The much-loved historic mansions of Darling Point offer a link to the suburb’s beginnings.
However, towards the end of Darling Point Road sits a row of rare homes that equally contribute to the suburb’s unique history.
The Etham estate
The land surrounding Etham Avenue was once part of the Etham estate.
Etham was a home built in 1869 for James Sutherland Mitchell, a partner in Tooth’s Brewery. Mitchell had apparently demolished an earlier house, The Willows, to make room for his new mansion, for which he fashioned many of the wooden carvings and fixtures himself.
Like many Darling Point homes of the time, Etham was built to grand proportions. Facing Double Bay, its many features included a billiards room and a glass-enclosed ballroom. And according to a writer in 1906, “to go to an entertainment at Etham was the ambition of all in the social world”.
Subdivision of Etham
Mitchell died in 1893, and in 1900 Etham was sold to Sir Matthew Harris (the grand house was eventually demolished in 1920). The property’s grounds, however, were subdivided and sold off over the following years.
The first subdivision auction was held on 24 February 1900. Advertised as “water frontages and residential sites”, the available blocks lined Darling Point Road, Etham Avenue and Carthona Avenue (today’s Sutherland Crescent).
Each block was sold under Torrens title. The terms were one-fifth cash, with the balance paid over four years at an interest rate of 5 per cent.
Mysteriously, all the same blocks were again advertised for auction for 7 December 1901. It’s unclear what happened at the 1900 auction, but it appears it was postponed, or none of the lots sold.
“Etham Estate is situated in one of the most fashionable suburbs of Sydney, convenient to the principal avenues of the city, and intersected by excellently made streets,” the 1901 brochure proclaims, underneath a photo of horse-drawn vehicles and carriages on Darling Point Road.
Held in the State Library, the sepia-toned pamphlet also included other photos of the area, like a photo of Etham itself and a sailboat on the harbour. There’s also a photo of the view looking towards Double Bay, with the caption:
“From various points of the estate magnificent views can be obtained of the Harbour and picturesque landscape of Double Bay. The changing effects of Nature present an interminable series of delightful and varying prospects that cannot fail to charm the eye of the beholder.”
However, a third auction was held in October 1902 to sell off the blocks not previously snapped up. The advertising flyer for this auction shows that all the blocks fronting Darling Point Road were already sold by then, making way for housing that would typify the era – with a few differences.
Not your typical Darling Point house
Those Darling Point Roadblocks would go on to showcase homes somewhat unique in the suburb.
While terrace houses sprang up across Sydney’s inner suburbs during the Victorian and early Edwardian years, such homes were much rarer in Darling Point, where mansions with extensive grounds had ruled since the 1830s.
But starting with number 125 Darling Point Road, a row of homes built in the early years of the 20th century defied this trend – something which has seen some of them heritage listed. They are significant precisely for being semi-detached and built in an era and suburb where most homes were freestanding.
The five freestanding buildings, totalling ten homes, were built directly opposite Swifts. The two-storey homes share elements including a central front tower, cast iron lacework, decorative external plasterwork and finials along the roofline. Beautifully tiled verandahs and large windows added to the street appeal.
Inside, the homes were planned for both space and elegance. Well-proportioned, generously sized rooms featured, as did fireplaces, high ceilings and broad archways.
Number 125 Darling Point Road
Sitting at the head of this significant row of homes, number 125 Darling Point Road is currently on offer.
With five spacious bedrooms and four bathrooms, this is a gracious home full of sophistication and style. It’s also a rare chance to secure a piece of Darling Point history, and make it your own.
Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Call me today.