Gunnamatta Pavilion, Cronulla
In Britain, by the late 1930s, pavilions had opened in Prestatyn (1922), Blackpool (1923), Plymouth (1928), Bournemouth (1929), Exmouth (1929), Skegness (1932), Hastings and St Leonards (1933), New Brighton and Wallasey (1934), Brighton (1935), Penzance (1935), Morecambe (1936) and Weston-super-Mare (1938). There was something special about the health giving and recreational values of beach culture that made councils want to meet the needs of their residents, and to entice outside visitors to their beaches.
Surely then, Sydney would have as many beach pavilions as Britain, also built in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. After all, Sydney’s population enjoyed a gorgeous natural harbour, fine beaches facing the open ocean and excellent weather.
Bondi Pavilion, built 1928-9
In 1906 the Bondi Surf Bathers' Life Saving Club was established. By this time Waverley Council had already erected changing sheds, and a sea wall, at the rear of the beach, was built between 1911 and 1920. Due to the increased popularity of beach swimming and surfing, in 1923 an improvement scheme for Bondi Beach was launched. A local architectural firm won the competition to design the new works: a surf pavilion was a major element of the scheme, and the foundation stone for the pavilion was laid in May 1928 by the Waverley mayor.
The Bondi Beach Pavilion (1928-9) was built in a form that reflected aspects of the Deco style that was so fashionable during the Inter War era, along with Mediterranean elements. The core building was two storeys high, with single-storey wings encircling a large central courtyard. It was given a colonnaded facades on four sides, frontage being 130 metres and the depth being 50 metres. It was the largest beach pavilion built in Sydney. The pavilion, which opened in Dec 1929, served several purposes: changing facilities for swimmers, food outlets and entertainment venues. There were even Turkish baths and a ballroom.
In modern times, the Bondi building remains but many earlier beach culture elements (locker rooms, bathing suit hire facilities, laundry, ballroom and Turkish baths), have disappeared.
Bathers' Pavilion in Balmoral Beach
The Bathers' Pavilion in Balmoral Beach was originally built as a changing shed by Mosman Council in the early 1920s. The building was upgraded to a very grand Deco-Moorish complex in 1929, and despite more modern development in the area, the views towards the Heads and Middle Harbour are still very special.
Nielsen Park Conservation Management Plan believed that of all the pavilions in Sydney, there were 3 important pavilions built in the 1920s: the Bondi Beach Pavilion, the Bathers’ Pavilion at Balmoral Beach and the Brighton Le Sands Beach Pavilion. For an excellent photo of the Brighton Le Sands beachfront, see Sydney - City and Suburbs blog. All three were built at the height of a development boom and reflected the heightened public aspirations of that time, particularly in regard to beachside recreation. The Management Plan noted that these three examples had to varying extents changed their original functions, while the Nielsen Park example remains virtually unchanged and provides the same facilities as was originally intended.
By contrast the Shark Beach pavilion, Nielsen Park was built at the height of the Great Depression in 1932 using restricted resources. Shark Beach’s pavilion differs from the other three in another important way; it was purposely made to be subservient to the park landscape is accordingly set well back from the beach. The others were sited on the beach, and were meant to be dominant landmarks adjacent to the baths or main surf beach.
Cronulla built at least three different pavilions in the Inter War period, and they seem to be very simple in their architecture. The colours are very bright and beachy, often white and sky blue as in the now slightly derelict Shelly Beach building. W.F. Foster and Co. built the Oak Park pavilion in 1939, probably the last of the Cronulla sites, to replace the earlier timber dressing-sheds. For a fine picture of South Cronulla's art deco Lifesaving Club, pavilion and beach, see Sydney - City and Suburbs.
Shelly Beach pavilion, Cronulla
I know that during the long Depression in Australia, the beach was often the only entertainment families could afford. But by 1939, communities faced more pressing issues than building resources focused on pleasure. Sofar I haven’t found any pavilions built in Sydney, once war began in 1939.
Since this post was completed, Your Brisbane Past and Present showed gorgeous changing rooms in that city. One, the Southport Bathing Pavilion 1934, looked to be similar to Shelly Beach pavilion in Cronulla size-wise and shape-wise, but it had a special entrance. Southport's decorative gabled entrance had three arches and barley sugar pillars. The other, Main Beach Pavilion 1935, was also designed in the Spanish Mission style.