The Federal Hotel – What a history!


Freo Today. 10 July 2024. The Federal Hotel. In some ways, easy to miss standing there opposite the Fremantle Town Hall in William Street, Freo. But what a history! It opened in July 1887 around when Australian Federation debates were beginning. So it’s 137 years young. A large, graceful building with fine lace ironwork balustrading on the ground and first floor verandahs, the three-storey hotel was designed by George Charles Inskip and built by Jordine and Ruthven for James Herbert Jnr. At the time it was built, the Federal was described in the press as being “far in advance of anything so far erected in Western Australia and equal to the best in the sister colonies”. In 1904, local architect, Joseph Herbert Eales was responsible for extensive additions to the Hotel, including the front verandahs and the western wing, which extends towards the rear of the premises.

On 8 February 1927 the hotel was the scene of a double murder, when Lillian Josephine Martin and her four-year-old son Daniel Charles were found dead in an upstairs bedroom of the building. Martin, her son and Jack Thomas had booked into the hotel under the name of Mr and Mrs Martin on 7 February. Thomas left the hotel at 7:30 am the following day and the bodies of Martin and her son were discovered at 11:00 am by a house maid. Martin had been strangled and her son’s throat had been cut. An extensive search was then undertaken by the police for Thomas, whose body was later found near the Mends Street Jetty in South Perth. The coroner subsequently concluded that Thomas had committed both murders and then committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver.

In 1989 the hotel was renamed to Rosie O’Grady’s, an Irish themed pub. In 1995 the building underwent internal alterations, reconstruction of the two-storey front verandah and repainting of the front façade, with the works being carried out by Maxwell Cox Architects. Further internal changes were made in 2001. In January 2016 Rosie O’Grady’s closed for business and the hotel was re-opened as the Federal Boutique Hotel in 2019.

* Words and pic by Jean Hudson