Dunolly’s crumbling Bendigo Hotel a window into gold rush

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

The Bendigo Hotel at 82 Broadway, Dunolly, still has a haunting charm 164 years on. Photos: Philip Ashton.

Rumours of a live-in ghost, a historic murder trial and a wealth of gold rush history are being touted to help save a crumbling 164-year-old country Victoria pub.

Last drinks were called at the Bendigo Hotel in Dunolly almost 100 years ago at a time when women weren’t allowed in a bar unless they were a barmaid.

Today, the 82 Broadway building’s plaster is cracked, its wallpaper peeling, skylights and some of the roofing collapsed. Even the brickwork and floors are giving way in places.

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But the billiards room of the old Cobb and Co Station is still remarkably intact, having been used for government, church and court services in its early days — including for a murder trial believed to have been held there more than a century ago.

It hasn’t even had water or electricity connected, with a cast-iron stove set into a fireplace giving a hint of life in the past among the detritus.

But with more than 8000 people connecting with the hotel on social media, Ballarat Real Estate Marybourough sales manager Kate Ashton is tipping a buyer will pay $1.5m to buy the pub.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

The hotels old billiards room is believed to have once hosted a murder trial.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

The hotel’s facade still has grand design elements.

And its impressive history is expected to convince them to spent another $1m to renovate rather than detonate the Heritage Victoria listed address.

“It has stopped in time,” Ms Ashton said.

“And, yes, there are some walls that have crumbled, but not so much of it you can’t still imagine what it was.

“It still feels beautiful inside. It has got a real element of style. And you are thinking ‘imagine if these walls could talk’.”

A handful of prospective buyers who had a chance to inspect before the state went into its sixth lockdown have suggested the hotel could be renewed as a hospitality venue with bed and breakfast accommodation in its old rooms.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

The rear of the hotel and its attendant stables are still remarkably solid given their age.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

The door to the hotel’s front bar has been barricaded for a number of years.

“And it would also be great to include some of the area’s gold rush history,” Ms Ashton said.

“The Welcome Stranger gold nugget was weighed at the bank across the road where they had to cut it up because it was too big for their scales. And that happened eight years after the hotel opened, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few celebrations (at the Bendigo) by John Deason and Richard Oates.”

Peter Daley’s grandfather bought the hotel in 1925 and said he’d also heard tell of another miner who found a significant nugget and walked into the hotel with the proceeds.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

There are still oddities and curios from the past tucked away on mantels and shelves.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

There’s no electricity or water connected, but the old kitchen stove might still fire up.

“He said he wanted to shout the bar and after they were served handed over the cheque, thinking the publican wouldn’t be able to provide the change,” Mr Daley said.

“But the bartender went out the back, came back and handed him the change. So it must have had a pretty good turn over.”

Since acquiring it from the last publican, Robert Samers, the family have used it for storage for the T.P. Daley General Merchant store they have operated next door since 1856.

“But my grandfather did used to put up people with nowhere else to live in the old accommodation,” Mr Daley said.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

Upstairs rooms have some of the town’s only elevated views, and get plenty of natural light.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

Some rooms are in remarkable condition despite remaining uninhabited for close to a century.

Mr Daley said some of his past customers had asked if the neighbouring hotel might be haunted, after inexplicable observances around the doorway and staircase they added between the two buildings.

“When I came back the lady asked if there was a ghost in the building, as she swore she just saw a lady in old-style dress walk up from those stairs and out of the back door,” Mr Daley said.

The town has transformed from a working area where he used to “kick the footy up and down main street” on Sundays as a kid, but a growing arts scene and rising numbers of weekend tourists made it perfect for a bed and breakfast — he just wasn’t in a position to make it happen himself.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

Parts of the roof have given way, but it’s still believed the old hotel can be saved.

82 Broadway, Dunolly - for herald sun real estate

The old stables still look much the way they did when the hotel was running 96 years ago.

The 810sq m property is zoned commercial.

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