Built around 1888, the Coffee Palace & Railway Restaurant on Rail Street provided boarding for Wandong’s seasoning and timber mill workers as well as accommodation and home cooked meals to visiting dignitaries and politicians. Located opposite the Traveller’s Rest Hotel, the Coffee Palace was created during the Temperance movement providing alternative refreshments for those wishing to avoid the demon drink. The Coffee Palace played an important role in the development of the township and remained so for many decades before reverting to a general residence. Consisting of 14-16 rooms, the Palace was dismantled in 1913 with two sections of the building being relocated as separate houses while the remaining structure was converted into a Bakery.
Earliest records show that Augustus Hall managed the Coffee Palace in 1892 on behalf of owner Robert Robertson. The Palace had four managers over an eight-year period (Hall, Arnold Nestler, Thomas Connelly and Ernest Gaskell) before Margaret Sims became Manager following the death of her husband Henry. Henry worked at the nearby Rail depot and was killed when crushed by a timber truck in 1896 leaving Margaret to care for their three sons. The opportunity to manage the Coffee Palace provided Margaret with a much-needed income which she managed until 1910 when she sold the property to Alexander Simpson who established the town’s first bakery.
We can only guess as to daily life of the Coffee Palace although using some of the discarded fragments of domestic rubbish we can catch a glimpse of the type of tableware that was used. A ceramic fragment with the trademark Hampden shows that at one stage a beautiful Hampden earthenware pitcher dated to around 1886 possibly grace the tables of the Coffee Palace, while a broken doll’s head highlights the types of toys the children living at the house once had to play with. We have much to learn about the daily lives of the people who lived and worked at Wandong.