Newcastle Herald

How the earthquake changed the face of our city

Author: REPORTS: Alison Branley and Martin Dinneen.
Date: 15/12/2009
Words: 1361
Source: NCH
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: Supplement
Page: 12
The Newcastle earthquake struck on

December 28, 1989, and the city would

never be the same again. As well as mental

scars on its people, the quake also left

physical scars on the city itself, most

obviously with the destruction of Newcastle

Workers Club and the Kent Hotel in Hamilton.

But these were not the only buildings

to suffer at the hands of nature. In

total 40,000 homes were damaged,

147 schools and 3000 other buildings.

There was $4.3 billion worth of damage.

Here are just some of the ways the

quake changed the face of Newcastle.

RALPH Della Grotta was working as a barber in his

shop Ralphs Hair Stylist in Beaumont St when the

quake struck. A customer inside knew it was an

earthquake and they ran outside, later going to the aid of

people at The Kent Hotel.

Bricks falling from the walls and the suspended ceiling

filled the shop with dust. The building was declared

unsafe afterwards and demolished.

Two months later Della Grotta moved his business to

nearby Cleary St. He retired four years ago, but the business

remains open.

The former site now houses two real estate agencies and

Hamilton loan office.

IN 1989 the Clancys foodstore on Beaumont St created a

memorable image when the brick facade dangled precariously

over the awnings below.

The building, which also contained a Soul Pattinson

Chemist, was sandwiched between Pro-Am photo lab and

Hamilton Travel.

Twenty years later theres a new building on the site

that is home to the Bank of Queensland and Terry White


Theres still a travel

agency on one side,

Travelscene, and

Eyecare Plus on the


THE George Hotel on

the corner of Watt and

Scott streets in Newcastle

was a grand old hotel

with high ceilings and thick stone walls, built in

1915 to replace the Metropolitan Hotel, and it was

a landmark building prior to 1989.

When the hotel and its equally historic neighbour

Carrington Chambers suffered extensive

damage in the earthquake, heritage advocates

fought loud and hard to save it. In the end the

building was demolished with a wrecking ball

following a formal order from Newcastle City


Today it is the Metro apartments, a modern

eight-storey residential building with offices and

shopfronts on two lower levels.

MANY a raucous night was spent at The Castle

tavern on King St before the 1989 earthquake.

While little damage was evident from the outside

after the quake, the facade was cracked and

there was damage inside.

Twenty years after the earthquake, the revelry

still continues on the site with the night spot reinvented

as the King Street Hotel.

Although the decor

has been given a facelift the

nightclub continues to be a

popular meeting place for

people in their early twenties.

It plays host to a steady stream

of DJs and has four distinct


THE buildings at The Junction

Public School dated back to

1872 at the time of the earthquake,

and when it struck the

school suffered significant

damage and much of it had to

be demolished.

Today it is a blend of old

and new, including its National

Trust listed school hall and modern classrooms.

In the playground is a brick arched doorway, the last vestige

of the once grand school building that was extensively

damaged in the quake.

It is a memorial to Phillip Duncan Guascoine, 24, who

was killed during reconstruction work at the school in

October, 1990.

A FORMER car dealership in Maitland Rd, Islington,

epitomised the destruction around Newcastle after the

1989 earthquake.

The awning and side of the building collapsed, sending

rubble into the streets and exposing the upstairs apartment.

Today the building has been repaired, extended, and is

home to Jaycar Electronics.

Looking at the modest shopfront in the tree-lined

street, its hard to imagine such destruction ever happened


THE Century Theatre at Nine Ways, Broadmeadow, was

one of the Hunters iconic theatres before the earthquake.

The inter-war picture palace started its life as a stage

theatre full of marble and crushed velvet, before being

purchased by Hoyts and used for a time as a cinema.

The elaborate balcony cost the theatre its life when the

awning came down in the 1989 earthquake.

The awning was deemed insecure and the whole brick

facade therefore unsafe, and it had to come down. It was

the start of the demise of a number of grand old cinemas

in Newcastle.

Today there is a Yellow Pages office in its place.

A BUTCHER shop in Laman St, Newcastle, was reduced

to rubble in the aftermath of the earthquake.

The owner had to demolished most of the shop but

kept some of the original facade.

Two townhouses were built to replace the shop and the

owner used what was left of the facade to create a front


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Some of the original tiling on the fence is still exposed,

showing a picture of a blue ram.

The new building is located between historic townhouses

and new WEA school buildings next door.

NEWCASTLE Workers Club was the scene of most

destruction on the morning of the earthquake.

As the quake hit the entire building was plunged into

darkness and the floor of the gaming area collapsed into

the carpark below, pinning people between concrete, cars

and poker machines.

The club has since been rebuilt and now stand as

Panthers, offering much the same kind of services and

entertainment as it did before the quake.

BEAUMONT St, Hamilton, was a busy area badly hit by

the quake with three people dying after being crushed by

fallen awnings and walls on the popular shopping strip.

The Kent Hotel was badly damaged with the awning

that shaded the footpath crashing onto it.

The building was not demolished but refurbished and

strengthened, and remains a popular watering hole for

not only residents of Hamilton but for thousands of visitors

who come to Beaumont St to sample

its vibrant

cafe and





bore much

of the

brunt of the

tremor as it

rippled the ground throughout the region.

The Junction Tavern had long been a working-class

establishment and despite some structural damage it was

restored, only to undergo extensive renovation in 2007 to

offer a more airy and open dining, gaming and drinking


Since its renovation a number of inner city pubs have

begun or planned renovations that reflect The Junction

Taverns modern aesthetic.

THE Broadway was another hotel that fell by the wayside

in the earthquake.

Nestled behind the rail lines on the western side of

the Broadmeadow Railway Bridge, the Broadway was

well frequented by tradesmen and workers from the

Broadmeadow area.

The hotel was almost completely destroyed in the

quake, with external walls collapsing under the strain. The

rubble that remained was demolished and removed.

The land now lies empty with the popular building

supply wholesaler Saddingtons occupying an adjacent


THE Newcastle RSL Club building stood for

many years on the corner of King St and Perkins

St, as a theatre known as Kings Hall and then the


The building was badly damaged in the quake

with external walls tumbling onto the footpath.

Police made the decision to demolish the

building only days into the mammoth, city-wide

clean-up operation.

The land remained in the hands of Newcastle

RSL, which relocated the club to off the

Hunter St Mall, until it was sold recently and

is now home to an office and administration


THE Junction

Motor Inn stood on

the corner of Kenrick St and

Corlette St, The Junction, where

the historic Hunter Theatre

once stood, and was a popular

inner-city accommodation


It was damaged in the quake

but stood for a period before

being demolished.

The block was then developed

into a office, retail and hospitality

centre which has housed

a number of well patronised

Newcastle eateries, such as Milanos.

CRACKERS night club on King St was once one of a bevy

of popular night spots along the street, including The

Castle, Jolly Roger and the Casbah.

Only opened in Easter

the same year as the quake,

it was damaged in the

quake, never reopened and

was eventually demolished.

The block where it stood

now houses retail stores,

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