On 25 July 1884 nearly 400 acres of land was declared as the Old Bar Recreation Reserve. Under the control of Trustees, the reserve extended from the Manning River entrance north of the township down the coastline to Racecourse Creek. The inland boundary was approximately at David Street with entrance to the reserve by a toll gate.1 Over the years the reserve has been home to surf clubs, an airstrip, tennis courts, camp grounds and the pavilion.
The first pavilion was built in 1887 to provide refreshments and shelter to beachgoers.2 After it was burned down in 1889, a new pavilion was erected and the position of resident caretaker was advertised.3 An early caretaker, Mr R R Bryant, was forced to resign after he was arrested for selling sly-grog.4 Thereafter there were many capable caretakers who paid an annual rent for the right to supply goods, refreshments and accommodation to holiday makers.5
Christmas holidays were the busiest periods with hundreds of people camping in the grounds and renting rooms in the pavilion. Dances were held regularly in the main hall. Over the decades the pavilion was modified, expanded and decorated to keep up with visitor demand. In 1928, the Bunyans converted the building into two storeys adding 20 bedrooms, shop, tearoom and balcony. Dressing sheds and lavatories were nearby.6 In 1914, a postal service was installed at the pavilion7 and in 1920 a telephone bureau.8
Despite innovative attempts by the Trustees to raise revenue to build a new pavilion, their efforts were thwarted and in 1961 by order of the Manning Shire Council, the old pavilion was demolished, taking with it over 70 years of Old Bar holiday history.9
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales, 23 October 1953 [issue no 189], p. 3526.
2 Australian Town and Country Journal, 8 January 1887, 16.
3 Daily Telegraph, 8 June 1889, 3; Sydney Mail and NSW Advertiser, 29 February 1896, 462.
4 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 13 April 1898, 2.
5 Northern Champion, 4 August 1928, 4.
6 Northern Champion, 4 August 1928, 4.
7 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 18 April 1914, 10.
8 Northern Champion, 13 December 1919, 4.
9 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 12 October 1960, 1; NSW State Archives, 14 February 1961.