Before the Sydney Olympics, Kings Cross was known for its bawdy nightlife, raucous tourists and red-light district.
While those aspects of the Cross are still there, the volume has very much been turned down. Many lament the days of the old Cross.
While the lockout laws are partly responsible, much of Kings Cross’ transformation has been from an entertainment district to a residential one. And property developers have also steered this change by converting old hotels into luxury apartments.
This includes large hotels like The Sebel and The Crest but also pubs that historically had to offer hotel room accommodation in order to obtain a spirits license – like Mansions.
Between 2000 and 2003, 16 hotels in and around Kings Cross had shut their doors for good, resulting in over 2000 hotel rooms being taken off the market. Partially, this was due to the decrease in demand following the 2000 Olympic Games, but at the time the loss was also attributed to SARS and a general downturn in tourism following September 11.
As developers converted these old hotels we have seen a rise in the number of apartments, and the growth of Kings Cross and Potts Point as a residential area.
Here are some of the hotels which used to grace the Golden Mile and its surrounds.
Top of the Town Motel
227 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
The Top of the Town started its life as the Top of the Cross Motel in 1966. Around a decade later it received an upgrade and was rebranded as Top of The Town Motel.
In March 1980, the restaurant “Four Stars” opened on the 14th floor of the Motel, alongside Bar International, which drew in local and foreign crowds.
The same year, Tropicana Caffe was opened in the area of the building that was used as a garage. In 1993 it was the location for the ‘Tropicana Short Film Festival.’ The first screening was so popular that a full-fledged film festival followed: Tropfest.
In 2003, the Motel was developed into a residential tower. Today it holds 91 apartments with city views and luxury features.
2 Elizabeth Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay
The Gazebo Hotel opened its doors on the 6 May 1969. At the time of opening, it was described as “one of the most spirited additions to the Sydney skyline for some time.” The round tower is also affectionately referred to as the corn cob and its functional design, which epitomised the International Style, was recognised by the Australian Institute of Architects as a significant building of the 20th century.
The hotel, which closed in the 1990s, had 200 rooms and was grounded with a cocktail bar called Pavilion, now the Gazebo Wine Bar & Dining.
In 2005 the building was converted into 61 luxury apartments. The Gazebo has been a feature in Underbelly and Dirty Deeds among other productions.
Hampton Court Hotel
13-15 Bayswater Road, Potts Point
Unlike most hotels in Potts Point, the Hampton Court began its life as a 100-unit apartment block called Hampton Court. It was one of the first high-rise apartments in Sydney and was converted into a hotel in the late 1930s after the owner of the property, motoring industry pioneer, Albert Gordon Hampton, died.
The Hampton Court Hotel has had a colourful history. In the 1950s, Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Michael Todd were guests, as were performers from the Bolshoi Ballet. It was featured in the 1966 classic Australian film called They’re a Weird Mob.
AC/DC stayed at the hotel in the 1970s and they wrote “The Jack” during their residence. In the 1990s, the hotel was named in two corruption inquiries, during the Wood Royal Commission.
In 2011 The Hampton Court hotel was sold to the Toga Group. It was restored, retaining its Art Deco charm, and redeveloped into 121 units across eight stories, called The Hampton.
14 Macleay Street Potts Point
Before the presence of luxury units in Kings Cross, 14 Macleay Street was better known as the Chateau Hotel Sydney. This three-star establishment belonged to Mirvac but was closed after the 2000 Olympics, and later demolished.
In its place is now Pomeroy, one of the most prestigious apartment blocks in the area.
50-58 Macleay Street Potts Point
The Rex Hotel opened in 1951. It was popular with locals who loved going to its various dining venues including Canberra Lounge, American Cocktail Bar and Sidewalk Café. The hotel also drew in international guests, such as Frank Sinatra.
In 2005, The Rex was redeveloped by BKH architects. It’s now a combined residential and retail complex with 151 apartments that range from 1 to 4 bedrooms.
The Crest Hotel
226 Victoria Street, Potts Point
The Crest Hotel was smack bang in the centre of Kings Cross. It had 227 rooms and was one of the largest mid-range hotels in the area. Later in its life it was leased by Accor and became the Mercure Potts Point. In 2012, it was sold to Iris Capital Group for $65 million and was purchased by Greenland Australia in 2015.
In its place, right next to the Coca Cola sign, is Omnia a curvaceous 19-storey block full of 132 designer-styled residences. This includes three opulent two-storey Penthouses.
The Astoria Hotel
9 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point
The Astoria Hotel was built in 1905, but despite its charming period features, it has a controversial past.
In 2009, the Supreme Court declared it a “disorderly house.” It was the only venue in NSW with this label, which meant that police could enter it without a warrant. It was considered to be such a hotbed of crime that senior police estimated that they made three-four daily arrests there.
Despite this reputation, unwitting tourists stayed there for $100 a night, paying for a room which came with its own needle-disposal bin.
In 2014, Theo Onisforou bought the building for $6.3 million.
16-18 Bayswater Road, Potts Point
The Mansions Hotel was built in the 1830s on land that was part of the Kellet Estate. A century later the bulk of the original Victorian structure was demolished and an Art Deco style hotel was erected.
The Mansions Hotel featured a well-known pub. Originally there weren’t likely to have been any seats inside, only men would have been allowed entry, and the floor would have likely been made of lino or polished concrete so it could be easily hosed down. It was once a favourite watering hole for local identities including actor Chips Rafferty and poet Christopher Brennan.
In 2011, Toga purchased The Mansions Hotel for $16.75 million and transformed it into a designer apartment complex called The Manor, preserving much of its period charm.