The pub is one of a number of buildings which formed an integral part of the shipbuilding and industrial history of the local area.
The pub is named after Sir William Wallace, the famous 13th century knight and Scottish patriot, although the reasons for choosing the name are not known. The close proximity to Mort's Dock and later Balmain Colliery ensured early patronage. The pub is now frequented by locals to whom it is affectionately known as the "Willie Wallace" or "Willie Wallie".
A mural depicting pub life, complete with regular patrons, was painted on an internal wall in 1990. The mural contains an image of actor Mel Gibson who provided perhaps the best known account of the life of William Wallace in the 1995 film Braveheart. A signed poster from the film also hangs on the wall in the main bar.
The pub is a heritage-listed building of local significance built in the Victorian Filligree style. It is a two storeyed corner hotel with a panelled lace upper verandah, timber posts to street and iron lace ballustrades. It is a rare example of a hotel still in its original state.