If you planned to head to Townsville to visit our first ever pub, the Criterion Hotel, then you are one day too late. Yesterday was the Cri’s last day of trading before closing down today.
Opening August 1865 by John Melton Black with the wary support of Capt Robert Towns (Townsvilles namesake), the 150 year old Cri was the first public house and unofficial public hall of Townsville. In addition to this, the Cri was also used as an entertainment venue, and a stop on the Cobb & Co coach line. William Ross (who later became mayor of Townsville) was the first landlord of the Cri, before it succumbed to Cyclone Leonta in 1903. It was then rebuilt in 1904 as the pub we know today.
The Criterion Hotel played an important role in Townsville’s history, particularly during the founding of our beautiful town. The Cri was one of the first North Queensland hotels to employ barmaids. Townsville’s first solicitor, J.R. Cowan, commenced his practice in the rooms of the hotel. The Cleveland Bay Express, the company that took over the town’s newspaper, was formed here in 1867; meetings for the first Kennedy elections were held at the Cri. And the formation of the first hospital committee, first gold committee and first Masonic lodge was also here at the Cri.
I hope that someone will buy this beautiful old building and open it up again, it is just too important to the history of Townsville to let go of.