The People's Palace

The four story brick and stone Salvation Army’s People’s Palace on the corner of Ann and Edward Streets in the city in Brisbane, was opened by Commissioner Hay on 28 June 1911. Salvation Army commander Major Booth gained support for a Brisbane People’s Palace a place for the reclaiming of fallen humanity and providing shelter for the homeless, after his public lecture on “Social salvation” . Originally modelled on the success of the Sydney People’s Palace, the Brisbane building evolved to provide affordable accommodation for working class travelling people. (Brisbane Courier, 18th July 1899 p 6.)

Official opening day for the People’s Palace, Brisbane, 1911. John Oxley Library Image 68764. Colour image of view down Edward Street, Brisbane, past the South African War Memorial, ca. 1920. John Oxley Library Image 187173. Large crowd on the roof garden of the People’s Palace Hotel, Brisbane, 1911. John Oxley Library Image 196950.

With 130 bedrooms and a rooftop garden capable of seating 200 people  The Brisbane Courier reported the Palace as “fitted with all the very latest conveniences for the comfort of residents. The three-course lunch from 12 o’clock to 2 p.m. for 1/ should satisfy the most fastidious epicure”. (Thursday 6 July 1911, page 5)

Designed by Lieutenant-Colonel Saunders, the Salvation Army’s architect and secretary for property affairs, it became popular with travellers to Brisbane due to its proximity to Central Railway Station. In keeping with their beliefs, the Salvation Army hostel allowed neither alcholol nor gambling on the premisis.

According to Department of Environment and Resource Managment’s heritage website, the building is “significant as a rare example of a purpose built temperance hotel” and demonstrates “rare and uncommon aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage”. The concept of temperence hotels grew out of the temperence movement and the People’s Palace was the first of its kind in Queensland.

The building has survived remodelling, fire and significant changes in cultural attitudes and still stands as a fine example of a Federation era building. In 1979 it became the Palace Backpackers’ Hostel and the Lonely Planet Guide describes it as “the ideal place to pick up new friends, lovers or travelling companions.”

One can be fairly sure that Major Booth wouldn’t have approved of the Hostel’s Down Under Bar providing alcoholic beverages to its clientelle seven days a week under the motto “Go hard or go home”.

Karen Hind

Heritage Information Services – John Oxley Library

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