From the late 19th Century Coogee was a popular seaside resort. The Coogee Aquarium and Swimming Baths opened on 23 December 1887 and formed the centre of a tourist and day tripper industry.
By the 1920s Manly was providing serious opposition to Coogee, and Randwick Council began promoting Coogee as
"the seaside holiday resort of New South Wales". Facilities and life-saving equipment were upgraded and a shark-proof fence was erected but this was not a success. This revived the movement for construction of a pier, discussed by the Coogee Advancement League as long ago as 1898.
In 1924 Council granted a franchise to the Coogee Pier Company and subsequently large crowds gathered to watch the first pile being driven in on 24 July 1926. Radio stations 2BL, then located in Coogee, and 2KY made live broadcasts of the proceedings.
The pier's attractions included a theatre seating 1400, a ballroom of 600, and an upstairs restaurant seating 400. There were also amusement machines, a promenade area on each side, and a widened area for the bandstand. Spectacular lighting provided for evening affairs. The official opening of the Pier on 24 July 1928 was conducted by Mayor JM Dunningham.
A new shark proof enclosure measuring 600 feet by 470 feet was added in November 1929. It was a revolutionary scheme and attracted world-wide publicity. Celebrations took the shape of a
"Come to Coogee Week" with the shark-net, new surf sheds and the new Giles' Baths opening together after a mile-long procession before 135,000 spectators.
At the signal of Mayor JT Jennings, a rope, which held back 10,000 surfers, was dropped and they swarmed into the netted area, adjacent the pier. Sadly, the pier was not a commercial success, coinciding as it did with the Great Depression and the end of the fashionable sea-side holiday.
Storm and surf damage incurred expensive repairs and in November 1933 Council called tenders for the pier's purchase and demolition, which occurred in 1934. This affected the stability of the shark net, which also required frequent repairs. After 1939 the net's repairs were of secondary importance when metal was required for munitions production and invasion scares reduced beach-going. The net was dismantled in 1945.
List of References
- Randwick: A Social History, UNSW Press, Second Edition, 1989
- W.B. Lynch & F.A. Larcombe, Randwick: 1859-1976, Revised Edition, 1976