John Scott remembers the first beer he had at the Hotel Ainslie close to 30 years ago. He and a couple of mates rode their horses over Mt Ainslie, tied their steeds to the side fence and went inside to the bar for a cold one.
It's something he continued to do on the odd occasion until the Majura Parkway went in in 2013 and cut off access through the back of Campbell Park.
But the Ainslie is still the local and Mr Scott will be celebrating along with many other Canberrans whose lives have been touched by one of the city's oldest buildings as the hotel turns 90 on September 12.
Built in 1927, the Hotel Ainslie was erected by the government as a hostel for public servants.
As crowds gathered in the new Australian capital for the opening of Parliament House, the hotel opened its doors. Fifty-three guests checked in, the guest book a who's who of early Canberra.
Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin checked into room 37; the designer of Parliament House John Smith Murdoch stayed in room 27; Canberra's first legislator Sir Robert Garran and his wife Lady Garran also had a room; along with dignitaries from across the nation.
"It's seen some people," said Mr Scott, "the grand old girl".
But on the day after the opening of Parliament House, May 10, 1927, people were nowhere to be seen. All the guests checked out and for months the hotel was empty.
"She's had a chequered past," says Dr Jerry Schwartz, whose family bought the property in 1989, rebranding it as Olims. The hotel came under the Mercure brand in 2011.
"Over the years she's been empty, a hostel for women in the public service, and in 1950 once again became a public hotel, it was the Hotel Ainslie Rex back then," Dr Schwartz said.
The hotel was a boarding house for women in the public service from 1942 to 1950. In a book Dr Schwartz commissioned for the 80th anniversary of the landmark hotel (and an updated version is on its way for this birthday) Sarah Rood wrote about the period.
"The women living at the Ainslie often came from interstate, and in some cases overseas. For many the Ainslie was an instant home."
Most women shared rooms, many lifelong friendships were formed, and there was always time for love and romance, she wrote.
"Despite men not being allowed in the women's rooms after 11pm, this rule wasn't always strictly followed. What was known as the 'living out run' was a bus service provided by the RAAF … Driver Corporal George Abbey would drive through Canberra and toot his horn outside of each of the boarding houses, including the Ainslie … He stated that "fellows would come flying out of all those places, from doors and at least once from a bedroom window."
The presence of the women in the hostel actually delayed the granting of a liquor license. During the early 1940s locals approached the government, lamenting the presence of a public bar and it wasn't until November 1948 that the government relented.
Mr Scott, now 49, is unsure if his father was there for the first round, but he said the hotel has maintained its place in the community ever since.
"It's a real meeting place," he says. He's been running the Anzac Day two-up for 25 years, rewarded with a room upstairs on the night and a "couple of drinks"; he also built kennels when the hotel became "pet-friendly"; and a wall out in the beer garden for a big screen television so the patrons could watch the football and the cricket in the fresh air.
He speaks too of a sense of family, telling one story about a regular who hadn't been seen for a few days so they alerted the police who found the man had fallen three days ago. He speaks of support and sponsorship of sporting teams; and a connection with the defence forces (which probably goes way back to those frisky RAAF boys jumping out of windows).
In a neat twist to the story, at least patrons can toast the hotel's 90th birthday with a cold beer. When she opened on September 12, 1927, Canberra was a dry city and not a drop of alcohol was served.