Freshwater Bay Tea Rooms

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In 1904 Andy Johnson, a Swedish sailor, established a business as ‘buyer and seller of all kinds of boats (rowing preferred)’. He lived in a houseboat moored at the foot of Leake Street until 1905 when he built and occupied the boatshed on this site. Once established, he began hiring rowing boats on the shore. He added tea rooms before selling his business in 1919 to James and Nellie McFarlane. Nelly was well known for her fruit cake and tea. Passengers from the boats on the river would stop off for cake and a swim. Nelly would put their false teeth into a paper bag for safe keeping!

Nelly also supported the troops during World War II when the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club was used as HMAS Leeuwin II. She would hold dances and play the piano and the soldiers would have a good sing-a-long.

James and Nellie McFarlane handed the business over to their son and daughter in law in 1949. The business thrived in the 1930s to 1950s but after that time a decline in the popularity of boating saw the facility fall into ‘a derelict state.’

As late as the 1970s there was still no sewerage connection for the living accommodation, and waste waters went directly into the river. A succession of development plans were drawn up in the 1970s. All plans were put on hold when in 1980 the recently renovated boatshed was demolished by fire. Further discussions on larger scale development took place but in 1999 the remaining jetty and landing were demolished.

Freshwater Bay

CPM01504 Freshwater BayNyoongar people have maintained a close connection with the Swan River – known to them as Derbal Yerrigan – for more than 40,000 years. This connection forms the basis for much of their cultural and spirituality identity. Freshwater Bay was an important camping place, a source of fresh water from springs, a fishing and trading area, and above all a spiritual place. The Nyoongar word for the bay itself Minderup – means place for alleviating sickness.

Since European settlement Freshwater Bay has been regarded as a healthy place, one for recreation and enjoyment. It was once a popular holiday, camping and picnicking spot for the many thousands brought by steamers and other river craft to enjoy its beauty and the safe swimming.

It was these native riverside Peppermint trees which inspired the name Peppermint Grove. The majestic Moreton Bay figs were planted here later – in the early twentieth century – and remain important for shade. At one time destroyed for camp fires, the trees are now appreciated and protected.

The beach at Peppermint Grove is also home to the black swan, Cygnus atratus, the symbol of the Swan River and after which the Swan River Colony was named. Loss of riverine habitat resulted in a significant reduction in the once abundant swans, but their numbers are slowly increasing and you may be lucky and see them there today.

Cottesloe Picture Theatre

Cottesloe Picture Theatre was established during 1924 inside Wells Hall (named after Walter Wells who owned the premises), cnr Leake Street and Stirling Highway.

Wells Hall was a big two story building containing a large hall, stage and dressings rooms upstairs and a large lodge room used by Freemasons.  The lodge room (together with a series of other rooms) were called Boronia Lodge.  The lower level housed the Roads Board Office, shops, a meeting room and a large room for Lodge festivals.  In the early years the Hall was the social centre for the district with annual balls, fetes, concerts and club meetings regularly taking place. From 1924-1956 – Peppermint Grove Roads Board offices formed part of the rear section of the Picture Theatre.

Towards the end of 1920s an outdoor picture theatre garden was created on land behind the hall in Leake Street.  The outdoor area consisted of well-kept lawns surrounded by evergreen flowering creepers and flowerbeds and trees in the background.  Patrons had a choice of the more expensive deck chairs or the hard wooden benches.

Wells Hall was renamed Cottesloe Hall when it was sold to W. Waters

In 1937 the Theatre was remodelled in the “International” style and became purely a picture theatre (cinema) with open air picture gardens.  It was operated by Lou Hatfield.

In 1963 – Work commences for new shopping centre, “The Grove Shopping Centre” and by 1964 the Picture Theatre was demolished and replaced by Boans Department Store.  In 1977 – The Grove Shopping Centre was rebuilt and opened as “Grove Plaza”

Albion Hotel or Half Way House?

This has always had people scratching their head!  Is the Albion Hotel on Stirling Highway the original hotel which John Butler built back in the mid 1800s?

Well the answer is NO!

John Butler acquired a block of 250 acres of land way back in 1830.  He was granted the land due to the wealth of the cargo he bought with him from the United Kingdom.  This land later became known as Peppermint Grove.

Back in those days there was a track running from the river up to Perth, possibly along the same route as View Street today.  John opened an Inn along the route from the crossing  which was originally referred to as The Bush Inn or Half Way House.  He established a flourishing  business from travellers on their way from Fremantle to the Perth.

As time progressed the Perth to Fremantle road was comissioned and the original track was relocated to the site of the current Stirling Highway.  As the use of the river crossing declined, the Inn lost trade and the license lapsed.

Another Inn prospered from the newly formed Perth to Fremantle road.  It was built on the site of the current Albion Hotel.  John eventually moved with his family over to the Eastern States but after his death, his wife returned to Perth to reclaim the estate left behind in the care of Thomas Bailey.

So there you have it…mystery solved!