Friday, June 3, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: History: 77 Barcom Avenue

I received an email last week from a reader in the UK called Mr Pitt who came across my Darlinghurst blog while researching his family history. 
Mr Pitt's great-grandmother emigrated to Australia as a young, single woman in 1882. On the ship on the way over she met a crewman who would turn out to be Mr Pitt's great-grandfather. 
The young man had to disembark in Brisbane, in Queensland, and the young woman continued on to Adelaide, in South Australia. 
But the young man's heart was set aflutter and he quickly and steadily worked his way down and around the coast to his sweetheart. Based on the fact that Mr Pitts exists, a happy ending was assured. 
After the crewman's death, the now not-so-young-woman moved to Western Australia and then Sydney, settling in a house at 12 Craigend Street, where she died in 1937. That house no longer exists, but Mr Pitt was also interested in a house at 77 Barcom Avenue where another ancestor lived. 
And naturally I promised to send him some photographs pronto.

The only problem with my promise was that the weather has been so dreadful and when I had a rare day off on Monday, I looked out the window (above), rain was beating down, and I decided I really didn't want to leave the house. I mooched around my apartment for a bit and hit upon the idea of looking up the address on Google Street View, but the website failed to shed any light on the house and simply revealed an old stone wall. So I put on a coat and boots, grabbed my umbrella and set off for Barcom Avenue and as if by magic, the rain stopped.

I wandered through the empty Monday streets and eventually arrived at the place that Google Street View said was 77 Barcom Avenue (above). Google Street View was wildly off the mark; the street numbers were all wrong, so I continued on until I finally reached a long patch of green where the numbers just disappeared. I stopped and scratched my head for a bit and must have looked quite lost, because just then a ginger cat sauntered out of the foliage and asked me if I needed directions.

The cat wouldn't tell me his name and I don't really fancy talking to strange animals, but I had to admit that I needed some help. ''I'm trying to find 77,'' I said to the cat.

''Number 77, eh?,'' the cat replied.
''And why do you need to find that place? Hot date?''
I was shocked. 
''Cattle!'' I said
''Of course not, I am trying to find it for Mr Pitt of the United Kingdom whose great-grandmother's daughter lived there in the 1930s. He is curious as to what it looks like, so I am simply here to take some photographs to send to him.''
The cat just pulled a strange face and said ''follow me''.

We didn't go far down the footpath before the ginger cat stopped and said, ''There you go, up the stairs with you - so long now,'' and then it padded off, tail in the air.
I called out to its disappearing form, ''Thanks, Cattle!'' then followed the animal's order and went up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs was a long row of terrace houses. I looked right . . .

. . . then left; checked the numbers and continued along this way:

By now I was a bit spooked, what with the strange ginger cat and an obscure Darlinghurst address from some complete stranger in England; I was starting to wonder if an axe-murderer lived at 77 and was going to grab me when I approached, slice me into bits and maybe feed me to the cat. And no one has the password to my email account, so they would never think to look for me in a cat food bowl at 77 Barcom Avenue. And number 77, right at the end of the row, certainly looked very creepy:

So I approached the doorway with caution . . .

. . . and suddenly out stepped this big man wielding an axe. 
Luckily that did not happen. But I had worked myself into such a spook, that I didn't dare knock to see if anyone was home. Instead I quickly took some photographs of the building and dashed off.

 I was faster than lightning as I took those stairs back down, three at a time, careful not to slip on the wet stone. When I reached the street, there was no sign of the ginger cat, or anyone for that matter. It was deathly quiet.

So there you are, Mr Pitt: the old family home at 77 Barcom Avenue (the white one on the right, above). Incidentally, the house is one of a row of 12 terraces (55-77 Barcom Avenue) built in the early 1900s, but is nothing special compared to that pink place next door, which was built in the 1880s for the Brown family who only sold it in 1959. The grand manor was converted into nine flats in the 1960s but still retains its original 4.6m high ceilings, decorative tiled floors and other heritage features.
It sold at auction last year for $4.15 million.
The most recently sold house in the row of 12, at 63 Barcom Avenue, went for $590,00 in 2008.

The first mention of 77 Barcom Avenue in the newspapers was a very basic To Let advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 25, 1911 for an ''unfurnished room''.
The embankment surrounding the stairs must have been built in the 1930s for in June 1932, someone placed an advertisement in the Herald for a ''Price for filling holes and grading embankment. Meet agent 11am, 55-77 Barcom Avenue, Darlinghurst.''
And finally in the Wanted ads on October 6, 1944: ''Wanted. Urgent. Large unfurnished flat or small cottage, rent optional, excellent credentials and business references, will lease if necessary. Mrs S.N. Lazarus, 77 Barcom Avenue, Darlinghurst.''

I'm afraid that's all I could discover about 77 Barcom Avenue. Perhaps that funny old, mysterious cat knows the building's secrets. If I ever see the cat again, I'll make sure I ask it.


Anonymous said...

Indeed Ms. Tingle, I do know the secrets of that mysterious building. If only you had continued to follow me after I dashed off, no, I was not hunting a pocket mouse I spied in the distance. In fact, I was leading you to a secret hideaway belonging to 77.. Until next time, meow.

Violet Tingle said...


Anonymous said...

I believe the cat in Question's name is Monty.... He comes to visit us on occasions and dabbles in a saucer of milk.... lovely Fellow...

From a Resident of 25 Barcom Ave :)

Violet Tingle said...

Yes, I received a very interesting email from the person who that cat lives with. The name is Monti with an i. Monti has a very colourful past and lived at St Vincent's Hospital for a while. Each day he would go and visit the hospice and every time he had to cross the road, he would always use the pedestrian crossing. He also used to live at the Kookaburra Kiosk. He's been around that Monti. I must go and visit him again.

Anonymous said...

I lived in 234 barcom ave and my cousin lived in 30 womerah ave

Anonymous said...

Don't know if it's a good idea to buy that old terrace house. You certianly scared me a lot. hehe...

Carlo g said...

My family lived at 56 Womerah Ave & 41 Barcom Ave. Both properties backed onto Barcom Lane. For many years my father had a fruit shop there, I think he was there until approx mid seventies. I remember Mrs Brown who used to give us kids money for helping her walk to a wine shop on the corner of Oswald Lane & Bayswater Road ( it's no longer there). I remember that she always smelled 'old', & she wore glasses, a brown coat & used a walking stick. When she passed away, vandals got into her house & completely wrecked it. There was a grand piano which they threw down the stairs along with a big stag head. All the neighbourhood kids played there & we called it the haunted house. I think about four of my budgies are buried there. Great memories of an absolutely beautiful house.

Joe Joe said...

77 Barcom Ave was up for auction this week. I heard it passed in with an insufficient bid of $1.5 million.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just came across this post googling my Grandma's old house, now up for sale. I was born here in 1982,my family has lived in the house for 30-40 years. The house is much less spooky from the Womerah Lane side! I was always scared of the Barcom access end as well. Here's your chance to look inside! Mr Pitt too..