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Bondi’s Seedy Buildings

By Kimberly O'Sullivan Steward on June 13, 2011 in Other

Berkeley Court: Home Of The ‘Berkeley Club’

During World War II, particular blocks of flats in Bondi became notorious for housing prostitutes, bookmakers and illegal gambling dens.

Initially set up to separate American servicemen from their money, big profits were to be had by also catering to the fast-living Sydney crowd. By the time the war ended these premises had enough local clientele to continue to thrive.

The apartment block ‘Berkeley Court’, still standing today on the corner of Beach Road and Campbell Parade, was home to the so-called ‘Berkeley Club’, where officially people could play cards and order a sandwich, but unofficially could place large bets on horse races. It soon became the most popular illegal betting house in the Eastern Suburbs.

Crime author Vic Darminian describes The Berkeley Club:

“The room had been set up in a similar style to the lounge at the Bondi Hotel, with comfortable contemporary furniture, a service bar near the kitchen, and a long bench-style table at the back of the room which could easily accommodate three booking clerks. A blackboard extended the length of the table on the wall behind it where details for race meetings Australia-wide could be displayed. A bank of phones in one corner completed the set up.”

Run by Jack ‘Mo’ Reynolds, a bookmaker, it also employed gunman Kevin Gore to “look after the card games”. They must have been wild card games. In 1965 Reynolds was fined for having a revolver in his possession. He told the arresting police that he had found it at the Berkeley Club and “it went off and wounded me in the chest”.

The Balconies: Bondi’s Seedy Tearooms

The Balconies, on the corner of Notts Avenue and Campbell Parade, South Bondi, was a ramshackle building containing a hotel, tea and coffee lounge, and rooms for holiday and budget residential accommodation.

It was built in the 1920s on the site of the notorious Bondi Dance Hall, where a riot had occurred on Boxing Day 1884. The Balconies’ seedy reputation continued right through World War II, with the property becoming infamous for providing illegal gambling and sexual services in the rooms below the tearooms.

Sydney underworld kingpin Frederick ‘Paddles’ Anderson was involved with The Balconies’ shady activities. Anderson was described by crime journalist Bob Bottom as “the titular head of organised crime in Sydney in the 1960s-1970s”.

The Balconies was demolished in the 1970s by Vaucluse celebrity builder W. J. Shipton, and today a luxury apartment building occupies the site.

Crime author Vic Darminian described The Balconies:

“The Balcony Apartments were at odds with the beauty of the bay. Situated at the southern end of the beach, they were a timber and pole construction which clung to a fairly severe cliff face, almost like a crab holding onto a rock for safety, while at the same time inviting the caress of the waves to wash over its back.”

If you would like to learn more about the colourful history of the Eastern Beaches area you can call Waverley Council Local Studies Librarian Kimberly O’Sullivan Steward on 9386 7744 or you can send her an email at kimberlyo@waverley.nsw.gov.au.

6 COMMENTS. SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  1. That was also the site of the first Indonesian restaurant,”The Java” late ’60s /early 70s.The floor had
    Shipton,celebrity builder,that’s a good one!!!!
    In the course of clearing the building site he AUTHORISED DUMPING TONS OF REFUSE STRAIGHT OVER THE RAILING.[near the stairs that run down to toilets]
    You could walk down from the railing onto the beach!!!!!!!!
    I ended up climbing up and sat on top of the increasing pile of rubble as they were dumping it over. A guy yelled for me to get away or he’d call the police,…i said “go ahead,i’ll wait here till they arrive!!!I
    I’d been sitting in “The Office”,at the st end,when sand & huge pieces of steel plate,reo and assorted refuse had come tumbling down and nearly taken out a local “bohemian”,Margaret DuPre….that was enough,i leaped into action.
    Shipton was made to pick up all the “foreign”material that was left after the sand etc was washed/blown away…… “beach regeneration”…YES!!!!that was his reasoning….

    Posted by: hman | June 20, 2011, 11:01 AM |

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    • mate, Bondi needs more people like you, who’ll take a stand to prevent crap (like the ice skating rink and the vile NYE events) from being dumped on the beach. Good on you!

      Posted by: bondi bloke | July 28, 2011, 8:16 PM |

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  2. Absolutely love the old pictures of Eastern Suburbs yester years.We see the places and now we have the colourful stories that go with them.Keep up the brilliant work…..Go Beast!

    Posted by: Gary Mooney | June 20, 2011, 7:36 PM |

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  3. HELLO? AM I MISSONG SOMETHING HERE?
    “The Balcony Apartments were at odds with the beauty of the bay. Situated at the southern end of the beach, they were a timber and pole construction which clung to a fairly severe cliff face, almost like a crab holding onto a rock for safety, while at the same time inviting the caress of the waves to wash over its back.”
    WELL, OK:
    IS THIS SAYING THAT THE CURRENT LUXURY APARTMENTS ARE NOT AT ODDS WITH THE BEAUTY OF THE BAY?
    Surely Bondi would be better off with a building that evokes the image of the crab hanging onto a rock than the current pseudo-med white stucco terraces which slyly eye off the public walking by, and where the insulated wealthy can slide their air-conditioned black-windowed 4WDs into ground floor garages, without even touching the sea breezes.
    Give me the crab building any day…

    Posted by: bondi bloke | July 28, 2011, 8:14 PM |

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  4. Love the fact we had “celebrity builders” back in the 70s. BUT, he was from Vaucluse – says it all.

    Posted by: Pearl of Clovelly | July 28, 2011, 10:39 PM |

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  5. Went to live with my nan at the Balconies circa 1957/ 1958 and visited her there till 1959/ 60.My mum had lived there as a girl. I remember it being a dump. Communal kitchen and bathrooms. One on my main memories was the strong smell of gas. It was a one room lodge. Although it was a dump the views were magic & as a four or five year old I’d go to the large merry-go -round in the park behind the beach – imagine that happening now (child neglect). Also remember catching the trams to and from Bondi. The old pic bring back good memories of childhood. Surprised that the building lasted till 1970

    Posted by: Brian | March 30, 2020, 10:20 PM |

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