Category

Building Profiles

Grand old Coromandel

Coromandel Darling Point: Sublime Elegance Then And Now

By | Building Profiles, Local News | No Comments

Grand old Coromandel, overlooking Double Bay from its perch on Sutherland Crescent, has been a feature of the Darling Point harbourfront for almost a century.

The story of Darling Point’s Coromandel

Grand old Coromandel porch

Coromandel was built in the 1920s to a design by local architect H. C. Christian. Christian was a prolific Sydney architect, building homes from Double Bay to Darlinghurst to Balmoral. His design for Coromandel was inspired by the Spanish Mission Revival architecture so popular in America at the time, incorporating elements like ‘barley twist’ columns, a red-tiled roof, and rounded arches. The building’s symmetrical façade, however, doesn’t conform with the style’s preference for an asymmetrical frontage.

How was Coromandel perceived in the 1920s?

In July 1929, Coromandel was the cover star of a publication called ‘Building: the magazine for the architect, builder, property owner and merchant’. The magazine included an extensive critique of the then-new block of flats, commenting on its façade and entrance hall as well the interior of H. C. Christian’s own apartment.

It makes for a fascinating read, providing an insight into the social and architectural mores of the time. ‘The entrance to important blocks of flats must of necessity be treated to convey the right amount of dignity and architectural beauty to meet the demands of tenants of artistic taste and high social standing,’ it says. Happily, it gives Coromandel’s striking foyer the tick of approval. Its generous dimensions, warm buff colour scheme, old tapestry panels on the walls and the orange and blue Spanish rugs all garner praise.

The writer is, however, unimpressed with Coromandel’s garages. Of course, in the 1920s, cars were not the ubiquitous items they are today. The writer laments that ‘it is unfortunate that garages have to be provided on small plots for even though the motor car is said to be the principal thought and consideration of modern life, there seems little excuse to give it architectural precedence in our design.’ He goes on to say that although the garages are in harmony with the rest of the building, it would look ‘infinitely better’ without them. Ironically, the garages are amongst the building’s amenities most favoured by residents today.

In contrast, Coromandel’s balconies are described as a ‘remarkably alluring feature’. They are praised as ‘sheltered and artistic’ outdoor sunrooms, the perfect place from which to take in the harbour views and ‘entertain one’s best friends at any time of the day or in the evening.’

The magazine also includes glimpses of the interior of the architect’s own flat. H. C. Christian’s dining room is panelled to three-quarter height with dark timber and lauded by the writer for alleviating any potential gloominess with windows on two sides and a light-coloured ceiling, frieze, and carpet. A Spanish-style fireplace is the central decorative feature and, together with the presence of a window seat, suggests that the dining room also functioned as a living space, which was a modern notion at the time. The light fittings throughout the building receive special mention for ‘being in silver or Florentine metal and rather costly.’

Assuming that Coromandel residents would have hired help, the writer charitably describes the kitchen as being ‘as bright an interior as can be provided for a person engaged in a more or less monotonous and drab house-keeping existence.’ He goes on to suggest that the built-in cabinetry could be improved by doors that open in one direction only ‘to allow the maid washing up to place things straight in rather than reach round the open doors.’ How thoughtful!

Society darling

Grand old Coromandel foyer

In the 1930s, Coromandel became a sought-after place to live amongst Sydney’s affluent residents. It was frequently mentioned in the newspapers’ social pages as the site of exclusive parties and charity functions, like the principal cocktail party of Race Week in 1931, which Mrs E. Brooks threw in her Coromandel flat, or the tennis tournament arranged at Coromandel in April 1939 by Miss Joyce Jolley to raise funds for the Deaf Dumb and Blind Institution for Children (now known as the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children).

Around the same period, and maybe thanks to its notoriety as a residence of the well-to-do, Coromandel was something of a target for thieves. In July 1931, resident Mrs Lucy White had an unusual brooch featuring a diamond set in a large pearl stolen, as well as other jewellery and money. It was her second such loss in two years. A few months earlier, thieves had arrived at Coromandel in a lorry and stolen a carpet square from the porch of Mr Forbes Mackay, the general manager of the City Electricity Department. On a second occasion, valuable tapestries were stolen.

‘Rental rebellion in luxury flats’

So proclaimed the headline of an article in The Daily Telegraph in March 1947. The story that followed told of how tenants living in Coromandel were protesting a 40 per cent rent increase. According to the article, the building was owned by Eagle Star Insurance Company (which was absorbed by Zurich Insurance in 1998). Eagle Star had bought Coromandel in 1945 for £26,000 (around $2 million in today’s money). Two months before that sale, the building’s tenants had successfully had their rents reduced to pre-war levels. But by 1947, Eagle Star claimed that increased maintenance costs and improvements warranted increases of two or three pounds ($143 and $215 in today’s money) per week. Although the Fair Rents Controller had approved the increases, tenants were protesting to the company and appealing to the Fair Rents Court.

Coromandel today

Grand old Coromandel side view

Today, just as in the 1920s and 1930s, apartments in Coromandel are still in demand from Sydney’s most discerning residents. The security block of 12 apartments enjoys an exclusive harbourfront position looking northeast across picturesque Double Bay. Residents can soak up the view and directly access the harbour from the expansive waterfront communal gardens. The building itself remains as prestigious and grand as it was in the 1920s, complete with immaculately preserved heritage features, including H. C. Christian’s striking entrance foyer. The apartments themselves are also impressively elegant, with many of them boasting generous proportions, large balconies and gorgeous views of the harbour. With only two apartments per floor, residents enjoy perfect privacy too.

Unit 6/17 Sutherland Avenue is currently on the market. A four-bedroom penthouse apartment with a car space, two bathrooms and a stunning entertaining terrace with North-West aspect, these opportunities in such tightly held buildings like Coromandel don’t come up often. Find out more about it here.

Thinking of buying or selling in Darling Point? Get in touch today.

Cloncorrick: 130 Years Of Charm And Grace

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

Proudly overlooking a corner of Darling Point Rd for more than 130 years, Cloncorrick is a home recognised for its distinctive style and grand proportions.

George Bowen Simpson

Sir George Bowen Simpson, circa 1900 — Photo from Wikipedia

Cloncorrick was built for Sir George Bowen Simpson, a noted politician and judge in Victorian Sydney.

Born in 1838, Simpson grew up at Oatlands House, the elegant family home built by his father near Parramatta. After finishing his education at The Kings School and the University of Sydney, George was admitted to the Bar in November 1858. Less than 10 years later he was a district court judge. However, unhappy with the pay rate for judges, he resigned after a few years and became a crown prosecutor instead.

In October 1861, Simpson married Martha Cobcroft and the couple had two children. But it wasn’t until 1884 that the family would move into their grand new family home, Cloncorrick.

Building Cloncorrick

 John Horbury Hunt and his wife outside ‘Cranbrook Cottage’, Bellevue HIll, Sydney. — Photo from Wikipedia

Completed in 1884, Cloncorrick was constructed on a scale befitting its owner’s growing status in the community. Indeed, in 1885, Simpson was appointed Legislative Council government representative and attorney-general. A year later he became Queen’s Counsel, and in 1888 he became attorney-general for Sir Henry Parkes’ government.

John Horbury Hunt was the man Simpson chose to design Cloncorrick. Trained in the US, the Canadian-born Hunt was one of the most radical and, some said, eccentric architects, working in Sydney at the time. He was known to have a very short temper (his Sydney Morning Herald obituary noted he had a “strong personality”) but was an avid animal lover and served as vice-president of the Animals Protection Society.

Some of Hunt’s other designs include Cranbrook at Rose Bay (now part of Cranbrook School), Trevenna and Booloominbah in Armidale, and Cloncorrick’s neighbour, The Annery, in Marathon Rd.

A characteristic building

Cloncorrick was named in honour of Cloncorrick Castle in County Leitrim, Ireland, the home of George Simpson’s grandfather.

The distinctive three-storey red-brick residence was built in the style known as Free Gothic. Its slate tiles and steeply pitched gabled roofs lend character to the building’s exterior, while large, arched windows allow light to flood inside.

Hunt included wide return verandahs in his design, to take full advantage of the harbour and neighbourhood views. The original four-bedroom home also enjoyed a wide entrance hall, dining room, drawing room and smoking room, along with numerous service rooms and a coal cellar. Leadlight feature windows added further charm to the home.

Cloncorrick through the years

George Simpson was knighted for his career achievements in 1909 and just a few years later, in 1915, he died. His wife, Martha, continued to live at Cloncorrick until her own death in 1933, and the Simpsons’ grandson, Julian, inherited the mansion. For although George and Martha had children, both had sadly died before their parents.

Through the years, Cloncorrick was bought and sold a number of times and was eventually divided into four strata apartments.

Today, each of the beautiful apartments features impressively sized rooms, detailed joinery, Gothic archways and gracious period details that ensure the mansion’s original grandeur lives on.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Call me today.

Carthona Avenue: Style, Prestige, History

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

Snaking its way around the eastern tip of Darling Point, Carthona Avenue has long been home to some of the most prestigious and significant real estate in the suburb, and indeed the city.

In the early 19th century, land for homes became increasingly scarce as the fledgling city of Sydney grew. While initially considered too rugged, the area is known today as Darling Point eventually opened up for settlement thanks to the construction of new roads.

Subsequent land grants in the early 1830s saw the city’s wealthy flock to the area to build grand new homes. One of those was Lindesay.

Lindesay

The National Trust-listed Lindesay, on the corner of Carthona Avenue, is a quintessentially Georgian house. The first home built in Darling Point – known at the time as Mrs Darling’s Point – Lindesay is a well-proportioned, understated home with gardens once stretching down to the foreshore.

Lindesay was constructed between 1834 and 1836 for Campbell Drummond Riddell, a Scotsman who’d moved to Sydney to take up the post of Colonial Treasurer. Other notable residents of Lindesay included Sir Thomas Mitchell, explorer and Surveyor-General, the politician Sir Charles Nicholson (after whom the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney is named), and the pastoralist Pye family, who gifted Lindesay to the National Trust in 1963.

Lindesay is the oldest surviving residence in Darling Point and is now a sought-after venue for weddings, garden parties, community events and the popular Lindesay Christmas Fair.

Carthona House

Carthona, Darling Point, Sydney circa 1870 — Photo from Wikipedia

While living at Lindesay, Thomas Mitchell expanded his property portfolio in the area. With Lindesay at lot 1, he also secured lots 7, 12, 13 and 14. On this last lot he built Carthona House, in 1841.

Carthona House’s waterfront location – unique when it was built – is reflected in its name, which means “the murmur of the waves”. But whether viewed from water or land, the iconic Gothic home makes a grand impression. Its sandstone exterior features castellated parapets with Tudor-style chimneys protruding from gabled slate rooftops. Carved stone heads add to the building’s uniqueness and depict knights, medieval kings, the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria. It’s believed some of the windows and keystones may have been carved by Mitchell himself.

After Mitchell’s death at Carthona House in 1855, the property was initially rented to two sisters before passing through a number of owners. One such owner was renowned vaudeville performer Harry Rickards, who later built Canonbury on the land where McKell Park now stands.

Today, art dealer Roslyn Oxley and her husband own Carthona House, and the home is occasionally open for tours. The mansion and its grounds have also been used as an opulent backdrop to fashion launches by the likes of Romance Was Born and Kit Willow.

Shrinking estates, smaller homes

Carthona and Lindesay on Darling Point circa 1855, about the time the Mitchell family were living there — Photo from Wikipedia

Between World Wars I and II, the large land grants and estates that had dominated Darling Point’s early days were increasingly subdivided, with new homes built on these smaller parcels of land.

Neidpath represents this important era in the suburb’s development. Built in 1923, the “inter-war Gothic” mansion stands on the ground once belonging to its neighbour, Lindesay.

And while the prestige of Carthona Ave continued, land size continued to shrink. In the 1980s one newly built home in the street would claim a rather unique title: Sydney’s narrowest waterfront property. The four-level home sits on a sliver of land just 6 metres wide. Sandwiched between Neidpath and Carthona House, the home once belonged to Lady Susan Renouf. Despite its size, the well-appointed house boasts the same enviable views and position as Carthona Avenue’s older, grander properties and similarly enjoys access to a private beach.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Call me today.

Darling Point’s Iconic President Towers

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

With award-winning gardens and genuine 360-degree views from every floor, President Towers is one of Sydney’s most iconic apartment buildings.

It’s a rare example of a circular apartment building, one where every apartment is a whole floor penthouse. We take a look.

Darling Point after World War II

In the years after World War II Sydney faced a severe housing shortage, which impacted much of the city, including Darling Point.

In response, in the 1950s and 60s Woollahra Municipal Council began approving subdivision plans by developers to help ease the problem. This move would lead to the demolition of some of Darling Point’s old mansions, and the path was set for construction of the suburb’s large apartment blocks.

Glenhurst Gardens was one of the first of this new wave of buildings, constructed in 1958 where a large Victorian Italianate home once stood. As the 1960s dawned, more apartment buildings sprung up in the area, including Retford Hall and Ranelagh.

The trend for apartment development in the area continued on and, taking its place among these new apartment blocks in the early 1970s, was President Towers.

Enter the President

President Towers is one of only a handful of circular buildings in Sydney and was the city’s first circular residential apartment tower. Construction was completed in 1971, at a time when similarly shaped buildings were cropping up, including the Gazebo in Elizabeth Bay, operating as a hotel and, of course, Sydney’s first high-rise office tower, Australia Square.

The President Towers building consists of 20 floors, each floor occupied by just one apartment. The apartments are therefore a unique doughnut shape surrounding the elevator shaft in the centre of the building.

Floorplans vary from one apartment to the next – some have two bedrooms, for example, and others three. Flowing, open plan living and dining areas utilise approximately half the floor space and are positioned to take full advantage of the north-facing views. Many of the apartments have undergone a complete renovation and have been updated with the latest in high-end technology, fittings and appliances. The building also features an underground car park, gym, sauna and heated swimming pool.

One thing all of the apartments have in common, though, is a spectacular view.

All residences in the building boast large picture windows. Those on the higher floors enjoy commanding views across the city, taking in the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Those at lower levels look out across the building’s renowned gardens and the local area.

Award-winning gardens

Long-term tower resident John Pickles partnered with landscape designer Ian McMaugh to create the beautiful gardens that surround the building and pool area.

There are nine separate garden areas, including vegetable beds, an eating area and a Japanese inspired garden.

When planning the gardens, McMaugh paid attention to the different microclimates of the site and planted accordingly. The result is an oasis overflowing with orchids, huge flowering bromeliads, birds nest ferns, heliconias, succulents and agaves.

Designed for both daytime and night-time use, the garden features more than 100 lights. Secluded corners are shaded by tall palms and eucalypts overhead, making the garden a haven of tranquillity for residents. In 2013 the garden won the Best Garden and Best Tree categories in the Woollahra Garden Awards.

Current listings in President Towers

Apartment 13 in President Towers is currently on the market. This exquisite apartment features 3 bedrooms, a bespoke kitchen and glorious 360-degree views across the harbour, city and beyond.

To arrange an inspection of this luxury property, call me today.

Babworth House: Arts and Crafts Splendour

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

Sitting on the highest part of the Darling Point peninsula, at 1 Mount Adelaide Street, is Babworth House, a grand, early 20th-century home of state and national significance.

In the years before World War I, Australia was flourishing. It was a time of social change and endless possibility in the new federation, with Sydney its beating heart. The city was the fifth-largest port in the British Empire and business was booming.

Home of the Horderns

Establishing a name and reputation to eclipse all others in this mercantile city was one family: the Horderns. Making their mark and their fortune as merchants and retailers, before branching out into other pursuits, numerous Hordern family members built homes in Darling Point. And in 1912, Sir Samuel Hordern would join them.

Sir Samuel bought a property known as Mount Adelaide, situated on Darling Point’s highest spot and consisting of terraced vineyards and an older home. Here, he would create an immense property, Babworth House, in the contemporary Arts and Crafts style, with gardens to match the building’s grandeur.

To design his grand vision, Hordern employed the architects Morrow and De Putron, who had designed the nearby Hopewood House for family member Lebbeus Hordern. Other notable designs by the company include Broadways’ iconic Grace Bros buildings.

A talent with timber

Babworth House was constructed on a glorious scale, with 26 bedrooms, a large ballroom and a billiard room.

Its interiors showcase the highest craftsmanship and quintessential design features of the era. Such is the importance of the home that its Heritage NSW listing states, “The quality and uniqueness of the exterior and interior detailing, incorporating both Art Nouveau and neoclassical motifs and forms is of a standard and scale rarely seen in domestic architecture.”

Elegant timber joinery features throughout the home. Living areas include panels of English oak and Queensland maple, while the coffered ceilings are decorated with plaster Art Nouveau motifs that place the building’s heritage squarely in the early 20th century. An ornate staircase, carved in Art Nouveau designs, forms the spine of this impressive home.

The exterior and gardens

The gardens of Babworth House were designed to amplify the home’s impact. They included elements such as grottoes, faux rockwork and stairs, all nestled among sunken gardens of rare and native plants.

Garden platforms and enclosures led down to a rose garden, and a glade of oaks was under-planted with bluebells. Other plants used included succulents, umbrella trees and Bird of Paradise. The collection of plants, many of which are still with us, is itself considered historically significant.

Babworth House reimagined

After Sir Samuel’s death in 1956, the home and its contents were sold. The property was eventually put into service as a convalescent hospital, and it remained in use by St Vincent’s until 1980.

The house was then variously used as a film set, hospice and nurses’ accommodation. In 2005 it was bought by developers and reconfigured into five apartments by architectural firm Conybeare Morrison. Their work on the project resulted in numerous awards to recognise their success in conserving the heritage significance of both the house and gardens.

Today, these apartments represent the ultimate in luxury living. All are spacious and sophisticated, with the largest flowing across three levels with wraparound harbour-view terraces. Some properties include unique facilities such as steam rooms and wine cellars, and all residents can enjoy the Roman-style heated indoor pool.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Call me today.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

The Annery: A Home Of Great Significance for Darling Point

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

The Annery enjoys a reputation as one of Darling Point’s more architecturally significant homes.

It also has a tragic connection to World War I.

Originally one grand home, 3-5 Marathon Avenue, Darling Point, was converted to apartments. Over time, townhouses and apartments have been added to the complex. We take a look at the story behind the historic home.

Change of plans: George Montague Merivale

Born in Surrey, England, in 1855, George Montague Merivale had his future in the UK mapped out. He studied at Oxford University, where he excelled in running and rowing, and planned a career in law after graduation. But after landing a job with Gibbs, Bright and Co., his cousin’s shipping company, he travelled to Australia as the firm’s representative. In Sydney he met Emily Laidley, and the couple married.

Although he shifted continents, Merivale stuck with the law but also enjoyed being involved in business as a company director. After establishing himself in Sydney, he decided to build a substantial home for his growing family, which would eventually include two sons and four daughters.

Building the Annery

For his home Merivale chose land that was part of the Marathon Estate. This was a subdivision from the land grant to Elizabeth Pike, part of the original 1833 release of land known as “Mrs Darling’s villa allotments”.

Constructed between 1884 and 1886, the Annery was built in a “restrained” Queen Anne style and was named after Merivale’s ancestral home in Devon. It is believed the Canadian-born, US-trained architect John Horbury Hunt designed the house, which bears similar features to nearby Cloncorrick, another home of Hunt’s design built around the same time.

The two-storey red brick building was one of the most significant Darling Point homes at the time and remains an important example of Sydney’s late 19th-century architecture. The land the Annery is built on was earlier the site of a guard house for soldiers overseeing convicts during the colonial era. A series of arches within the Annery are said to have been built from stones from this guard house, further adding to the building’s historical importance.

The NSW Heritage listing for the Annery notes it is also historically significant for its “largely intact exterior which is a fine example of the colour and restraint typical of the style”. You can still see many of those original features today: the segmental arch window heads, decorated brick chimney stacks, leadlight feature windows and the distinctive band of diamond-pattern red and black tiles around the middle of the building. Later additions include the red roof tiles, which replaced original wooden shingles.

War comes to the Annery

While the Annery served as a family home, the Merivale’s time at the house was also marked by grief.

John Laidley Merivale was the oldest of the Merivale children. A lieutenant in the Australian Army, he served during World War I, fought at Gallipoli and was killed at the Battle of Lone Pine in August 1915. A portrait of him is held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Poignantly, the War Memorial collection also includes letters written by Lieutenant Merivale to his mother, at the Annery.

Extending the Annery

J. Burcham Clamp & Finch designed extensions to the home, which took place in 1928. This included a two-storey bay extension where an original full-width verandah once stood. A crenellated parapet at the home’s entry was also added and two garages were built.

The Merivale family owned the home until the early 1970s. It was eventually converted into apartments and, in 1974, approval was granted for the development of 21 townhouses in the grounds.

Today, the Annery is a much sought-after address. Residents enjoy a gorgeous private sanctuary with lush communal gardens, with some properties taking in water and neighbourhood views.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Call me today.

‘MONA HOUSE’ ONE OF DARLING POINT’S EARLIEST SIGNIFICANT HOMES

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

Mona House is one of Darling Point’s oldest homes.

Now divided into five beautiful apartments, the property has played a key role in the community from its beginnings. Plus, it was once home to some very valuable art.

A home in Darling Point

In the mid-1830s, Governor Brisbane had granted a 15-acre Darling Point allotment to James Dunlop, his astronomer. But Dunlop never built on the land, instead of selling it in 1841 to Thomas Ware Smart.

Thomas Ware Smart was the son of two convicts, Ann Ware Jones and Thomas Smart, both transported from England in 1808. Born in Sydney in 1810, Smart began his working life in business, then progressed through various positions, working as an auctioneer, estate agent, banker and mill owner.

After amassing a fortune, Smart was appointed magistrate and eventually served as Colonial Treasurer and Secretary for Public Works.

The allotment he purchased from Dunlop in Darling Point looked out over the harbour and across to the growing Sydney town – the perfect setting for a stately home.

Smart wanted to build a home reflecting his rising status in Sydney. He engaged the architect John Bibb to design a Regency-style villa. Typical of the style, the façade was clean and symmetrical, with a large staircase leading to a covered verandah and shuttered windows on both floors.

Open house

Although little is known about Mona’s original interior, we know it contained a valuable art collection.

In 1861 Smart opened Mona’s picture gallery to the public. A newspaper article from the time noted that the gallery contained works from the “Venetian, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Flemish and English schools of painting” and included paintings by Raphael, Rubens, Gainsborough and many others.

The article described the gallery space as a “handsome piece of masonry, 65 feet long by 25 feet wide, lighted in the proper manner by clerestory windows in the roof”.

It is believed some of Smart’s impressive collection is now housed at the Art Gallery of NSW.

The Chapel of St Mark’s

Before St Mark’s Church was completed in 1860, Smart also hosted services for the local congregation at Mona estate’s coach house, which became known as “The Chapel of St Mark’s”.

Smart and two others – Thomas Whistler Smith and Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, who donated the land on which St Mark’s was built – were the first church wardens and became known as “the Three Toms”. In 1862 Smart donated the church bells, too. They were first heard at the wedding of his stepdaughter, Mary Anne Oliver, who was reportedly attended by 20 bridesmaids.

After the Smart family

Mona House remained the Smart family’s home until Thomas’ death in 1881. It was then leased to architect Thomas Rowe, who lived there until his own death in 1899.

In 1904 the estate was subdivided into 136 allotments, with another twelve allotments added later. These were accessed via the estate’s driveway, which became known as Mona Road. The house itself was converted into flats in 1922.

Mona House today

In 1995 Mona House was redeveloped into the five apartments we see today.

The development ensured elements from the original home – doors, windows and entranceways – remained, and the building’s exterior, meticulously maintained, appears just as it did in 1841.

Each apartment is unique in layout, with varying features and numbers of rooms. Open floor plans, high ceilings and outdoor areas give a sense of space and grandeur. The front of the property still boasts those harbour and city views, while sandstone feature walls lend warmth, texture and a tangible link with the building’s past.

Apartment for sale

Apartment 5 in Mona House, at 38 Mona Road is currently on offer, with a March 2021 auction. It offers 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with house-like proportions, and a glorious outdoor area.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Call me today.

Darling Point’s Marvelous Marathon Avenue

By | Building Profiles, Local News | No Comments

As you head down Marathon Road, there’s a street on the right that’s so small you might miss it: Marathon Avenue.

But take a turn into Marathon Avenue and you’ll find a row of elegant heritage-listed terrace houses that have looked out across Darling Point for over 130 years.

Subdivisions

Subdivision of the land at “Mrs Darling’s Point” began after the completion of New South Head Road in the 1830s opened up access to the area.

But it would be more than 50 years before allotments were advertised for auction at a site bounded by what was then called Breakneck Road (now known as Marathon Road), Darling Point Road and Marathon Avenue.

The original subdivision advertisement proclaims land is available at “Darling Point adjoining Greenoakes” with “choice sites on the main road for auction sale”.

The auction was held on Friday 7th September 1883, and “liberal terms” were offered, of “one-fourth deposit” with the balance due in 6, 12, 18 and 24 months at 6% per annum.

The terraces of Marathon Avenue are built

The rate book of 1884–5 lists John Furlong Morgan as the owner of the land where the four terraces comprising numbers 1 to 4 Marathon Avenue now stand.

 

The first record of the terraces themselves appears in 1888–9, though Heritage NSW lists their construction as occurring in 1887.

Built in the Victorian Filigree style, the terraces were originally identical, with rendered brickwork on a sandstone base and a slate roof. And while modifications have occurred over the years, all four retain their original ground floor windows and cast-iron lace panels on the top balcony.

The first tenants of Marathon Avenue

Around 1884, Marie Wallis emigrated from the German town of Barth, on the Baltic Sea, to another seaside settlement: Sydney.

Initially, she worked as a governess before deciding to set up her own school. She leased the terrace at number 1 Marathon Avenue from Mr Morgan for her school – which she named Ascham, after Sir Roger Ascham, tutor to Elizabeth I.

The school began with just nine pupils, but soon Miss Wallis began taking boarders, so she leased the unoccupied terrace next door to house her new students.

Morgan leased number 3 to a Robert J. Browning, while he and his family lived in number 4, where his wife gave birth to their son on 10 July 1887.

Changing names

As with most Victorian homes of note, the terraces were named. Records from 1889 show that numbers 3 and 4 were named “Tarnee” and “Invermay” respectively, and within the next ten years number 2 became known as “Languin” and number 1 “Lamphey”.

For reasons now lost to us, by the end of the century, Morgan changed the name of number 3 to “Lydstep” and number 4 to “Giltar”. Heading into the new century, number 2 also had a name change, to “Laugham”.

Changing hands

In 1912 J.F. Morgan offloaded two of the terraces, but it appears they stayed in the family, with numbers 3 and 4 transferred to the ownership of Reverend T. Morgan of Bowral.

In 1920, the same two terraces changed hands again, this time going to Mabel D. Morgan. Ten years later, numbers 1 and 2 became the property of Martha Beaumont Morgan.

In 1941 terraces 1 and 2 were sold to Jessie Mary Grey Street. A leading feminist, Street began the United Associations of Women in 1929 and was the first and only female member of the Australian delegation at the 1945 founding conference of the United Nations.

Over the years, each of the terraces has seen modifications: some had their balconies enclosed, others underwent internal structural alterations. Today each terrace fronts the street in gleaming white with beautifully manicured gardens, each looking every bit as elegant as the day it was built.

What else is on Marathon Avenue?

Marathon Avenue may be a tiny street but it has an enormous amount of old-world charm.

Another notable Victorian home is tucked away at the very end of Marathon Avenue, behind a white wall at number 5. Called “Orme”, it was constructed in 1875. It was later redesigned in the 1930s by architects Josling and Gilling and Woollahra Council describes it as being a mix of “Gothic and Mediterranean Villa styles”. Orme’s expansive lawns, gardens, pool and grand rooms are able to be rented for functions and events, evoking the Great Gatsby era.

Want to call Marathon Avenue your home?

Number 4 Marathon Avenue has been tastefully renovated throughout and is currently on the market. Call me today for your opportunity to secure this piece of Darling Point history.

The Home Of Retail Royalty

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

In a Sydney museum, there exists a tiny photograph on a carte-de-viste, a calling card of the kind popular in Victorian times.

The photo, with its sepia hues and timeworn stains, is of a summer house in the gardens of a long-forgotten Darling Point mansion: Retford Hall.

Another card shows its entrance gates, located at 23 Thornton Street, with two pine trees either side of a grand carriage drive that surrounds “an ornamental balloon, or pear-shaped bed, luxuriating in the possession of dwarf flowering plants …”

The Hordern family looms large in Sydney’s history, dominating the city’s retail life from the 1840s right through to the middle of the 20th century.

Anthony Hordern II and his brother set up what would become Anthony Hordern & Sons. The business grew to such a size that in 1879 they erected the Palace Emporium, the largest department store in Sydney and, some say, the world. The store’s floor space spread across 52 acres and it employed more than 300 staff.

Anthony then built a home to suit his success: Retford Hall in Darling Point.

The merchant’s mansion

Construction of Hordern’s Darling Point mansion began in 1865. It was designed by renowned Sydney architect Edmund Blacket, the man behind iconic Sydney buildings like St Andrew’s Cathedral and the University of Sydney’s Great Hall.

Built from coveted Pyrmont sandstone, the two-storey Italianate home boasted seven bedrooms on the upper floor, with a drawing-room, morning room, dining room and breakfast room on the ground floor. Unlike most homes of the time, the mansion had indoor plumbing, with a bathroom and toilet on the first floor. No late-night dashes to the outhouse for this family.

The estate’s gardens rambled across almost 3 acres of land. The views, unobstructed by today’s much taller buildings, extended from Sydney Heads to St Leonards and all the way to the Blue Mountains. The family could stroll along the wide first-floor verandahs to take in the glorious vistas.

Hordern named his new home Retford Hall, in honour of his mother’s birthplace, Retford, in Nottinghamshire.

What became of Retford Hall?

On Hordern’s death in 1876 the family briefly put the estate up for sale. However, with no buyer on the horizon, it was taken off the market and went on to remain in the family’s possession for almost 100 years.

By the 1950s many of the once-grand mansions of Darling Point were being sold and demolished to make way for large apartment blocks. Soon, Retford Hall would be among them.

In 1959 the estate was approved for subdivision into four allotments, and the home and grounds were eventually sold in 1967. This paved the way for construction of the apartment tower you see on the site today.

Glimpses of the past live on

While the tower at 23 Thornton St bears the name of the former estate, not much else of Hordern’s mansion survives. The stone balustrade from the house was moved to Bowral, where it is in Retford Park (another historic home with Hordern links, now owned by the National Trust).

Retford Hall is one of four apartment towers along Thornton Street. Next door, at number 21 is Thornton Place, while slightly further up the road at number 15 is Hopewood Gardens, where you can still see the original brick and stone fence with ironwork and the gates. At number 5-11 is Longwood.

Hopewood Gardens also has a Hordern history. In 1924, a relative, Lebbeus Hordern built the Art Nouveau-style Hopewood House up the road from Retford Hall. With over 40 rooms, it was one of the biggest houses ever built in Sydney. After Leabbeus’ death, the house was used as accommodation for Navy personnel during World War II. It eventually became a finishing school for young women and, as with Retford Hall, it was sold and demolished in 1966 to make way for Hopewood Gardens apartment block.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Contact me today.

Photo credit: https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/retford-park/

Landmark Building: The Elegance of Bishopscourt

By | Building Profiles | No Comments

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “gentleman’s residence”?

Sweeping staircases, perhaps? Expansive hallways lined with portraits? Elegant sitting rooms and wood-panelled ceilings?

Welcome to Bishopscourt, one of Darling Point’s – if not Australia’s – finest mansions.

Darling Point has more than its fair share of grand homes. And it’s little wonder. With our suburb’s enviable waterside location, harbour views and easy city access, it has attracted discerning builders and buyers for well over a century.

But nothing quite beats the Gothic grandeur of Bishopscourt, at 11a Greenoaks Avenue.

Humble beginnings

Bishopscourt could easily be mistaken for the manor house of one of Britain’s landed gentry. Indeed, the property is listed under both the NSW Heritage Act and the Register of the National Estate.

Yet it wasn’t always so impressive.

In 1841, Thomas Woolley built a relatively modest two-storey sandstone cottage, designed by J.F. Hilly, on the land where Bishopscourt stands. Woolley, an ironmonger, merchant and local government councillor, named the home Percyville.

Then in 1845 along came Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. A founder of the AMP Society, Mort was also a successful entrepreneur with fingers in many pies. He is credited with pioneering food refrigeration, frozen meat export and weekly wool auctions in Sydney. He also maintained business interests in horticulture, sugar, dairy, mining, shipping and railways. A keen supporter of the Church of England, Mort donated land to build St Mark’s Church just up the road, and also helped fund the building of St Andrew’s Cathedral in the CBD.

Mort purchased Percyville and, with the help of Hilly, transformed the cottage into a gentleman’s residence. He renamed the newer, much larger home Greenoaks.

In God’s hands

Michael Campbell Langtree, grazier and engineer, bought the Greenoaks estate in 1892. He subdivided the land and in 1910 sold the home to the Anglican Church for £6,750.

On purchasing the property, the Church changed the name from Greenoaks to Bishopscourt, signalling its intended use as the residence of the Archbishop of Sydney.
The following year John Charles Wright, the fifth Archbishop of Sydney, moved in. He would be the first in a succession of seven archbishops to call the mansion home.

Luxury awaits

What kind of splendour did the archbishops enjoy?

From its steeply gabled roof to its lush gardens, Bishopscourt is as sumptuous as it gets.

The property sits on 6,216 square metres of land and boasts 15 bedrooms and six bathrooms. It features stained glass windows, ornate fireplaces and decorative timber ceilings. There’s also a beautiful chapel inside, added by the Anglican Church and showcasing detailed wood panelling and timber work.

At one time the property even housed a collection of heritage English armour and weaponry, along with a picture gallery. Add to this vast hallway and arched entranceways and the overall effect is distinctly grand and almost medieval.

Buying up big

Today, Bishopscourt is privately owned. Rising costs, coupled with losses during the global financial crisis, saw the Anglican Church unable to continue meeting the building’s expenses. By 2012 maintenance was said to total over $360,000 per year.

So in 2013, Bishopscourt was put on the market for $25 million.

The property made headlines when it finally sold in 2015 for $18 million. But it wasn’t the price tag that caught people’s attention. It was the buyer.

The media made much of the fact that while Bishopscourt was purchased by billionaire Wang Qinghui, he swiftly transferred the estate into his son’s name. He was just 17 years old at the time.

So the gentleman’s residence became the ultimate bachelor pad.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Contact me today.

Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Bishopscourt,_Darling_Point