The floorboards creak with stories from yesteryear and while it has undergone numerous name changes since it was built in 1887, the place affectionately known as ‘Robbo Pub’ has been the beating heart of our quaint town for well over a century.
As one of the oldest all timber buildings remaining in NSW it is a custodian of history and, as a watering hole, resting place and social hub, it has shaped and reflected the hard work and dreams and of a resourceful and resilient community.
There are important snippets – and missing pieces – when it comes to the establishment’s rich history, from the first licensee, Moss Vale-born George Schlaadt, to the owner whose friendly dog Winston was often found soaking up the sun in the western bar.
Now known as a destination for discerning diners and an institution for weddings and events, Robertson Public House and Kitchen proudly continues as a spiritual home of the Southern Highlands. One thing that will forever remain is its friendly atmosphere and egalitarian nature – you’re welcome whether you’re sporting muddy boots, or a string of pearls. Just bring a warm smile.
Land is reserved in an area known as “Three Creeks” as part of the Robertson Lands Act, which sees vast stretches of the state opened for settlement. This new village is initially called Yarrawa, but later renamed Robertson in honour of the then NSW Premier, John Robertson.
While 1200 settlers move into the region to clear land, the town itself grows slowly over the next 20 years. A Methodist Church is erected in the late 1860s and a public school starts in 1872.
George Schlaadt opens a general store, while two shoemakers and a wheelwright also start business. A post office is built in 1884 and the School of Arts opens in 1886.
Our George opens the Criterion Hotel – a two-storey inn built of local timber – the remnants of which is today’s historic building. By now the town boasts two hotels, two banks, three stores, five butcher shops, a chemist, baker, bootmaker and three auctioneers.
The Royal Hotel, further down Hoddle Street, is destroyed by fire.
The region’s train line, from Moss Vale to Unanderra, finally opens. Visiting passengers and farmers supplying goods make their way to the inn from the nearby station, which is now a heritage site.
Local farmer Jim Mauger builds the ‘Big Potato’. Measuring 10 x 4 metres and based on the Sebago potato, it’s located opposite our building. Inside it looks like mashed potato… sort of.
The inn changes hands again and becomes known as the County Inn.
The hit film ‘Babe’, which earned seven Academy Award nominations, is filmed at Robertson. In all, 48 piglets are used for filming and, as far as we know, none of them feature on our menu.
The zip line at Illawarra Fly, spanning 247 metres of integrated cable, opens for business.
The Robertson Inn is purchased by a Wollongong/Kiama consortium with hospitality and broader business experience. It is rebranded Robertson Public House and Kitchen, with immediate improvements including covering the deck, resurfacing the car park and renovating accommodation.
The ‘Cockatoo Run’, one of the country’s great historical rail journeys, re-opens and plans regular heritage tourist trips from Sydney to the Southern Highlands, thanks to volunteers from 3801 Ltd.
Primary sources: Berrima District Historical and Family History Society; Robertson Heritage Railway Station; and the book ‘Life Behind the Bar, Inns and Hotels of the Southern Highlands 1824-1924’ by Shylie Brown.