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The First Lessees

The finest host and hostess of the time

By Robert and John Beaton

On Wednesday 30 October 1935, the residential hotel license of Hotel Canberra was transferred from the Commonwealth government to our grandparents, Mr Charles James Beaton and Mrs Kathleen Beaton. 

The transfer of the hotel to its first private lessees no doubt came as a relief to the Government, having entailed losses totaling 150,000 pounds in its 10 years of operation. The hotel received nine submissions to its public tender, with our grandparents the successful applicants.

Experienced hoteliers and a formidable team, Charles and Kathleen no doubt embraced the challenges Hotel Canberra presented and quickly embedded themselves in the political landscape of Canberra, which centered around the hotel. Without Hotel Canberra, there was no Capital.

During the six years they presided over the hotel, they hosted many distinguished visitors to the Capital. 

Their reputation in the hotelier industry was exemplary. They both had a good head for business and ran a tight ship. The commissariat section head who oversaw their bid submission noted: Mrs Beaton impressed me as a fine type of woman indeed. I should say that she has the business head, and that she is the dominating factor in the control of Hotel Ryan (the establishment they ran in Lismore).

Mr Charles James Beaton and Mrs Kathleen Beaton

In November 1941 they ended their lease agreement with the hotel to return to the Commercial Hotel Gloucester, an establishment they purchased in 1926.  

One hundred citizens gathered at the Royal Golf Club Canberra to bid them farewell, with former prime minister James Scullin presenting our grandmother with a gold wristlet watch and a wallet of notes, and gold engraved sleeve links to our grandfather. Mr Scullin said that he and other members of Parliament had enjoyed a long association with their guests at Hotel Canberra and hoped they would spend many happy years in their new home in Gloucester.

For 41 years Charles and Kathleen oversaw and ran hotels across Australia. From the Great Northern Hotel in South Grafton, to the Royal Hotel in Yass, the Commercial Hotel in Gloucester, the Ryan Hotel in Lismore, Hotel Canberra and then back to the Commercial Hotel where they saw out their remaining hotelier days before retiring to Randwick, Sydney. They always took an active role and interest in the community and were remembered fondly as a very fine host and hostess in the hotels they conducted.