A few weeks ago I received an email from a reader, who has been living in Darlinghurst on and off for the past 24 years, and was very curious about the history of ''Darlinghurst Place'', at 28-30 Surrey Street.
The reader said she heard it was a garage in the 1970s, stables at the turn of the century, a bakery at some other point, and also once belonged to a man called Mr Hickey.
I have walked past the place countless times when I used Surrey Street as a shortcut between Elizabeth Bay and Darlinghurst, and I had just assumed it was an old stable.
But the reader aroused my curiosity and I set off at once to investigate, discovering along the way that the site has a very interesting history.
The titles for 28 and 30 Surrey Street are presently owned by Willpower Pty Ltd, a company directed by developer William Winterton, who has his offices on the left side of the building, fronting the street. Willpower purchased the two buildings in the 1980s and 1990s and I must assume - for I cannot be certain - that Winterton restored the site into apartment blocks - called The Mews, The Bakery and The Gatehouse (below) - and gave it the name, Darlinghurst Place.
The right side of the street-facing building is leased by the Masuda Gallery, which according to its website specialises in ''Japanese vintage and contemporary textiles, works on paper and other decorative arts.'' The gallery is run by Masako Masuda and began exhibiting in June last year.
As for its history, the first mention I can find is back in February 1887, soon after the site was developed, when an advertisement was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald:
''New shop and dwelling to let, adjoining Messrs Hickey and Cahill's new Darlinghurst Bakery. First class locality. Apply Messrs Hickey and Cahill.''
In March and April of 1904 and November 1906, the buildings at 28 and 30 Surrey Street were again listed for lease in The Sydney Morning Herald:
''No 28 - A Shop and Dwelling, with awning and balcony in front, and containing shop, five rooms, bathroom, kitchen and washershed.
No 30 - The Darlinghurst Bakery, Business Premises, with awning and balcony in front, and containing shop, six rooms, kitchen, bathroom and wash-house; detached commodious Bakery, comprising bakehouse (fitted with three ovens), bread-room and feed-room, with large flour loft over, and stabling (75 stalls), cart-shed.''
But it seems Mr Hickey stayed on at Surrey Street, for in September 1919, there was an obituary for a Mr O'Loughlin who ''died at the residence of his sister, Mrs David Hickey, Darlinghurst Bakery.''
There's not much to be found on David Hickey in the archives, except for another brief mention in November 1906 when he and George Brown of Barcom Avenue nominated Phillip Henry Morton of Roslyn Avenue for the council elections in the seat of Bligh.
In August 1922, David Hickey also advertised for a ''strong lad for bakehouse, willing to learn trade, apply 9 O'Clock.''
And in May, 1925 a Miss Hickey of 30 Surrey Street offered a reward for ''four, one pound notes, lost between Darlinghurst and Waverley.''
How strange. I wonder if anyone ever handed in the money?
Others who listed 28 and 30 Surrey Street as their address - from 1910 to the late 1940s - include a Mr D Levy (at 30), Mr JD Fitzgerald (at 28, in 1910), John McDonnell (at 28, in 1921) and Mr LE Ball (1948).
I suspect David Hickey died sometime in the 1940s, because in July, 1949, this advertisement appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald:
"Wanted to Rent or Buy, Cottage of Shack, close to water, reasonable distance Sydney. M Hickey, 30 Surrey Street, Kings Cross.''
And the following year, in July, this same M. Hickey placed another advertisement, which indicates he was packing up the bakery and moving to his new place by the water:
''For Sale: Elevator (dough) suitable for produce store or goods elevator, 100 Pounds.''
In the meantime, during the mid-1940s, a confectioner called Shevel Alexander moved into the building above.
The Russian-born Shevel, also known as Sasha, inherited the confectionary business from his father, Leo Zapolsky (also known as Leo Alexander), who died in 1936. The family migrated to Australia from Manchuria in the 1920s.
In 1947, according to newspaper archives, the chocolate manufacturing operations were located at Oswald Lane. This little laneway runs from Womerah Avenue to Hickey Lane (named after the baker), but after looking at old maps, I believe the site of Alexander's Chocolates was actually at 28 Surrey Street.
Here's a map from today and - correct me if I'm wrong - if you compare it to the next map, it looks like the chocolate factory was part of 28-30 Surrey Street:
Old map, showing Alexander's Chocolates on Hickey Lane:
In November 1947, Shevel advertised for ''Chocolate Packers. Girls, experience not necessary. Good wages and conditions. No Saturday work. Shevel Alexander Pty Ltd, on Oswald Lane, Darlinghurst.''
The Alexander family was big in the world of confectionary and Shevel also inherited the Peter Pan milk bar on Hunter Street, in the city, as well as a chocolate shop in George Street, next door to the Civic Theatre, also in the city.
Life should have been sweet for Shevel, but in 1948 he suffered a setback:
Shevel's downfall made national headlines in July 1948 when a judge described the chocolatier's tax evasion as the worst ''to come before a court for many years''.
Tax investigators seized books and other documents during raids on his Bundarra Road, Bellevue Hill home, and his various businesses, which ''made it obvious that his account books were unreliable and did not disclose his true income.''
According to court reports, Shevel had understated his net income for the financial year 1944-45, by at least 1574 Pounds and for the following financial year, by 1075 Pounds.
Shevel was fined 100 Pounds and ordered to pay 400 Pounds to the Taxation Department for each charge.
I don't know what happened to Shevel after that and here the trail of 28-30 Surrey Street ends.
Save for a brief mention in September 1952, when ''hundreds of Kings Cross housewives'' campaigned to have the disused bakery turned into a wholesale fruit market.
The women presented a petition to the then Sydney City Council asking for the market to be established to prevent ''exploitation of the public by barrow men''.
''Kings Cross is the most exploited district in the metropolitan area,'' Alderman AW Thompson told The Sydney Morning Herald.
''Although there are some fine men among the barrow men, I have been told that some are men with criminal backgrounds.''
Fruit barrow men, corner of Springfield Avenue and Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, 1933.
From the City of Sydney Archives.