Gallery meets hotel inside Hobart’s old IXL jam factory

Love a warehouse conversion? Planning a visit to the Apple Isle? Well, a stay at the former IXL factory, artfully reimagined by award-winning architect Robert Morris-Nunn, might be your jam. 

Pun intended.

The industrial heritage warehouse on Hobart’s Wharf was once the city’s largest private employer pumping out 2 million tins of jam per season. Jam making started on the site, which was first built in the 1820s, from about 1859. Employees were convicts and children of convicts – and to the state’s residents the factory represented hope and new beginnings.

Today, about 55% of the footprint of the former factory is the Henry Jones Art Hotel, and with Morris-Nunn’s vision the rich backstory truly inhabits its walls. Dark, shiny jam stains seep through the floorboards and on a hot day, decades on, you can still smell the sweetness of stewing fruit and sugar.

And those new beginnings sought out by the factory’s first employees? Their spirit lives on through gallery walls adorning the halls filled with art strictly from Tasmania’s emerging artists.

Henry Jones Art Hotel from the front.

The front of the old wharf warehouse is largely unchanged.

If these walls could talk

The hotel’s history liaison Greg Ball, who conducts daily onsite historical tours, says the art acts as a storytelling medium, from colonial times to today.

Once the site of the state’s largest employer, the building has been so integral to the fabric of the state, to the point where all Tasmanians know its history. The art continues the narrative of place inside those recognised walls, engaging with Tasmania’s past and what it is becoming. 

History liaison Greg Ball conducts hotel tours daily.

The Henry Jones Art Prize, in its second year, will see one local artist awarded $20,000 for a new work.

“It reflects the early days of the jam factory – that opportunity for getting a fresh start,” Greg explains.

Synthesis of old and new

But best of all, the handsome warehouse clings to its heritage through a tactful and tasteful conversion, one in which architect Morris-Nunn was careful to delineate between the original and contemporary structures.

Glass atrium at Henry Jones Art Hotel

A modern glass atrium serves as an ‘outdoor’ space for both guests and locals alike.

The building itself is one of the oldest sandstone warehouses found anywhere in the country – so there was a conscious effort to design around it, not over the top of it.

“If it looks real, it is,” Greg says. “The steel frameworks of the factory remain, the sandstone walls are still very much intact, but every room has a contemporary-style bathroom.

“It’s about integrating elements of both, but then introducing the functionality that is required for the best hotel in Hobart.”

Henry Jones Art Hotel - hallway

A dark timber lobby makes for a dramatic entry.

Rather than go down the restoration path, Morris-Nunn and his designers were careful to retain as much of the building as possible in its completely original state, flaws and all.

“There’s splintered timber where jam has oozed out, there are sections of the building inflicted with scorch marks. Rather than repair the damage, the design actually highlights it,” he says. “Nothing’s been positioned for effect.”

A direct result of this approach? Of the 56 rooms in the hotel, no two rooms are the same. They’ve all been custom-designed to suit their position within the old factory.

Henry Jones Art Hotel - spa room with harbour view

Some rooms feature vaulted ceilings with the factory’s original timber beams.

Counter to the notion of hotels with perfectly replicated rooms, a stay at Henry Jones invites a new surprise and experience with each and every stay.

It’s a lesson in respectful design, with contemporary artworks offering the perfect contrast to century-old sandstone – and nods to its sweet past at every turn.

“Mostly red has been used in the interiors, the colour of jam. Traces of jam literally bleed out of the building. Organically, it’s still part of the heritage. After 100 years of steam-powered jam-making, many guests still swear they can smell it,” Greg says.

“IXL no longer has any connection with Hobart, but we retain the essence of that link.”

Henry Jones Art Hotel - room details

Hand-cut sandstone walls are an intriguing historic feature.

A one night stay at Henry Jones Art Hotel ranges from $280 per night to $1,020 per night, room rates fluctuate subject to season. realestate.com.au stayed in the Deluxe Spa Harbour View Room.