The Hensley at 37-41 Bayswater Road – designed by international architects, Woods Bagot – is one of our area’s newer apartment blocks.

We take a look at the history of this highly acclaimed building.

Starting life as The Mercedes Private Hotel

37-41 Bayswater Road was originally The Mercedes Private Hotel. It’s believed to have been designed by architect Barry Grieg and built in 1911-12.

The hotel offered superior accommodation, and even hosted weddings.

One of The Mercedes’ claims to fame is that it used “oscillating portal wall beds” in its rooms, made by the American Wall Bed Company.

The manufacturer listed Mercedes as something of a referee in its print advertisements, suggesting that anyone interested in its revolutionary beds should write to them and ask about their merits.

Mercedes paid the compliment back, advertising its “superior” rooms in 1917 as having “the latest installation of American wall beds”.

Unfortunately, however, the wall beds didn’t last that long. Hotelier Benjamin Neville Mayman took on the Mercedes in 1931 and, having just returned from seven years in Cannes, revamped it. An advertisement from 1932 proclaimed that Neville Mayman’s Mercedes Private Hotel provided “Immaculate cleanliness, polite and indefatigable service and first quality food guaranteed” with “unfailing hot water service” and laundry facilities.

Another advertisement from 1936 boasted that it had been in operation for a quarter of a century and was “scrupulously clean”. A new owner is believed to have taken over just two years later in 1938, shortly before Mayman’s death in 1941.

A new name: Hensley Hall

In 1941, City of Sydney Archives has a building inspector’s card that records the “application to alter the building ‘Mercedes’”. Work took just under a year, and after this makeover the building appears to become known as Hensley Hall.

Like many old buildings in the area, Hensley Hall ended up offering “bed sitting rooms” for rent. In December 1941, the Sydney Morning Herald carried an ad for:

“KINGS CROSS Hensley Hall 37-41 Bayswater Road. Only a very few of these newly furnished Flats now vacant, accommodate 1 and 2 persons ample community bathrooms hot water LOW RENTS Apply Manageress on premises”

By 1949 Hensley Hall was selling itself as “exclusive accommodation” with “flatettes”, offering bed and breakfast.

From exclusive to a jungle

By 1986 Hensley Hall’s glory days were well behind it, as you can see from this photo in the City of Sydney Archives, with graffiti on the brick wall, dumped rubbish, and badly in need of a coat of paint. But it operated as a boarding house until around 1992.

There’s a potted history of the building available on mydarlingdarlinghurst’s website, including an interview with its caretaker and last remaining tenant, Barry Minhinnick, about the building (including a cameo from the band, the Screaming Jets, who had a photo taken on its staircase).

In 2011, shortly before he was evicted, the quirky garden lovingly established by Barry Minhinnick was featured on Gardening Australia as a “Kings Cross Treasure” (you can watch the episode online and see the amazing garden).

But by 2017, the building and garden were abandoned, and Domain described the soon-to-be-developed block of land as an “urban jungle”.

The Hensley: reinventing the old

Developed by Roxy-Pacific and built in 2019, The Hensley has been described as a “tribute” to the area’s art deco heritage. It contains commercial premises at street level, plus a mix of 44 luxury one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The building’s architects, Woods Bagot, describe their desire to design a “community as opposed to a development”, with shared spaces and greenery:

“Sitting atop Woolloomooloo Hill, where leafy Potts Point meets gritty Kings Cross, the site presented an opportunity… Woods Bagot sought to create modern architecture rooted in the history of the area, responding sensitively to the listed building on site. Massing steps back from the heritage facade with thresholds of glass and steel literally breaking old and new… The materiality of the new building is a modern expression of the moody brickwork palette prevalent in Potts Point’s residential apartments.”

Next Construction, the builders of The Hensley, write on their website that retaining the façade of two art-deco terraces in the eight storey development was part of the “architectural intent for The Hensley to coexist harmoniously with the heritage architecture of buildings in surrounding streets”. It was also a major challenge.
However, their persistence meant they succeeded in winning the 2020 Master Builders Excellence in Housing Award for their collective work on The Hensley.

Buy into The Hensley today: Apartment 502

Apartment 502/37 Bayswater Road in this luxury apartment block is currently on the market. Its generous north/east aspect and clever layout is sleek and modern, and its fifth floor position offers district and harbour views.

It offers three bedrooms, a terrace, two bathrooms plus a powder room, high ceilings, air conditioning, herringbone timber flooring, Smeg appliances and double parking. There’s also access to the communal rooftop terrace.

Because it’s near-new, opportunities to buy into The Hensley are rare. So, if you’re interested in moving into The Hensley, this could be your opportunity.

Want more?

If you’re looking to buy or sell in Potts Point or Sydney’s East, contact my team today.

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…