The luxurious Hotel Metropole was built at the intersection of Young, Bent and Philip Street, Sydney, opening on January 14 1890.

The following image appeared in the Sydney Mail on January 18;

Artist's impression of the new Hotel Metropole.

Along with mosaic tiled floors in the entrance areas and lavish stained glass windows, the building boasted a roof promenade from which guests could take in views from the Heads almost to Parramatta. There were 260 guest rooms, several dining rooms, sumptuous furnishings and electric lighting.

Rudyard Kipling spent two nights at the hotel during an Australian visit in 1891. He was impressed that the city was thriving as the stain of the convict era faded, but the sight of citizens enjoying the harbour was his strongest impression; ‘I also went to Sydney, which was populated by leisured multitudes all in their shirt-sleeves and all picnicking all the day.‘ The ever busy Kipling didn’t really approve, and felt the residents were wasting their time.

When the equally prolific author Jack London was a guest at The Metropole in 1917 the night shift at the hotel earned his displeasure. He commented that it was managed by Barbarians, because when the light bulb failed in his room he was refused a candle and was unable to continue writing.


In 1929 there was a major renovation. It cemented the hotel’s place as one of Sydney’s finest, but was marred by a scaffolding collapse in which two workmen were killed and others seriously injured.

The renovated Hotel Metropole.

Advertisement from Freeman’s Journal, October 21 1932;

ADVERTISEMENT FROM 1947 (Source – Pinterest)

By their very nature, expensive hotels become the scene of dramas. They attract both the wealthy and the criminal classes. Over the years the Metropole was scene of murder, assaults, suicides, robberies….and accusations of adultery.

Advertisement for the Hotel Metropole

But during a single week the headlines and newspaper copy generated threatened to ruin the hotel’s reputation.


In 1954 there was an extraordinary series of fatal accidents (well presumed accidents).

The first was retired grazier Walter James Keegan. On Sunday March 15, the 73 year old fell down the lift well from the fifth floor;

Police were told that Mr Keegan had been in ill-health for several years. About 3.00am today hotel residents heard cries from Keegan’s room. The door of his room was locked, but later a relative gained entry and found Keegan suffering from a nightmare. Shortly after 4.00am a porter heard a crash and called police, who found Keegan’s body at the bottom of the lift well. (The Age, Monday, March 15 1954)

On the following Thursday, 74 year old Hugh Morpett Wragge suffered a similar fate. He had recently arrived in Sydney from Gunnedah for medical treatment and was accompanied by his daughter and son-in-law. His body was found by police while they were patrolling near the Mitchell Library at about 3.45am.

The Sergeant who discovered the body later inspected Mr Wragge’s room. He noted that the window was open, but a venetian bind had been lowered to within a foot of the sill, ‘Dust had been scored from the sloping stone sill outside the window in two marks. The dust had corresponded with dust on Wragge’s hands.’

Evidence was given that the floor in front of the room’s low window was highly polished. Police considered that the victim had slipped while opening it, even though 3.45am seems an odd time to be opening the window

Image after a fall from the Hotel Metropole.

Almost unbelievably, on March 21 1954. Charles Holfeldt Houn, a retired grazier, also fell to his death, and also from the 5th floor. He had resided at the Metropole for 29 years. Police Sergeant Andew Mair said that the window in Mr Houn’s room was only 2 feet 4 inches from the floor, and again it was noted that the linoleum was highly polished and slippery. The dead man’s nephew, a Blackheath solicitor, gave evidence at the inquiry that his uncle was very short sighted. In view of these facts the coroner recorded a finding of accidental death.

It should be kept in mind that Mr Houn would have known two people had already died by falling from the hotel that week, one through a window. We will never know whether he was dreadfully careless, unlucky, or whether his death was a deliberate, copycat act.

On June 30 the city Coroner Mr McNamara, while handing down his verdict in the case of Charles Houn, said;

City buildings with low set windows should have them properly protected’. (Canberra Times)

Were such protections legislated? Probably not. The men who died were grieved by friends and loved ones, but elderly, vulnerable males did not stir emotions as younger or female victims would have done. If the Hotel Metropole replaced their polished linoleum or barred the windows, it was no doubt to counter what must have been a public relations nightmare.

The hotel closed in 1969 and was demolished shortly afterwards. From the Canberra Times, 1970;

For the coverage of a 1907 inquest relating to the hotel, CLICK HERE

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.