Our hotel dates back to 1882. The hotel’s construction was made possible by the wholesale subdivision and conversion of what was formerly pastoral lands to housing and industry. Today Surry Hills is a densely settled inner-city village of the Sydney metropolis. But the area’s name comes from the original land grant and farm belonging to the first colonial settler, Joseph Foveaux in 1793. The site that our hotel and the neighbouring buildings now occupy was part of a farming estate to the south of Foveaux’s original farm belonging to Edward Smith Hall. It was established in 1822.
The agricultural beginnings of Surry Hills dramatically disappeared in the second half of the nineteenth century as the area’s built form began to take shape. In order to accommodate Sydney’s burgeoning population, the area was transformed by development and commerce with the construction of the working-class and middle class terrace-row and cottage housing which now typify the area. By the early years of federation this change had reached its completion- meaning the area remains an excellent living example of Victorian and Federation architecture.
Our hotel is one such example of Victorian free classical style. It has however undergone several modifications since its construction- most notably during the 1920’s by the former Tooth and Co brewery in the Inter-war style. Such renovations by the iconic Sydney brewery were commonplace in the inner-city as the enterprise sought to enliven and improve the desirability of local drinking holes in order to boost sales.
Trinity Bar originally traded as ‘Somer’s Hotel’, the first of many titles including ‘Hotel Victoria’, ‘Surry Hills Inn’ and more recently ‘The Elephants Foot’. When the hotel traded as ‘The Elephants Foot’ during the 1990’s it was known for becoming the first pub to introduce a voluntary no smoking policy. We have proudly operated as Trinity Bar since 1998.
Throughout the hotel’s history the neighbourhood has been remade and transformed several times over. After the boom of the late nineteenth century, the area fell into an era of decline as over-crowding, poor sanitation and infrastructure shortages dominated. This continued into the depression era with the area notorious for crime, unscrupulous merchants, bodegas, brothels and prostitution. The area became most infamous for the organised crime warfare between Sydney’s mobsters and razor gangs during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
During this period Sydney was rapidly sprawling outward leaving many inner-city communities suffering a lack of investment. It was a trend that continued for several more decades before Surry Hills and other local areas experienced their renaissance.
In the immediate post-war period the first of Surry Hills’ new residents began to populate the area. The war brought thousands of migrants mostly from Mediterranean Europe to the inner-city. The Greek and Italian communities in particular helped transform Surry Hills; moving en masse into cheap terrace housing and starting business in the economically-depressed area. These communities continue to form an integral part of contemporary Surry Hills and are largely regarded as the vanguard of a movement that reimagined inner-city communities after decades of suburban development.
The arrival of gay residents in the 1970’s accelerated this population trend. During this period the nearby ‘gay ghetto’ of Darlinghurst and the gay movement generally was transforming the villages east of the CBD. The critical mass of this precinct gave the gay community what it had earlier given South-Western European migrants, a home away from home and a locale to call their own.
These demographic changes were simply the beginning. During the late 1970’s and 1980’s artists and musicians, lured by cheap housing and vacant post-industrial warehouse properties began to carve out their mark on the Surry Hills scene. The ensuing creative pulse of the area attracted investment and more residents.
It was the beginning of a gentrified Surry Hills. Gradually the face of the area had begun to change. Today Surry Hills is a melting pot of young professionals, artists, public housing tenants, students, migrants, gays, families and hipsters.
Trinity Bar, as a proud local business is invariably a reflection of all these influences. But more than anything we seek to be the constant in this ever increasingly kaleidoscope of offerings. We believe in a welcoming atmosphere and quality service. We’ve been located at the centre of this vibrant community since 1882 and our shared history informs how we do business every day.