Historical information

Olive Elsie May Reed was licensee of the Eltham Hotel from April 1948 to January 1950.

The Eltham Hotel is the oldest continually operating hotel in the Eltham district. Initially referred to as the Little Eltham Hotel, it has been known as the Eltham Hotel since the 1850s through to present time with a very brief period as the Eltham Tavern in the late 1980s.

Benjamin Oliver Wallis was a prominent Eltham resident, publican and Councillor during the second half of the nineteenth century. He owned the house that is now the Nillumbik Living and Learning Centre at 739 Main Road Eltham and one stage the Eltham Hotel.

Wallis migrated to Melbourne in 1853 but his wife and children remained in Cornwall for a further 10 years. Later in 1853 Richard Warren engaged Wallis to build the Eltham Hotel and it opened in 1854.

The hotel was constructed of hard basaltic blue stone quarried in the Eltham district and cemented together with mud, and partly of bricks made at Eltham. The Fountain of Friendship Hotel on the opposite side of Maria Street (Main Road) opened shortly after. The hotel was a well-known resting place for gold diggers during the gold rush at Woods’ Point and Warren would buy the gold from the diggers.

In 1858 Warren fell into financial difficulties and had to sell the hotel. Wallis bought the hotel and obtained a publican’s licence in 1861. In the 1850s the Fountain had been the more popular hotel but after that the Eltham Hotel became more popular.

It is understood that in about 1857 Wallis probably built the “Living and Learning house” for tanner John Pearson. In 1868 Pearson became bankrupt and Wallis acquired the house and he lived there until his death in 1896. For some of this time the house was in the name of Benjamin’s son Richard but he died in 1888 and ownership reverted to his father.

Wallis was a member of the Eltham Jockey Club and in 1867 his wife Anna rode her horse Charlotte in the Annual Races. Anna was also an angler and is reported to have caught a large perch in the Yarra River. She died in 1887.

On 16th September 1886 Wallis sold the hotel to Christopher Watson (Snr). Watson died in 1887 and the hotel passed to his son Christopher Watson (Jr) who owned it until his death in 1909 at which time his wife Emily took over the license. Upon her death, their son Herbert applied for the license in January 1915.

In July 1925, Herbert Watson demolished the original building and, in its place, erected a modern hotel which remains the foundation of the present Eltham Hotel. The contractors at the time commented on how well the original building had been constructed.

A description of the new building was detailed in the Advertiser newspaper of January 8, 1926:
“The new building consists of. two stories. designed in English tavern style, and contains-all told, 24 rooms. On the second floor, in front uninviting the two gables is a deep balcony, which will be much appreciated by visitors. The lower story is wholly of brick, and the upper one of wood and fibrous cement plaster. The rooms are spacious and lofty, and the windows are large and of latest style, and light the rooms splendidly. The entrance hall is 8 feet wide. The bar is a very commodious room and is furnished in the most up-to-date and convenient manner. The dining room, a very attractive apartment, is 30 feet by 15 feet 6 inches, and the bar parlor is also a large and well furnished room. A large cellar, an indispensable adjunct to an hotel, has been excavated beneath the bar. On the upper story are 12 bedrooms, and among other conveniences are two bath rooms in which hot and cold water can be used. All the rooms have been supplied with the necessary appliances for electric lighting, which will be one of the progressive evidences which Eltham will shortly enjoy.”
“In the yard a brick garage to accommodate three cars at once, has been erected. This, as well as the hotel, is roofed with tiles.”
“From the front of the hotel (especially the balcony) a lovely view of the country west and, north may be obtained.”
“It may be added that it Is intended to have an ornamental garden, a tennis court. and a kiosk in connection with the hotel, and the property will have a rustic fence round it.”

The hotel has since undergone several modifications and extensions

Pages from a scrapbook belonging to Heather Jenkins (nee Sargeant) who lived as a child in the Police Residence at 728 Main Road, Eltham in the 1920s.


Heather Sargeant was the daughter of Constable W.C. Sargeant, the local police officer in residence at Eltham, 1922-1927

Physical description

Glued on a brown paper scrapbook page (torn from scrapbook) with 8 black and white/sepia photos of varying sizes, 1 newspaper clipping and one greeting card with printed sketch and handwritten captions in ink. On back of page is 1 black and white photo and a large newspaper clipping.