I rather fancy maps. Not only are they immensely practical, I find them rather pleasing to the eye too. So while sleuthing around the City of Sydney Archives last week, I was delighted to come across an old book of City Building Surveyor's Detail Sheets.
It was a large compendium of about a dozen A2-sized Sydney city building maps, exquisitely and precisely illustrated. I took photographs of all the maps related to Darlinghurst and when I returned home and enlarged them on my computer, I was excited (yes, I was excited) to discover that the building at 40 Hardie Street, where I used to live, is called Meriden. It's an appropriate name too, for it was a merry den indeed.
I'm not certain of what period the Surveyor's Detail Sheets were made, but I will take a wild guess and say the early 1960s. If you look closely at the above illustration, you can see that the Alexandra Flats is still listed as a ''School'' and the Marist Brothers College closed in 1968 - so that is how I came to my scientific conclusion. And, well, if you see the maps, they've got that 60s vibe about them.
I also found it interesting to see that Iona is listed as Hughlings Private Hospital and my beautiful Stoneleigh was going through its ''Greencourt'' period.
Anyway, as I said, I was excited to learn that 40 Hardie Street, my old favourite home, was called Meriden, and this inspired me to do some online sleuthing at the National Library of Australia's Australian Newspaper archives.
I firstly came across this old classifieds advertisement (above) from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, dated January 4, 1930. I found similar advertisements in the Herald from 1929, which were published on April 18, November 2 and December 1.
Rental of a ''Modern, self-contained bachelor flat, comprising large bed-sitting room, tiled kitchenette and bathroom,'' at 40 Hardie Street cost a mere 30 shillings, and interested persons could apply to flat 12.
Then I hit upon this advertisement from March 21, 1953, which lists the building for sale.
But by far the most thrilling discovery was from the Sydney Morning Herald edition of September 23, 1949. Hidden amongst the classifieds was a list of prize-winners for the newspaper's Name a Foal Competition and among them was a Barbara Martin of 7/40 Hardie Street - the very same apartment I lived in for five years.
When I lie in bed staring at the ceilings of my apartments, I often wonder who has lived there before me and what festivities, dramas and banal domesticity the ceiling has witnessed. I never wondered so much while living at number seven, because the moulded ceiling had been recently covered up. But now I know. And now I am wondering who Ms Martin was, what she looked like and what she did for a living. Was she a school teacher, nurse or exotic dancer?
Perhaps I'll never know.