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Kalgoorlie skimpies hotel gets heritage listing

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The Exchange Hotel. PHOTO: Goldfields Tourism Network Association Inc.

One of the oldest hotels in Kalgoorlie-Boulder has been added to the State Register of Heritage Places because of its connection to WA’s historic gold boom.

Well known for its skimpy barmaids, the Exchange Hotel was built in 1894 as the area’s population boomed and has been a landmark on Hannan St even since, though it was re-built in 1901.

Hotels were vital to the economic and social life of the Goldfields acting as a common meeting destination for mine workers, with a number of important meetings taking place at the Exchange Hotel.

Heritage Minister Albert Jacob said the hotel characterised the success of the pub and hotel industry during the gold rush.

“The grandeur of the Exchange Hotel evokes memories of the economic prosperity that characterised Kalgoorlie during the gold rush,” Mr Jacob said.

The poem written by Herbert Hoover to an Exchange Hotel barmaid

Herbert Hoover’s poem to an Exchange Hotel barmaid. PHOTO: Goldfields Tourism Network Association Inc.

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A mirror Hoover sent to the barmaid from China. PHOTO: Goldfields Tourism Network Association Inc.

The hotel went into receivership in 2011, and made headlines in 2009 when managers applied to the Department of Racing, Games and Liquor to have pole dancing, wet t-shirt competitions and costume parades at the venue.

Goldfields Tourism Network Association Inc manager Neil McGilp said the hotel was linked to former US President Herbert Hoover, who was the mine manager at St Barbara Gwalia mine in Leonora.

“He fell in love with a barmaid at the hotel there,” Mr McGilp said.

“He eventually went back to America and didn’t pursue his relationship with the young barmaid.”

Mr McGilp said the wealth generated by mining led to extensive development of the town and some “fantastic architecture”.

The hotel is also well known for its attempts to extend its trading hours, but having been unsuccessful.

“We play a very important role in federation,” he said. “Without the Goldfields, Federation wouldn’t have occurred or at least WA wouldn’t have been part of it.”

Designed by architects Hawkins and Sprigg, the Exchange Hotel is characterised by its grand Federation Filigree style, with a protruding gabled verandah and corner belvedere.

“It’s important for the heritage of the town and for the amazing street-scape that we do have these old buildings preserved and preserved well,” Mr McGilp said.