Most Sky Tavern patrons may be unaware that no.4 Tassie Street Port Augusta was the site of two previous hotels.

In September 1855, the first publican’s general license was granted to Alexander Mackay for a small shanty which he named the “Port Augusta Hotel”. Alexander Mackay, one of the first pioneer settlers of Port Augusta, was a carpenter and builder. He was also the first mail contractor and later became local magistrate and civic leader.

In April 1862 a license was granted for the new Northern Hotel to Hannah Hart, a popular person in the small community and with the pastoralists of the north. This was a small weatherboard building which stood for 18 years before being demolished to make way for the commodious two-storied hotel, the “Great Northern Hotel”.

On February 7, 1881 a banquet was held for the official opening celebrations of the new Great Northern Hotel. Among the speech makers was Thomas Burgoyne, Editor of the “Port Augusta Dispatch”, who recalled the old shanty, 12’6”x10’, where there was no bar but an open window into the street. Thirty to forty teamsters would wait their turn at the window for their beer.

It was reported in the “Dispatch” that the customary bottle was placed in a cavity in the foundation stone of the new hotel and the contents of the bottle included a document reading as follows:-
“This stone was laid on august 14, 1880 by Mrs. J. Barker… owners Messrs Syme and Sison; Lessee Mr. John Barker; architect Mr. Alexander Burgoyne…”

During the drought seasons, Port Augusta (its native name “Curdnatta” signifying “Plenty of Sand”) was occasionally short of drinking water though a plentiful supply of beer was on tap!

In July 1881, a new billiard saloon was opened by the second licensee, Mr. Allan Anderson. The opening was celebrated by a grand tournament and champagne was drunk in bumpers! The saloon was described as splendidly furnished with a polished bar, carved woodwork, large mirrors, fireplace, marble-topped tables, many pictures and….. “A handsome barmaid”.



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