The first Darrell Lea shop
This photo, dating from approximately 1917, shows the east side of the Corso, in particular the Magic City building. Magic City housed merry-go-rounds and side-shows, and was on the site formerly occupied by the merry-go-round of William ‘Sovereign’ Smith, a well-known figure locally in the 1900s. It is not clear when the Magic City building was erected, but it was possibly in 1916/17, and it may have incorporated the spacious ground floor of the earlier premises. There was room for two carousels.
The building had a 71 foot frontage to the Corso, and the front portion was occupied by a succession of fruit and confectionery stalls. In 1917, the concern of Levy and Dunn, fruiterers, was here. Harry Levy (1876-1957) then ran the fruit and confectionery premises alone until circa 1923. He later changed his name to Harry Lea, and founded the successful Darrell Lea confectionery business. Magic City was the location of his first stall.
An advert in the Manly Daily for 26 April 1919 stated: “Look Here! The open fruit stall, Caroussel [sic], Corso!”
Magic City, modelled on the highly popular White City in Sydney, ran until August 1922, when the premises were sold for £17,000. The architect Lewis Kaberry, of the practice of Kaberry and Chard, then designed a conversion of the building into a cinema. The Rialto Cinema opened on 23 July 1923 with the movie Sherlock Holmes. In 1927/28 the Rialto was completely re-designed with a new façade.
Also of interest in this photo, kindly donated by Mr Grace of Forbes is the ‘ornamental grotto’ on the left of the picture, located in the middle of the street where it could be of maximum inconvenience. Despite public dissatisfaction, it was not removed until 1938.