For more than a hundred years a hotel stood on the site of what is today the Astra Retirement Village at Bondi Beach.
The original building was named the Cliff House Hotel and was built around 1880. The Cliff House was demolished in the early 1920s and a new hotel built by Jack Shaw around 1926. It was called the Hotel International.
Shaw sold the Hotel International to the hotelier, newspaper owner and sporting personality, Sir Joynton Smith, who named it the Astra.
In 1937, Oldfield’s Hotels Pty Ltd, owned by Allen Oldfield and his three sons, took control of the hotel. They had previously owned hotels in Captain’s Flat and Goulburn, and it was under the Oldfields’ leadership that the Astra flourished.
The Astra was on a par with the Hotel Australia, the old Wentworth and the Usher’s Hotel; the Bondi Hotel was not in the same class. Summer of the Seventeenth Doll with Ernest Borgnine, John Mills, Angela Lansbury and Anne Baxter was filmed in the Astra in 1959.
The long island bar with eight taps was then one of the largest in Sydney. It was all tiles, cream and green, but classy and well kept. There was a lot of spit and polish, and one end of the snack bar was famous for its pies. People came from miles around and ordered them by the dozen.
Oldfield’s sold the Astra in December 1967 for about $700,000 to Intercapital Hotels Pty Ltd; “We’d been there for 30 years and that was sufficient,” they said. In 1973, Intercapital changed its name to Castle Hotels Pty Ltd and its holding company was taken over by Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd, who then sold the hotel to CG Maloney.
After a few years, Bondi residents took a petition to Waverley Council complaining that the Astra patrons were habitually disturbing the neighbourhood. The council in turn took it to the Metropolitan Licensing Board, and after lengthy hearings the Astra submitted a development application to become a retirement village.
On October 22 1984 the village was opened by John Brown, Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism. These days, the building hosts a thriving community of over 55-year olds who love to take advantage of the building’s fabulous Bondi location and rich heritage.
– With thanks: bondiastra.com.au/history