The Criterion Hotel, Sale, was built on the south-west corner of York and Macalister Streets by 1866. In that year it was described in the Gippsland Times as having temporarily opened, with the first proprietor being W. J. Allester. The town of Sale developed rapidly throughout the 1860s, and its declaration as a borough in 1863 instigated extensive civic and commercial development.
On 10 August 1865 a tender for the construction of a large hotel at Sale for John Cobain was recorded in The Argus by architect, Charles Boykett. This is believed to be the Criterion Hotel. Cobain arrived in Gippsland in 1857, becoming a prominent local landowner and an active member within the Avon Shire, serving on the first Roads Board and the Shire Council.
The original hotel building is of two storeys, with two, long, matching wings addressing both streets. By December 1877, the Criterion Hotel had been renovated throughout, under the direction of proprietor` Thomas Duggan. It would appear that this renovation included the replacement of a timber verandah with a two storey cast iron verandah, recorded as cast at Hutchinson's City Foundry and built under the supervision of Thomas Guthridge. It may also have included the extension of the building along Macalister Street. In 1886-7 some internal redecoration and minor alterations were undertaken, under the direction of the proprietors, the Clues brothers. During this period, the Criterion Hotel provided one of the largest livery stables and coaching establishments outside Melbourne. The stables are no longer extant.
The adjoining building in York Street was constructed in 1890 as Commercial Travellers' Sampling Rooms. Constructed as a separate building, it was subsequently integrated into the hotel building at a later stage. By 1897, the 43-roomed Criterion Hotel was described as providing commercial travellers with one of the largest commercial rooms to be found in any Gippsland hotel. The size of the Criterion Hotel is unchanged.
The earliest section of the hotel building is designed to address both Macalister and York Streets with principal facades, in a manner typical of nineteenth century corner hotels. The early addition at the western end in Macalister Street and the two storey verandah with its cast iron decoration, retain this corner approach. The majority of the complex is two storey, rendered brick structure, with prominent, hipped, corrugated metal roof surfaces. A single storey service wing parallel with Macalister Street, defines an internal courtyard, previously used as a Fernery. The western part of the service wing may comprise early additions. The street facades with their numerous openings are carefully proportioned to produce an ordered and imposing design. Embellishments include unusual and finely detailed cement rendered architraves curving at the top of openings, and a dentil course at the eaves. Chimneys also contribute to the design. Part of the verandah was reconstructed in 1906 after the Macalister Street portion collapsed when hit by a horse and cart.
Between 1924 and 1946, an unusual hand painted dado frieze was applied to the street facade, two panels of which are now visible after the removal of fixtures. Executed in a loose freehand sketch style, the panels depict sepia images of foreground and background vistas. Stylistically the design is consistent with an early 1920s date.
How is it significant?
The Criterion Hotel is of architectural, historical and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Criterion Hotel is of architectural and aesthetic significance as one of the largest, intact, nineteenth century hotels in Victoria. The facade is notable for its unusual and highly detailed rendered ornamentation, and the two storey corner cast iron verandah, amongst the largest in Victoria. The prominently located hotel is an important landmark, making a significant contribution to the urban landscape of the town.
The Criterion Hotel is of historical significance as: one of the oldest extant hotels in Gippsland; as part of the development of the commercial centre for Gippsland at Sale; and for the association with commercial travellers. By 1865 five hotels were recorded in Sale and another five appeared to be constructed by 1866. The Criterion was amongst them. The development of the Criterion Hotel reflects the growth of Sale as a transport and trade centre for Gippsland from the mid nineteenth century. At the time of the Hotel's establishment in 1865, the town of Sale was the regional centre for Gippsland, its civic and commercial development stimulated by the gold rushes in the Gippsland mountains. The construction of the road to Melbourne in 1865 allowed for the establishment of a regular Cobb and Co coach service. The Criterion was renovated and extended in 1877 before the railway reached Sale from Melbourne in 1878. The rail expansion in turn stimulated the development of the Port of Sale in the 1880s with connection by boat to Lakes Entrance through the Port of Sale.
The Commercial Travellers Sampling Rooms of 1890 illustrate the role of commercial travellers within the mercantile community, and the associated relationship between transport routes and the distribution of goods in the development of country Victoria. Accommodation being an essential component in this system, location adjoining the largest hotel in Sale was logical. The configuration of the sampling rooms is largely unaltered
The painted dado frieze applied to the Macalister and York Street facade have local aesthetic significance for their rarity and artistic intent. There are no other known examples of external schemes that contain hand-painted elements in Victoria. The Commercial Travellers Sampling Rooms of 1890 also contribute to the streetscape at the local level.