The story of the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth begins less than a kilometre to the west of where the hotel stands today.
Some time before 1823, the government constructed three two-storey houses on Charlotte Place in central Sydney. Two of these would go on to become part of the Wentworth Hotel.
For the next three decades, these buildings would play a key role in the life of the colony, housing its first independent newspaper, The Australian; its first post-secondary college; and the office of the Colonial Treasury.
However, by the 1850s the prestige of the houses on Charlotte Place had fallen considerably and boarding houses occupied two of the buildings.
One of these was operated by a Miss Onge, who first began using the name Wentworth House in 1855.
Mrs Mary Hayes purchased the hotel in 1882, renaming it the Wentworth House Family Hotel. The hotel’s early life came to an abrupt halt when the building burned to the ground in 1888. When Mrs Hayes began construction on a new building on the site, she was laying the foundations for what would become Sydney’s grandest hotel. The rebuilt 32-bedroom Wentworth Hotel opened in 1890.
In 1903 Mrs Hannah Maclurcan stepped through the doors of the Wentworth and ushered in a new era for the hotel. In 1912 Mrs Maclurcan added two floors and 51 new bedrooms to the property. Eight years later, she opened the Wentworth Ballroom, a sumptuous Georgian-style space that could hold a thousand people. It quickly became the place for Sydney society, hosting balls, weddings, luncheons, and visiting members of the royal family.
When Mrs Maclurcan passed away in 1936, her son Charles took the reins. The following year he integrated a second of the terrace houses into the hotel and added three floors to it, giving the hotel an extra 50 bedrooms with bathrooms. The modern Wentworth Hotel had begun to take shape.