The building has been decorated with a Commendation from the City of Fremantle, for conservation of a Heritage listed place.
The major renovation works have achieved a beautiful purpose-built medical centre. With the general practice comprising the entire upper level, and built around the central treatment room, the workspace is functional and comfortable. The ground floor comprises Western Diagnostic Pathology, Wray Avenue Pharmacy, Lifecare physiotherapy, and Fremantle Clinical Psychology and Counselling. The co-location of the health tenants provides convenient and integrated community services.
History – the former Beacon Theatre
The Beacon Theatre originally opened as a community cinema in 1937 and its Art Deco streamlined architecture is still evident. Built to accommodate stadium seating for 792, the building brought Fremantle residents a new place for entertainment. The building has been listed by the City of Fremantle to be of significant cultural heritage.
The cinema closed in 1961 and the building later traded as a supermarket, video rental shop, and community op shop. The conversion of the two-storey commercial building into a medical centre was a bold project undertaken by Ellen Health Directors in 2013, with the creative expertise of Ben Roberts and his team from Redtail Construction, Architect Michael Francas and Interior Designer Catriona Gregg.
In early 2014 the building was derelict. The works included removal of an existing asbestos roof, major demolition of internal walls and external projection box, and alterations to the internal footprint of the building, including new internal walls, ceilings, bathrooms and a new carpark.
Architect Michael Francas’s creative skill led to the achievement of a highly functional recreation of the building, with excellence in design and amenity.
Ben Roberts of Redtail construction carried out the works with the utmost of skill and flexibility. Typically there were some surprises whilst renovating an old building. Ben managed this challenging project with great patience and talent. Catriona Gregg advised on the interior design. Catriona’s vision and attention to details such as highlight windows and conserving the original Art Deco design have helped achieve this beautifully presented building.
A second-stage renovation of the lower level in 2016, again designed by Michael Francas, led to a dedicated space for occupational health rooms, and WORKWELL Ellen Health was born.
The result is a beautiful and functional medical centre. The renovation incorporates features promoting energy efficiency and sustainability. Revitalization of the old building has brought joy to many community members, particularly older patients who fondly recall the cinema from a different era.
Sentimental notes about the Beacon Theatre: “The Beacy Corner in the 1940’s (as many old Fremantle people fondly remember it)” A local history contribution from Mrs Margaret Groenink : local resident and Ellen Health VIP.
It stood out as a very grand building. There were outdoor deck chairs for summer time, a chemist shop on the northern corner of the building and a refreshment shop on the southern side. This shop had lollies, milkshakes, chewing gum and raspberry cordial at 1 penny a cup. The shop was always crowded at interval time and the usherettes had to help out in the shop.
Every theatre in those times always screened a newsreel, a cartoon and two movies. As you entered the theatre, there were seating rows called “stalls” for the lesser paying public and the “lounge” for the pricier seating; also the upstairs viewing for the very posh. When the movies finished, a military march was played so that all patrons could file out in an orderly manner. At interval time people would be looking around to see who they knew ….quite a social gathering,
On Friday nights it was always a cowboy movie and cartoons but it was “serial style” … to be continued…so that all the young ones had to go again the following Friday. The usherettes always carried a torch to show you to your seat. We were friends with one attractive usherette who wore the very best of fashions and we children thought it was the most glamorous job to have.
Behind the sweet shop was the outdoor theatre garden with deck chairs for summer evenings . Most patrons sank so low in these canvas chairs, I’m sure they could not see all of the movie screen. It did not seem to worry anyone because it was a special summer outing! Sometimes we would take a billy can down to the theatre refreshment shop to buy a couple of 1 penny milkshakes and then take them home to share for supper. Raspberry cordials were so delicious – real fruit and nothing artificial.
People walked a lot in those days and we cannot remember any parking problems. As we lived so close to the Beacon Theatre (Ashburton Terrace), on hot summer nights we would take a blanket up on the hill at the end of our street and watch the outdoor movies for free – but without sound. It was still good fun! This hill is now covered with very flash houses but then it was our big adventure. There were so many areas to explore. There was even a very large cave which was used as an air raid shelter during the war. There were only five houses in the street at that time.
Material for clothing was scarce and rationed in the war years. Mum would buy parachutes from the Army disposal and make baby gowns from the silk. But before we helped to unpick the parachutes (a long job), we would take a running leap with a parachute from the top of the hill . Our feet would barely lift 1 inch off the ground …but what fun!
The Beaconsfield Hotel (now Moondyne Joe’s) was the location of the Thursday “Apple Cart”. All the local householders would come to purchase orchard fresh apples and oranges for the week from a truck parked at the hotel. The fruit was poured down a chute into prams, strollers and carts or whatever contraption the locals could find to act as a shopping trolley. The apples were always wrapped in green tissue paper. Our favourite thing was to polish each apple to a mirror finish. Every home always had a bowl of perfectly polished apples on the dining room table. It was the only fruit you could buy then…you grew grapes, figs and almonds in the back yard.
Now to the Chemist Shop. Our local chemist shop was part of the theatre building and it was where all the new mothers took their babies to be weighed and measured on a special little white cane baby tray. Here are some of the medications available at the time:
Black Iodex cream for aches, sprains etc. Green Silk for broken skin and ulcers. A.P.C suspension (mixture) for flu’, headache, temperature. Penicillin was the only antibiotic, and usually given by injection. Purple Paint (Gentian Violet) for sores, scratches and mouth ulcers. Menthoids for backache (turned urine blue but fixed the back pain in no time). Ipecac & Squills: supposed to fix many ills but tasted poisonous! Ichthamol Eye Drops saw everyone with panda eyes. Concentrated Heenzo: You made a mixture with boiling water, honey and vinegar. When cold you added this to a small bottle of Heenzo and it made a delicious cough syrup that soothed everything. A cold never lasted and the serious flu was a rarity. Bengers Food made a nourishing invalid meal – it was pre-digested. Anyone feeling a little nauseated could ask for a Draught which was mixed at the counter from some effervescent mix. Most customers felt a lot better after one drink ! Most people made their own bandages from tearing up old sheets. There was a treatment for gravel rash and school sores called Bates’O’Salve. This consisted of a reddish/brown stick about 10 inches long and the poor patient (victim) would have this melted onto their sores by lighting the stick with a match (very similar to old fashioned sealing wax). Our Mum would not use it on us but our cousins often had this treatment and I still remember their screams. The sores cleared up quickly.
Across the road from the Chemist Shop was the local Barber Shop …which was also a cover for the illegal S.P. betting. (someone always kept a lookout for the police). Down a couple of shops was our local Deli Grocery shop where all tinned food had to be secured in a locked wire cage by 6pm or you could get a heavy fine. Shop and Factories inspectors came often! Next door was the local Fish & Chips shop. Just opposite was the Woodyard …no airconditioning or gas back then! Diagonally across from the chemist was Mr. Sanders Store. This shop had everything you could think of … for example: bookshop and bank, sweets and icecream, cooldrink and cigarettes on one side. In the centre was a staircase going up to the private residence of this family. On the other side was a drapery with material, clothing, pins, needles etc. Outside on the western side of the building was a type of garage store room which housed an old vehicle (like the old Boans van) which was used to deliver lino, carpet, mats, feed for poultry, chicken wire and all manner of garden goods. Mr. Sanders never had an apprentice, and we reckoned he was very methodical because of the amount of goods stored in the shed. He could be seen measuring up various items on the bitumen driveway. On weekends we used to walk up the high steps attached to his home and buy canaries or goldfish.
On the eastern side of this building he had a tennis court. In those days wealthy people had a tennis court included in their home property. Nowadays they have swimming pools. The building is now a hearing centre and a steep driveway has replaced the stairs. About six houses north from this shop stood the Bundi Kudja Maternity Hospital. Our Mum walked from Ashburton Tce to Bundi Kudja to have her babies. We often snuck around the corner to visit her.
A little further down was Letchfords cool drinks factory. The best flavours ever!…especially the fruit cocktail. The Trams used to come around the Beacy Corner on their way to Fremantle. Heading the other was southwards along Hampton Road there were two Butcher Shops very close to each other. You always waited to get the meat you purchased put through the mincer. On the other side of the road was the Wine Saloon. A bit further down St Pauls Church was …and still is. Then the local Police Station where the police all rode bicycles. It cost 1s/6d to licence your bike. I was pulled over because my licence was out of date!. Opposite the church was the Village Blacksmith. We children would watch him at work on our way home from school.
The Post Office was on the corner of Martha Street and the school was on the next corner. Two other corners had shops where you could by nice home made food and pies for school lunches. There was another food shop between the school and the post office. Three tuckshops so close! Very busy school … some classrooms had 50 students to a room.