Canberra's historic, and haunted, Hotel Kurrajong turns 90
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Canberra's historic, and haunted, Hotel Kurrajong turns 90

In a city as young as Canberra, not too many places can claim to have witnessed nine decades of history - or house the ghost of a former PM.

Having opened its doors in 1926, Hotel Kurrajong will this weekend celebrate its 90th birthday, with a party fitting of the 1920s, flapper dancers included.

Hotel Kurrajong Canberra in the 1960s.

Hotel Kurrajong Canberra in the 1960s.

When the Australian government moved from Melbourne to the emerging city of Canberra in the 1920s, there was a need for somewhere to house the sitting members of Parliament plus staff and families.

Hostel Number 1, now Hotel Kurrajong, and Hostel Number 2, now Canberra Hyatt, were built for this exact purpose, both designed by Commonwealth chief architect John Smith Murdoch who also designed Old Parliament House.

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Queen Elizabeth II visiting Hotel Kurrajong in 2000.

Queen Elizabeth II visiting Hotel Kurrajong in 2000.

"The accommodation standard of both hostels was designed to fit the high status of its expected residents – politicians and senior heads and staff of government departments. The Kurrajong design was to be elegant and spacious," said historian Professor Peter Dowling.

Back in the day, Hostel No.2 was a favourite of Labor politicians, with their conservative counterparts staying just far enough away at Hostel No.1.

"There were often so many Labor politicians at the Kurrajong that a caucus meeting could be held over breakfast in the dining room each morning," said Dowling.

Over the years the heritage-listed building has been government offices, a hotel training school, and was also the home of two Prime Ministers – John Curtin and Ben Chifley.

Chifley even suffered a fatal heart attack in his room in 1951, and some staff and guests claim to have seen his ghost at the hotel, pointing towards Old Parliament House.

The building was fully restored and reopened as the Hotel Kurrajong in December 2014, keeping its distinctive art deco architecture. It will celebrate with a 1920s dinner on Saturday July 23. $160 per head with bookings on (02) 6234 444.

Jil Hogan is an food and lifestyle reporter at The Canberra Times.

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