Once upon a time, Creswick Road didn’t exist as the highway it is today. Macarthur Street, just outside the Ballaarat Old Cemetery, was the boundary of the city. Beyond that a dirt track followed the new railway line north towards Creswick, past what would become the showgrounds.
Along Macarthur Street, the horse-drawn trams of the Ballaarat Tramway would lumber across Creswick Road, dragging their passengers from Lydiard Street out to the tram loop around Lake Wendouree for picnics or boating.
Arriving at the corner junction, near what was known as Haphazard Lead, the driver would pull up his horses, and perhaps some passengers might alight and take advantage of the cool airs inside the steeply-gabled hotel suitably positioned there, a hotel also advertised on the tramcar’s hoardings.
A picture taken at the time of the horse-drawn conveyance shows A. Ronald’s Vine Hotel, an imposing red-brick and slate-roofed two-storey building, with complex roofs comprising steeply pitched gables and ‘jerkinhead’ styles.
Though it’s now known as the Canberra Hotel, it’s the last of many incarnations standing on the intersection. Before it was The Crown, The Cornubian and the wonderfully-named Rose of Denmark. All stood on the spot where those leaving or arriving in Ballarat from the goldfields to the north would stop to rest, water and stable their horses, and perhaps get a meal and a much-needed beverage before heading into the city to conduct business.
Originally a single-storey timber building, it was later extended and became quite ornate. A fire in 1883 destroyed the building; the publican, Patrick Sheeran, drowned himself in Lake Wendouree three years later, aged just 50. Dulcie, the daughter of another publican, Jessie Lee, also fell into the lake and drowned in 1911. She was just two.
The two-storey building now has an early 20th-century rendered finish and slate roof cladding. There is a balcony and verandah with arched openings and timber-framed double hung windows and a corner door opening flanked by ornate steel columns.
Open until the 1990s, a favourite haunt of boxer Lionel Rose when in Ballarat, The Canberra is currently being totally renovated in an art deco style by new owners. They plan to operate as an intimate and unique events and reception centre focussing on style and glamour. It will provide apartment accommodation, characterised, the owners say, by a distinctive style unique to Ballarat.
It will include spaces for weddings, special occasions and gatherings, high and Devonshire teas, champagne and garden parties held seasonally. They plan to open in January 2019.