Hotel Corones

Top of the list for many travellers is getting in touch with our history and unique architecture that is gradually eroding away under the envious glare of developers and the ravages of our harsh climate.

Like many folk I love finding old buildings to photograph and explore, so when we stumbled across the grand Corones Hotel in central Queensland it was natural that we wanted to uncover its history.

When Haralambos Corones stepped off the ship from Greece with his nephew Jim in 1907 with only a few clothes and a handful of coins in his pocket, few would have guessed, by the look of him, that he would amass a fortune and have a lasting effect on an outback Queensland town.

After a couple of years working in Sydney and Brisbane, his English improved and he began to see opportunities in his new country. Encouraged by relatives in the food trade who stumped up a loan, he bought a rundown café in Charleville that he heard about on the Greek grapevine.

It seems Harry was a natural in hospitality and, trading on the premise of better service and good food in a happy environment, the business thrived. So much so that within a year he had bought a bigger café in the bustling town that was expanding on the rich wool trade and the busy rail traffic.

The story goes that a travelling sales rep for the Perkins Brewery in Brisbane was so impressed by Harry’s business skills that he organised for him to take over the struggling Charleville Hotel in 1912, despite Harry’s protestations that he knew nothing of the hotel trade. Harry was on his way with a five-year lease, free for the first two.

However, during a return trip to his home island of Kythera to find a wife, the tinder dry hotel burnt to the ground. From its ashes Harry rebuilt in a grand style and then went on to open a cinema, build the town’s first electric generator and got involved with the establishment of Qantas, at one stage providing picnic hampers for passengers in what was probably the world’s first in-air dining experience.

By 1924 Harry was looking for new challenges and bought the decaying Norman Hotel with plans to rebuild it as the best hotel in the country. Over five years, under Toowoomba architect William Hodgen, and with design assistance from wife Effie, the hotel took shape with ornate imported Roman mosaic tiles and beautiful leadlight windows.

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