The Henry Jones Art Hotel: Celebrate History, Art and Even Homelessness
The term "gibetting" doesn't often come up in hotel tours, but it did almost immediately at the Henry Jones Art Hotel, in Hobart, Tasmania.
The hotel is located right on the city's gentrified harbor and in the oldest part of this city -- the place where where convicts would land starting in 1804, the earliest days of Australia. Let's just say it wasn't a place for coddling, so as a warning to convicts who might be tempted to behave badly, the bodies of the executed who'd already behaved badly were hung from a gallows-like structure and allowed to rot right where new arrivals couldn't miss it.
Which happens to be right outside today's hotel, explained Warren Glover, the hotel historian. (Hotel history tours are free whether you're a guest or not, and Glover's an excellent storyteller.) He'd taken me outside to explain the area's history, and as I looked at the spot where the nasty business was once undertaken, a wedding party streamed around outside, taking advantage a sunny and crisp March day.
So yes, things have changed quite a bit in the past two centuries.
The hotel opened in 2004, on the site of a jam factory which was once the biggest employer in Hobart. The jam factory closed in the 1970s, and in the intervening decades, it became something of a homeless squat. When architects Morris-Nunn and associates were transforming the space into a hotel, they not only kept original architectural details -- the structure dates to 1825 -- but they also preserved some of the more decorative damage done by the building's unofficial residents. A fire started accidentally by a squatter left a pretty pattern on the ceiling in one of the hallway's, for instance. But the art you'll find here is far more than just architectural.
As far as the rooms go, there are 50, and given that the building had been designed to accommodate offices, jam production, refrigeration, and even some living quarters, the rooms are for the most part all different. (There are six new artist studio lofts that are modern, contemporary and also identical.) The rooms are all comfortable, but the top rooms to book are the Peacock Terrace, which has the oldest spiral staircase in Tasmania, and the Henry Jones Suite. Both have a rack rate of $950 Australian.
If you're noise-sensitive, try to avoid rooms that are near to the Jones & Co room, on the far left of the hotel as you face it from the harbor. It's a popular event space, and you'll certainly hear revelry if you happen to be booked in when a party's going on. However, both the Peacock Terrace and the Henry Jones Suite are on the other end of the hotel.
My trip was sponsored by Tourism Tasmania and Tourism Australia. Upon reflection, I'm sure they'd rather I'd just leave talk of rotting corpses out of it, but hey, that's what I wanted to write, and I never hesitate to write what I want. Opinions are 100% my own.