The Corso, Manly

The Corso Manly 1 Front

This week, with the weather warming up, just a little, many Sydneysiders may be beginning to think longingly of warm days at the beach. Sydney has many beautiful beaches, but one of the most famous is Manly. The postcard above, which dates from circa 1906 shows just one of the features of Manly which has been popular with visitors for over a century – The Corso.

In the mid 1800s, Manly was home to Henry Gilbert Smith, a very successful businessman in Sydney. He lived at Firelight, which was built on a huge area near what is today Ocean Beach. While he was living there, he saw the possibility of creating at Manly a seaside resort, which he envisaged calling Ellensville, after his first wife. He built the facilities needed to create such a resort, including cottages, hotels, gardens, baths and, of course, The Corso itself.

The Corso, which may have followed the path of an earlier Aboriginal trackway, was planned in 1854-1855 by Smith himself. The first time it was formally recorded was in 1855, in official plans for the resort. The Corso of the time was very different to what we see today though – a boardwalk across the sand spit between the harbour pier and Ocean Beach. It was named after the Via del Corso in Rome, and was the focal point of Smiths new resort. One of the features of The Corso was a central avenue of trees, the earliest of which were Morton Bay Figs planted by Smith in the 1860s. The Manly council added the now famous Norfolk Pines in the late 1870s.

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