11 THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE
Miller Street, North Sydney
TRAM DEPOT 1886-1909
The site where the Theatre now stands was originally a tram depot. The
Commissioner of Railways is listed as the owner of the property in the
North Sydney Council Rate Books up until 1911. The Ridge Street tram
line to Milsons Point was opened on 22nd May, 1886 by Lord Carrington.
It is reported that Lord Carrington turned a "stop valve to allow steam to
enter the winding engine at Ridge Street power and winding Station".
In 1893 the line was extended to Crows Nest and it wasn't too long after
this that the first electric trams were introduced. Power for the line was
generated at the cable winding station in Ridge Street; the original
electric car fleet was stabled at the cable car depot in Ridge Street.
Operating at its maximum level, the depot had up to 12 roads each
connecting to running lines in the street. There was a siding area next to
the depot. However, rapid expansion of the network on the North Shore
proved too much for the Ridge Street site and bigger accommodation was
constructed in Military Road, west of Neutral Bay Junction. This new
depot opened in 1909.
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A THEATRE INSTEAD! 1911-1939 1938. This lasted for a few months only.
Scott Alexander and his `Kursaal Theatre'
In the 1911-13 North Sydney Council Rate
took over the lease following the
Books, the new owner of the site of the
White/Bowden partnership. His time
tram depot is listed as the North Sydney
was also shortlived. The lease fell back to
Coliseum Ltd. This company built two
Richard White who renamed the theatre
separate auditoriums, one for pictures
and one for live theatre. North Sydney
had up to 7 picture theatres operating in THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE and
the first half of the 20th Century DORIS FITTON 1939-1977
including one open-air theatre and one in
The Independent Theatre amateur
a tent. This site had a chequered history
company came to the Theatre in the
and a variety of uses from 1909 until
summer of 1939 and played there for only
taken over by Doris Fitton and the
one short season.
Independent Theatre in 1939. Some of
these uses included a picture theatre, a
The Theatre was vacant again until Doris
vaudevillean theatre (Harry Clay's
Fitton crossed the Bridge and opened
vaudeville troupe performed there), a
"French without Tears" in September,
munitions factory in WWI, a skating rink,
1939. From this point it was known as
an amusement parlour and a military
"The Independent Theatre".
function in WWII.
Doris's first productions were staged
In the 1920s the Theatre became part of
during wartime, attracting only small
the Union DeLuxe theatre chain and was
audiences. However, Doris persevered
known as "Union DeLuxe, North Sydney";
and set about cleaning the Theatre and
it later was known as "Hoyts DeLuxe,
making it habitable with help from her
North Sydney" when Hoyts merged with
Company. In the ensuring 38 years, Doris
staged over 400 productions at the
Theatre. Children's Theatre and Schools'
Prior to Doris Fitton's days, the theatre
programmes were an important feature of
was leased by a number of people trying
`The Independent' and these productions
to `make a go of it', including Richard
attracted great numbers of children and
White, in partnership with Harold
families from all over Sydney.
Bowden from J.C. Williamsons, who ran a
semi-professional repertory theatre in
Many North Sydney residents who
11 Heritage Leaflet Series
attended performances at the Theatre and
many performers who shared the
experience of working with Doris Fitton
recall the `golden days of the
Independent' and speak of them with
warmth and fondness.
The distinctive facade of the Theatre is a
well-known North Sydney landmark; the
site and the Theatre are an integral part of
North Sydney's heritage and has been
restored by the Seaborn Foundation for
the Performing Arts and the Friends of
the Independent Theatre.
The Theatre reopened its doors in March
1998 and is under the management of the
Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust.
Compiled from the Local Studies Files - Stanton Library 1/4/91,