Building of the week – Cygnet Theatre


The Cygnet Theatre was built in 1938 for James Stiles, owner of the Grand Theatre Company. The theatre was originally named Como Theatre but changed to Cygnet Theatre in the 1960’s to associate with the Festival of Perth’s black swan logo.

The building was designed by William Leighton and built by W.H. Ralph and Sons and originally had an adjacent outdoor picture garden. Leighton is also known for other cinemas such as the Piccadilly Theatre & Arcade in Perth, Windsor Theatre in Nedlands and Astor Theatre in Mt Lawley.

Gaiety Theatre (corner Coode and Angelo Street, established 1926) and Hurlingham Theatre (Canning Highway, established 1933) were still operating when Como Theatre opened. Como Theatre was the most modern and up-to-date cinema in the district, screening talkies for the first time.

The style of the theatre is inter-war functionalist with art deco influences. It is listed on the state register of heritage places administered by the Heritage Council of WA.

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Coode Street Jetty

Before construction of the Coode Street Jetty in 1896, the Coode Street foreshore was used as a landing point for local South Perth residents. In particular, visiting pastors and teachers to the Wesley Chapel and Church (which was built on Coode Street) would land here and walk to their destination.

The first ferry service to operate from Coode Street was managed by W. F. Tubbs however it was very irregular. This service was replaced in 1898 by local residents Rowland Pennington and Fred Bailey, who formed a public company, the River Ferry Company, in hopes to bring some regularity to the service. The company had two sailing boats in action, the Mary Queen and the Gladys, however the venture was a failure.

In 1904, Jack Olsen and Claes (Harry) Sutton developed a thriving ferry business on the Swan River, including regular ferries to Coode Street. The Olsen and Sutton fleet were known as ‘Val’ boats (named after their Scandinavian links) and included Valfreda, Valthera, Valdemar and Valkyrie I & II. The Sutton and Olsen families continued to run the service until 1935 when they sold the business to Nat Lappin, who formed the Swan River Ferries Company.

 The private ferry service was eventually merged into the State Transport system and the jetty was rebuilt in 1990.