Friday 1 January 2016

Darlinghurst Road to Rosebank Street - Numbers 233 and 231

Numbers 233 and 231

Higgs' Corner, a good place to meet.

Albert Arthur Higgs, shoe and boot maker, lived in the newly developing suburb of Waverley and commuted to this eight-roomed building owned by Flora Mann, one of the sixteen women owning property on this southern side of William Street. This photograph was taken on 19th June. The William Street resumption had been announced on 1st June. Already Higgs was advertising a "No Profit Resumption Sale" in his Darlinghurst Road window around the corner. On his William Street frontage the signs are a reminder that the world is at war. The afternoon winter sun allows us to see his merchandise, manufactured upstairs, and now selling for 16/- and 10/6 a pair.

The building is all that a building on an important corner should be, noticeable and functional. In reality it is a simple two-storied structure of 8 rooms, but in visual terms its abundance of lush curvilinear detail ensures notie - something which, as the small capitalists of William Street realised, was half the battle.

Higgs' neighbours, at 231, work from an 1860s building owned by Edwin P. Gostelow, a tobacconist nd one of the two JPs of the street. Gostelow's own business was directly across the road, a connection uncommon in William Street since property owners normally lived lives distant from that of the street.

The tenant upstairs is George P. Fifedentist, whose clients enter by the door alongside the building's other tenant, Mis Mary O'Shannesy's street-level millinery shop.

Poet, Mary Gilmore, knew such a shop. Her poem, The Bonnet Shop, was written at this time and invokes the "carriage trade" upon which William Street partly relied. In it she brilliantly invokes the 1916 reality of the shop girl, "slimmed to a pose became a need" and who must typically be "obsequious, compelled to please".


This was not the only photograph that Max Kelly had to choose from to illustrate the first building at the top of William Street. Not only did the City of Sydney Archives have other shots of the William Street frontage for 233, but there were photographs showing how Higgs' Boot Shop fitted into the Darlinghurst Road street-scape.

From left No 53-55 Darlinghurst Road, Government Savings Bank of NSW, No. 51A left Stadler Hairdresser and Tobacconist, No. 51 P Kirby and Sons Undertaker. Higgs Boot Importer on cnr of William Street on the right.

This photograph was taken 19th June 1916.

Three storey buildings along Darlinghurst Road occupied by at No. 53 the NSW Government Savings Bank,at No.51 Darlinghurst Rd, Mrs Kirby & Son, Undertakers, L.Stadler, Hairdresser and Tobacconist. Two storey corner shop A.A.Higgs Boot and Shoe maker, holding a no profit sale with extraordinary reductions and Irresistible bargains as building being resumed.

This photograph was also taken on 19th June 1916.

View looking south along Darlinghurst Road with three men in uniform at the corner. The three shops are No 233 A.A. Higgs, Customs Boot and shoe maker. No 231 George P Fife, Consulting Tooth Specialist offering gold fillings and painless extractions. No 229 Elite Cleaning and Pressing, also Sinclairs stationery and toys.

There is a bicycle at the kerb. The corner building has a plaster decoration of the horn of plenty.

The photograph was taken 19th June, 1916.

Commercial buildings of two and three storeys. Corner shop has ornate facade and a large sign 'A. A. Higgs, Shoe Architect, Surgical Work a Speciality, Repairs by craftsmen skilled in the art'. Nextdoor (right) is Surgeon Dentist George P Fife, and further right is Sinclair's Stationers. A well-dressed lady stands at the corner kerb near a family of three and other pedestrian shoppers.

This photograph was not taken until 23 March 1918.