Tourism, pubs, history and today's Alice Springs


2558 Lutetia Hotel OKBy RUSSELL GUY
I was reading recently about the historic Lutetia Hotel in Paris (pictured) and how it has undergone renovation to reintroduce it to Four Star clientele.
I like reading about historic hotels as I made a point of staying in a few when I was a globetrotter in another time.
I stayed at The Peninsula, Hong Kong and Claridge’s on the Champs Elysee, eating sardines for days while living in luxurious, tasteful surrounds, but not The Chelsea, New York, plus a few others whose names are lost in the streets of time.
The renovations to the Lutetia, built in 1910, drew comments from the manager who said the goal was to “create a contemporary hotel by enhancing everything that was historic.”
The hotel housed the Nazis when they took Paris in WW2 and “celebrity intellectuals in the 1950s”.
Charles de Gaulle honeymooned there, James Joyce wrote part of Ulyssess, with editing suggestions by Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, the singer, dancer and actor was a regular as were Picasso and Matisse.
The hotel had not lost its soul and this comment brought to mind the destruction of much of the Alice Springs CBD in the 1980s and more recently, when its history went under the bulldozer.
There is a place for history in a savvy mind and a tourist-based economy. This is not lost on those like-minded people who champion the history of Alice Springs and are involved in the conversation that revolves around current projects such as the newly proposed art gallery.
Getting the architecture of a town or city right is paramount to its ongoing prosperity in an increasingly mobile world, not excluding the Grey Nomad domestic putsch, but getting the architecture of alcohol availability is integral to the success of Alice Springs, if it is to embrace the challenges of tourism.
I thought of Albert Namatjira’s Alice Springs history, something which is not just exclusive to Hermannsburg and that reminded me of the rich missionary history of Alice Springs in terms of its various churches. The history of Alice is still being gathered and presented. We can’t afford to lose anymore.
The Hele Crescent Precinct in Alice Springs is an example of what can be done by someone with an eye for history and the diversification of a traditional CBD to a mini-CBD concept, without losing the line of sight to the surrounding ranges, such as has been the case with the new courthouse.
It was recently declared by the Warumungu, that Tennant Creek has 10 alcohol outlets and one supermarket.
The hit that town has taken in terms of tourist appeal of late should be a reminder that Alice Springs needs to get back to preserving what made it an iconic destination in the first place.
That, of course, includes its Arrernte pre-contact history and should impact any ideas that may form part of its future architecture. Tennant Creek is a reminder of how not to do it.


  1. “The goal was to “create a contemporary hotel by enhancing everything that was historic.” The old Alice is gone so then it’s history.
    The majority of attractions have become merchants, taking away trades from the Mall.
    What we have left is the scenery.

  2. What history is left here? PLEASE talk to the visitors and see what their expectations are.
    I do this regularly at the welcome rock south of town and on Anzac Hill, and their views should make the tourism people go under the sand where their heads are buried.
    I have some of the remains of what was once an iconic feature of the old Stuart Arms hotel, re-incarnated as a back yard toilet block, and the old beams from Poppa Luigi’s restaurant are now my window frames.
    That is all that is left of what was once the famous iconic Bull Bar.
    Imagine the uproar should that have happened at Ballarat!
    I hope someone else has the good grace to relocate the Totem theatre, if the ANZAC proposal goes ahead, and the development on the old ASRI site is a disgrace.
    To see what else was possible there see Charles Massey and scientific food production where 70% of the world’s food is now grown, using the current science on less than five acre blocks. He is the man behind the Sundrop venture at Pt Augusta.
    What a great way to attract visitors and investment by displaying what is possible.
    Instead we have a town devoid of character, having made it the same as any other town in the country with the same traffic problems.
    Again people don’t come here to see our housing estates while places like the Aldinga eco village and the Benagerie complete community development at Slippery Creek, illustrate what was the way to go, and what was possible here.
    Why come here?
    Surely not for the shopping. One tourist asked where are the camels we are hearing about?
    Another asked what happened to all the verandas?
    Another asked how the Mac ranges were formed. Yet another had never heard of the East Macs.
    I simply pointed to the wonderful (sic) new supreme court building and sighed.


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