The Club Origins
The Manly Club was once the Manly Civic Club, one of the oldest registered clubs in Manly. On December 11th, 1946, at a Manly Chamber of Commerce Meeting, a motion was carried to form a Businessmen’s Club. It was resolved that it be known as “The Manly Chamber of Commerce Club”. This newly formed Club was to operate as a separate entity from the Manly Chamber of Commerce, and all 26 members present were deemed to be foundation members.
Premises were found in the Victoria Building in Wentworth Street. This building, erected in 1905, was the home of the Manly Literary Institute and would be known as the Manly Public Library in the ensuing years. After long negotiations, the Committee persuaded the Institute’s Board that the Club was a bona fide Club and that its members were respectable and most importantly were “gentlemen”. Rooms were acquired in the upstairs section of the Literary Institute.
It was in March of 1947 that the Chamber of Commerce Club members would make a decision that would leave an indelible mark on the path the Club would take for the next 20 years. Up until this time only members of the Chamber of Commerce were eligible to join the Club. This small number of members could not support a Club and turn it, in financial terms, into a viable proposition. It was consequently resolved to change the Chamber of Commerce restriction of members only. The Club opened its membership to all members of the business community.
The Club’s constitution was changed and immediately the membership increased. On March 31st, 1947, the name of the Club was changed to the Manly Civic Club. The official opening of the Club took place at the Manly Literary Institute by the then Mayor of Manly, Alderman Bob Miller, on May 29th, 1947.
Towards the end of the 1940’s a mood of optimism was abroad at the Civic. A feeling of change was in the air. It was obvious that the Club had outgrown its premises at the Literary Institute. While the Wentworth Street premises had served to get the Club up and running, the conditions and facilities were at best only adequate.
It was agreed amongst the members that a suitable building site had to be found which would be conveniently located for most of the Club’s membership. After many weeks of fruitless searching, a property in West Promenade owned by Manly Council was deemed suitable for the Club’s needs. In September 1949, the Club paid a deposit of ₤250 and so secured the first real home for the Manly Civic Club members. The Club also purchased a cottage in Eustace Street.
On January 22nd, 1950, it was decided to change the Club name to The Manly Civic Club Co. Ltd. The Certificate of Registration of the Company Inc. was received on October 13th, 1952. In November 1952, it was resolved that the assets and liabilities of the old Club be taken over by the Manly Civic Club, a company registered under the Companies Act, 1936, on December 31st, 1952.
The first Annual General Meeting of the newly incorporated Club was held on February 19th, 1953. It was at this meeting that plans were formulated to start the push to build the new Clubhouse at the West Promenade and Eustace street site. A number of events held outside the Club further emphasised the need for the Club to start building its own premises as soon as possible.
On April 14th, 1955, a Club member, Emil Soderstein, requested the Club supply correct measurements of the land in Eustace Street and West Promenade. An architect by profession, Mr. Soderstein offered to prepare sketches of the proposed new Club free of charge. The offer was taken up by the Board, and after another Board meeting with the architect, the Board resolved to demolish the cottage in Eustace Street. Mr. Soderstein was also responsible, in partnership with others, for the design of the War Memorial in Canberra.
On June 9th, 1958, Manly Council passed the plans and the Board quickly contacted the architect instructing him to proceed with the preparation of the working drawings. By now everyone felt that at last progress was being made and the Clubhouse was becoming not a dream but a reality.
October 23rd, 1959, was a red letter day in the history of the Manly Civic Club. The Club after 12 years in existence now had its own premises. The official opening was made by the Mayor of Manly, Alderman Bill Fairburn.
On December 21st, 1961, it was decided to purchase a block of land on the corner of Eustace and Gilbert Streets. In 1962 the Board held discussions with architect Clive Spinks and asked him to submit a plan for further extensions to the new Club building. At the same time there was much debate surrounding the electricity sub-station which was “parked” on the land owned by the Club. While the purchase of the land from Manly Council shows conflicting dates, it appeared that after the purchase the Club leased back the sub-station to the Mackellar County Council on a 99- year lease at a peppercorn rent of 10 shillings per annum.
Architect Clive Spink’s plans for the Club’s proposed extensions were agreed upon in January of 1963. In May 1963, the local building company Kell & Rigby put in a successful tender to build the new extensions, to be completed over a period of 21 weeks. Air conditioning was installed. The Club also purchased the block of flats, Don Junee. The official opening of the Club’s new extension took place on July 24th, 1964. The Club was opened by the then Mayor of Manly, Alderman Bill Nicholas.
In 1967, a special meeting was convened to discuss the forthcoming negotiations with the Shell Oil Company in relation to the proposed purchase of the Auckland Garage in West Promenade. The Board felt that the acquisition of the property would be very desirable, for the garage site represented another piece in the jigsaw of the Club’s property portfolio.
The 1980’s will be remembered as a decade in which changes and attitudes would shape the way in which the Club’s affairs were conducted for some considerable time. Not all these changes were greeted with enthusiasm. Some rules were relaxed to pander to the tastes of the newer and younger members of the Club. Another reason that forced the Club to make changes was the competition they now faced, not only from other clubs, but also hotels and restaurants in the area. State and Federal taxes were also eroding the financial base of many clubs. The introduction of random breath testing was also a contributing factor to the downturn in patronage.
There was also concern expressed regarding the declining attendances in the dining room. Some members felt that the closed door policy operating in the Club at the time was a contributory factor. One of the casualties of the downturn in Club revenue was of course the charities. For many years the Civic Club had been a generous benefactor to many charities in the area.
In January 1988 the sale of the Don Junee flats was discussed and it was agreed to leave it in abeyance. At an Extraordinary General Meeting held in 1995, it was agreed that the Don Junee property be sold at public auction and that the proceeds of the sale be totally allocated to the development of the Club.
In 1995 the Board commissioned Paynter Dixon to submit a development application to extend the Club premises. McNamara Group Constructions submitted a building application on behalf of the Club, to Manly Council, but that company went into liquidation before building commenced. In 1998, the Club undertook a major internal refurbishment, but the momentum for redevelopment seemed to slow.
Various State Government changes to the Club industry impeded the ability of the Club to gain the necessary funds to expand and modernise the premises. Amongst these were an increase in poker machine tax, a limit on the number of poker machines available, and the granting of poker machines to hotels.
During this development process it was discovered that Manly Council had placed a local heritage listing on the Auckland Garage. This was a major stumbling block to the development process. In 1999 the Board had designs drawn trying to incorporate the Auckland Garage in the existing approved building application. In 2003, a development application was submitted to Manly Council to demolish the Auckland Garage, which was refused. The application was appealed in the Land and Environment Court, but was dismissed.
In 2005, the Board again started the development process. This time the plans involved demolishing the Club premises and building a multi-storey office block, with the Club occupying at least a floor. There were a number of feasibility studies undertaken and an architect agreed upon to design the building. Manly Council approved a development application in 2009 for the erection of a four floor commercial building with the Club occupying the first and part of the second floor.
In August 2012 as part of this development process the old Club building was demolished. The onset of the Global Financial Crisis also had a profound effect on the development of the Club, with finance proving to be very difficult to obtain. Despite the best efforts of the Board, it was resolved in early 2016 to reconfigure the development and change from a commercial building to a residential building, with the Club being housed on the ground floor. In early July 2016 another development application was submitted to the Northern Beaches Council.