1852: Royal Hotel built in Levuka

Levuka’s main hotel, the Royal, was established in 1852, and although destroyed by fire in the 1890s, Captain David Robbie rebuilt it in 1913. “By the 1860s, ship’s masters, plantation owners, even the notorious blackbirder, Bully Hayes, frequented the Royal.

Owner of the Royal: Earliest owners of the Hotel were sea captains Volk and Robbie. Captain Robbie played an important role in the Royal’s history and the town of Levuka. He purchased the hotel from Captain Volk as a base for his tea export business. Here he built a storage shed, for tea that was bought over from his plantation on Vanua Levu for export to the markets of Europe. The building still stands on the hotel grounds to this day, though is now used for accommodation. During his ownership, a fire razed the building, Robbie rebuilt the hotel. He was also instrumental in having the Levuka Town Hall built.

Next owner was Captain Kaad: “Captain Kaad, a Danish copra merchant who was the present owner, Mrs Dorothy Ashley’s grand father and business partner to Captain Robbie, followed them. The hotel was then sold to Morris Hedstrom and Co.

Dorothy and Eddie Ashley buy hotel:
” In 1940, the Ashley’s Eddie and Dorothy took the reins from Eddie’s father, who was running the establishment for Morris Hedstrom. Dorothy was just 21 yrs old. Dorothy and Eddie eventually purchased the hotel, and with the passing of her husband in 1978, she continued on, determined to keep their dream alive, which she did up until her death , May 5th 2004.
More at: http://www.royallevuka.com

More information at: The Fiji Oral History Project Part 1:Part-Europeans and Europeans.This oral history audio media project, called the Fiji Oral History Project Part 1: Part-Europeans and Europeans, comprises 28 taped interviews with 26 senior members of these communities living in Fiji and Australia. The interviews were conducted from 1998 to 1999. They trace the history of a number of Part-European and European families in Fiji through the 19th and 20th centuries, beginning with the first arrival of their European ancestors. The project has been conducted by Ms Marsali Mackinnon. The USP Library and the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (within the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University) formally present a copy of the collection to the USP Library in December 2002.Copies of the collection are available on CD and also with the Yale University Library, the Melanesia Resource center at the University of California San Diego, the Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii, the University of Auckland Library, the Turnbull Library, the Mitchell Library, the National Library of Australia and the Australian National University Library. A set of the CDs will also be lodged with the Fiji Museum, an original partner in the project.

Public Access to the Collection open: All public access to the collection, in both Australian and overseas archives, was embargoed for 4 years (from April 2001 to January 2005).
Those interviewed comprised:
• Selected members of Fiji’s Part-European and European community aged 60 and above, particularly those still living in Fiji. In addition, there were three other interviewees – the Tui Levuka, Mr Henry Sahai of Levuka, and Mr Bill (WWA) Miller, a retired District Officer with the former British colonial administration. Interviews were conducted in Suva and district (including with residents of Suva’s Pearce Home for the Elderly); Levuka (Ovalau); Savu Savu (Vanua Levu); the Korolevu area of Viti Levu’s “Coral Coast”; and Lautoka. Interviews were also conducted in Australia and New Zealand.
In chronological order of interview, the participants are:
• Lady Moira Hedstrom (nee Deitrich)
• The late Hubert “Jumbo” Sabben
• Mr Bill (W.W.A) Miller
• Mrs Dorothy Walker (Order of Fiji)
• Mrs Maureen Southwick (nee Storck)
• Mr Henry Sahai
• The Tui Levuka
• Mr George Gibson
• Mr William Moses
• The late Mrs Dora Patterson
• The late Captain Fred Vollmer
• Mrs Nicky Yoshida (nee Ashley)
• Mrs Bertha Wendt
• Ms Alice Mahabir
• Sir Len Usher
• The late George Mitchell “Pa” Hazelman
• Mr Thomas Fenton
• Mrs Jess Jackson (nee Hibbs)
• Mrs Betty Simpson (nee Ashley)
• Mrs Lema Low (nee Price)
• Mr Rodney Acraman
• Mr Daryl Tarte
• Mrs Judy Zundel (nee Ferrier-Watson)
• The late Sir David Ragg
• Mr Don Burness
• The Hon. the late Mr Bill Clark (Order of Fiji).
“Intangible Heritage” resource

Video interviews: The Museum video-taped two of the Levuka interviews – with the Tui Levuka, and with long-time local resident Mr Henry Sahai. The oral histories collected in Levuka were designed to provide an “intangible heritage” resource to support an application by Fiji to the World Heritage Committee for Levuka/ the Island of Ovalau to be declared a World Heritage Site.

http://rspas.anu.edu.au/pambu/newsletters/Pambu15November2002.html

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