aboard, hauling along plenty of camera gear. Someone had spotted the elusive green parrot, and the quest was on to photograph the bird, assuming anyone saw it. Fin and Michael stowed the last of the birdies’ gear and we left Bruny Island, following the South Coast Track all the way to Melaleuca, which is accessible only by boat or plane.

On the ground in Melaleuca, the birdies went their way and we boarded our boat for a ride down Melaleuca Inlet and into Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey. We glided along the calm surface, peaceful and far from civilization. When we reached land, we disembarked and set out for our “ground tour” of the area, tramping along on elevated boardwalks that protected the peatlands below us. Peat is partially decomposed plant matter that forms in wetlands and can be harvested for fuel. In 2016, Tasmania suffered a series of large bushfires that did considerable damage to the peat bogs and the park. Containing and extinguishing a peat fire is challenging, because peatlands are highly flammable.

Clayton’s shack

In the afternoon, we left land and reboarded our boat to motor to Clayton’s shack. We docked and trekked up the hill to the small, now-vacant home in a remote section of the park. Already at the house were the birdies, digging into a hearty lunch. They chatted excitedly. Yes, they had captured “quite a bit of footage of the elusive green parrot” and were celebrating with wine. Before we left the house, Michael announced, “If you need to use the bathroom, there is only a pit toilet.” A clean outhouse, I noted, having availed myself of the facility.

Lunch over, we resumed our seats in the boat and rode the choppy waters back toward the landing strip. The only wildlife we spotted were black swans navigating the undulating surface. We came ashore, waited for the birdies to gather their camera equipment, and again they said goodbye. They planned to catch a later flight to Bruny Island, as they still had more bird-watching before dusk fell.

Flying over the boat dock as we leave Melaleuca.

On the return flight, Fin flew over Federation Peak, Mount Picton, and Hobart itself before we landed at Cambridge Airport. It had been a long, almost eight-hour day, but the remoteness and the tranquility of the park, and even the plane flight, all made for a fun day.

Famished, we strolled to the Drunken Admiral Seafarers Restaurant for dinner. A very short stroll away, the restaurant is located at 17–19 Hunter Street, a stone’s throw from the Henry Jones Hotel at 25 Hunter Street. As the name implies, seafood and shellfish is their specialty. We both ordered the fish market chowder for starters, and Yachties Seafood Mixed Grill for the entrées—Tassie scallops, prawns, and grilled blue-eye fish. For sides, green salads and French bread. We chose a Shaw + Smith sauvignon blanc to accompany the meal and passed on dessert. When we left the Drunken Admiral, the day ended as it had started, with a fine mist in the air. The weather reminded me of my college days in Oregon.

While doing research on Hobart, I came across some interesting information on the Drunken Admiral, which was built in 1825–6. Considered one of the finest structures in the colony, the building was constructed of brick with a stone facade, and a slate roof imported from Scotland—quite extravagant for its time. After various uses throughout the years, from a depot for new immigrant arrivals, to a home to two brothers who ran it as a flour mill and warehouse, to housing for Henry Jones’s staff after he purchased it in 1923, it finally became a restaurant in 1979. But the most intriguing fact is that the Drunken Admiral has had its share of ghost sightings. The restaurant owner has reported glasses exploding in people’s hands, bottles sliding off shelves, and women leaving the restroom complaining of feeling as though they have been strangled. In 1880, a Chinese market man was found hanging in the courtyard behind the restaurant. In the 1960s, a worker at the Drunken Admiral who knew nothing about the hanging claimed he saw a Chinese man drift through the walls.


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Tasmania 2014: Hobart – Part 2

Hobart today

While David mapped out our plans for the day, I wandered the hotel to peruse the artwork and to fantasize about what life must have been like in Sir Henry Jones’s time. I found the following bit of history on the Hunter Street warehouses, framed and hanging on a wall next to an abstract painting, and wanted to share it with my readers. There is some overlap of information from last week’s post, but I hope you find this history as interesting as I do.

William Bunster built Numbers 33 and 31 Hunter Street in the 1820s as a residence and warehouse. He traded in sealskins from Macquarie Island, salt and sealskins from Kangaroo Island, and general merchandise between Hobart and Sydney. As his business expanded he acquired Number 35, and several country properties as well. Unlike many other merchants, he did not build his fortune on initial wealth or family connections. At a dinner given in his honor in the early 1850s he described himself as ‘a plain man . . . I have tried to steer an independent course. I owe nothing to Government nor to any man.’

For much of its life Number 31 was also a tavern. In 1827, it was the Commercial Inn, where Hobart’s first Chamber of Commerce was formed at a meeting of merchants in a room on the first floor, while sailors and wharf laborers drank up their meagre pay in the Shades Tap Room in the basement.

Between 1869 and 1882 Numbers 27–33 were bought in a dilapidated condition by George Peacock, a jam manufacturer. Peacock ran his firm on religious lines, with morning prayers, hymns, and sermons, and strict abstinence from alcohol. Despite these precautions, by 1892 his firm had fallen on hard times. Peacock’s son and two of his employees formed a partnership and bailed out the Old Wharf jam factory. One of his employees was young Henry Jones. Like Peacock before him, Jones lived in Bunster’s old house, Number 33. The other warehouses were the cornerstone of his empire, which grew far beyond Tasmania’s shores.

After the Great Fire of 1890 swept through the whole of Hunter Street from the Drunken Admiral to the site of the old gasworks, now home to the Federation Concert Hall, many of the burned homes were never rebuilt. Others were sold or demolished, and most of the area was replaced with commercial development—contributing to Wapping’s demise as a residential district.

Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel.

Today, Hobart’s seediest district sports one of the town’s tallest high-rise hotels and new walk-up yuppie apartments. But not far from the modern waterfront hotel, I discovered what I hoped to find—restored historical buildings preserved for a new use: the Mantra Collins Hotel, which appears to be part old and part new, and the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel, which sits on land originally known as Wapping and later referred to as Sullivan’s Cove. Particularly intriguing was the top floor of the Woolstore building with its sawtooth roofline. This style of roofing allowed the maximum amount of natural light into the room, which benefited the wool weavers.

After learning about Henry Jones’s IXL jam factory, my first thought was, “Where did Peacock, and then Jones, get such an abundance of fruit for his jams?” So I did some research. As surprised as I was that the sugarcane industry is one of Australia’s largest and most important industries, I was even more surprised to learn that Tasmania grows an abundance of fresh fruit. In fact, the Tasmanian fruit industry was worth over $102 million in 2010. The major fruit crops grown are apples, pears, cherries, berries, and stone fruit. Although the apple industry has been in decline over the past decade, it still accounts for 25 percent of Tasmania’s fruit production, and the cherry industry is experiencing significant growth.

As an adolescent growing up overseas, it never dawned on me that jam didn’t come in a can. I’m sure I saw jam in a glass container when I lived in Maryland, but I never made a note of that. I also don’t recall ever seeing syrup in any container but a can. Pictured is my favorite syrup—in a can.

Tasmania also has a significant history of tin production. Tin was discovered in the late 1800s and was the metal of choice. George Peacock sourced his tin from local mines to make the cans for his jams.

IXL Long Bar at The Henry Jones Art Hotel

An hour later, David hunted me up and we set out to explore the surrounding area, starting at Battery Point, named after the battery of guns established on the point in 1818 as part of Hobart’s coastal defenses. Our goal was simply to walk, and we did—Battery Point, Sandy Bay, University of Tasmania, Cascades Female Factory, St. David’s Park, Salamanca Place and Salamanca Market, Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, and finally the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel at 1 Macquarie Street. And along the way, we passed the Queen Alexandra Hospital where Errol Flynn was born, and we managed to find time to see Maffra, the Victorian Gothic weatherboard house designed by noted architect Henry Hunter in 1885 and once home to the Hollywood actor.

In the hotel lobby, adjacent to the IXL Long Bar, we sank into one of the cushiony leather sofas, ordered drinks, and relaxed before dinner at the Peacock and Jones. I had the duck and foie gras and bitter leaf salad with truffle vinaigrette. David chose the Huon Valley beef with horseradish, smoked tongue, and pommes dauphine.

Lobby of The Henry Jones Art Hotel


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Tasmania 2014: Hobart

Hunter Street, Hobart, Tasmania. Photo credit: Dee Kramer Photography/Above Down Under deekramer.com/

The next morning we strolled the Melbourne waterfront—again. Both of us had fallen for the city. David had always said he would never live in a city, but if he ever did, it would be Melbourne. Two firsts for him: ranching in New Zealand and city living in Melbourne. Sounded like he was ready to be an Aussie or a Kiwi. Seriously though, we have no plans to emigrate, but another visit? Definitely.

In the afternoon, we caught a flight from Melbourne to Hobart, Tasmania. Curious about the locale and its people, I’ve always wanted to visit the island, and I was excited that it would finally happen.

While I call myself an ultramodern minimalist, I love all periods of architecture—ancient to modern. But what fascinates me the most about old buildings is their past. How did they come to be what they are today? So when I saw The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, I couldn’t wait to delve into the history of the old brick warehouses that front the wharf. Since I was in no position to capture an aerial shot of the Hunter Street causeway, I asked photographer Dee Kramer for permission to use her photo of Hobart, which gives the reader an excellent view of the entire waterfront as it appears today. To the left of the photo is the Drunken Admiral, a restaurant, and The Henry Jones Art Hotel is to the middle right. You can just make out the lettering on the two buildings. The hotel is to the left of the pale blue building. Both establishments will be mentioned in the next few blog posts.

The Henry Jones Art Hotel

After my initial research, I became addicted to delving into the compelling convict history of the island. Why, you might ask? Because from the checkered pasts of their parents, the children of convicts went on to achieve such amazing accomplishments. Some parents’ crimes were petty, while others were quite serious, but so many of the descendants of convicts had much to be proud of. One such person was Sir Henry Jones, knighted in 1919 by King George V. Jones’s citation read, “An architect of his own fortunes and his ability and enterprise had a giant influence upon the progress of Hobart and the state of Tasmania.” The quote is from a magazine article in Tasmania 40ºSouth titled “Henry Jones rediscovered” by writer Craig Sampson, the great-grandson of Sir Henry Jones.

For Tasmanians, even as late as the 1970s, having European ancestors who were “free settlers” was something to feel smug about, as opposed to being stained by those who were convicts. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the British sent more than 165,000 convicts to Tasmania. The first jail was built at Risdon Cove, but in 1804 the prisoners were moved to Sullivan’s Cove—soon to be called Hobart. The most hardened criminals were housed at Port Arthur.

In 1804, Lieutenant Governor David Collins stepped onto the shores of Hunter Island in a remote corner of Van Diemen’s Land, the original name for Tasmania. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to explore the island, and he named it after Anthony van Diemen, the governor-general of the Dutch East Indies. The name was changed to Tasmania in 1856. Collins’s arrival marked a new era of change with the settlement of Hobart. Soon Hunter Street was constructed on the old Hobart Town causeway, which once joined Hunter Island to the shores of Sullivan’s Cove. In 1820, a stone causeway wide enough to accommodate two carts passing each other was built over the original roadway, and the first warehouses were constructed to cater to the growing number of ships docking at the harbor. Photo: Front door of the hotel. Inside looking out.

Factories, storehouses, and dwellings emerged, like nearby Wapping, the unofficial name for a closely settled working-class neighborhood alongside Hobart’s first wharf. Like its London namesake by the Thames, it was a low-lying, flood-prone district dominated by the nearby docks. Two streams emptied into the flat, marshy area including the town’s water supply and drainage system, the Hobart Town Rivulet. Over the next fifteen years, the settlement grew rapidly, fed by the thriving whaling and sealing industries, and a steady supply of convict labor.

In the 1830s, a severe depression hit Hobart. The whaling industry collapsed from overexploitation, a new wharf had been constructed across the bay (at what is now Salamanca Place), and the Old Wharf and nearby Wapping were gripped by poverty. The rivulet that supplied Wapping with fresh water had become polluted from factories and slaughterhouses. Disease was rampant, slums proliferated, and the buildings of Old Wharf fell into disrepair. With its brothels, taverns, and nefarious activities, the Old Wharf developed a reputation for wickedness.

In 1869, businessman George Peacock moved his successful jam-making business to his newly acquired warehouses on the Old Wharf—the best location in Hobart for exporting produce. Peacock Jams were in high demand, and the shrewd businessman had a vision and determination to expand his flourishing business.

Jam boiler at The Henry Jones Art Hotel.

Peacock arrived at Hobart Town in 1850 and opened a grocery and fruit shop. By 1867, he had become one of the first manufacturers of canned jam in the colonies. In 1869, he moved his factory to a large stone warehouse on the Old Wharf, with copper pans and two boilers to supply the necessary steam for canning. A hard worker and disciplinarian, according to his factory hands, Peacock was also interested in their welfare. He conducted hymns and prayers at the start of each day’s work, strongly disapproved of blasphemy, and dismissed any man who drank.

Henry Jones was born in 1862 in Hobart Town, the second son of John and Emma Jones and one of eight children—three boys and five girls. Emma arrived in Tasmania in 1848 at the age of eighteen, sentenced to seven years for the theft of£300 from her former employer, and John arrived in 1850, sentenced to ten years for stealing a gold watch.

Young Henry was educated at Mr. Canaway’s school, where he excelled in commercial subjects. At the age of twelve, he went to work at Peacock’s jam factory–his first and only employer. Working ten hours a day, six days a week, he pasted labels on jam tins and within a few years became an expert jam boiler. Henry rose through the ranks of the expanding Peacock empire, and when Peacock retired, took control of the jam company in partnership with A. W. Palfreyman and Peacock’s son Ernest.

With Jones at the helm, new premises were built, the range of canned products was diversified, and the partners entered the hop production business and the overseas export trade. During the partnership period, Jones adopted the brand name IXL (a play on “I excel”) and was himself popularly dubbed “Jam Tin Jones.” He eventually took over the business that bore his name—H. Jones and Co. Pty. Ltd.

In 1902, the partnership was dissolved and a limited liability company was formed—Henry Jones Co-Operative Ltd. Jones was a shrewd investor, but his greatest profits came not from jam but from the Thailand tin-dredging industry. , followed by the Tongkah Harbour Tin Dredging Co. and Tongkah Compound. The word “Tongkah” entered the Hobart vocabulary as an adjective denoting good financial luck.

Sir Henry Jones died in 1886 and was survived by his wife Lady Alice and their twelve children—three sons and nine daughters. Lady Alice received the title “Lady” upon Henry’s knighthood in 1919. She went on to be known as “The Lady of Tasmania” and a major patron of the arts in Hobart.

In the late 1970s, Henry Jones IXL Jams, one of Australia’s most successful companies, shut down, and the properties languished until 2004 when architects Morris-Nunn & Associates (now Circa) won the right to revive the historic site, transforming the former jam factory into Australia’s first dedicated art hotel. At the Henry Jones, sleek modern decor and contemporary art complement the untouched nineteenth-century sandstone walls, and the original warehouse windows offer an unobstructed view of Hobart’s harbor, the city, and the mountains beyond.

In 2005, what remained of the IXL parent company, after mergers and sales, is now owned by Coca-Cola Amatil. And in 2008, Federal Group purchased the Henry Jones Hotel.


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