Friday, May 20, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: History: 28-30 Surrey Street

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.


Lorraine said...

Hi Violet,
My great grandfather was David Hickey, born in 1851, died 1915.
My great grandmother was Norah Hickey, nee O'Louchlin.
David and Norah had seven children.
My grandfather was Michael Joseph Hickey, born in 1886, died in 1928, he was 42.
Michael had five children, two died as infants and my mother was the youngest of his three girls.
After Michael's death, my grandmother, Catherine, and their girls, moved to Paddington and then to Waverley.
Catherine remarried, but her wishes were to be buried next to Michael and their babies.
The Hickeys were born in Surry Street, Darlinghurst and buried at Rookwood Cemetery.

The bakery at Darlinghurst was opened around the 1880s and sold in the 1940s, as money was needed for their other two bakeries at Alexander Street, Hunters Hill and at Rose Bay.
There were once stables, a loft and a cobbled archway at the site.
My grandfather, Michael, delivered bread to schools and houses on horse and cart. He was also a baker.
Matthew Hickey and David junior placed the ads in the paper regarding the bakery.

Anonymous said...

I attended an inspection this afternoon (22 October 2011) at 75 Womerah Avenue, Darlinghurst, said to be, according to a neighbour, the (or, an) old Hickey residence. It's very run down, and was configured into a boarding house, but you can still see, what it must have been like in its heyday.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Surrey St and walked past this place on the way to school in the 1960s. I recall that there was a shop on one side (selling groceries, cold meats, bread, milk, and household items such as batteries, etc.) and a garage on the other. I think the garage specialised in classic cars.

Robyn said...

My grandparents lived at 18 Surry St & Alexander Choc Factory was directly behind their house .. the smell of the chocolate was devine .. My nan used to buy everyone Easter eggs from there .. they were works of art!. There was a fire there, maybe in the 50's & I'm not sure what the outcome was. All the windows were exploding & my grandfather slept through the whole lot.

Eddie said...

hi violet, I worked at darling hurst place in 1972 , it was a garage , company name of Alec mildren, Alfa Romeo agents, they had a showroom in sydney. I have photos of the garage at the time. there was a shop that sold cold meats pies groceries etc, a Chinese gentleman owned it at the entrance on surry street. I returned to sydney on holiday a few weeks ago, called to see if old garage was there. to find now apartments. hope this helps eddie

ZiaLoves said...

I live in Darlinghurst Place at the moment and had often wondered about our little Mews Cottage. Thank you for providing us with a glimpse into it's history.

Anonymous said...


I lived in one of the flats in the Mews back in 2007, loved living there & often wondered about the history of the place, thanks!