The site of The Russell Hotel/Fortune of War Group is associated with prominent colonial figure Samuel Terry, whose astute business dealings led to him becoming known as the 'Botany Bay Rothschild'. Terry leased, and later owned, the entire site of The Russell Hotel/Fortune of War group and erected a group of three buildings upon it. The present Fortune of War Hotel, and to a lesser extent the Russell Hotel, are associated with Tooth & Co, a brewing company that was established in 1835 and ran until 1983.
The company took an increasing interest in the construction and operation of hotels from the 1920s. The Russell Hotel was originally constructed as the Port Jackson Hotel in 1887. In the 1920s the number of hotels operating in The Rocks was drastically reduced. The Port Jackson then became The Russell, a residential hotel. It still serves as such, but regained an alcohol license in the 1980s. Although the ground floor bar area and the main stair have been altered, the building retains much of its original planning and fabric and is still able to demonstrate the key characteristics of its building type.