The Coogee Palace was opened on 23 December 1887. The Sydney Morning Herald called it the
"most exquisite addition to Sydney's places of entertainment... a most elegant building, artistically arranged". By the 1890s it was only rivalled by the Bondi and Manly pavilions, all sought to become replicas of English seaside resorts. The dome on top of the building was 55 feet in diameter and its interior was decorated in radiating blue with gold, it also had silver stars and a rising sun and moon.
The lawn had swings, whirligig's rocking horses toy boats, a herd of 14 donkeys to ride and a Canadian toboggan ran down the hillside for 250 feet. There were also aviaries, flower beds, bandstand and an open air band. There was also an indoor swimming bath that measured 80 by 30 feet and went from three feet to eight feet in depth.
In 1889 a balcony or promenade designed to hold 3,000 people was added. In 1935 the aquarium baths were connected with the Shark Arm Murder Case. On Anzac Day 1935 a shark in the pool disgorged a tattooed human arm which was later identified as belonging to Launch captain James Smith, the case blew the lid off Sydney's underworld.
The Aquarium began to decline and the baths were replaced with a motel. Eventually the building housed a garage on the ground floor with flats above it.
In May 1982 the Heritage Council placed a Permanent Conservation Order on the building preventing it from being demolished. In 1984 the rusted dome collapsed during a gale.
In 1985 it sold for 1.62 million dollars and a five million dollar restoration was planned for completion in time for it's centenary in 1987. The building was sold again in Feb 1986, placing the restoration in doubt as the Heritage Council prepared a recommendation to remove Permanent Conservation Order.
Plans to demolish the building and replace it with a three storey retail/entertainment outlet called the Coogee Palace were submitted to Council in April 1986 but they were rejected and a new plan to restore the facade and rebuild the dome was finally accepted in October 1986. In 1994 the site was redeveloped to include a brasserie and in 1999 it was redeveloped once again as the Beach Palace Hotel with seven bars and room for 1,800 people.
List of References
- Randwick: A Social History, UNSW Press, 1985
- A Randwick Ramble, Randwick and District Historical Society, 1994 (LH919.441/RAN)
- Weekly Courier, 27 June 1984, page 1
- Eastern Herald 10 July 1986
- Eastern Herald 6 February 1992