The Hydro Majestic Hotel

Medlow Bath, New South Wales | C.1903

Photo Credit: Subha Naidu

Brash businessmen opening seaside resorts is nothing new. Yet, even the exploits of modern-day moguls pale in comparison to the outlandish escapades of Australian retailer Mark Foy and his Hydro Majestic Hotel. From adulterous love affairs to costumed parties shrouded in secrecy, the Hotel saw quite a bit during its early days.

Born to Irish immigrant parents, Mark Foy grew up in Australia’s retail industry. His father opened a string of successful drapery shops in Melbourne, before falling ill and passing the family business onto his sons. Mark and his brother Francis opened “Mark Foy’s” retail store in Sydney in 1885 and quickly expanded the enterprise.

After 18 years, Foy was ready to turn his focus to other interests. He had dabbled in real estate before, but with his purchase of the Hydro Majestic Hotel, he was able to invest in a facility that he believed would provide a cure for health maladies – hydropathic treatment. Foy was an intense hypochondriac, and firmly believed that water therapy – specifically cold baths – could be a cure all.

The appeal of hydropathic treatments didn’t take off, so Foy decided to rebrand his new resort as a luxury hotel for the rich. Soon, Australia’s leading dignitaries and cultural figures frequented the Hydro Majestic, turning it into the alluring destination Foy had intended. Yet, for all the luxury, there was an allegedly darker side to the Hotel lurking beneath the surface.

Publicly, Foy was a family man with significant wealth, but in reality he was entrenched in an ongoing mid-life crisis. The Hydro Majestic became a place where he (and his patrons) took part in adulterous affairs and racy rendezvous, turning his resort into a den of debauchery. Foy continued his gallivanting well into old age; and while he never quite fulfilled his epicurean desires, his Hydro Majestic Hotel has remained a escape for many the world over.

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