Road trips without air conditioning, collapsing folding beds, Paddle pop sticks stuffed down the back seat of the car, minor injuries from tripping over a guy rope, variety packs of cereal, sunburn on sunburn, a banana lounge for a bed in an annexe, Chinese restaurants in country town, a room key and a carton of milk.
The Riverfront Motel occupies a special place in Glenorchy’s history.
Launched as the Motel Derwent in 1960, it was designed to cater to passing travellers on the newly opened Brooker Highway, itself built to accommodate the post-war boom in car ownership and expanding suburban development in Glenorchy.
The motel offered 40 self-contained rooms, both ‘budget’ and ‘river view’ (with television), plus a dining room and guest laundry, in a semi-rural setting on the banks of the River Derwent, formerly a large orchard. Neighbours included Claudio Alcorso’s Moorilla property (with houses designed by Roy Grounds), Cadbury’s art deco chocolate factory and housing estate.
In 1961 the then owner added a unique feature: a Googie-style double catenary arch, created to celebrate the 1954 royal visit by Glenorchy businesses, and which had been languishing in a nearby park for several years. Originally sited in Hobart, the Arch has become a much-loved Glenorchy icon, though now in need of renovation. The Glenorchy council and motel owners have commenced a campaign to restore the arch, which will be formally launched in November 2019 (glenorchyarch.org)
Major extensions to the dining room were completed in 1970, with a bar, function space, dance floor, and an additional story added. As a result, the newly named ‘Highway Village Motel’ became a popular venue for community events, with wedding receptions, school leavers dinners and fund-raising events through the 1970s and 80s.
The Beck family purchased the motel in 2003, renaming it Riverfront Motel and are undertaking a gradual program of refurbishment with the help of local designers. Neighbouring properties have been acquired, including villa style accommodation, an Edwardian mansion and the next door mid-century house, the latter used only by its elderly previous owner for her weekly bridge parties.
The Riverfront’s future looks bright with renewed appeal in the expansive waterfront location, and the Becks seeking to restore and showcase some of the motel’s mid-century features, including the Arch, catering to visitors to nearby Mona, and continuing to nurture its relationship with the Glenorchy community