Long before it brought some huge headline acts to Wagga, the Home Tavern was breaking headlines for witnessing everything from mad cows to murderers.
Now, in light of the venue’s recent closure, local historian Geoff Burch has compiled an impressive 25-page history detailing 144 years of weird and wonderful happenings at the Home.
Mr Burch has been researching pubs from Wagga and its surrounds since the late 1980s, but said a lot of what he discovered about the Home was news to him.
“I was certainly aware of when the pub first opened, but other than that, I didn’t know a lot of the finer detail,” Mr Burch said.
“The things I went looking for were if there were any changes to the building and if there were any stories connected with it, like if someone had died there, which always makes the history a bit more interesting and unusual.”
If one thing is for sure, what Mr Burch uncovered certainly was both interesting and unusual.
The Home has had many licencees since it first opened on October 13, 1874, but perhaps the most interesting was its very first.
Daniel Boon obtained the hotel’s first licence to operate in a small cottage on the corner of Fitzmaurice and Kincaid streets that had previously been used as police barracks and offices for the Bank of NSW.
Less than two years later, Boon was forced to transfer the licence to his wife after he was arrested for the murder of North Wagga blacksmith Alexander McMullen.
During a court hearing on January 21, 1876, it became clear that Boon stumbled out of the Home drunkenly with a shotgun and wandered to McMullen’s workshop to demand he pay some outstanding rent owed to him.
When McMullen told him he had no money, Boon raised the gun and shot him in the neck and shoulder, causing his death.
Stumbling back to the Home, Boon told a local surveyor “He wouldn’t pay me my rent, and I shot him. I let him that place for five years for just £5, and the last year he was to pay me £20 for it. He wouldn’t pay me and I shot him”.
Almost 150 years after he was executed for his crime, Mr Burch said Boon was still a well-known character around Wagga.
“He’s quite an interesting character – he was one of triplets, they could all fight, they were all good sportsmen, and, when they had a drink, they were all violent and didn’t behave well,” Mr Burch said.
“This was just the climax when he shot the blacksmith over at North Wagga because he hadn’t paid his rent, which amounted to £5 or something – just crazy when you think about it.”
Boon was not the Home’s only licensee that found himself on the wrong side of the law.
In June 1902, George Martin was fined £3 after failing to intervene when 10 or 12 men started an all-out brawl on the premises.
Then, in 1926, licensee Joseph William Lewis was convicted of selling whiskey below the price required by law and fined £1 for not allowing his employee to have a day off.
Mr Burch said the story that stood out the most from his research was about the time a wild cow wreaked havoc inside the pub.
In March 1954, a Daily Advertiser story titled “Maddened Cow Amok in Wagga Hotel” described police doing midnight patrols along Fitzmaurice Street spotting a cow galloping down the street.
They chased the Hereford along the street before it smashed its way through two swinging doors to gain entry to the Home.
Pub-goers fled to the upper levels while police spent no less than half an hour trying to chase the cow outside before it eventually smashed its way through more glass doors to leave.
“A spokesman from the sale yards later explained the cow had recently come into town with a calf and they had taken it off her, which made her very angry,” Mr Burch said.
While his history of the Home went live on the weekend, Mr Burch’s work does not stop there.
“I’m working on a history of all the hotels of Wagga, which I hope to complete and publish within a couple of years,” he said.
“I hope they’re used as reference sources in the future.”
After 144 years of trading, the Home Tavern served up its very last drink on Sunday.
The hotel’s licence was sold along with the freehold in 2017 to the same group that owns the Victoria Hotel in Baylis Street.
They separated the license from the property and listed the premises on the market for a cool $1.75 million in May this year.
While there has been much talk that the licence is being held for a new hotel at Estella, neither the current licensee or the owner of the property are yet to confirm that.
Greg Howick of Fitzpatricks Real Estate, which is managing the sale of the property, said they have now decided break the hotel into parcels.
“Most of the interest was in individual parcels, so we made it available individually as well,” Mr Howick said.
“It's a price range that suits more purchasers in the market, particularly those looking for new premises for their business.”
The premises have been split into two – the main two-storey site on the corner of Fitzmaurice and Kincaid streets that housed the hotel, and the single-storey site on Fitzmaurice Street that has housed offices and shops in the past.
The site of the former hotel is now listed for $795,000, while the secondary site is on the market for $865,000.
“It certainly attracted a whole new level of inquiry,” Mr Howick said.
Together, the two sites offer up a total of 1600 square metres, opening up a huge number of possibilities around bringing an attractive new commercial and residential hub to Wagga.
To date, the Home has attracted interest mainly from out-of-town developers interested in doing a full-site development as well as some local businesses looking to use the premises for retail and office space.
The site still remains on the market.