Wollongong's North Beach was a sea of boater hats, polka dots and retro swimwear yesterday as people took a trip back to the 1930s, in honour of the opening of the long-awaited North Beach Bathers Pavilion.
The pavilion, originally built in 1938, was officially reopened yesterday after an extensive restoration project, which included the installation of new toilets, changing rooms and a cafe.
Hundreds of people gathered next to the new-look building for yesterday’s festivities, enjoying choral performances, hoop routines and brass band numbers, all themed with a touch of whimsy.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, sporting a vintage boater hat for the occasion, said the pavilion had become one of the great jewels of the Blue Mile project and a key regional attraction.
‘‘The pavilion is a beautiful, old structure and it is wonderful to see it restored to its former glory and returned to the community,’’ he said.
‘‘The building combines the region’s long-standing beach lifestyle with its cafe and food culture, bringing together the most relaxing experiences of coffee, beach and sun...it is great to see it back in action.’’
The pavilion was originally constructed for just £7000 – a drop in the ocean compared to the $13.9million that was invested in the recent renovation, which included significant restoration of the post-war structure’s brickwork.
Improvements have also been made to the building’s surrounds including the construction of a new pedestrian promenade.
Councillor Bradbery yesterday acknowledged changes in the region’s beach culture and use of the pavilion, noting its transition from being the centre of early beach trips to becoming a dilapidated site, desperately in need of a makeover.
‘‘When the pavilion was first built, [trips to the] beach were more formal than by today’s Australian standards. People came via the pavilion,’’ he said.
‘‘But times changed and changing on the beach or just showing up in your swimmers and boardies became more socially acceptable; the pavilion [became less used] and was in a state of disrepair.’’
The building was closed for refurbishment in March 2011 and was slated to reopen earlier this year but bad weather hampered construction, delaying progress by almost six months.
Yesterday’s celebrations also paid tribute to the building’s history, particularly its ties to surf culture.