The New Bath Hotel was built in April 1857 as an investment for the local businessman and politician James Stewart Johnston (1811-1896), MLA for St Kilda 1859-64. Johnston was hoping to make money from the site's strategic position, being located opposite the new jetty and Captain Kenny's bathing ship. In addition the new railway line and station with its connection to Melbourne was due to be completed in May that year.
The site was large and when the project was finished featured over 3 acres of pleasure gardens, running behind the building stretching all the way back to Acland Street.
In 1860 the lease was taken over by the proprietor of the Criterion Hotel in Collins Street who renamed it the Criterion. However it never really prospered, probably because its accommodation was considered too basic for the changing times.
In 1864 the solicitor John Duerdin purchased the freehold. Then in 1867, unable to lease the site, he decided to demolish the hotel and subdivide the land. But before he can put any of his plans into action, Duerdin died. Despite the subdivision documents having been prepared, no purchasers could be found for the site and it remained undeveloped for the next seven years.
|1.||Amusements, Argus 1857.04.09 p.8||[Advertisement for Ball and Supper in aid of the St Kilda Athenæum]|
|2.||City of Melbourne Annual Licensing Meeting, Argus 1857.04.30 p.6||Mr. Read supported the application of W. H. Johnston, of the New Bath Hotel, Esplanade, St Kilda. The premises and house were presented as very good, and the license was granted on the condition of the completion of the same.|
|3.||Argus 1858.11.04 p.3||[New Bath Hotel and Pleasure Gardens advertised for 19 year lease]|
|4.||Hotels, Argus 1860.11.21 p.8||[Description of the Criterion Hotel, late New Bath Hotel & its renovated public areas]|
|5.||Argus 1867.06.13 p.2||Tuesday, June 18. Sale of building materials at the Criterion Hotel.|