The Fortune of War Hotel is a 3 storey face brick building with stucco detailing, of which much remains. It shows the Californian Bungalow style as applied to a commercial hotel building. (Clive Lucas Stapleton 1999: 59)
Storeys: 3 and attic; Facade: Brick walls; Roof Cladding: Corrugated iron; Floor Frame: Timber
There appears to be no above ground evidence of the original building on the site. The existing building (built by 1922) is relatively intact. The building has three levels to George Street and a modern rear addition, built in a traditional style. The building has a central recessed balcony on the first floor and a parapet wall to the street. There is an awning over the footpath, typical of those along George Street. Externally, to George Street, original wall tiles, face brickwork, rendered trim, and terrazzo thresholds remain intact. Timber doors and windows appear in good condition. Internally, the general layout of public areas appears original, including features such as wall tiles, ceilings, central bar and other joinery. The original stair to upper level bedrooms remains, but is blocked off. The rear area is a half level above the George Street ground floor level.
There have been major changes upstairs, with links to the Russell Hotel.
There are water problems in the basement, otherwise the building is in good condition. (P Wyborn 1999)
Archaeological Assessment Condition: Mostly disturbed. Assessment Basis: Cellars. Recent renovation.
The site of the Fortune of War was originally part of the first hospital, erected in 1788. By 1790 the original tent hospital had been replaced by a portable hospital which came out with the Second Fleet. After the Rum Hospital opened in 1816 in Macquarie St the buildings on George St were demolished and the site became an early quarry.
The site of the Fortune of War was formalised in the survey of the township carried out in the early 1830s, the site was classified as Lot 7 of City Section 84, comprising an area of 1 rod 15 perches. In January 1841 the allotment was officially granted to the trustees, executrix and executors of the estate of the emancipist Samuel Terry, these being Rosetta Terry (widow), John Terry Hughes (nephew and son-in-law), Tom White Melville Winder of Windermere (family friend and long standing business acquaintance) and James Norton (solicitor).
Terry’s interest in the site seems to date from at least c1823 when an area of ’26 rods’ situated on the ‘west side of George St’ was leased to Terry for the term of 21 years. Terry arrived in Sydney in 1801 on a seven year sentence convicted of theft. He was eventually described as the ‘Botany Bay Rothschild’ and at his death in 1838 left a personal estate of £250 000, an annual rental income from his Sydney properties of £10 000 and ‘land and property which defies assessment’. Terry’s business interests included brewing and he was occasionally a publican.
On the site of the Fortune of War, Terry constructed a terrace of three buildings (today’s 139-143 George St) completed in the mid to late 1820s. The footprint of this building, a terrace of three with a breakfront is marked in the Robert Russell survey of 1834. The building was constructed as a Public House known as ‘The Fortune of War’. The first recorded licensee of the public house was John Boreham in 1830 for the sale of wines, malt and liquor.
Many publicans were former artisans such as stonemasons of like Boreham, a former miller. In the 1822 Land and Stock Muster Boreham was listed as a miller in government employ on a 14 year sentence. 1828 he was listed in the census as a former convict who arrived in Sydney in 1815 on the ‘Marquis of Wellington’ and employed at that time as a dealer.
From 1833 the publican of the Fortune of War was Walter Nottingham Palmer, where he remained until 1839 when he took over the licence of the New York Tavern, also on George St. In 1844 the lease of the Fortune of War was renewed by Robert White Moore, although he had held the licence from 1842. The lease was again renewed in 1851 for a further seven years. During this period Moore held a late-night (midnight) licence.
In 1861 Moore acquired the freehold ownership of the property through a purchase from Thomas Smart. Smarts interest in the property originated from a mortgage taken out in 1851 and the partition of the Terry Estate made in 1860. Robert White Moore continued to hold the licence for the hotel up until the time of his death in 1870 when it passed to his relatives. Thomas Moore held it for the 1870 and 1880s and his nephew Benjamin Robert Moore for the 1890s. During this period the hotel was managed by the following publicans:
1873-c1878 Mrs Frances Cowell
1879-1880 Alexander Yeend
c1881-1893 Arthur Buchanan
1894 James Irving
1895 James McGuire
1896 William Biscoff
1897-1899 Hector Allen Bogle
1900 Archibald Laing
The commercial success of The Fortune of War is indicated by the continual licensing of the premises from at least 1830.
The Bubonic plague broke out on the waterfront in January 1900, prompting the Government to resume the entire Rocks and Millers Point area. Large scale demolitions followed and the area was administered by the Sydney Harbour Trust, then the Maritime Services Board and in 1970 The Rocks was handed to the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority.
The Fortune of War continued to trade until 1920 when Tooth & Co Ltd entered into a head-lease with the Sydney Harbour Trust for 45 years. Shortly after this the 19th century building was demolished and the extant hotel constructed. The first month of trading in the new building was in December 1921. In March 1976 Tooth & Co relinquished their head lease to the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority. Since that date leases have been granted to the following publicans:
1978-1987 John Walker Hook
1987-present (2009) Robert John Keyes.
Keyes was also one of the lessees of the Russell Hotel at 143 George St and the operation of the two properties merged at this time. The Fortune of War Hotel with its longstanding licence and retention of original bar and fittings contributes to The Rocks as a unique historic neighbourhood.