The Amphitheatre was built in 1923 and 1924 for the Order of the Star in the East, an offshoot of the Theosophical Society. Theosophists seek to find God and achieve universal goodwill by spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition or special individual relations.
The Theosophist Dr Mary Rocke purchased the site, which had a superb view of Sydney Harbour’s North Head and was above Edwards Beach’s northern end. The architects were J.E. Justelius & Son and the builder was John Jamieson. An estimated cost of 7000 Pounds for the land and building blew out to about 20,000 Pounds. The building was in the Grecian Doric style. It was partly cut into the sandstone rock and was partly constructed of white painted concrete. It seated 2000 people with room for an additional 1000 to stand. It included a stage, a chapel, a tearoom, a meeting hall and a library. A Theosophical Society publication described the building as ‘a symbol in stone of what our daily lives should be …simple, pure, clean, dignified’.
The Order intended to use the Amphitheatre for the ‘new world teacher’, Jiddu Krishnamurti, to address his audience. He only, though, did so once and subsequently rejected his role. The Order was dissolved in 1929.
The Amphitheatre was sold in 1931 to George Humphrey or George Humphrey Bishop (sources differ), who organised vaudeville and other live performances there as well as putting a mini-golf course on the roof. The Catholic Church purchased the building in 1936, after which it fell into disrepair.
Urban Cooperative Multi Home Units No. 3 demolished the Amphitheatre in 1951, replacing it with a large red brick block of 30 flats called Stancliff. ‘In the end’, the historian Jill Roe later wrote, ‘ suburbanisation conquered all’. Stancliff was still standing in 2014.
David Carment, visit to site, 12 October 2014.
Jill Roe, ‘Three Visions of Sydney Heads from Balmoral Beach’, in Jill Roe (Ed), Twentieth Century Sydney: Studies in Urban & Social History, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1980, pp 89-104.
Gavin Souter, Mosman: A History, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1994, pp 171-172.
Gavin Souter, Times & Tides: A Middle Harbour Memoir, Simon & Schuster, Sydney, 2004, pp 199-207.
The Star Amphitheatre Balmoral, Local Studies Service, Mosman Library, Mosman, no publication date.
The amphitheatre, Balmoral Beach, 1920s (Mosman Library)
The amphitheatre site viewed from Rocky Point, 2014 (David Carment)