The Henley Hotel was built in 1878 by Mr J. Stewart of Port Adelaide, at which time it was believed that the Henley Jetty would be constructed opposite the site of the hotel. Sadly, for Mr Stewart this didn't happen and the Jetty was built further north some years later.
Mr Stewart foresaw the need for a hotel in the newly developing area of Henley Beach and had the hotel built near the foreshore on the sand dunes - where it stood isolated for many years with its large verandahs overlooking sand dunes and the sea. This exposed site meant the hotel was susceptible to storm damage, and in 1892 a thunderstorm caused the almost complete demolition of a dancing hall at the rear of the Hotel. The end walls were blown out completely, the roof was lifted off and huge sheets of galvanised iron were sent flying onto Military Road.
As one of the first buildings in Henley Beach, the hotel reflects the early development of Henley and Grange as seaside resorts – and it was the focus of many events.
From the 1870s to the mid-1920s the Adelaide Hunt Club often met at the hotel to “wet the whistle” before riding through the surrounding sand hills and paddocks. There were about 40 riders and many more following the hunt along the roads.
In 1923, 'The Advertiser' newspaper reported:
"The 'Adelaide Hounds met at the Henley Beach Hotel this afternoon, ran to Richmond via Glenelg and Cummins and experienced a delightful outing. Floods were responsible for a portion of the run being cut out, as the Master intended to start at Fulham, but a nice run with varying conditions was the result. Before the start we were invited by Mr. McRae at the Hotel to wet our whistle. Mr. McRae has been a keen supporter of the Club for years.”
Lancelot Hurcombe recalls that in the early 1900s:
" I remember father going into the Henley Hotel for a tot and purchasing me a bush biscuit, then he would take me out to the sand hills opposite where he could have a yarn with Billy Lewis or a Crimean War veteran …..”(H&GHS Journal 1982)
From 1911 to 1922 the hotel was named Whallin's Henley Hotel. In 1912 the Whallins built the elegantly designed 2 storey Ozone Tearooms next to the hotel, near where the bottle shop now stands.
The Register newspaper described the new café as having “the most modern design, and presents a pleasing aspect… the eight leadlight windows in both stories can be opened. The first floor is set apart for temperance drinks, sweets, cigars and so on…. “
In 1914 electric lights were added and the surrounding garden became an outdoor lounge with “sunshades”. The name of the tearooms reflected the popular view of the seaside being good for your health because of the higher ozone concentration. Ozone is a different structural assembly of oxygen atoms which causes it to have a "fresh" smell - a principle reason for the building of hospitals and convalescent homes in beachside areas.
As described in the Advertiser Newspaper in 1923 ......
“Everyone should be a patron of the seaside. Here nature is lavish with her gifts and entrancing in all her moves. The intense purity of the atmosphere, filled with health-giving ozone, carried on the wings of ocean breezes make every breath a pleasure.”
In the 1960s and into the 1980s the hotel operated as Harvey's Hotel, so named for the proprietor, Lloyd Harvey.