The Orient Hotel Melbourne Art Story

During Melbourne’s boom years of the 1880s, the streets were packed with men in bowler hats, women in bustle skirts, and horse-driven cabs all crowding Bourke Street, surrounded by theatres, hotels, and music halls. And right in the middle of the city’s entertainment district, the Orient Hotel was where high society rubbed shoulders with the common folk, a mixture of culture and class meeting after the evening’s entertainments. Even characters like notorious gangster ‘Squizzy’ Taylor frequented the Orient, mingling with the after-theatre crowd. 

Pic 2 & 3: State Library Victoria

Pic 4 - Flick4 Unknown        Pic 5 - Reddit Unknown

The Orient Hotel was designed by architects Thomas Watts & Sons for Mrs Teresa Mulligan. But it was Steve Morell (later knighted ‘Sir Stephen Joseph Morell’) who ran the hotel during its golden era of the 1890s to the 1920s, when the name ‘MORELL’S’ was painted above the doorway. Sir Stephen, who also bought the famous Prince's Bridge Hotel—better known as Young and Jackson's—from Henry Young himself in 1914, went on to become the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. The Morell Bridge over the Yarra is named after him.

The Orient Hotel was demolished in the 1930s to make way for the new Foy & Gibson department store. This art deco building itself was quite beautiful with a wonderful prominent curved front, and it offered something the old hotel didn’t; a rooftop Funpark for children with a playground, sideshows, pony rides and a merry-go-round. But even that whimsical chapter ended in the late 1960’s.


Pic 6: National Archives        Pic 7: State Library Victoria

Pic 8: Museum of Lost

By the late 1980’s a couple of extra levels were added, and the original art deco features were covered over, and it has now become another soulless corporate building that still stands today. 

Pic 9: Own

The modern-day Bourke and Swanston intersection has no trace of the Orient’s grandeur. Like many of Melbourne’s lost gems, it’s a tale of what once was, now buried under layers of forgettable modernity.


Harper & Charlie's art print of the Orient Hotel, Melbourne can be purchased here
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