The Tower Hotel (formerly Club Hotel), Charles Street, West Perth

The Tower Hotel, on the corner of Charles and Duke streets, was demolished around 1973 to make way for the Mitchell Freeway's Charles Street off-ramp.

What is the history of this former West Perth landmark?

An impressive building in its day, it was designed by Sir J J Talbot Hobbs for John Charles Chipper in 1896.

The Club Hotel was constructed on the corner of Duke, Charles and Aberdeen streets, West Perth. (This land is just south of Newcastle Street and now under the Mitchell Freeway.) A beautiful building, the hotel stood at three levels with many features from the era including a tower, verandas and an entrance door facing the street corner.

Prior to construction, an application made for a provisional certificate stated there would be 58 rooms. The frontage to Duke Street would be 111ft, and the frontage to Charles Street 60ft. There would be also be provision for a tennis court. One complainant stated that the site was unsuitable as Duke Street was only 40ft wide, another objection came from the Rev T C Hewson, but the site was eventually granted permission due to a rapid increase in population creating a demand for this type of accommodation. At an estimated cost of 8,000 pounds, this would have been an expensive building for the time.

The builder and first proprietor, John C Chipper, was born in Perth in 1847 (the son of John Chipper, the first paid police constable in Perth).   John C Chipper had previously been the owner of the John Bull Inn (later named the Criterion Hotel in Howick [Hay] Street, Perth) from the early 1870s, where he had installed electric lights; the first hotel in Perth. He remained publican at the Criterion Hotel until October 1887, when he sailed to England for health reasons. Before he departed the Sons of Australia Benefit Society presented him with a gold pendant “for our esteem and appreciation of the services rendered by you on behalf our Society, the success of which is largely owing to your attention ever since your connection with its affairs as hon. treasurer extending over a period of nine years’.

JC Chipper opened the Club Hotel by May 1898 when this advertisement appeared in the newspapers.

West Australian Sunday Times, 29 May 1898, p 1

West Australian Sunday Times, 29 May 1898, p 1

A financial document entitled In the matter of J C Chipper, Club Hotel West Perth: Statement of Affairs, March 11th 1899, reveals that John C Chipper owned Lots 60 and 61 with the hotel premises on Charles Street, valued at 14,00 pounds ‘subject to loan to Western Australian Bank of 11,000 and Caveat Lodged by Swan Brewery Company’. He also owned other properties in Perth and Geraldton.

A summary of Chipper’s assets was included:

Freehold properties 18,550
Less encumbrances 13,670
Unencumbered properties 110
Hotel furniture and fittings 5,000
Stock in trade 100
Subject to Bill of Sales  to Swan Brewery Co  3,900
Total assets  5,990 pounds

John C Chipper married three times and had twelve children, seven of whom died between birth and two years of age.  Only two of his children, Charles and George, survived to adulthood.

In 1894, his daughter Victoria Hilda Chipper died in an unfortunate incident while out crabbing with her brothers on the William Street Jetty, Perth. An altercation occurred between Hilda and her brother Charles when she threw a jelly fish, hitting him in the face. Charles responded by hitting Hilda and she fell into the river and subsequently drowned. A court case ensued with the sad event played out in public. Her brother, aged 15/16, was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to three years imprisonment in Rottnest Island Reformatory.  (Charles Ernest King Solomon Chipper (labourer) later married Christiana Maria Prosser at St Matthias Church, London, on 30th October 1902, he served in the British Army in WWI and did not return to Australia.)

On leaving the Club Hotel, which had become known colloquially as ‘Chipper’s Club Hotel’, J C Chipper moved to the hills of Mundaring as the publican at the Mundaring Hotel. This does not appear to have been a happy period in his life, as in 1905 he and his third wife, Elizabeth were in the divorce courts, with Chipper filing for the dissolution of the marriage and custody of the children on the grounds of adultery. The judge found them as adulterous as each other and dismissed the petition. In the course of proceedings Chipper was found to have committed acts of cruelty upon his wife.

In the following years there were numerous licensees/ proprietors at the Club Hotel, some of whom only stayed for one year and others who stayed for ten years or more. There was also a name change to the Tower Hotel from December 1912. Read more here.

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