This week, as it is Valentines Day, it seemed the perfect time to examine a popular pleasure resort from years gone by. Sydney had many pleasure resorts, including beaches, parks and gardens. One of these was White City at Rushcutters Bay.
White City was probably most famous as a tennis venue, built in 1922 and home to the New South Wales Championship (now known as The Sydney International, though it is not played at White City today). The stadium also hosted some of the Davis Cup tournaments during the 1950s and 1960s. However, it did not start its life as a tennis centre.
The White City site was originally market gardens but in 1913 Cosens Spencer, a well known film entrepreneur, established White City Amusement Park on the site. The name was not only a derivative of the famous London Theme Park, but referred to the white buildings constructed from timber, overlaid with chicken wire and plaster. The park was designed and built by T.H. Eslick, the man responsible for the design and construction of the famous St Kilda Luna Park in Melbourne.
The amusement park included a fun fair, music hall, ballroom and fairground, as well as what was termed ‘seasonal entertainment’. Among the many attractions there were a Japanese Village, giant carousel, fun factory and scenic railway. White City was very popular but in 1917 tragedy struck when lightening hit and started a fire which destroyed the amusement park. The next year White City Limited went into liquidation and all the remaining assets were sold.