Friday 4 March 2016

Rosebank Street to Forbes Street - Number 195, 193, and 191

Sydney in the "golden decad" of the 1850s could not adequately house its citizens. Between 1851 and 1861 the population had virtually doubled from 54,000 to 96,000. Tents, shanties, and converted drays were used to house new migrants and returning diggers. Landlords had a field day, and thousands of new houses were built. Those pictured here are but three of a virtually continuous row of fifteen proceeding downhill from number 195 to number 167 167 at the corner of William and Forbes Streets.

195 and 193 have been defaced in the conversion from substantialtown houses to shop with rooms above. The balcony has been removed and the French doors have given way to 1916 modern windows.

They are owned by Maurice Solomon who owns five buildings in the street, making him the second largest owner after the Burdekin Estate. Otherwise, the pattern of ownership in William Street is small-scale, with three-quarters of the buildings belonging to owners who had no more than one or two properties there. Above Vernon's Estate and Insurance Agency are the rooms rented by Emily Morrison to run her boarding house. Her neighbour, Elizabeth Madden, also lets rooms above the pawn shop The unaltered house to the right, number 191, is owned by the Weigzell's, the wig-makers from further up the street, and is let to Mrs Mary Buckley who takes in lodgers there.

The pawnbroker was an integral part of William Street's ordinary life. a reminder, perhaps, that from them that hathnot, shall often be taken away. The window shown here is typical, with its array of clocks and watches, gold chains, medals, vases and stacks of tin trunks. Don Harrison, a lad at the time, remembers such a shop in his unpublished memoirs. The shop had
everything ever made, I think, tumbled into the windows; yellow diamonds, banjos, gold Elgin watches, rings by the hundred, cats' eyes, a stuffed monkey, lots of keys on hooks, spectacles by the gross, brooches, bangles, and necklaces of all sorts, an Aladdin's cave of everything man thought to make, or so it seemed to me. I bought a silver bangle there for my Mum's birthday.
Emmanuel Berkman, one of the four pawnbrokers in William Street, advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald. He sought to buy diamonds, jewellery, old gold and silver, electroplate, cutlery, Singer's Sewing Machines and linen. For 18 he would sell a "3 stone diamond and platinum, cross-over, very choice ring", or foe 38, a diamond and platinum, large half-hoop". for 1/6, Berkmann offered "best quality, balanced, silver-handle knives".

A more realistic view of the function of the pawn shop is found in the same "For Sale" column where dozens of people have paid money to advertise their own pawnbroker's tickets for sale.


Sydney Loan Office: Money Lent ... two images of an indusstry fading fast on William Street. The night shot taken in 2012; the day shot taken at the end od 2015. The real-estate listing indicates that this freehold property exchanged in July 2015 for $2,300,000. It has rear access from Premier Lane.

Is is numbered 187-189 William whereas the 1916 Pawnbroker (for that is what they all are), is numbered 193. They are about equidistant from Forbes Stree, so it would not surprise me if it was rebuilt as a pawnbroker's shop after the 1916 demolitions.

Thes listing shows front and rear access to the building, and indicates that the 1916+ rebuild is the ONLY rebuild since then.

Friday 26 February 2016

Rosebank Street to Forbes Street - Number 197

The central building here is one of the earliest in the William Street of 1916. Although heavily camouflaged by the addition of a late-century verandah, the original building of stone with a slate roof is clear. Built in the 1840s, when William Street was litle more than a track, the house is of four rooms with twelve-paned windows upstairs. The central window upstairs has been altered, allowing the use of glass larger than was technologically possible when the house was new. The overall flavour of the building is "colonial Georgian" at its most modest.

Maurice Solomon, a man well known in Sydney property circles in 1916, owns the house and rents to yet another bootmaker, Jacob Applebaum. Council records show that the rent paid in 1916 was roughly 1 per week. From the posters we are told that "The French Fighting Front", a war show, is on at the Sydney Town Hall. The New Adelphi is playing "As You Like It" and "Othello", "Peg o' my Heart" is at the Marcus and at the Hippodrome is something entitled "Kultur", the Macquarie Dictionary definition of which is "culture as a social force causing evolutionary development to higher forms of civilisation". On the ground, beside the woman in Applebaum's doorway is a cocky in a cage, more visible on page 108), a symbol, very popular in Sydney at the time, of a less exalted culture.


This woman, with her magnificent profile, was cropped from the original 1916 image by Max Kelly. Few days, even in winter, in Sydney, would require one to be wrapped up so warmly.

Kelly had also cropped the image of the building, located within the City of Sydney Archives. The original image is this one below.

I think I prefer the uncropped version. It emphasises the contrast between the 1840 style of building, and the buildings constructed toward the end of the century. The building, only having four rooms, did not lend itself to subletting by Applebaum.

This sketch by S.T. Gill in 1856 (courtesy SL-NSW), gives an idea of what William Street looked like when No. 197 was in its prime.

Friday 19 February 2016

Rosebank Street to Forbes Street - Numbers 201 and 199

An 1870s terrace of two, shops below, and rooms to let above. The owner, Mrs Anne Butler, lives in Parramatta and rents the buildings to Michael Donovan, a printer, and Mary and Daniel Prior, poulterers. Donovan lets a room to dress maker, Flora Martin, as well as providing rooms for three lodgers: Sarah Spears, Elizabeth Neilson, and Catherine Clarage. The Priors, now standing in the doorway, offer kosher goods. They, too, let a room to a dressmaker, Miss O'Brien, and have three lodgers.

Ann Butler, obviously keeps her investment in good repair. This building is a good example of the art of the painted surface, common practice in the Victorian period, and one which has returned to fashion one hundred years later. The bull-nose iron verandah roofs are painted in contrasting stripes - possibly cream combined with a deep Indian red. The walls are probably of a deep cream or biscuit colour. All other decorative elements - the doors, window frames, sashes, balustrades, are painted in a variety of strong, contrasting colours - possibly black-greens, fawn, rich-red, buff and bronze. The overall impression is further strengthened by detailed colour treatmens on the window capitals, pediment and masonry roundels brackets and friezes. Such paintwork adds to the character of the building and enlivens the streetscape.


Kelly includes the image above in his book. He has cropped this from the top image. Mary Prior is leaning against the plate-glass display window with its Hebrew lettering. Daniel Prior stands just a little bit further into the darkened doorway in his shirt-sleeves. Between them pushes a male customer, who uses a walking-stick.

The 1898 Sands Directory also locates a D. Prior, poulterer, at 199 William Street. So the location was not unkind to them.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Rosebank Street to Forbes Street - 209A (The St Bernard's Home for Working Gentlewomen); thence, 209, 207, 205, and 203

209A is the St Bernard's Home for Working Gentlewomen
This streetscape clearly shows the width of the old William Street. It also indicates that, despite the attentions of the street sweeper, the road is in poor repair. The prominebt building is the St Bernard's Home for Working Gentlewomen, occupying the three floors above the shops. It offers 35 rooms and has been built very recently by one of Sydney's great philanthropists, Eadith Walker. Eadith had not earned the money that she spent so usefully. She had inherited from her father, Thomas, a pastoralist, and parliamentarian, and one of the richest men in nineteenth century New South Wales. Part of the estate comprised this section of William Street.

The building is architectually ambitious but, given its disregard for scale and its dominance over its neighbours, not particularly successful. This is curious when it is remembered that its architect, John Sulman, a big gun of his day, consistently advocated that buildings should be harmonious with their environment, that they were really part of the public domain, and that to retain homogeneity, buildings on the streets of Sydney should be regulated in terms of height and compatibility with their surrounds. A case of do as I say, perhaps, not do as I do.

This building is eclectic if nothing else. As suggested earlier, it is an attempt to combine the cornice of a Renaissance palace with several Greek porticoes supported by Greek columns and modified capitals along with medieval turret windows adjoining four giant arches of a Roman aqueduct!

John Sulman was a friend of Miss Walker, having married her adopted sister, Anne Masefield. Thus were combined the interests of money, of family, of architectual experiment and, in this instance, of Agnes Leonard, Ethel Hogg, Kate Ellen Watson, Mabel McKenzie, and those other twenty-five working gentlewomen in need of a place to stay.

Numbers 209, 207, 205, and 203

The St Bernard's Home was entered through the doorway on the left of the shops, number 209A. Numbers 209 and 207 were rented by Eadith Walker to James W. Leighton and son, Frank, portmanteau makers. The shop was also the factory, a characteristic common to a number of the small-scale capitalist enterprises of the street. The windows are crammed with leather suitcases, tin trunks and Gladstone bags. At 205 the Federal Cleaners and Pressers, Hodges and Brown, specialised in the renovation of suits and costumes, and the reblocking of gents' hats. Next door, Joseph Chapman made and repaired boots. The boot shop, with its emphasis on repairs, invokes the poor German cobbler, Hans Paasch, in Louis Stone's Jonah, 1911, who began his working week by
setting the heavy iron lasts on their shelves, where they looked like a row of amputated feet ... the peculiar musty odour of leather hung about the shop. A few pairs of boots that had been mended stood in a row, the shining black rim of the new soles contrasting with the worn, dingy uppers. They betrayed the age and sex of the wearer as clearly as a photograph. The shoddy slipper, with the high, French heels, of the smart shop-girl; the heavy blucher studded with nails, of the labourer; the light tan boots, with elegant, pointed toes, of the clerk or counter jumper; the shoes of a small child, with a thin rim of copper to protect the toes.
My Notes:

Once again, Max Kelly choose the better of the images available for this building. Including the diagonnal, enabled him to show exactly the reason for the street widening. This next image, gives a good view of the shop facades, but not of the life of the street, and although Kelly liked architecture, he loved ordinary people and their life-style more.
Amongst the myriad of images held by the City of Sydney Archives, there are gems that go behind the mere facade, the attempt to SHOW prosperity when there was very little of that around. The photographer, once again, wanders around the back of Miss Walker's building into Premier Lane. We have been back here before. The jumble of outhouses. No longer the need to put on a show. A plethora of corrugated iron, and gates not quite aligned with hinges. The open, bricked drain, down which anything could sluice.

Thursday 4 February 2016

Rosebank Street to Forbes Street - 215, and 213, and 211 (Perth Terrace)

The City Mutual Life Assurance Society owns this terrace built in the late 1870s, of rendered brick with slate roof. Each house is of 12 rooms, and is rich in the symbols of the classic Sydney terrace. Barley-sugar iron colums support the downstairs windows, and the front doors are fully panelled. Stone-flagged verandahs have thier own "iron-lace" fence and rail. French doors reflect the pattern of balcony iron.

The centre house uses venetian blinds as they were used in Venice - to hang outside, to bear the brunt of the heat. A Greek keyhole border decorates the eaves, and each house has six fire-places. These are well-built houses and, or so it appears, well maintained.

Number 215, on the left, is rented by Percy Hollander, a dental surgeon, who both works and lives here. The other two are boarding houses or, as the affixed sign-plates indicate, "Residential Chambers".

Mrs Florence Sandeman runs 214. The small curved sign by the front door (readable in the original photograph) adds a light, and Italianate touch to Mrs Sandeman's advertising. It reads "Sanflorenzo". In mid-1916 Wiulliam Davis. Albert Johnson, William Ringwood, and Atrchibald McDonald were boarding here.

"Glenferrie" next door has Mrs Emily Elizabeth Morrison as its keeper. She runs the business for Joseph Buchanan, who holds the head-lease from the City Mutual.

My Notes:
Perth Terrace was immediately west of the Post Office on the south-side of William Street, putting it in the suburb of Darlinghurst, whereas the north-side of the street was in the suburb of Woolloomooloo.

The Perth Terrace abutted the Post Office which was on the corner of Rosebank Street.
Running behind this terrace was Premier Lane which provided "night services". Originally, this lane was to be resumed, too, but this never happened. It is still there in 2016, known variously as Premier Lane, St Peter's Lane, or Barnet Lane, it stretches from Kirketon Road to Yurong Street.
On the left is the rear of Perth Terrace. Rosebank St can be seen crossing in the middle-distance.

Perth Terrace was demolished well before the Post Office, which was still standing in 1926.
The City of Sydney Auction for this block in March 1923.
The Post office on the corner was specifically excluded from this auction, held on 23rd March 1923.

Each block was offered under Torrens Title. The terms of the sale were:
25% deposit
Balance in three equal half-yearly payments, and
Interest at 6%.
There were also specific rebuilding requirements.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Rosebank Street to Forbes Street - The Post, Money Order and Telegraph Office and Commonwealth Savings Bank (Corner)

The Post, Money Order and Telegraph Office and Commonwealth Savings Bank,corner of Rosebank and William Streets.

James Barnet, the Colonial Architect from 1865 to 1890 and the architect of this building, was a man who left his very specific mark on the Sydney landscape. He is best known for those splendid urban monuments, The General Post Office in Martin Place, the onion-domed Lands Department building, and the Customs House at Circular Quay. Each indicate how dependent was Barnet upon the architectural themes of the Italian Renaissance. The columns and colonades, the capitals, and arches, speak as much of Roman and Florrentine palazzi as they do of grandiose public buildings in the colony of New South Wales.

But an architect is truly tested when it comes to smaller structures, and Barnet designed dozens of more modest public buildings. They again invoke the classical adherence to strength and volume balanced by scale. They also avoid pretension. This post office is a fine example. Form here certainly follows function, yet the building itself is strong, diverse, and visually exciting. Furthermore, it totally rejects the overdone and showy embellishments so common to a number of Sydney's public buildings being built towards the century's close.

For his purpose, Barnet certainly chose an image with a narrative, and the narrative here swirls around the woman in white descending the front steps of the Post Office to the footpath. However, these other images were also available courtesy of The City of Sydney Archives.

Also taken on 19 June 1916,this image still has the horse in Rosebank eating from his chaff-bag. It also shows the advertising on the wall for John Hodgens, grocer.

These images identify the post office as 235 William Street, which Max Kelly does not. However, the CoS Archives have them both dated 28 July 1926. This does not seem reasonable, as in the second image the building next door to the post office has been demolished. The building is in a sad state, covered with posters. The second shot shows that the buildings on the OTHER side of Rosebank have already been demolished and rebuilt, as they are set further back. It is a decade since the resumption orders were issued.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Darlinghurst Road to Rosebank Street - Number 223, 221, 219, 217 (Kirketon Rd to Rosebank St)

This late century, block of four was built in the first instance as shops and dwelings, unlike most in William Street which were converted to street-level shops as the century proceded. The building relies for its streetscapoe value upon its monumental pediment, a mixture of "Egyptian" masonry, and "Greek" anthemion detail.

By 1916, Isabella Ada O'Connor ownednumbers 223 and 221. Hr tenants included Lucy O'Rourke who ran a catering business behind the Cadbury's Chocolate sign. Next door the Parkers, Stanley and Josiah, ran a chemist shop.

Ethel Williams, the owner of the adjoining pair, lived nearby at 20 Roslyn Street, and was, thus, one of the few owners of William Street real-estate to live in the immediate neighbourhood. Mrs Jane Horner, her tenant at 219, ran the Hawkesbury Cafe. Her other tenant at 217, was John Hodgens, grocer. Above his Indian and Chinese teas, cocoa, mustard, and starch, lodged Herbert and Maurice Stanfield.

It may be remembered that it was to the Hawkesbury Cafe that Marjorie Archer, a recent arrival in Sydney from Temora, via Bombala and Walgett, came to have supper on 21 December 1915. There she was invited to go to the follies at Coogee. On the way home to her William SAtreet boarding-house, she had been battered and raped. The case against the three men was dismissed.

Kelly included both the above photograps along with his text, on adjoining pages.

I have not counted the buildings from Kirketon to Rosebank as a street block, it being so short. But the City of Sydney photographer (a Mr Briggs from the City Engineers, I think) sure did like this double set of terraces, if the number of shots he took is anything to go by. What follows are the photographs I could locate on the City of Sydney Archives for this row of premises.

Oops, slightly different angle. See the imposing pediment that brings the four together.

Two views along Rosebank Avenue.
Facades, even in those days, were faces for public consumption. The next double-set of photograps shows the stark reality behind the facade.

The sad reality, behind the facade. It can still be seen in lanes all across the inner-city. The LH image is looking west along Premier Lane. The RH inage is looking north along Kirketon Street.

But wait ... what did Max Kelly espy in this final shot? One of his treasured "Faces of the Street".

Let me scan it from his book, and include his text, which is on one of his introductory/analysis pages.

Here it is on p. 47. together with Kelly;'s text from p. 51-52
The underlife of William Street was a life dictated by the preoccupations of its poorest members, men and women seeking their own kind, people for whom a rootless and impoverished life had become a matter of faith.

For every respectable boarding-house in the principal streets of Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst, there was the shabby doss-house where rooms, and lives, were shared, however fleetingly, and with whatever in mind. In William Street, the drifter and the loner found somewhere to go.

No-one has written of William Street as it was as well as did Kenneth Slessor ... his knowledge and empathy for those less privileged was nurtured as he wandered the streets and lanes of Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst. His care and respect for ordinary Sydney and his sensual yet precise evocation of it, have rarely been equalled. Slessor loved William Street, and wrote of it thus:

Ghosts' trousers, like the dangle of hung men,
In pawnshop windows, bumping knee by knee,
But none inside to suffer or condemn;
You find this ugly, I find it lovely.

Smells rich and rasping, smoke and fat and fish
And puffs of parrafin that crimp the nose,
Or grease that blesses onions with a kiss;
You find it ugly, I find it lovely.

The dips and molls, with flip and shiny gaze,
(Death at their elbows, hunger at their heels)
Ranging the pavements of their pasturage;
You find it ugly, I find it lovely.

Friday 15 January 2016

Darlinghurst Road to Rosebank Street - Number 225

William Henry Wigzel makes wigs, whilst around the corner Will Wearwell makes boots and shoes. Both names suggest an acute sense of commercial onomatapoeia. (There was also Mr G. Schark's fish shop across the road at number 128.) Wigzell was, however, almost legitimate, as it was a minor but useful variation of Weigzell, William and Annie's name as recorded by the valuer.

They owned this building of eight rooms, and rented one portion to "My Valet", entered around the corner in Kirketon Road, a second portion to the bootmaker, a third to one "George Adams, cake expert", and a fourth to James McGregor, upholsterer.

Max Kelly selected the above image for his book, but the next image, not as good, was available from the City of Sydney "Archives", too.

Kelly then did something that makes this book more memorable. He choose a figure from the image, enlarged it, and included that as well. Kelly does not assume that the figure is William Wigzell, but he was in shirt-sleeves, standing apart, and standing still. Kelly was telling the story of the PEOPLE who lived and worked on William Street.

Friday 8 January 2016

Darlinghurst Road to Rosebank Street - Numbers 229 and 227

These two terraced buiuldings together, represent a microcosm of the life of the street. Originally built in the 1870s as residences, they have subsequently been converted to a variety of uses.

The doorway to the left of Sinclair's Newsagent and Circulating Library leads to Stanley &and Sedgwick, estate agents. The partly obscured noticeboard reads, "Agents - Flats, Rooms, Board and Residence", a reminderthat the residential population of the area was one of Sydney's most transient. Sinclair's sold papers but, obviously, a lot more besides. In the window there are mirrors, fishing tackle, magazines, clocks, and a sign for a locksmith.

This is the kind of shop Kylie Tennant had in mind when writing of Bud's shop in Foveaux, where it is possible to find anything from "foish-hooks to scent ... fireworks, tobacco, chocolate mice, bootlaces, plaster statuettes, ink bottles, novelties, and hairpins, all jumbled together with skipping ropesor tin whistles".

Behind Sinclair's is the American Cleaners and Pressers, one of six such establishments in William Street, a concentration which further emphasises its service nature. Upstairs, Joseph V. Collier, who has the head-lease on the whole building runs a boarding house. Council records show that in 1916 Ada Aspinall, Emily Tyrell,John Laughlin, and Neil Herbert were lodging there.

Number 227 is a much more formal affair, having been converted by the English, Scottish and Australian Bank to look as a bank was supposed to be - conservative, secure, serious. Upstais, behind lattice screen and woodn Venetian blinds, lived H. Hewlwtt, the bank's manager, with his family.

The pair of houses are of brick with slate roofs. The brick is rendered and the details - the mouldings, cornice, and windows - are painted in contrasting colours. They belong to the estate of the late John Maloney and, according to the Council's valuer, could expect to be rented for about £6 per week each.

The young man with newspaper stands in a pose characteristic of many "men about town" in this period. As we pass down the street we will notice a number of others of similar stance, hands held high in pockets, hat worn forward, a stance not quite larrikin but certainly not middle-class - the sort of young Sydneysider recently emancipated from "the push", the corner larrikin on his way to "settling down", the young man so frequently evpoked in Lewis Stone's memorable novel Jonah published in 1911.

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.