The original George Hotel was called the George Inn, and was one of the first hotels in Ballarat, being the second to be officially licensed. The first to be licensed was Bath's Hotel (proprietor Thomas Bath), and called the Ballarat Inn, but now known as Craig's Hotel.
The George Hotel played a part in the Eureka Affair. It was built by George Howe and Francis Herring who “jumped” a claim of Oddie’s and proceeded to take 37 Ibs weight of gold out of the ground.
The George Inn was situated opposite the police camp in Lydiard Street and stood atop a green grassy mound looking east across the Government Camp and towards the Gravel Pit diggings.It was a wooden two story structure with a first floor balcony. The upper flow had six windows divided by four raised flat columns into three bays reminiscent of English regency styling as seen on many early Colonial buildings. Eight supporting columns contained crossed timber infills at balcony level. Below the balcony the columns appear to be a flat open design and the three bays on the northern end between the columns were inbuilt with a central entrance and window either side. A large two storey section with a top clerestory was at the rear. A small single story hip roofed verandah residence style structure stood on either side.
Early Ballarat historian Nathan Spielvogel speaks about the first George hotel structure a century ago when the licensee of the then George Inn was Charles Forster and the big balcony was decorated with tree ferns. Charles' wife Eliza Forster was said to have been involved in the stirring times of Eureka. The George was also patronised by the more fashionable members of the mining community. The arrival of rail transport to Ballarat in 1862 had a dramatic effect on Lydiard Street.
The first building stood until the 1880s. At a meeting of the Ballarat Agricultural & Pastoral Society at The George Hotel on 14 June 1856, arrangements were made for the first ploughing competition and on 22 May 1873, the Ballarat Coursing Club was formed there. For many years aspirants for Parliamentary honours addressed open air meetings from the George balcony to the crowded assemblages on the roadway below. In latter years during Ballarat's Heritage Weekend,the strains of bands and music can be heard floating down Lydiard Street, while bands play on the balcony.
The second George hotel was an impressive red brick double storied building. It had paired round verandah columns on the ground floor, whilst the upper storey had flat columns and interspersed railings. The upper floor had embellished window detailing and the building had prominent signage. The third George Hotel, also of brick construction, was erected in 1902 at the end of the Victorian era, with a three storey balcony verandah which is unique in Victoria. The local architects E. & B. Smith designed the new building which was true to style, in that classically with each subsequent story the level of decoration decreases. It was built by J. McGregor and had 30 bedrooms and four bars in the overall total of 75 rooms, which also included four sitting rooms and a billiard room. The ground floor facade and the main entry were decorated with marble and the staircase was of walnut. The overall cost including furnishings was 17 thousand pounds. There have been subsequent alterations to this surviving building.The George Hotel at Ballarat has architectural significance primarily for its three level cast iron veranda, which is unique in Victoria. The hotel and its veranda form an extremely important streetscape element in this part of Lydiard Street, which is the best surviving example in the state of the pre-boom period of provincial city development. The veranda, along with the verandas of the Old Colonists Hall and Alexandria Tea Rooms opposite, imparts a unique character to the streetscape.
- History of Ballarat & Some Ballarat Reminiscences, BHS Publishing, 1998.