Plaza Hotel, Sydney had the first fully automated glass washing machine in NSW

Plaza Hotel Sydney 1949 ANU

Hotel Plaza, Wynyard, George Street, Sydney 1949. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

THE first automated glass-washing machine in New South Wales, and the second in Australia, was installed in the bar of the Plaza Hotel, above Wynyard Railway Station, George Street, Sydney in 1946.

When Plaza Hotel manager, Alphonse Parer switched on the machine for the first time on Friday August 2 1946, it immediately unshackled his barmaids from valuable time hand washing glasses – a task that prevented them from serving thirsty customers at what was then the biggest beer selling hotel in the state.

Alphonsus Parer Plaza Hotel publican on the right 1945

Alphonsus Parer (right), licensee of the Plaza Hotel, George Street, presenting a £2509 cheque to Commissioner of Police (Mr. MacKay) for the Police Boys’ camp at Kurrajong. The hotel’s staff queen competitions raised the money. – Sydney Daily Telegraph October 10 1945 

The area around the Plaza Hotel became infamous after dark in the 1940s as a recognised ‘pick-up’ for Australian servicemen.

The ‘Wynyard ramp’, beside the Plaza Hotel and leading into the underground railway station, gained a reputation for “street-women” and “teenage irresponsibles”. For more on the seedy-side of the Plaza Hotel precinct visit the Time Gents’ story: Before The Cross there was Wynyard

The Plaza Hotel’s barmaids though were no time wasters when it came to pulling beers.

The barmaids, Billie Williams and Gladys Henwood were amongst the quickest beer-pullers in the state. Billie Williams was said to be able to serve a customer every five seconds, and empty an 18-gallon keg in about 30 minutes. Gladys Henwood, of Bondi Junction, could do the same. Read more about Billie and Gladys at the Time Gents story: Sydney Barmaids’ Beer Challenge

Billie and Gladys’ pace at serving customers was given a boost with the introduction of the automated glass washing machines. The glasses were placed on an endless belt, the slops ran away, and the glasses passed over three rinsing fountains.

Plaza Hotel Wynyard Sydney Electric Glass Washer 1946 first in NSW

A barmaid stacks the new beer glass washing machine at the Plaza Hotel, Sydney in 1946. Picture: Sydney Daily Telegraph Saturday 3 August 1946

The first sterilised the glasses in water of 190 degrees Fahrenheit; the second cooled it; the third gave it a cold rinse.

Every chipped glass broke Immediately it passed over the hot water; the rest passed on and queued up near the tap. No towels were used; the girls didn’t have to put their hands in cold water.

Cafe Francais Hotel later Menzies Hotel October 1930 ANU

The Cafe Francais Hotel, George Street, Sydney, October 1930. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

The Plaza Hotel was built in George Street , Sydney in 1936. It replaced a small pub known as the Cafe Francais Hotel, which had traded on the site since the 1860s.

The Cafe Francias Hotel would have sat where the entrance, off George Street into Wynyard Station, is located today.

In a detailed history of the Plaza Hotel by Phil Harvey, the administrator of the Facebook Group, ‘Old Sydney Album‘, he writes that a grand hotel was planned in 1928 for a large the site that would take in the Cafe Francais Hotel.

The hotel was originally proposed to extend over and under Wynyard Lane and back 200 yards to Carrington Street, on land owned by the Railway Commissioners, that was also set to be the site of Wynyard Station.

The £1,000,000, 13 storey hotel was to rise 170 feet with a 175 feet frontage to George Street. The hotel would also have a 200 feet frontage to Carrington Street and have 500 bedrooms, various dining rooms, lounges, snack bars, and cafes.

Due to numerous problems with construction and government red tape, the proposed hotel was never constructed and instead a two-storey hotel traded on the site for almost 30 years.

Work did start on the 13-storey hotel, however it remained a hole in the ground above Wynyard Station in 1934. The North West Champion newspaper reported on November 21 1935: “The great Plaza Hotel is rising slowly at Wynyard station…”

That same year Joseph Gardiner had a temporary bar built over the excavated site, which stood on stilts and faced George Street.

plaza hotel temporary bar 1935

The temporary bar of the Hotel Cafe Francais, facing George Street, in 1935. Picture: Phil Harvey

arial view of the construction in 1935, showing the temporary bar and its supports

The temporary bar of the Hotel Cafe Francais, facing George Street on stilts above the excavation site, in 1935. Picture: Phil Harvey

The hotel had only progressed up to the first floor above George street by 1937. This section contained restaurants, cafés, bars and connections to Wynyard Station, including what would become known as the infamous “Wynyard Ramp”.

The site was split in two about 1962, with ‘Wynyard House’ replacing the Plaza Hotel on the George Street side, and The Menzies Hotel built on the Carrington Street side.

The name was officially changed by the NSW Licensing Court from “The Plaza Hotel” to “The Menzies Hotel” on September 17 1962. The Menzies Hotel was named after Sir Archibald Menzies, a pioneer hotelier.

By the mid-1970s the Menzies Hotel was the state’s largest liquor selling licensed premises. The acquisition of Shell House, next to the hotel, in 1979 added a further 196 rooms to the hotel.

Menzies Hotel Sydney 1960 ANU

Hotel Plaza, Carrington Street, Wynyard 1960. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Menzies Hotel Sydney 1970 ANU

Menzies Hotel, Carrington Street, Wynyard 1970. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

French chain Accor took over the management of the hotel in 2000, and it closed in about 2016 to make way for the NSW Government’s Wynyard Railway Station precinct redevelopment. It was demolished in 2019.

  • With thanks to Phil Harvey, the administrator of the Facebook Group, ‘Old Sydney Album‘.
Menzies prior to demolition C2018

The entrance to Menzies Hotel, Sydney C2018. Picture: Supplied

menzies C2018

Menzies Hotel C2018 prior to demolition. Picture: Supplied


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Categories: NSW hotels, Sydney hotels

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9 replies

  1. I found your great website while searching for some information about a Sydney pub. This article talking about the Menzies is the closest I have come to finding any information. I’m searching for the name (and perhaps any images) of the pub that was inside Wynyard Station, at the bottom of the escalators leading up to the York St entrance. I suspect it was part of the Menzies Group. Thanks in advance.

  2. My Dad managed the Plaza for 12 years and our family lived on site —HUGE trade a brilliant place to live and play for a Kid on the 1950’s

    • Thanks for your comment, Michael. Have you got a photo of your dad (and his name) to include in our story? Also any additional information on his career as a publican….

  3. my father Max Turnbull was the first to hold the Licence of the Menzies as well as holding the office of F&B manager, he oversaw the transition from the old Plaza hotel to the Menzies. He left in the late 60’s to manage the Journalist Club.

    • Hi David. Thanks for your feedback. Have you got a photo of your father, Max Turnbull to include in our story? Also any additional information on his career as a hotelier? Thank you…

  4. Yes, the Plaza Hotel on the George Street entrance to Wynyard Station was a good spot for a beer after work in the late 1950s. They had Newcastle beer on tap (a wonderful drop) and later, in the 1960s, there was a lounge with a juke box where I met my girlfriend after work for a few beers and a dance. Andy Williams’ ‘Moon River’ was our favourite at the time. We married in 1962 and had two kids who are now in their fifties.
    We met others there and became good friends with some. Sadly, I moved away from the Wynyard area to Park Street so stopped my visits to the Plaza.


  1. Sydney Barmaids' Beer Challenge - TIME GENTS
  2. Before The Cross there was Wynyard - TIME GENTS

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