Push to put one of Canberra's famous waterholes, the Kingston Hotel, on the ACT Heritage list
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Push to put one of Canberra's famous waterholes, the Kingston Hotel, on the ACT Heritage list

It's been the scene of political coups, espionage and deal making that shaped the early years of the city. Now there's a push to add the Kingston Hotel to the list of treasured historical sites.

The Kingo, one of the capital's waterholes, has been nominated to the ACT Heritage Council for a heritage listing.

Nick Swain, president of the Canberra & District historical society has nominated the Kingston Hotel to be put on the Heritage list.

Nick Swain, president of the Canberra & District historical society has nominated the Kingston Hotel to be put on the Heritage list.

Photo: karleen minney

The nomination by the Canberra and District Historical Society in January was presented to the council in last month and is now waiting to be assessed, chair of the ACT Heritage Council David Flannery said.

"The nominator claims the hotel was the first 'traditional pub' to be built in the ACT by private enterprise. The nominator said it was built by the Tooheys Brewery," Mr Flannery said.

The Kingo, one of the capital's popular waterholes has been nominated to the ACT Heritage Council to be listed.

The Kingo, one of the capital's popular waterholes has been nominated to the ACT Heritage Council to be listed.

Photo: karleen minney
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"While these are the nominator's claims, the heritage council has not yet formed a view on the heritage significance of the place."

President of the Canberra and District Historical Society Nick Swain said the hotel was associated with notable incidents in 20th century espionage, including the Petrov affair and the "faceless men" incident.

The 36 faceless men saga saw the Labor Party's then leadership team of Arthur Calwell and Gough Whitlam photographed standing outside in the dark of night waiting for members of the party's national executive meeting inside to instruct them on American plans to build a base in Western Australia.

"It was the leading place for meetings back in the day," Mr Swain said.

"We have been doing a lot of work over the years on the different old buildings in Canberra and it just struck me that, here was a hotel that struck me as an icon in Canberra and yet it wasn't on the heritage register."

He said there was a "hardcore following" at the hotel and what set it apart was because it was not a "hipster bar" and was more like "an Australian pub".

"You can see politicians there, you see a good dose of high-vis vests and everyone in between."

Mr Swain said during the process of putting together the nomination, rumours surfaced that the 83-year-old hotel was to be sold. The Canberra Times is unable to verify the rumours.

The land titles register lists Michael and Athena Kouper as the block's owners.

But Mr Flannery said once a building had been nominated to the heritage council, it was protected as if it were on the register.

"It can still be sold, selling doesn't make any difference, but for the time being, until the heritage council has assessed the building, assessed its significance, the building is afforded protection as if it were on the register."

Kingston and Barton residents group president Rebecca Scouller said the Kingston Hotel and its twin, the former Civic Hotel were the result of the 1928 plebiscite which allowed the sale of alcohol in the capital.

The Kingston Hotel has been the go to place on Christmas eve for many Canberrans, a place where many Friday night drinks have been drunk and where more recently celebrations for the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite was held.

The Canberra Times has sought comment from the Kingston Hotel owners.

Han Nguyen

Han Nguyen reports on property for The Canberra Times. She joined the Times in 2017 after working as a breaking news reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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