Sydney Architecture Images- Northern Suburbs

Luna Park

architect

various

location

Milson's Point

date

8:00 pm on October 4, 1935

style

Inter-War Art Deco (towers of gate based on Chrysler Building, New York)

construction

various

type

Amusement Park
 
 
  Click images for larger versions.
  NOR-LUNA6.jpg (46487 bytes)NOR-LUNA5.jpg (62128 bytes)NOR-LUNA7.jpg (61924 bytes)
 
 
 
 
  Other Luna Parks- Cleveland, Melbourne and Pittsburgh.
  NOR-LUNA-CLEV.jpg (59993 bytes)NOR-LUNA-MELB.jpg (81385 bytes)NOR-LUNA-PA.jpg (84814 bytes)
 
   
History

Before the arrival of Europeans in N.S.W., the Aboriginal Cammeraygal, lived along the Milsons Point foreshores and surrounding bushland. From the beginning of Sydney's settlement the Milsons Point area was a place for picnics and entertainment. In 1789 Governor Phillip watched performances by aborigines who danced on this site in return for rum, trinkets and cloth.

The first permanent settlement was established by 1806 when James Milson farmed the area supplying vegetables, milk and spring water to Sydney. He also quarried sandstone and built a house near the site of the northeast pylon of the Harbour Bridge.

The origins of Luna Park go back to Coney Island, U.S.A., part of metropolitan New York, where in the late 1800’s a number of competing amusement parks sprang up. Elmer Dundy and Frederick Thompson developed an amusement called A Trip to the Moon which was extremely successful. In 1903 they opened their own amusement park on Coney Island and called it Luna Park in acknowledgement of their successful ride.

Soon Luna Parks spread throughout the world. American showmen, brothers Herman, Leon and Harold Phillips with J.D. Williams, opened Australia’s first Luna Park at St. Kilda in 1912. Showman David Atkins noticed its enormous success and convinced the Phillips to open a Luna Park in Glenelg, Adelaide in 1930. Ted Hopkins an electrical engineer joined the Park just prior to its opening to complete the electrical and mechanical installation. Despite several successful seasons, the Glenelg park was forced to close because of friction with the local residents and a local council that resisted any changes or expansion of the Park.

Herman Phillips and David Atkins commenced a search for a suitable place to relocate the South Australian Luna Park and found the vacant Harbour Bridge factory site at Milsons Point. Under the guidance of Ted Hopkins, Luna Park Glenelg was dismantled, packed up, transported by ship and unloaded onto the Dorman Long wharf and reassembled in Sydney.

1973 Face
1973 Face
 

Herman Phillips planned the layout of the park, Rupert Browne a scenic artist from Luna Park St Kilda gave the layout artistic imagination and Ted Hopkins made everything work – physically, mechanically and electrically. The whole Sydney site was constructed in just over 3 months and involved the employment of 800 structural workers, 70 electricians and 35 artists as well and many others.

When the doors opened at 8.00pm on 4 October, 1935 it cost 6d to enter (3d for children) and 6d for most rides. The Big Dipper and Coney Island cost 9d. The Park was an instant success. After the first year, the admission charge was removed and Luna Park proudly advertised “Admission Free”.

During the war years the lights of Luna Park were” browned out” and the Park became a magnet for servicemen. The Park was closed every winter and this gave an opportunity to move, overhaul and paint the rides and add new attractions. This continued until 1972. The amusement Park ran smoothly under the control of showmen from 1935 to 1970 when Ted Hopkins retired.

Luna Park - 1935
Luna Park 1935
 

In 1969 the lease on the park was sold to World Trade Centre Pty Ltd headed by Leon Fink. An application was made to develop the site as a trade centre consisting of multi-storey buildings designed by eminent architect, Harry Seidler. The state government refused the application and the park continued. During the 1970’s the park was altered from its original state, some older rides were demolished, and new portable rides introduced but they lacked the artistic facades that had been characteristic of the Park. The lease ran out in 1976 and operation continued on a weekly basis. The Park stopped closing for its regular winter maintenance schedules and in 1979 a tragic fire in the ghost train ride finally caused Luna Park to close down completely.

Artists were involved in Luna Park from the earliest days. Rupert Browne was brought up from Luna Park Melbourne, designed the first entry face and did all the original artwork during the parks 1935 construction phase. After the park opened Arthur Barton became the resident artist until 1970. He designed murals, panels and cut outs as well as the fifth entry face. In the seventies Martin Sharp and Peter Kingston along with Richard Liney, and many others were commissioned to revitalise the Park.

A tragedy struck the park in 1979 when fire broke out on the ghost train, killing several people. Since then the park has closed and re-opened several times, partly because of complaints by the mostly wealthy local residents to the noise generated by the park. Luna Park reopened in 2004 after several years' closure following an abortive attempt at reviving the park after a much longer period of closure.

The government called for tenders for use of the site in July 1979 with a second and third round called. Public agitation was growing. At this time Friends of Luna Park, headed by Martin Sharp and Peter Kingston, was established. They organised exhibitions, public meetings and a protest concert to draw attention to the park’s condition.

1960's view of Luna Park
1960's view of park
 

The Luna Park operating contract was eventually won in 1980 by a company which became known as Harbourside Amusements Pty Ltd. This consortium was led by Sir Arthur George with Harold and Colman Goldstein.

In April 1981, after unsuccessful negotiations between the old and the new lessees over the name and key equipment, the Government forced the old lease owners to vacate the site. On 31 May and 1 June 1981, an auction was held within the park and many of the original amusements and artworks were sold. When the new operators entered the site, the Big Dipper, David Jones Locker and the River Caves were bulldozed and burnt.

New rides were installed and the park took on a distinctive American theme park flavour reopening in May 1982. In 1987 the lease was transferred to Prome Amusements and Luna Park “closed for renovations” in April 1988. The entry face was removed and the towers dismantled. There were two further changes to the name of the leaseholder and an application was made to redevelop the park as “an adult entertainment centre with high rise towers”.

While Luna Park remained dilapidated and empty, public pressure increased. In November 1989, the Government announced there would be no high rise development on the Luna Park site and the lease was withdrawn in June 1990 following the leaseholder’s failure to re-open the park as an amusement centre.

Early 1990's restoration work
Early 1990's restoration work
 

After years of lobbying by the dedicated Friends of Luna Park assisted by North Sydney Council, the government passed the Luna Park Site Act in 1990. This act made the site Crown land dedicated for public recreation, amusement and entertainment. The Luna Park Reserve Trust was formed and took control of the park on 12 October 1990 and major restoration of all its buildings began in 1992

After the State Government spent a reported $55m on revamping the Park it reopened in January 1995 under the management of Luna Park Amusements Pty Ltd – a joint venture company whose major shareholders were the Government through Luna Park Reserve Trust and Wittingslow Amusement Group of Melbourne. It was open for only just over a year, residents complaints about the new Big Dipper caused it to be closed in February 1996. Without the revenue from the Big Dipper, running the Park as an amusement park was not viable.

In 1997, the Government adopted The Luna Park Plan of Management after consultation with residents, the general public and potential operators. The precinct of Luna Park and its associated heritage items were classified and placed on the Register of the National Estate.

The operators of the Metro Theatre in George Street Sydney, Peter Hearne and Warwick Doughty, along with Michael Edgley formed Metro Edgley Pty. Ltd. (MEPL) to bring their vision for the closed park to fruition. The large Australian construction company Multiplex along with local businessmen joined MEPL and after a long and rigorous public tender process period, the NSW Government announced in July 1999 that Metro Edgley was the preferred proponent to lease and run the Park.

In July 2001 the Big Dipper rollercoaster was sold and moved to Dreamworld on Queensland’s Gold Coast and renamed “the Cyclone”. Final approvals for the redevelopment work were announced on 25 January 2003 and building work commenced soon after.

2004 Redevelopment with new Big Top on the right
2004 Redevelopment with new Big Top on the right
 

The redevelopment is based on keeping the site’s unique identity and heritage features while providing a range of new entertainment, tourism and social facilities. A new 2,000 seat Big Top, onsite car park, restaurant/brasserie, refurbished Crystal Palace function centre now stand alongside the restored old favourites Coney Island, Wild Mouse, Rotor and other classic rides. At a cost in excess of $80 million and at no cost to the taxpayer, the Park re-opened on 4 April 2004.

The tradition of popular art at Luna Park continues. Ashley Taylor who worked alongside artist Peter Kingston in the early 1990’s is the current artist in residence, creating visual delights for the new millennium. Martin Sharp is working on a new ceramic tribute for the Ghost Train memorial.

Heritage Value
Luna Park has had a major impact on millions of Sydneysiders. It is one of the most notable landmarks on the Sydney harbour foreshore located next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Built originally in the 1930s, the park is a rare example of an amusement park in Sydney. Its various murals, designs, and the architecture showcase the art-deco idiom that the 1930s was best known for. Perhaps ironically, it has been the years of neglect that has ensured these rare historic designs remaining largely intact. Nowadays Luna Park remains to be an amusement park to most, but is now also a heritage listed site. It is now seen by many as a symbol of community concern over harbour foreshore conservation, recreation, high-rise development and the ownership of a public estate.

Special thanks to http://www.lunaparksydney.com/index.html 

Luna Park is a historical amusement park in Sydney, Australia, first opened in 1935. The park is located at Milsons Point, immediately west of the point where the Sydney Harbour Bridge meets the North Shore of Sydney Harbour. Like similarly-named parks elsewhere, the park's entrance features a giant face of the moon; in the case of Sydney, the face has been replaced several times, each differing in the details of facial expressions.

History
From 1924 to 1932, the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge occupied much of the foreshore surrounding the bridge. The area around the North-Western Pylon, (now the site of Luna Park) was occupied by two large workshops and a set of heavy duty cranes. During the creation of the bridge large portions of the cliff behind the area were excavated and the area was flattened. Following the completion of the bridge all buildings bar the wharf were dismantled. The North Sydney Council then requested tenders for how the area should be developed. This was won by Hermann Phillips from Melbourne. His previous park located in Glenelg, South Australia had closed due to issues regarding expansion with local residents, so all the rides there were dismantled, transported by ship to Sydney and then reassembled in the new area. "The city of a million lights" was built by 800 structural workers, 35 artists and 70 electricians in a little over 3 months.

The major showpieces of the park were Coney Island and the Big Dipper, but the face of the moon, (although the name "face of the moon" has not been used for a while now, it is now simply the luna park face) 50 times the size of a normal face, was the immediate identity of the park. Opened at 8:00 pm on October 4, 1935 the park was an immediate success.

Luna Park has a successful first season and then closes for the winter months, a practice it would keep until 1972. At each opening the following year they would make the park different by changing a ride, the colours of a ride or even bringing in a new ride. During the war years, the lights of Luna Park were "browned out". The park also became a centre where many servicemen would look for a new girlfriend. One of the new rides bought for the park after the war was the Rotor. This became the second most popular ride, but even it and the Big Dipper could not save the park from a decline of the "old" Luna Park in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1969 the lease on the park was sold to World Trade Centre Pty Ltd. They tried to put forward a proposal to turn the park into trade centre, but the New South Wales state government rejected this and the park carried on as normal.

A tragedy struck the park in 1979 when fire broke out on the ghost train, killing several people. Since then the park has closed and re-opened several times, partly because of complaints by the mostly wealthy local residents to the noise generated by the park. Luna Park reopened in 2004 after several years' closure following an abortive attempt at reviving the park after a much longer period of closure.

Heritage Value
Luna Park has had a major impact on millions of Sydneysiders. It is one of the most notable landmarks on the Sydney harbour foreshore located next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Built originally in the 1930s, the park is a rare example of an amusement park in Sydney. Its various murals, designs, and the architecture showcase the art-deco idiom that the 1930s was best known for. Perhaps ironically, it has been the years of neglect that has ensured these rare historic designs remaining largely intact. Nowadays Luna Park remains to be an amusement park to most, but is now also a heritage listed site. It is now seen by many as a symbol of community concern over harbour foreshore conservation, recreation, high-rise development and the ownership of a public estate.

 

www.sydneyarchitecture.com 

links

Luna Park