Qantas 747 Float 1997 Mardi Gras

Qantas 747 jumbo float

The Qantas 747 Jumbo Float of Gayviation from the 1997 Mardi Gras parade

The photo opposite shows the Mardi Gras 1997 Qantas Jumbo 747 Gayviation float ready to go to the parade. This post has been updated. The new version can be found on this link.

It provides some background information about the creation of the Gayviation entry for the 1997 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

Art Deco Theatre Names

The various designs of Art Deco security doors, windows and gates produced by DecoWorks have been named after Art Deco theatres from the early 20th Century. It is a nice way to blend our theatrical prop making services with our custom security bars services.

Below are the theatres from which our designs are named. We gratefully acknowledge the Cinema Treasures website for the information set out below.

Plaza Theatre

107 West 11th Street,
Lamar, MO 64759

The Plaza theatre

The Plaza theatre

The Plaza Theatre opened on October 25, 1934 with great fan fare. Every major studio at that time sent representatives for opening night. Telegrams were sent from Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Mae West, Al Jolson and many others.

The Plaza Theatre was designed by architect Larry P. Larsen of Webb City and originally seated 600. It was remodeled in 1945 to the designs of architect Robert O. Boller and had a seating capacity of 587.

Closed in 1986 when a fire at a clothing store next door forced the theatre to shut down. With no funds available and condemnation inevitable, a group of local citizens and business owners stepped forward to head a committee to save this historic theatre. After 10 years+ of negotiating and fund raising, the Plaza Theatre reopened on November 5, 1998. Still a single screen, with original hand painted murals on canvas tapestries hanging on side walls.

Odeon Theatre

271 Birchfield Road,
Birmingham B20 3DD

odeon theatre perry barr

First Odeon Theatre, Perry Barr, Birmingham

This was the first cinema in the United Kingdom to be called Odeon and was managed/operated by Oscar Deutsch who later founded his Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain in 1933.

He named the chain as such as it stood for Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation.

Located in the Perry Barr district in the north of Birmingham, the Odeon Theatre opened on 4th August 1930. It was designed by architects Stanley A. Griffiths and Horace G. Bradley in a Moorish style both externally and internally. The facade was painted white and had rounded features that gave an impression of domes. Inside the auditorium seating was arranged for 1,160 in the stalls and 478 in the balcony. An unusual feature was that the stalls area widened out towards the proscenium. There were Moorish scenes painted on the side walls in the front stalls area. The Odeon became part of the Odeon circuit from 17th July 1935.

In 1953 the facade of the building was re-built in a plain design of bare brick. It was closed by the Rank Organisation on 3rd May 1969 with Dean Martin in “The Wrecking Crew”.

It re-opened on 14th August 1969 as a Top Rank Bingo Club which continued until closing on 19th February 1983. The building lay empty for a while until it was taken over by an independent bingo operator and was known as the Perry Bingo Club. Later taken over by Granada Bingo and lastly operated by Gala Bingo it finally closed on 5th April 1997. It remained empty for several more years until August 2002 when it was converted into the Royale Banqueting Suite used for banquets and receptions.

Princess Theatre

112 Second Avenue NE,
Decatur, AL 35601

The Princess theatre

The Princess theatre

The Princess Theatre was opened on December 30, 1919 as a playhouse and road show theatre. When the Princess Theatre opened, it seated 1,500 in cushioned seats.

The theatre was renovated in 1940 to the plans of local Decatur architectural firm Albert R. Frahn & Associates, and again in 1949, in an Art Deco style, with seating reduced to 989 with all new seats and more leg room. The Princess Theatre closed as a movie theatre in 1987.

It became a performing arts center in 1988 and then went through a complete renovation in 2001 and officially reopened in February of 2001.

Strand Theatre

101 S. State Street,
Caro, MI 48723

The Strand theatre

The Strand theatre

Originally opened in the late-1920’s, the Strand Theatre has been remodeled over the years, most recently in 1994.

It features a beautifully intact Art Deco style facade and marquee illuminated by neon and light bulbs.

Regal Theatre

474 Hay Street,
Perth, WA 6008

The Regal theatre

The Regal theatre

Located in the Subiaco district of Perth. It was built on the site of the Coliseum Picture Gardens which had opened in the 1920’s. The Regal Theatre opened on the 27th April, 1938 with a topical film “Love Under Fire” set during the Spanish Civil War, which was raging at the time. The supporting film was “Shall We Dance” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

In 1946 the Regal Theatre was sold to Clarence ‘Paddy’ Baker, whose family have been associations with the site since the Coliseum Picture Gardens days. No history of the building would be complete without a mention of the veteran picture showman who had been associated with the industry since childhood. Paddy ran the Regal Theatre until he died in 1986, leaving his beloved theatre to the people of Western Australia. Since 1987, it has been used as a live theatre.

The Regal Theatre is listed with the National Trust and with the Australian Heritage Commission.

Ashton Theatre

8437 Apple Street,
New Orleans, LA 70118

Ashton Theatre, New Orleans

Ashton Theatre

A “nabe” theater in the Hollygrove neighborhood of New Orleans. Owned and operated by the Fonseca family, the Ashton Theater opened in 1927. It was designed by Black American (Creole) architect Ferdinand Rousseve, with Michael R. D’Orsi as associate architect. The Ashton Theater was closed in 1958.

It still stands today, even after taking seven feet of flood water from Hurricane Katrina. The artist Lyn Emery uses the wonderful old theater as a studio.

Regent Theatre

211 Trowbridge Street,
Allegan, MI 49010

The Regent theatre

The Regent theatre

The Regent Theatre opened in 1919 in what was formerly a late-19th century horse livery. It originally not only showed movies, but presented vaudeville acts on its stage.

In the 1930’s, the Regent Theatre received an Art Deco style face lift, including a cream-colored vitrolite facade with red and green highlights. The six second-story windows have been closed up and covered with vitrolite with abstract decoration on them. The late Streamline era marquee, with its only decoration being a large white star, is lit with neon and light bulbs.

After decades entertaining the people of Allegan, the Regent Theatre closed in the early-1980’s. It was threatened with demolition by 1990. The non-profit Old Regent Theatre purchased the theater the same year and restored it to its 1930’s glory in 1996. In 1997, during a violent rainstorm, the roof collapsed causing massive damage just an hour after the last movie of the night let out.

Since then, the Old Regent Theatre has been painstakingly rebuilt and restored once again, including recreating historic panels in the auditorium and the original 1930’s carpeting. The building was rewired electrically, and new curtains were hung. The 20 by 30 foot original screen was salvaged, but needed to be repaired. It is now one of the largest screens remaining in Michigan.

Oriental Theatre

2230 N. Farwell Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53202

The Oriental Theatre

The Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee

When the Oriental Theatre opened in 1927, it was among the most exotic and ornate movie palaces to have opened in Milwaukee with its Middle Eastern-meets-Far Eastern decor. It featured 2 minaret towers, three stained glass chandeliers, 6 larger-than-life Buddhas, several hand drawn murals, 8 porcelain lions, dozens of original draperies, and hundreds of elephants. The theatre was the crown jewel among the 45 theatres in the Saxe Brothers’ chain. The motif is not what first comes to mind today as being ‘oriental.’ Designed by Gustave A. Dick and Alex Bauer, the themes of the decor are East Indian, with no traces of Chinese or Japanese artwork. Milwaukee’s Oriental is said to be the only standard movie palace ever built to incorporate East Indian decor.

Although the large auditorium was divided into three smaller auditoriums in the late-1980’s, the decor was largely kept intact, miraculously, and the theater has managed to retain its 1920’s appearance to the present.

Its Kimball Organ, played each Saturay before each 7 p.m. show, is the largest of its kind remaining in the US. The Oriental Theatre is known for holding the record for a continuous midnight screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, which it has been performing since January, 1978.

The Greatest Wonder of the World

The Greatest Wonder of the World exhibition is being held at the State Library of NSW from February 23rd to May 12th 2013. The exhibition showcases the work of Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Baylis who documented everyday life in the gold fields, towns and cities of Australia in the 1870’s.

In 1951 a cache of 3500 glass wet plate negatives were discovered in a garden shed in Chatwood. Now known as “The Holtermann Collection” they were scanned in high resolution by the Library which revealed a wealth of information about the times. It was through Bernhardt Holtermann, part owner of The Star of Hope gold mine in Hill End and “discoverer” of the Holtermann nugget, that Merlin and Baylis were able to create this legacy which is the subject of this exhibition.

We were approached to build a replica daguerreotype camera and a 2D replica of the Holtermann nugget for the exhibition which are shown in situ below. More detail on each prop can be found by following their links.

Daguerreotype sliding box camera display

The sliding box daguerreotype camera display at the exhibition

Holtermann nugget display

The Holtermann Nugget section of the exhibition

Holtermann and his Nugget

Holtermann and his nugget

Holtermann and his nugget - (circa 1874-1876 - photograph by American and Australasian Photographic Company)

Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, a Taurean, was born in Hamburg, Germany, on April 28, 1835, the year of the Goat.

As a young man he left Germany in 1858 to avoid military service and arrived in Sydney, via Melbourne, on January 20th 1859. After several months working as a waiter at the Hamburg Hotel in King Street he met a Polish miner named Ludwig Hugo Louis Beyers. They both went to Hill End to prospect for gold in the Tambaroora area.

In 1861 they formed a partnership mining a claim at Hawkins Hill called the Star of Hope mine. After five years, and with little success, Holtermann was forced to undertake a variety of occupations in order to hold his claim. Through his business acumen and character he had become the licensee of the All Nations Hotel by 1868 and married Harriett Emmett in Bathurst on February 22th the same year. On the same day Ludwig Beyers married Harriett’s sister, Mary.

Some rich veins of gold were found in the mine in 1871 but were quickly exhausted. The following year one of the mines eight owners sold their share to Mark Hammond. He believed that the existing shaft would produce nothing and that a new one to the West would be more productive. No-one believed him. Without authority from the other owners he sealed off the old shaft and started a new one where, within a couple of weeks and despite the angst of his fellow workers, a rich new vein was discovered.

Tip of nugget

Tip of the Holtermann nugget at History Hill in Hill End

Hammond sold his share in the mine shortly after this discovery at a substantial profit thus missing out on the bonanza uncovered by the last blasting of the night shift at 2am on the 19th October, 1872 – a “veritable wall of gold was revealed”.

The largest single mass of gold ever recorded was brought to the surface where it was photographed with Holtermann who was mine manager at the time. It became known as Holtermann’s Nugget. It was reported to have contained 3,000 ozs of gold. Before the nugget was crushed, along with all the other ore, Holtermann chipped the tip off the nugget as a souvenir. Holtermann would have had no idea that in the future his great grandson, Harry, would sell many of his personal effects to History Hill at Hill End. Among these artifacts was the tip off the world’s largest nugget that Holtermann had souvenired over a century earlier.

An entry in the mine day book a few months later recorded that an even larger nugget was found containing an estimated 5000 ozs of gold. It was reportedly broken up underground by the miners to avoid the huge effort of having to bring another mammoth piece of rock to the surface in one piece only to see it broken up at the battery. However the *Topics of the Day* on page 2 of the South Australian Advertiser of Monday, 17th February 1873 quotes an article from the Hill End Observer and Tambaroora Herald of the 5th of February which describes the discovery of this second mammoth nugget and how it was raised to the surface. It remained on display for a week or so before being sent to the battery. No photographs were taken as Beaufoy Merlin and his equipment were elsewhere.

Holtermann stained glass window

Holtermann's stained glass window

Holtermann left Hill End a very rich man to pursue his many passions including photography and politics. He built a Victorian Free Classical mansion in Lavender Bay with a large square tower overlooking Sydney Harbour. He commissioned a round stained glass window 45cm in diameter for the tower which portrayed himself standing with the nugget that had changed his life.

It was from the top of this tower that a magnificent panoramic photograph of Sydney was captured, on three huge glass negatives weighing 27kg each, by Charles Baylis. In 1876 Holtermann took this masterpiece to the US Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia to promote Australia as a destination for immigration. A copy of this panorama can be seen today in the corridor of North Sydney Council’s Customer Service Centre at 200 Miller Street along with a comparable panorama taken from the SHORE tower in the 1970s. After Holtermann’s death his mansion was bought by Sir Thomas Dibbs who, in 1888, sold it to The Church of England. It is now part of SHORE at North Sydney. The tower was bricked over in 1934 but the stained glass window is still extant and is housed in the foyer of the school library.


Holtermann's grave at St Thomas' Rest Park in Crows Nest

Holtermann died on April 28, 1885 (his birthday) after a long illness and was buried in St Thomas’ Cemetery, Crows Nest. Also buried with him is his wife, Harriet, and some of their children and relatives. A brief reading of the inscriptions indicate that Holtermann’s life was not without its personal tragedies. He was a truly remarkable man who was ahead of his time in both thought and action.

Any discussion about Holtermann would not be complete without an acknowledgment of the efforts of Keast Burke who discovered the treasure of 19th century photographs produced by Holtermann, Merlin and Bayliss. From this important collection, found locked in a garden shed in Chatswood in 1951, Keast and his wife, Iris, uncovered most of what is known of Holtermann, Merlin and Baylis today.

In 1973 he published his book, “Gold and Silver ; An Album of Hill End and Gulgong Photographs from the Holtermann Collection” which remains the best reference on this subject. An excellent site, dedicated to Keast Bourke, which contains historic details of Holtermann, his associates and the role that photography played in the 1870’s in Australia can be found on Keast Burke’s website.

Daguerreotype Camera Parts

Daguerreotype camera box sections

Daguerreotype camera box sections ready for painting

Work is well underway making a practical sliding box Daguerreotype camera and tripod. The camera was required for “The Greatest Wonder of the World” exhibition held at the State Library of NSW from February 23rd to May 12th, 2013. It was used to illustrate how these early cameras were used.

It is required to produce an 10″ x 12″ inverted image on its screen and be able to focus on objects about 3-8 metres away. A fixed hood will be fitted on the back of the camera to make seeing the image easier in ambient light. There will also be a self centering mechanism which will return the camera to its set position if it is moved by curious children.

The tripod is of a type typical of an 1870’s studio camera. They had some limited vertical adjustment and were sometimes fitted with wheels to enable the camera to be moved about.

The lens was purchased from America and is an original 100mm lens from an early Daguerreotype camera and was discovered on eBay being sold as a paperweight. The optical characteristics of the lens determined the camera’s overall dimensions. The focusing screen is usually ground glass however this could not be used because of breakage issues. A piece of 6mm clear acrylic sheet with some tracing paper attached was used. It is important to have the thinnest plane possible on which to focus the image so that it is crisp and clean.

Pictures of the completed Daguerreotype camera can be found on the main props page of the DecoWorks website.

Period tripod assembly

Clamped and glued period tripod

Completed tripod

Completed tripod ready for painting

Main camera pivot and support finials

Main camera pivot and support pole finials

Fitting camera to pivot

Fitting the camera to the main pivot

Routing the focusing slot

Routing the focusing slot in the camera base support

Pania of the Reef – Napier

Pania of the Reef - Napier

Pania of the Reef - Napier

On a recent trip to Napier in New Zealand to admire the Art Deco buildings of the city I discovered this famous statue known as “Pania of the reef”. It is located in the park by the seawall opposite the Masonic Hotel.

The legend of Pania

On the base of the statue is a brass plaque. The inscription on the plaque reads;


“An old Maori legend tells how Pania, lured by the siren
voices of the sea people, swam out to meet them.
When she endeavoured to return to her lover, she was
transformed into the reef which now lies beyond the
Napier breakwater.

To perpetuate the legend the Thirty Thousand Club
presented this statue to the city of Napier – 1954″

The statue of Princess Pania is a nice nod to Maori culture

The Jalopy Shoppe – Gone!

The Jalopy Shoppe sign in August 2009

The Jalopy Shoppe sign in August 2009

The Jalopy Shoppe, that iconic piece of Sydney wall art painted on the side wall of 688 Parramatta Road Croydon is no more! Previously located at 690 Parramatta Road, the Jalopy Shoppe advertised their car yard business on the wall of the adjacent building with a huge green and black painting of a cartoon-like Model T Ford. It was a familiar sight to motorists for many years on the right hand side of Parramatta Road heading into the city. The business closed about 6 years ago but the sign remained.

Jalopy Shoppe painted over

Driving past several weeks ago I noticed that the sign had been painted over with a bland new advertisement. Such a pity for such a prominent site.

The sign can still be seen on Google street view. An image of the Jalopy Shoppe sign is reproduced from streetview below.

Jalopy Shoppe sign

Google street view of the sign

The newly painted wall

The newly painted wall - January 2011