Built on the site of the First Fleet Surgeon's house (1790-1816), the Orient Hotel is significant as one of the oldest surviving working licensed hotel buildings in the city that continues to trade. Built as a hotel in 1842-44, it only commenced operations as a licensed pub in 1851, known as the Marine Hotel. The Chapman family who owned the site, had held hotel licenses in The Rocks since 1810. The business was renamed the Orient Hotel in 1885, and immediately gained notoriety as a hotspot of infection when Sydney was hit by the Smallpox epidemic at that time.
The Orient Hotel has an historic association with the former docklands and is part of the context of development demonstrating early residential and commercial infrastructure patterns related to the port, being closely associated with the construction of the Argyle Cut and Circular Quay at that time. The Orient Hotel provides evidence of the changing function of hotels from the mid 19th century to the present day. The alterations to the fabric of the building that have removed parlours, accommodation facilities, amongst other changes, demonstrate changing patterns of licensing laws and social attitudes.