October 1, 1924: Disaster struck the Punt Hotel at Darlington Point when fire destroyed the single-storey timber building, leaving nothing standing but the brick chimneys. The licensee, James Warby was absent at the time.
The alarm had been raised in the early hours of morning by a neighbouring resident, who alerted the barman sleeping on the premises. The fire was believed to have started in the billiard room. The photograph seen here was taken soon after the incident and gives an indication of the substantial size of the building, judging by the number of chimneys.
First licensed in 1870, the hotel was originally named the Riverine, and was only one of several licensed premises around the new settlement. The first licensee was Edward Grimley who built his establishment on a land grant of 40 acres (a little over 16 hectares) on the southern side of the Murrumbidgee River in 1869.
The hotel was renamed the Punt in 1881, taking its name from the punt that operated at the river crossing nearby. By then, Grimley’s land plus additional acreage had been acquired by pastoralist John Sutcliffe Horsfall, owner of Kerarbury Station, Momalong and several other properties. Horsfall proceeded to have streets laid out and the land subdivided to create what was then termed a ‘private village’ or, in today’s terms, a development. The hotel was given a prominent position at the intersection of the two main thoroughfares, Carrington Street and Punt Road.
By 1885 the Punt was the only hotel that remained in the Darlington Point area. Subsequent licensees up to 1900 included Gordon Demamiel, Bernard Collins, Stanislaus Demamiel, James Slattery, Deborah Simpson and Samuel Barnes. The name Demamiel is one still prominent in the local community.
Following the fire the hotel was rebuilt in 1925 as the double-storey brick building seen today. The builders were New Zealand-born brothers Herbert and Rudolph Muller, known as “Bert” and “Roo”, and the bricks were possibly locally produced, from a kiln that operated in Darlington Point at that time.
Incidentally, the local brick kiln quite probably supplied the materials for several other prominent buildings constructed in that period: Shire Hall (1922), St Paul’s Anglican church and the Catholic church of St Oliver Plunkett (both 1925), and the Presbyterian Manse (1926), but this is yet to be confirmed.
The young tree seen in the photograph somehow escaped being harmed by the blaze, and can be seen in later photographs as a well-grown specimen. Long-time residents recall it having survived until being cut down after World War II, possibly to enable widening of the road.