19 January 2008

Past vision for Gosford's future.

The following appeared in the Gosford Times on the 11th. of February, 1898, and imagines Gosford five years into the future, 1903.

One hundred and ten years later we are still arguing about the waterfront and how to link it to the town.
In the writers vision, a place had been found for a library and a centre for the arts, 110 years later we are still waiting.
The wood blocked Mann Street suggests the pedestrian precincts now in vogue in post-mall urban planning, and would be worth considering in Mann Street 2008.
The leisurely walk through the Park to the town, alas, will remain a fantasy, as the Leagues Club and the Stadium (their effect on the area and their political clout) dominate any future for Gosford’s renovation.
The electric tram to the Penang solved the transport problems still faced by Mt Penang, which is still isolated and in greater confusion about its future.

February 1903.
On a lovely moonlit night in February 1903, the Gosford Pier was crowded with promenaders. It was a Saturday. The pier was a splendid modern structure and ran out, towards the middle of the Broadwater, a distance of about 500ft. The shore end was midway between the railway line and the point which I had remembered as the Park.

Gosford Wharf, c. 1885. (Copyright Gosford Library)
I was wondering how the amazing change had come about and was anxiously watching the faces of the people hoping to see one that I knew. I wanted to ask for the history of what had occurred, and as good luck would have it, I recognized a tall figure who was approaching me. It was the well-known manager of the bank. He was alone and noticed me as soon as I had caught his eye.
With a cordial shake of hands we greeted each other.
“I am heartily glad to see you again,” he said. “What do you think of us now?”
“I can hardly believe my own eyes,” I answered. “I am fortunate to have met you for I am full of questions. What was the start of all this wonder?”
“Deepening the Bar. Come along with me out of the crowd and I’ll tell you all about it.”
The strains of a first class band mingled with our voices and helped to make me realize that, wonderful as the story was, it was probable and not merely a dream.
“You see,” he began, “we realized that to make the place as popular as it deserved to be, we must attract the people here and must also give them something to do when we got them to come. Now water carriage is the cheapest of all – and the Bar stood in out way!”
He then went on to tell me of the trouble that the Bar had given them. But with the aid of engineering skill they conquered, and not only made a navigable Bar but dredged a wide channel, where necessary, all the way to the town. The material dredged up was utilized to fill in a sea wall from the railway bridge to the old wharf and thus a stretch of land was reclaimed which together with a portion of the flat was availed of to make a park with pavilions, and the covered in pier had been added as extra attraction. Boats of a speedy type were employed able to bring some 700 passengers at a time. Among so many who came for a breath of sea air and a pleasant outing were some who stayed longer next time.
The Railway Commissioners were awaked by all this to a welcome change of tactics. Fast through trains were put on at a reduced rate, which had proved a great success in every way.
“By the way,” asked my friend, “how did you come here?”
“I have only been here about half an hour; I was staying at Woy Woy and came here by launch.”
“Oh! well, you must come and see the town. I fancy that will surprise you more than ever!”
We walked leisurely along a trim Asphalt road which led away from the pier to the Park gates – and towards the town. I recognised the School of Arts, at least the front of it, for the building had been greatly added to at the back.
“We have a hall of our own now,” said my companion, when I asked him how ‘Rising Sun Lodge’ was getting on. “I fancy I did a prophetic thing in calling it ‘Rising Sun’ he continued.
The Masonic Hall and Club I was told was a fine building on the corner next to the library, where I knew a hotel used to stand.
Mann Street was a revelation! Wood blocked with splendid pavements all the way and lighted by electricity!
I was too amazed to say any more but listened eagerly to the account of all the improvements which had been made.
“You remember the old school church – well the site is now occupied by a new stone church, we used a good deal of the old building on the East side and the result is one of the best buildings in the Diocese.
On the way I noticed that the ‘Royal’ was a good deal improved and was doing well.
“Our old friend, Charley, is also in good fettle.” I was glad to hear this. The genial host of the ‘Fern Tree’ was sure to be doing well, I fancied, and fully merited a good sized slice of the good times.
Opposite the Railway Station I saw a large building which I heard was the ‘Gosford Metropole’ and the company that owned it was also the proprietors of the Pier.
An electric tram took passengers to the heights of the Penang – a source of a good deal of the traffic, as the climate was so splendid for convalescents.
Several furnished cottages had been built together with a Metropole on a smaller scale to the ‘Gosford’ and were at present sufficient. But the trade was growing larger and more accommodation would soon be needed.
It is needless to say that I was glad that prosperity had come to Gosford for I had always had a soft spot for the place.
I stayed a week and renewed old acquaintances. It is a pleasure to hear on every side tales of improvement and good times, and it was strange to think that it was all owing to subduing that old Bar which had seemed to us once such a stumbling block.

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