How to do ‘heritage hotel’

How to do ‘heritage hotel’

Amid the tall and slender, new and shiny and fair and funky, there’s a place where refinement and coolness resides in Sydney . . . Primus Hotel Sydney.

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The Presidential suite.

When is a hotel not a hotel? Well, it’s always a hotel if it’s a hotel! But if it’s not a tall, shiny new property, a sprawling resort, a boutique, bespoke building – it just might be a hotel created within an historic building that still has the bones of the past, the ambience of a bygone era and the gravitas of heritage.

One such property is Sydney’s lovely Primus Hotel. This mighty building was built in 1939 as home to the Metropolitan Water Sewage and Drainage Board (M.W.S & D. Board), not the most charming of names for such a splendid edifice but it worked tirelessly to perform its duties and to welcome the public in to pay their water bills.

It was considered such an architectural superstar that Queen Elizabeth II had a visit here as part of the itinerary of the royal visit to Australia in 1954.

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Level 7 where the rooftop pool is – was once a firing range!IMG_6352

The Lobby.

In 2008, 339 Pitt Street was listed as a heritage item of the Sydney Local Environment Plan and listed on the State Heritage Register of New South Wales.

The building was deserted by the M.W.S & D. Board around 2009 when the staff were relocated to Sydney’s western suburbs.

And the rest is new history! Down the quiet end of town where the building in all its anonymous glory had been languishing, there was much work afoot.

In 2015 after considered restoration, respect for the architectural heritage and commercial savvy, the building opened as Sydney’s newest five-star art deco hotel, Primus Hotel Sydney.

Fabulous art deco style wall paper and a quirky ‘Ladies’ artwork.

The façade employs such materials popular in the 1930s such as natural stone, timbers, bronze, copper and aluminium.

Above the entrance are low relief bronze panels depicting the water industry and its technological progression. (Originally designed by Stanley James Hammond, the panels have been restored to their original mellow beauty.)

Entering the lobby is a gasp-worthy moment. There’s not a space in Sydney that compares. The amazing scagliola columns stand as proud as when they were imagined in 1939. Eight metres high, they were entrusted to Italian master craftsmen, The Melocco Brothers.

Look up, look up and follow the stretch of the columns and see the Plummer Skylights – insulating the lobby from noise, heat and cold.

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The Wilmot.

The hotel is located in Pitt Street Sydney and handy to a glut of fabulous restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs. Public transport (busses and trains, easy to get to) and for a great package book for a couple of nights and go to the Capital Theatre for a show.

(The hotel runs informal heritage tours throughout the hotel on Fridays.)

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There are 171 generous sized rooms that are decorated in subtle shades with slashes of colours from the past that have never gone out of fashion. Refinement is the buzz word for the accommodation.

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There’s a pool on the roof (Level 7) which is unusual for a Sydney hotel, but most welcome on a hot day. Hang out here and if you aren’t taking a dip, enjoy a snack and cocktail around the pool. Level 7 has been inspired by New York style rooftop bars (but with better Sydney weather).

As well as the elegance and welcome ambience at the hotel, the top billing is the restaurant. The Wilmot is an open area that is modern and inviting. The food takes hotel food to another level, with scrumptious produce, brilliant execution and artful presentation, thanks to Executive Chef Daniel Menzies.

For a staycation or if you’re heading to Sydney, enjoy history, heritage and a buzzy part of Sydney while staying in a hotel in its prime.

Five facts

  1. The building was completed after Australia had entered WWII. Instead of Level 7 being fitted out as a rooftop garden as originally envisioned, the roof was converted into a small arms testing range (rifle range).
  2. The building was used as a backdrop for Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken, a WWII feature film made in 2013.
  3. In 1939 this was the tallest building in Sydney.
  4. Scagliola is a technique for producing stucco columns, sculptures and other architectural elements that resemble inlays of marble and semi precious stones.
  5. Daniel Menzies is executive chef at The Wilmot and brings 19 years of experience in both International and Australian kitchens to the table. Daniel has a swag of prestigious culinary awards but a surprise one stands out – Doug Moran Portrait Prize – so take a good look at how your food looks on the plate!

 

Writer Bev Malzard, visited the hotel recently and enjoyed a tasty lunch and is planning a sortie on the hotel to have afternoon tea which the hotel boasts about. OK, show me the honey!

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How to explore Catalina

How to explore Catalina

Oh Catalina! A respite from the glitz and noise of the mainland, this little island is a joyful discovery.

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“Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a waitin’ for me, Santa Catalina, the island of romance” . . . and so starts the old song that turned a holiday island, off the coast of Long Beach in California, into a vacation-spot superstar. The song was recorded in 1958 by the Four Preps. Two of the college friends’ group were surfing off the coast in Southern California and they saw Santa Catalina island in the distance and wondered how far from the mainland it was . . hence the origin of a pop song of its time that shot up the charts, and made the holiday island a new sensation – again!

The island is one of many in the Channel Islands group. And from the get-go, the island was a popular playground for early inhabitants in 5000BC, Spanish mariners, hunters, smugglers and the military.

It became a tourist destination around 1887 with the focal point of the island a little settlement called Avalon – which has since been designated a city.

The Wrigley family purchased the island sight unseen in 1919 for $3 million. Mr Wrigley made his fortune in chewing gum!

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Take the Catalina Express for a gentle hour’s sail from Long Beach.

The island was developed within a small space as much of the terrain is rocky and wild. And the only beach is at Avalon.

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The beautiful chandelier above the ballroom floor in the Casino.

The massive construction of the island’s most recognisable landmark, the startling art deco structure, is the Casino. The building houses a beautiful theatre (movies are still shown here); a massive ballroom and a museum.

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The Casino. 

The ballroom still has the ghosts of thousands of young dancers who would come across the sea (a three-hour trip then) to dance the night away during the 30s and 40s.

The museum has wonderful images of the crowd that crushed the dance floor. There was never alcohol served in the building, and the casino has never had any form of gambling on the premises.

Ornate walls inside the casino and (right) the amazing construction of the circular building.

Lovely hotels and quaint guesthouses provide plenty of rooms for holidaymakers and a day trip isn’t a bad idea either. Funky restaurants, live music venues, ice cream parlours par excellence, and fun souvenir shopping have the red carpet out for visitors.

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This is a retro destination that exudes the vibrant ambience of a laid back part of California like no other.

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  • GETTING AROUND

Catch the Catalina Express from San Pedro, Long Island (a one- hour boat ride and up to 30 departures daily).

Around Avalon, it’s for walking or you can hire a golf buggy to get around. Not many cars here.

  • WHEN TO VISIT

Anytime! But in autumn the prices are down, the crowds less frantic and the island slows to a gentle pace. Enjoy the Halloween Parade at the end of October.

CATALINA ACTIVITIES

All out adventure or slow and steady? The island offers Zip Line Tours starting at 182m above Descanso Beach; off-road exploring in a jeep to visit the local bisons (true), foxes, eagles and deer. Parasail over the Pacific Ocean or hike the rugged hills.

Or . . . visit the fabulous Catalina Museum with special exhibitions and the history of the island from the beginning displayed.

At Descanso Beach, snorkel and swim the crystal clear waters – and head to the Beach Club for a Catalina Burger.

At night head to the Casino for a first run movie. Get there and hour early on the weekend nights to hear a stirring performance on the original pipe organ.

Writer Bev Malzard, did not zip line, but she did have a nap on the beach, eat ice-cream and spent an afternoon in the museum/art gallery. The history in black and white photographs is rich and new world ‘American dream’. That Wrigley fella was on to something when he got the world chewing gum! (Juicy Fruit is the chew du jour for Ms Malzard.) Look below, this little Aussie was on offer on Catalina Island. 

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