Gatton’s Imperial Hotel and the 1934 fire

In the early hours of November 5 this year, Gatton’s historic Imperial Hotel on Railway Avenue was destroyed by fire. In 1934, the same hotel had a very lucky escape from a fire described by newspapers at the time as the worst in the town’s history.

Imperial Hotel, Gatton 1906. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 10862

Imperial Hotel, Gatton 1906. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 10862

The fire began at Hunter’s hardware store on the western side of Railway Avenue and began to spread to adjoining buildings. Overall three two-story buildings, tenanted by 10 business people and six families, were destroyed. The fire would have spread to the Imperial Hotel, according to the Courier-Mail, if not for the quick thinking of those fighting the fire, who pulled down an adjoining shop to prevent the fire from spreading. The fire was contained by the efforts of a bucket brigade and a welcome spell of heavy rain.

The below photograph from State Library of Queensland’s collection is described as depicting a scene from an undated Gatton fire. On close examination this is most probably showing the aftermath of the 1934 blaze, as one of the business signs visible in the picture shows the name G.Muller. G. Muller’s bootmaking business was among those listed in newspaper reports as being destroyed.

Undated photograph - most probably from the 1934 Gatton fire. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg  9849

Undated photograph – most probably from the 1934 Gatton fire. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 9849

The Courier-Mail reported this was the third large fire in the main street of Gatton in the past eight years with the other two fires destroying three shops and a hotel and two shops and a hotel respectively. The estimated damage caused by the 1934 fire was ‎£15,000 (approximately $1.3 million today).

Images of the Gatton fire published in the Courier-Mail

Images of the Gatton fire published in the Courier-Mail

Escaping this disaster, the Imperial Hotel continued trading, as the below entry from the 1929-30 Hotel and boarding house directory of the principal cities, towns and tourist resorts in Queensland shows.

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Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland