Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Partying at Swifts, Babs & Frank Sinatra

To Swifts-the spledifourous folly of a mansion in Darling Point.

Nearby Wolesley Road in Point Point  may well be the  "9th most expensive street in the world"  but Swifts is the most valuable private home on the continent.

It was for sale about 10 years ago for $40M with no takers. It's valued at around $85M today, clipping home loan's boss John Symonds recently built Point Piper house that cost a whopping $70M.

 It comes with several acres of park lands and a  mansion that has it's own ballroom with a Juliet balcony. Swifts is owned by the Moran family who have a nursing home empire. Doug and Greta Moran paid a lazy $12M for the property in 1997 and spent another ten restoring the derelict house.

 Our spy disguised as a potted aspidistra tells us the house has been divided into 4 apartments with the feuding family members living in the different quarters. The Morans have had their family disputes but at least they have a nice pad and the kids haven't left home.

Swifts was built in 1841 by the Eton educated Sir Robert Tooth who made his fortune from brewing beer in the colonies. He wanted a bigger ballroom than the NSW Governor and he got one. Sir Robert eventually retired to London where King George V created the Tooth baronetcy in honour of the families charitable works. Tooth was also one of the first to give his employees paid holidays, sickness pay and a whole range of benefits. 

The wonderful hand-painted on glass adverts for Tooth's beer that adorned hundreds of pubs (above) were mostly destroyed during the 1970's-the few remaining ones are worth a fortune.

Edmund Resch,an Austrian born brewer purchased the property from Sir Robert but never quite enjoyed the social cache of the Tooths. Edmund was considered rough and common.  It eventually became the home of the Catholic Archbishop before falling into ruin and being rescued by the Morans.

singer Wes Carr & Charlotte Gregg
On Friday the Cornucopia Committee held their annual charity garden party at Swifts. These 'society' charities are often given a rough time in the media but they really do good works. Everything is donated- from services to food, alcohol (Pommery champagne) and the committee ladies work really hard raising hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to go towards child protection.

The wonderful opera singer Mark Vincent sang (as did Maria Venuti) racing identity Angela Belle McSweeney MC'd and Texan born designer Charlie Brown organised a fashion show. A rain shower failed to dampen spirits although the ballroom furniture supplanted around the garden was hastily brought inside.

a sun shower
Nor was there a faux pas like the one in 1994 when the Cornucopia's honorary international ambassador Barbara Sinatra was presented to an audience on a boat cruise.

Babs was in town with her husband Frank Sinatra when she agreed to speak on a summer day cruise around the harbour. She was well known for her charity work in the USA and Australia especially for raising funds to help abused and neglected kids.

As she sat at the head table on the boat the time came for Mrs Sinatra to give her speech. The MC, a rather dotty lady got up to announce her and after shushing the audience said :
"I would now like to introduce Mrs Barbara Sinatra. Barbara and Frank Sinatra have been heavily involved in child abuse all their lives "!!