27 February 2011

55 Nelson Place (Willy Tavern), Williamstown, VIC, Australia

Williamstown is a very nice seaside suburb that I visited for the first time recently. It's not the kind of place where I would expect to find old, rundown buildings - quite the opposite. Nelson Place is home to many interesting restaurants and eclectic shops selling tasteful (but useless) wares for housewives with a bit too much money. So imagine my surprise and excitement when I came across this wreck of an old tavern!
As seen from the corner of Ann Street and Nelson Place.
I can't really work out why this place came to be abandoned. The surrounding streets are full of lovely houses, and I'm sure the residents would love to pop down for a drink at the Willy (teehee) at the end of a long day. In addition to that, I'm sure it would get a fair amount of patronage from all the tourists wanting a cold beer after a hot day at the beach. Yet here it stands looking like it will fall down at the faintest gust of wind. I haven't been able to find out when this place was closed. At a guess I would estimate that it closed in about 1972, but this article from 1992 indicates that it was still in operation then. Also, what a surprise - the Willy Tavern was partly owned by a Collingwood player with a love of topless barmaids! Sounds like it was a pretty classy joint back in the day. The tavern was also used in the filming of the TV series Blue Heelers, in which it was used as the Commercial Hotel.

Graffiti, cracks, broken drainpipe and decrepit balcony.
It may come as a surprise to learn that this building is actually heritage listed. Now I don't know about you, but when I think of heritage listed buildings, I imagine them being cared for and preserved. This is most decidedly NOT that case for the Willy Tavern! Some of the cracks in the exterior walls are terrifying, and all I can say is that I'm glad Victoria isn't prone to earthquakes. The interior of the tavern seems to have been quite heavily vandalised - graffiti is visible through the broken windows on the upper floors, and the windows and doors on the lower floors have been covered in heavy corrugated iron sheets. Those vandals must have been fucking brave - I wouldn't even set foot on that rusty old balcony, let alone go inside and risk the whole thing collapsing on me! Seriously, I'm sure that someone could at least make a quick buck off the Willy Tavern by setting up some kind of Blue Heelers themed bar.

Interestingly enough, I found some photos of the tavern from 2007 and 2008, in which it looks a little less dingy - the windows haven't yet been smashed to bits and the corrugated iron hasn't been put up over the lower doors and windows. This place clearly just hasn't aged well at all. I imagine that towards the end it may have been losing lots of money, so they probably couldn't afford to maintain the hotel's exterior even then. It amuses me that the gaudy neon sign is still intact, though a little worse for wear. Still, even when it was in use, I'm pretty sure that "beer" never resembled anything other than the sludge at the bottom of the Moonee Ponds Creek.

One of many gigantic exterior cracks.
It's sad that a heritage listed building has been allowed to simply rot away like this. Perhaps that's what they're aiming for though - just heritage list it and ignore it, wait for it to fall down and then sell the land off at ridiculously inflated prices so that some "architect" can erect another mushroom-coloured shitbox to ruin the town. I guess they're just waiting for the next big storm to hit Victoria. Until then, though, I'm sure the Willy Tavern will continue to decay, attract vandals and cause complaints from the local residents. Maybe next time we visit Williamstown, we'll be able to show you some photos from inside - it seems that the back wall of the tavern isn't far from just falling off. I really would love to see what it's like inside, but as I mentioned before, I'd be afraid to even tread too heavily nearby in case I brought the whole thing crashing down. Still, the Willy Tavern can now claim the dubious honour of holding our second-ever Cellar Floor rating! Now there's something to be, uh, proud of.

Rating: Cellar floor


  1. If/when I come to Melbourne, guess where we're going drinking!

  2. As far I know the pub was shut down due to a health inspection in the kitchen, the found cockroaches etc ad was shut Down in the 1980"s.... And the owner was a knob!