The Gresham History

Welcome to The Gresham. Can we get you a drink?

Now, down to brass tacks: You are residing in a frozen part of Queensland’s history; a building whose architecture defines an era. Initially designed for the Queensland National Bank in 1881, Mr. Francis Drummond Greville (FDG) completed the three-story brick structure four years later. As one of the most important designs of FDG’s career, no expense was spared in its construction.

Murphy’s Creek sandstone and New Zealand Limestone line the walls; a distinct Palladian influence is evident in the detailing; local cedar constructed the main doors and joinery; and the mantelpiece above the fireplace completes the architectural indulgence with marble sourced directly from the United Kingdom.

Cast your eyes to the gent above the fire place in the front bar. Edward Robert Drury (1832-1896), banker and soldier, was the commander of the Queensland Defence Forces and head of the Queensland National Bank that commissioned and oversaw construction of the building you’re currently in. A true renegade and complete autocrat, he made massive loans and risky acquisitions without consulting his directors or recognising any limits, sometimes even concealing accounts from the board. 1881 saw construction of the jewel in the banks crown; so magnificent were its stained glass and polished cedar that it became known as Drury’s Temple.

Why “Gresham”? What’s “Gresham”? Who’s “Gresham”?

A fellow by the name of Buckeridge flaunted his architectural skills back in 1890 by his awe-inspiring creation: The Gresham Hotel. It sat behind you now, on the corner of Adelaide and Creek. The grand Gresham housed 77 rooms with an extensive bar and dining area – all built with local materials.

But The Gresham wasn’t just a fancy hotel.

Edison Lane, running from the rear of the post office building to Creek Street was originally (although not so original) called Post Office Lane. Its name changed in tribute to a very special man. The lane homed the premises of Barton and White, electrical engineers and pioneers for electricity in Brisbane. The Gresham Hotel along with GPO were among the first buildings in Brisbane to become electricity customers. We wonder how they kept their drinks cold when they couldn’t plug in their fridges? The lane was renamed in 1985, giving Sir Edison the respect he deserved.

But The Gresham wasn’t just a regal hotel.

Over the 26th and 27th November 1942, an incident occurred outside the Gresham Hotel. We’re not sure what catalysed what is now referred to as “The Battle of Brisbane” but the results of the brawl between Australian and United States servicemen were grave. Somewhere between seven hundred and one thousand servicemen used bottles, stones, sticks and batons to incur eight minor gunshot wounds, six baton injuries, hundreds of black eyes, split lips, swollen cheeks, broken noses and the tragic death of Australian Gunner Edward Sidney Webster.

A building so rich with history met its end in a similarly striking fashion. The great 1974 flood damaged the Gresham Hotel so dramatically, it was demolished. We don’t want to demolish any memories of the Gresham Hotel. We want you to soak up the history that surrounds you – and maybe a few whiskies as well.