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The beer is long gone but history remains at the Cape Broom Hotel in Bald Hill Flat, now called Fruitlands.

Keen-eyed travellers will spot a boarded up schist building on the Alexandra-Roxburgh Highway.

The former hotel used to be a stopping-off point for travellers looking for rest, a good meal and a chance to collect the post and read the newspaper.

The hotel was constructed in 1873 by John Rymell Kemp, taking the place of an earlier, more modest building.

A notice in the Dunstan Times in September 1874 proudly proclaimed that ‘‘J.R Kemp having finished his large and commodious hotel wishes to celebrate the opening by a gathering of all friends and neighbours’’.

As well as supper, Mr Kemp offered ‘‘music and dancing throughout the evening’’ of the opening.

The Otago Daily Times offered a description later that year, saying the hotel and store was ‘‘without exception the prettiest place on the road between Dunedin and Queenstown’’.

‘‘The buildings are all of stone and upon a most extensive scale.

‘‘The garden, which consists of about two acres, is fully stocked with fruit and ornamental trees; it is surrounded and subdivided by hedges of cape broom intermixed with sweet briar, and which form a most excellent shelter.’’

Pioneering spirit . . . J.R. Kemp and his sister outside the first Cape Broom Hotel in Fruitlands in about 1874. PHOTO: HOCKEN COLLECTIONS

 

The Otago Daily Times provided some insight into Mr Kemp’s tenacity.

In 1866, he was a gold-miner in Butchers Gully, but it was so unprofitable he was left with only the means to buy one packhorse.

However, he persevered over the next few years, using that packhorse to transport packed goods from Alexandra over the Old Man ranges to Campbell’s Gully.

He also built a small stone hut and planted a vegetable garden.

He then began building a small hotel and store, ultimately replacing it with the Cape Broom Hotel that can still be seen to this day.

By 1899, the hotel was part of extensive holdings including 150 acres of land, and was a central part of social life in the area.

The hotel, however, succumbed to fire in March 1910; the Evening Star reported ‘‘occupants had barely time to escape from the burning building, and as a strong wind was howling the whole place was soon a mass of flames’’.

The fire began at about midnight and by the following day the hotel was completely gutted.

It stood as ruins for many years, and eventually the windows and entrance were bricked in and the remaining stone structure became a woolshed and barn.

Present owner Ian Ramage said he and his family were proud to have the former hotel on their property.

‘‘It was opened by the then governor of New Zealand, Sir George Bowen.’’

The hotel and adjoining dairy were listed as category 2 historic buildings.

‘‘It is nice to have a bit of history.’’

 

Commodious hotel . . . The rear of Cape Broom Hotel in about 1874.
PHOTO: HOCKEN COLLECTIONS