Marble Bar makes comeback

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The Marble Bar, Hilton Hotel Sydney. Photo: marblebarsydney.com.au

SYDNEY’S well loved and well remembered Marble Bar, of the old Adams Hotel, is to reappear early next year.

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Every section of the original marble bar was numbered and painstakenly put back together like a jigsaw puzzle.

The entire 45ft. square of Victorian opulence, mecca of sentimental drinkers for 75 years, and dismantled two years ago, is now being re-assembled.

One of the few changes will be that women will be welcome in what was once one of the strongest male domains in Sydney.

The “new” bar will be on the 5th floor of the new Sydney-Hilton, the towering hotel-office building now taking shape on the Pitt Street site that once held Adams Hotel, the Palace Theatre, and the Royal Arcade.

The public will enter straight from Pitt Street because four of the 44 floors of the hold will be underground.

Pulling the old bar, declared a first-class national historical monument by the National Trust, back to its original state has been something like fitting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. When Adams Hotel was demolished every section of the old bar was numbered, X-rayed, dismantled, documented, crated, and stored until it was time to bring them all back to life.

In the new Marble Bar there will be only two changes. The lighting will be indirect or simulated natural light and the floor will be covered with a russet-colored carpet instead of linoleum.

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Jim Bryant with an artist impression of the new Sydney Hilton Hotel

“An interesting feature about that floor came to light during dismantling operations” said Jim Bryant, architect, and partner in the firm engaged in the bar’s restoration.

“We found four levels of mosaic tiled floor. Originally there must have been one. Then, as it wore out, others were added. Finally, linoleum was placed over the lot.”

Workmen have already started installing the magnificent marble pieces that gave the bar its name. The ornate ceilings, originally plaster cast, have been renewed but faithfully copied and the old push-type leadlight entrance doors will be back. Mr. Bryant, tall, amiable, and brimming with enthusiasm for the job, said that pulling down “a national museum” then restoring it was, for him and his co-workers, the most interesting project they had ever tackled.

“The first thing we did was to have the whole place thoroughly washed down and believe me, it was an experience to see the startlingly beautiful marble colors that emerged. Apparently they hadn’t been touched for a long time.

“They came from all round the world. Italy, Belgium, the Pyrenees, and some local quarries which have long since been closed.

“The Marble Bar was built by George Adams in 1892, nearly 15 years after he acquired Adams Hotel – known then as O’Briens – and it cost in the vicinity of $60,000 which was a lot of money in those days.”

As its long-time habituees remember, there were two large, identical bars facing each other across the spacious room separated by massive marble pillars. The bars, ornate, carved American walnut, were supported by bare torsoed female caryatids.

“The bottom parts of the bars were badly rotted, probably by the years of spilt beer. These have been fully restored.”

And the old paintings that adorned the walls of the Marble Bar will still be there. Nostalgic visitors can prop their elbows on the bars and look at the lovely diaphanously-clad ladies all representing such maidenly subjects as “Noon”, “Sunlight”, “Shade”, “Spring”, “Summer” and “Wind.”

 

– GLORIA NEWTON

-Australian Women’s Weekly, Wednesday 13 September 1972.



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