A Snapshot of ‘Manar’ next4


A WALTZ THROUGH HISTORY AND A SNAPSHOT OF ‘MANAR’ IN 2007

 

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© Warren Fahey

 

Manar’s neighbours on Macleay Street are the de Vere Hotel and The Azure. The Texas Tavern, an infamous bar during the Vietnam War R&R years, owned by Bernie Haughton who also operated the Bourbon & Beefsteak, was situated where the India Down Under restaurant now operates. There’s a statue of Bernie in the Fitzroy Gardens.

The ‘Cross’, of course, has been Sydney’s number one destination for military personnel on R&R (rest and recuperation) leave. One ditty from the past went:

Twinke, twinkle, little star,
Went for a ride in a Yankee car,
What she did I ain’t admittin’,
But what she’s knittin’
Ain’t for Britain.

Garden Island, the major dock for visiting and Australian Navy ships in Sydney, still sees regular R&R sailors waltzing up Macleay Street. In 2007 a large number of American naval ships, including the Kittyhawk, anchored at Garden Island sending over 13,000 sailors across Sydney.

The de Vere, presumably named after the British chain bearing the same name, was built in the 1930’s with classic art deco design. It has been remodelled on several occasions and continues as a 100-room boutique hotel.

The Azure was built in 1960 and is typical of the red brick architecture of that time. It was originally the Sheraton Hotel Motor Inn and The Beatles stayed there during their first Australian tour in 1964. Press reports show that the entire Macleay Street of four blocks was crowded with screaming teenagers – for hour upon hour. Incidentally the building exemplifies the aesthetic distance between the post war and pre war eras. There has been some confusion as to whether The Beatles stayed at the Chevron but I can now say categorically that they stayed at the Sheraton.

Opposite to Manar stood the Chevron Hilton hotel, Sydney’s first ‘international hotel’, built in 1959. The site was originally one of the grandest houses on Macleay Street, called ‘Cairo’; it had extremely large grounds including tennis courts. The Chevron Hilton was ‘the’ place to stay and the residents of Manar must have seen and heard some wild times when the Rolling Stones (1973) and other rockers stayed there.

On 15 November 1978 the company known as Manar Pty Ltd was dissolved and the property came under a more flexible (and sensible) Strata management scheme.

It is difficult to imagine Manar without the imposing decorative steel fence on Macleay Street however this was only added at the beginning of the 1980s. It was a designed by a resident, an architect who was living in apartment 15. Were people more respectful of other people’s property at that time? One can only imagine the intrusion during the wild days and nights of WW2 and the Vietnam period when thousands of military personnel targeted Kings Cross and Potts Point for R&R.

One of the major upgrade programs undertaken by the new Body Corporate was to fire upgrade the three buildings. The cost of this work was in excess of $1,000,000 however such work was an investment in the future of the complex.

It was not until October 1973 that the Manar committee voted to engage a gardener one day a week.

The gardens of Manar contribute greatly to the ambience of the compound. The overriding aim to provide a green palette, in an English style, with grasses, scrubs, trees, trellis climbers, ornaments, a fountain, and hedged gardens. Spots of colour and planter tubs add considerably to the garden design. The Garden Committee, comprised of Pru Allen, Mona Baker, Kathleen Hamilton, Louise Home and lately, Mark Cavanagh, do a sterling job in maintaining this feature. History should also record Andrew and Victoria Isles’ contribution in restoring and developing the rear of the garage garden, which is directed by Rowan Nicks. It is a wonderful place to read or naval gaze (both maritime and anatomical).  

The last five years of Potts Point has seen the suburb, including Kings Cross, change dramatically. The Point, including Elizabeth Bay and ‘Woolloomooloo Heights’ have certainly become more gentrified and this has been illustrated by increasing property values and the increase in the number of services, especially retail, in the area. Wooloomooloo Wharf is now a successful restaurant and residential area attracting even the likes of Russell Crowe and John Laws. Macleay street has become a hive of cafes, bookstores and restaurants and even a Woolworths. Nearby Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, has seen a revival and sleave is partly being replaced by more acceptable retail. That said, I doubt if anyone in the suburb would like to see the ‘old Cross’, including a good percentage of sleaze, totally disappear. It is part of the area’s history and living culture. For more Kings Cross history and discussions visit www.kingscrossonline.com.au

Life, high and low, continues on in Potts Point. It is colourful, always awake and always interesting. Macleay Street, often referred to as ‘The Paris end of King’s Cross’, continues to grow and crow.

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