1. The Jetty
The Semaphore Jetty was completed in 1860, primarily to provide berths for the Pilot and Quarantine Launches, as well as many small craft plying to and from the jetty to the ships at the anchorage. The Customs officers went out to the ships in the Pilot Launch. This venerable structure was later a focus of seaside holiday activities and is currently the terminus of the Semaphore to Fort Glanville Steam Railway.
In 1873, the original jetty was extended to a length of 2138 feet, running far beyond the blue line and the water was 15 feet at the end. A lifeboat shed, crew’s quarters and a shelter shed were built on a branch spur which ran in a northly direction from the end, near where customs and stores sheds were constructed.
Another branch spur, built in 1888, ran in a northerly direction from just west of the kiosk to a great fenced area for the baths. The baths were divided into two sections – one for males and the other for females – for in those days mixed bathing was not permitted.
Compared with today’s outlook, prudency was very severe. From Largs Bay Jetty down as far as Glanville Hall, there were notices every few hundred feet along the beach, indicating Ladies in one direction and Men in the opposite. The ladies wore neck-to-knee bathers and the men’s trunks always reached to their knees.
At the entrance to the jetty was a huge notice at least four feet square stating that bathing was permitted from the jetty except between the hours of 11pm and 6am. This was probably because nobody bothered to wear bathers swimming at the end of the jetty during those hours.
Storms often brought seaweed ashore in the form of great islands capable of carrying a person. Swimmers built wurlies (From the Aboriginal language meaning temporary shelter) from the masses of seaweed which lined the beach.
The kiosk was a two-story building, the main floor being a restaurant divided into two sections – one for males and the other for females – with a counter at the northern end over which one could buy ice cream, lollies, etc. The upper story was a magnificent dance hall with a verandah around three sides. Accommodation ran the length of the northern end.
At the extreme end of the jetty was a tide gauge which rose and fell with the tide, indicating the depth of water above the low water mark. The signalman at the signal station on the Esplanade watched this carefully through his telescope, and changed his tide signals accordingly.
Violent storms over the years have played havoc with the jetty, and its present length is 1918 feet, falling far short of the blue line. The baths were washed away in the 1917 storm, and the kiosk burned in 1947.