Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover is addressed to C. Th. Moens, Beverwijk, Holland and the receiver has incorrectly added that it was received on 13 Jan. 13. Postage was paid by the green ‘HALF PENCE’ QV stamp and a pair of the red 1d. ‘Shield’ stamps of New South Wales. The stamps are postmarked with two EPPING/ 13 DE 11/ N.S.W (a suburb of Sydney) (Figure 1).

The reverse has a printed red PFAHLERT’S HOTEL/ SYDNEY on the flap and there is a reception postmark of BEVERWIJK/ 13. 1. 12 2-3N/ 3, as well as 2 boxed handstamps applied in Holland (Figure 2).

The first advertisement for Pfahlert’s Hotel was found in The Sydney Morning Herald on 28 February 1874 on page 8, which described that the hotel was still under renovation, with the prospect of being open for business the next month. The next advertisements for Pfahlert’s Hotel appeared in July 1874 and surprisingly it was seen in a New South Wales country centre in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser on 25 July, 1874, page 4.

The listing was as follows: PFAHLERT’S FAMILY HOTEL (late Cohen’s) Wynyard Square, Sydney – The above Hotel, having undergone a thorough renovation , and furnished throughout in Messrs. Farmer and Company’s best style, is now replete with every comfort for the accommodation of families and visitors. Inspection is invited. – CHARLES PFAHLERT, late of the Merchants’ Dining Hall, Sydney Exchange, and Head Waiter at Royal Hotel, Sydney, for twelve years, Proprietor (Figure 3).

The Hotel in the Central Business Area of Sydney became popular for meetings and the cover probably attests to the fact that it became a desirable hotel for overseas’ visitors. One could hardly miss the signage of Pfahlert’s Hotel (Figure 4).

In the 1930’s there were indications of trouble for the hotel for The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 September 1930 concerning the removal of its licence, and the Pfahlert’s Hotel licensee was described as William Mathias Wesphal, with no mention of Charles Pfahlert. This notice was preceded by a surprising column in The Sydney Morning Herald on 13 August 1930, headlined as PFAHLERT’S HOTEL. To be Demolished. “Another interesting landmark will disappear shortly with the demolition of Pfahlert’s Hotel, which has stood at the corner of Carrington and Margaret Streets, in Wynyard Square, since the early seventies. Caught by the wave of inexorable progress, which sweeps emblems of the past away like driftwood, the popular old hostelry will make way for a tall modern building”.

“Established about 1875 by Mr. C. Pfahlert the hotel quickly gained a reputation for the high standard of its comfort and entertainment – a reputation which was maintained for 50 years by a succession of hosts….In 1879 the hotel was in the hands of Mr. T. Curran who set himself out to attract tourists. He issued a special guide to Sydney for the benefit of his guests…. In addition he tabulated all omnibus, cab, hackney-carriage, and steamboat fares in detail…Some years later, Pfahlert’s was taken over by Mrs. Lichtscheindl, and it was during her term as owner and hostess that the hotel became the favourite haunt of theatrical people…Many public functions have been held at the hotel, and many notable citizens stayed there from time to time….On several occasions the hotel was sold and resold. In 1924 it was acquired by a buyer who intended to erect a palatial substitute for the original building, but the project did not take shape. It was resold in 1928 to the British Imperial Oil Company for £103,500, a figure which strikingly indicates the sharp advance of real property values in Wynyard Square.”

There are 2 additional surprising features, one about the hotel and the other about Charles Pfahlert himself. There is uncertainty about when Pfahlert’s Hotel was demolished for there is a photo in The Sydney Morning Herald on 5 March 1954, page 7 which shows the main lounge of the Pfahlert’s hotel with several musicians on the upper level (Figure 5).

After an exhaustive research for basic biographical data on Charles Pfahlert, I have come up with no additional information, and I have contacted the State Library of N.S.W. to obtain additional information on the Hotel and Charles Pfahlert.

Addendum (July 2010):  The librarian N.S.W.State  Librarian, Julie Short has provided the following information:  In the S.M.H. February 14, 1973, Donald Darcy Mills, Clerk and licensed publican, the licensee of Pfahlerts Hotel , 50 Margaret Street, Sydney, applied for the publican’s licence to be transferred to premises in the basement of 50-58 Hunter St., Sydney.

Charles Pfahlert married Sarah (date not known) and they had 5 children:  Charles K., William C., Alice S., Cecilia A. and Henry William Pfahlert.  Cecilia married a Paul Surmann. Charles senior died at the age of 50 on 12 December 1884 at Paddington, and his wife Sarah Pfahlert died on 10 July 1894.  In the 1886 Sands Directory,  Sarah was listed as living in Glenview Street, Paddington.  I was provided with many listings, which required my personal follow-up, but there was no obituary located for Charles Pfahlert.

Addendum (March 2011):  Totally “out of the blue” I received a remarkably long email documenting the family history of Heinrich Friedrich Karl Pfahlert (known as Charles in Australia) who was born/baptised on 19 August 1835 in Lichtenhagen near Goettingen, Germany, from a relative in Germany.  The sender from Germany, Anja Herbstritt was related  directly to Charles’ wife, Sarah Kimber who was born/baptised in Farnham, Surrey, England on 26 October 1834, the oldest of 10 siblings, her father was a carpenter.

Charles Pfahlert was the son of a master carpenter, and Charles and his brother Ernst Heinrich August Pfahlert emigrated separately to Australia, Charles  in 1858,   Charles came by the German ship, ‘Armin’ , which brought German emigrants to Australia.  His future wife, Sarah had already been married in London to a clerk, and she left for Sydney with her husband and daughter on the ‘Nimrod’, but their 9 months daughter died during the journey.  Sarah and her husband, John arrived in Botany Bay, Sydney in April 1859, and her husband died in May 1859.  Charles Pfahlert and Sarah must have met in Sydney and they married in November 1863, and they lived at 3 Bridge Street, Sydney where Charles had a boarding house. They had 5 children of which only 2, Charles Kimber Pfahlert (1864-84) and Cecilia Alice Pfahlert (1872-1950) achieved adulthood.  Cecilia Alice was my correspondent Anja’s great grandmother.

The year 1884 was a terrible year for Sarah with the deaths of her son Charles Kimber Pfahlert on 29 March and her husband Charles on 12 December, and they were both buried in the Waverley (Sydney) Cemetery both in the same grave (Family site no. 1050-51).  At that time they had been living at Glenview Street, Lisgar Terrace, Paddington (Sydney).   Sarah sold everything in October 1885, and she and her daughter Cecilia Alice went back to Farnham, England.  But they soon returned to Sydney,  for Cecilia was home sick for Sydney, and they then lived at 322 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney.  Cecilia married Paul Surmann, a son of the German father who owned a lace manufaturing multinational firm with a branch in Sydney.

Charles had donated a lot of money for the erection of the German Lutheran Church in Goulburn Street, and he was one of the founders of the German Club in Sydney.  After Sarah died in July 1894, Cecilia and Paul married in that very church in 1895, and they and their 2 daughters subsequently settled in Dresden, Germany.  On a business trip to Australia, he had sunstroke in Colombo, was hospitalised in Sydney, but died during his return to Germany aboard the ship ‘Karlsruhe’.  Cecilia continued to live with her daughters in Dresden, and with the intense bombing of that town she fled to Leipzig, where she died on 25 March, 1950.

Subsequently Anja’s husband sent me some fine scans of the family, and details about the family grave site at the Waverley Cemetery.  This account of the family is a greatly reduced rendition of a remarkable email, for which I am very grateful.

I append a copy of the scans of Charles and Sarah Kimber Pfahlert (Figures 6 & 7)

 Addendum (July 2011):  A cover on Ebay was addressed to Mr. John A. Porter of Lonsdale St. Melbourne who was a prothonotary at the Supreme Court in Melbourne,  It was dated September 15, 1881 and  the reverse’s flap had a red double oval which was printed with PFAHLERT’S FAMILY HOTEL/ T. CURRAN/ PROPRIETOR/ SYDNEY.  In the main body of this paper I wrote “in 1879 the hotel was in the hands of Mr. T. Curran” so this is confirmed by the present cover (Figure 8).