Sunday, April 29, 2012

Across the Border: Potts Point: Reader Story: Apartment Buildings: Byron Hall

This is a history of Byron Hall written by someone who lives in the building - what could be better than that? 
I enjoy writing about all the excellent early 20th-century buildings, and 19th-century buildings in our area, but it's so much better when it comes from someone who lives in it and loves it. 
Here is Ms X's journey through Byron Hall on Macleay Street - a building that is unmissable if you are into that kind of thing. 
Internal and fireworks pix by Ms X; externals by me.

2011 Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks display from the roof of Byron Hall.

"Given the new year has well past, it's about time I delivered on a promise to a woman I have never met.
"My Darling Darlinghurst is a favourite blog of mine.
"I love hearing stories from 2011 and share the author's fascination with the strange timetable the 311 bus keeps.
"A while back I happened to see that Violet had created a hand-coloured zine and was sharing them with her fans/readers.
"I was quite the excited one on the interwebs, and a quick email secured a copy.
"Shortly thereafter Violet fed it under the front door of my apartment building.
"In return for that kind gesture, I’m introducing her and you to the insides of my home at Byron Hall.

"Byron Hall sits at 97-99 Macleay Street and was designed by Claud Hamilton.
"Hamilton was a fairly prolific architect in the area, and also designed other apartment blocks like The Savoy (1919) and Regent’s Court (1925).
"He and the construction workers of Sydney finished Byron Hall in 1929, the year of the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression.
"Byron Hall is a mix of styles: many aspects are art deco, some a little Georgian (like the windows), and others classical (such as the pediments).
"Until the 1950s the building was a series of serviced apartments.
"Maids lived on the top level and the caretaker in a small flat on the ground floor.

"The foyer is the grandest part of the building, and the caretaker’s office is usually occupied in the early part of the day by one of the longest-term residents who is now in her 90s.
"She arranges the more basic repairs and trouble shoots any issues, but more than that she is a pretty impressive collective memory of the old building. 

"Just outside the office are the original and still-used letterboxes, so tiny and made for an era when post-delivered objects had a smaller and more uniform size I expect. 
"Anything that does not fit has to sit on top in piles, each resident sorting through the pile. 
"It is terribly inefficient, but a reminder that it really is OK to spend a minute or two extra in the foyer collecting mail and chatting to neighbours. 
"There are two lifts, with wonderfully un-automated doors, which tend to inspire two types of reactions. 
"On the one hand there are the friends who squeal with glee (squee!) at things so well aged and beautiful. 
"On the other, those who cannot be convinced that the lifts, despite recent and full refurbishment, are safe. 
"The basement and an area on the top floor are the two other common spaces.
"The company (the building is company title) still own the flat the maids previously resided in, and you can access a small balcony and a meeting room.
"The view from the balcony is beautiful — straight across The Domain to the city and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
"The meeting room contains the original name board from the foyer, listing some of the first residents against their flat number.

"The basement has a communal laundry and the boiler room. 
"While not quite out of Nightmare on Elm Street, it is a little dark and spooky. 
"The basement also houses the building’s bike racks and ‘The Shed’: a giant old wooden workbench where you can repair things, sand things, paint things and generally make a mess.
"One thing you are always conscious of living in Byron Hall, is how lucky you are. 
"Lucky because the building is wonderful, but also because 2011 is home to a great many people who are without homes. 
"For that reason I'm a Friend of the Wayside Chapel, who live next door to us at Byron Hall. 
"They are often a friend to those who are in need, so perhaps you might think about become friends with them as well?
"The sun is pretty low in the sky as I finish writing this, streaming in to our lounge room and demanding I get organised for dinner. 
"So goodnight from Byron Hall."


Ruby said...

Fantastic post, Miss X! You paint a fascinating portrait of life inside your wonderful building and I especially love the photo of the cute little mailboxes. A nice touch, too, reminding us all of the good work that the Wayside Chapel does.
Now, Violet, I would love to read an interview with the 90-something year-old caretaker!

Anonymous said...

She is not a caretaker by paid role Ruby, but a tenant who has been on the board of management for many years. And yes Violet, I could arrange if you were interested...

However, our wonderful cleaner who has also been with the building many years as well is in his 70s. He still starts work at about 5am from what I can tell.

♥ Ms X

Anonymous said...


Hopefully you see this post...

Would also recommend a visit to Ikon (81 Macleay) where there is a recently opened Gallery of historical pictures.

I also saw a flyer that a resident of Manar (40 Macleay) has self-published a book about that building - unsure if the same as this gent -

On the topic of Manar, very interesting that the old Mansions is now becoming Manor -

Bodgie said...

Manar, the building, is named for the Manaar Straits of old Ceylon, where the Gordon's, the original owners of the cottage, lived. It is not as in 'to the manor born'. Lol. THnaks for the Byron Hall info. My forthcoming book on the area obviously mentions this fine deco building. ''Twas me who did the Manar book... the new book is due in four weeks and is chock full of images and stories.