Hotel Mansions, now known as The Manor, has looked out over Kings Cross from the corner of Bayswater Road and Kellett Street for around 130 years.

Here’s a brief history of the building and its many incarnations.

The Kellett Estate

Hotel Mansions was built on land that originally belonged to an 1800s subdivision known as the Kellett Estate. The subdivision map from 1864 shows the corner site occupied by an 1830s colonial villa called Kellett House.

Kellett House had been occupied by a who’s who of the early colony, including the Deputy Surveyor-General, Samuel Augustus Perry, and the first Premier of NSW, Stuart Donaldson.

In 1864 it was purchased by successful pastoralist William Frederick Buchanan. Kellett House remained on the corner until 1885 when Buchanan had it demolished to make way for the Hotel Mansions and the adjoining row of terraced houses on what was then called “Upper William Street North” (now Bayswater Road).

The Victorian Era: the original Hotel Mansions

The original Hotel Mansions was an ornate four-storey Victorian building with a turret. It stood alongside a similarly impressive row of terraces on Bayswater Road, known as the Bayswater Terrace (these are now heritage listed and believed to date to the 1890s).

Although Hotel Mansions provided accommodation, it didn’t appear to get its pub licence until several years later. In 1904, The Evening News reported on the “crowd” present at Joseph Alfred Pulbrook’s application for a conditional publican’s licence for “The Mansions”. It seems construction was still ongoing at the time.

“Mr. Martin, the architect, stated that when the buildings were complete, they would contain 179 rooms, of which already over 100 rooms… There were scarcely any other hotel buildings in the city to be compared with it as an ideal hotel from every point of view… Sub-inspector McDonough produced photographs of the building as it stands at present, showing only three stories completed facing Bayswater Road…Several gentlemen at present staying in the building testified to the respectability of the house and to the need for a liquor licence. At present, someone had to be employed to go out to hotels and procure what liquor was required by the boarders. The occupier of the property and applicant for the provisional licence, Mr. J. A. Pulbrook, stated that he was constantly being requested to send out for liquor, or else his boarders would send out on their own. At one time, the residents of the house formed themselves into a club with the knowledge of the police, and in that way, liquor could be kept on the premises.”

The hotel quickly established itself as a destination. Sydney Stock and Station Journal from 19 March 1907 recommends the Hotel Mansions:

“When the country comes to town, the question of a hotel is an important one. One of the best for comfort, elegance, good neighbourhood, and economy is the ‘Hotel Mansions,’ in Bayswater Road. It is on the tram line, at the end of a penny section at Darlinghurst. The hotel is first-class, and the fee is two guineas a week, with reduction to families. It is an alright place, and we can commend it to our readers with every confidence.”

The tram lines ran past the Hotel Mansions down Bayswater Road and are visible in photos from the time. Not long after this glowing review, the Delegate Argus of 24 January 1908 describes Mansions as one of the “most notable hotels in Australia”:

“Entering the hotel, a visitor would hardly know he was in a hotel, so well arranged is the interior to make the place like a select club, or a well-kept private residence; yet there are all the conveniences of a hotel. Large sums of money have been lavished on the vast structure, affording the most up-to-date accommodation, all public and private rooms being beautifully furnished and fitted with electric light etc. The hotel has no superior in its lavatory and bath accommodation, the whole system being entirely new and on the latest hygienic plan.”

The Art Deco era: a second Hotel Mansions

In 1937, New Zealand-born architect Francis Graham Hood drew plans for “proposed alterations and additions”, which the City of Sydney Council approved in 1938.

Francis Hood was something of a visionary. He also worked closely alongside Florence M. Taylor, Australia’s first qualified female architect, on plans for dozens of large-scale town planning projects to transform the city’s efficiency (many never eventuated). One of these was “the William Street three-avenue scheme, with sunken route through Park Street affording cross-city through traffic”.

Others included a two-level roundabout in Kings Cross, aerodromes, plans for Circular Quay, and a technical college on the site of Darlinghurst Gaol. According to an obituary, he possessed “a penmanship that was sparkling and a draughtsmanship that was second to none in Australia, and possibly without rival in the world”.

Hood’s redesign of Hotel Mansions coincided with the much-discussed and highly anticipated widening of Bayswater Road, which would reduce traffic congestion and allow buses to stop.

A portion of Hotel Mansions’ land was compulsorily acquired, so the road could be realigned, and reports from the time indicate that new buildings were required. One headline at the time criticised the amount spent on land resumption, arguing, “The City Council is paying £17,000 for a bus stop”. Photos of the work gangs undertaking the road widening with shovels and large pieces of stone can be seen online in the City of Sydney archives.

The building application to alter Hotel Mansions in 1937 comprised 77 pages of Hood’s plans for an amazing art deco-style hotel. It had a rounded entry vestibule that carried up through each level of the building, with curved steel frame windows, to a round, modernist rooftop turret. The small print says the hotel would continue to operate throughout the works.

Photos from the time show a classic Aussie pub set up with accommodation rooms upstairs, serviced by shared toilets and showers.

In January 1939, the Daily Telegraph reported that “the rebuilding of the Mansions Hotel has left a greater clearance” for the widening of Bayswater Road.

The Manor: Hotel to Residential

Fast forward several decades, and The Hotel Mansions that many of us will remember is where a fair few big nights out ended when Kings Cross was a major entertainment destination with late-night licences in the 1990s.

In 2006, Hotel Mansions changed hands off-market for a reported $22 million and, after renovations, continued to operate as a hotel.

Then in 2011, developer Toga purchased Hotel Mansions for $16.75 million and transformed it into a designer apartment complex called The Manor. Hotel Mansions epitomises the trend for hotel and commercial premises in the area to be turned into residential developments.

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Article by Jason Boon

In a real estate market that is the focus of Australian, and indeed worldwide attention, Jason Boon's results in the Sydney scene make him a highly significant figure within the industry. A long-term specialist in the Potts Point and inner eastern suburbs area, he is uniquely placed to leverage his skills and local knowledge as the area undergoes significant change and diversification. Jason ha…