Sunday, October 21, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: Past and Present: Higgs Corner

So the Frenchman never sent me any more pix as promised (see previous post), and I don't write or speak his language so I can't really blame him. 
But never mind, because this major crossroad of Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street - which his Papa had photographed in the 1960s - had already been on my radar, specifically the corner of William Street and Darlinghurst Road (pictured above in 1936).

Back in the early 20th century it was known as Higgs Corner (pictured above in 1916). It was called this because the building was once home to A.A. Higgs, a bootmaker who specialised in surgical shoes and "repairs by craftsmen skilled in the art". 
I guess Higgs was the early 1900s version of the Surry Hills Perkal Bros who were profiled in yesterday's Good Weekend in The Sydney Morning Herald.

In September 1916 Flora Helena Mann and Daniel Spillane, executors for the will of Esmay Farrell sued the Municipal Council of Sydney for compensation for the land at Higgs Corner.
The property had been resumed by the council for the widening of William Street at a cost of 8,800 Pounds. But Mann and Spillane wanted 18,000 Pounds. 
(There's not much talk about Esmay Farrell in the archives, except for her estate, because she apparently owned the York Hotel in Central Sydney. Was she a descendant of the Farrell of Farrell Street? A relative of Bumper Farrell? I'm afraid I can't shed any light with my research budget.)
In case you are interested, the photograph above from the City of Sydney Archives, was taken in March 1918, probably just before the building was demolished.

Here's another view (above) from the archives of 1918, from the perspective of Darlinghurst Fire Station. As you can see Mr Higgs is having a sale, no doubt because his building is about to be demolished.
As an aside, Ms Farrell's estate also had an address known as 1A Craigend Street, which was declared, in April 1939, a "common gaming house". Legal action was taken against the tenant, Frank Benjamin.

The picture at the top of this post shows what the corner looked like in the 1930s, after Higgs Corner was demolished, but William Street was widened or realigned again in the 1970s for the Kings Cross Tunnel, so the building pictured above (from City Archives) now marked the corner. 

In the 1980s the building was home to Michelangelo's (above, from City Archives), an Italian cafe with gelato, pasta and espresso coffee. 
The cafe stayed for many years and was still there in the late 1990s as far as I can recall. 
Do you remember the old news stands, like the one above? 
I vividly remember the one at Taylor Square and frequented it to buy American Vogue and The Face magazine. 

In recent times Higgs Corner has been home to a series of not so successful bars, such as Firebar, shown above. 

At the moment Higgs Corner is home to a bar awkwardly named Awkward. 
It seems to be going OK, despite the fact they have strange displays in which they place a live model dressed in colourful clothing in the Darlinghurst Road window on random evenings. 
Not sure what that's about, but the location looks like a good place to have a coffee on a sunny day.



Arnold. said...

Good post, much nostalgia. I used to live just down the hill on William st in the precursor to the "Formula 1?" building. A real hive of activity it was too. We had the "Music Cafe" on the ground floor with it's seemingly 24hr building shaking bass beat. Unbelievable traffic noise. Naughty girls waiting for clients. Kerb crawlers. And the guys in the luxury sportscar salesroom next door revving the guts out of their cars and the smoke drifting into our building. Lovely neighbourhood. It was in the 80's, I can look back now and laugh but at the time it was real "character building" as they say.
One good thing about it was the guy who lived on the 1st floor was a chef at Centrepoint Tower and every sunday he'd lay on a free meal for the whole building (only 8 units) just bring booze. Mustapha what a great bloke. When we were all evicted due to the building being sold, we all lost touch with each other, sad.

Christina Cleary said...

Great post Violet. Good research. Such a shame we lost so many beautiful buildings to street widening and development. I can only imagine what it would be like now if those beautiful old buildings were still there, rather than the ugly "dead feeling" buildings that are there now.

Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy the 'antipasto ' Focaccia at bar Michelangelo in the early 80's; it had a kind of empty Stanley street cafe feeling but was delicious.

Has anyone else noticed that the building work on the former Christ Scientist building on the corner of Forbes and Liverpool has come to a halt . It seems to be occupied but very unfinished. I wonder if the dreaded SCEGGS monster will gobble it up yet...

Anonymous said...

The former church was actually purchased as a private residence - due to heritage reasons a residential "pod" complete with bamboo garden is being constructed within the four walls and raised off the floor - I saw it on a DA somewhere - I'd live to take a look at it once its been completed, the drawings looked really interesting - maybe one for Grand Designs Australia!!

Violet Tingle said...

I wrote about the church conversion here:

It does look like work has stopped and the garden is full of weeds. Has anyone else also noticed the strange elephant artwork?

Sue Higgs said...

Thanks for the info. A.A. Higgs was my great Grandfather. I was trying to find a photo that I saw of his shopfront in Oxford or William St. It flashed up at the end of a program. None of your photos are the one I'm looking for but great info and photos. Thank you.

Rosemary Lynch said...

Dear Violet,
The venerable A.A. Higgs was my great grandfather too. Thanks for unearthing these photos and the information about Higgs Corner. You have a great love for your community!

(please don't publish this bit - I was wondering if I could contact your previous poster, Sue Higgs, and let her know of my existence. We have never met and I would love to introduce myself. Could you give her my email address? Much appreciated Rosemary)