Saturday, October 27, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: History: Books: Trams

A well-placed source of historical photographs last week sent me some great 1940s colour images of trams trundling down Darlinghurst and Sydney streets.  
They belong to a private collector and as far as I know have never before been published, so it's an honour to be able to reproduce them here.
I had a hard time placing where exactly the photograph above was taken and had to refer to a tram line map (below, Copyright John R Newland, 2010) to see exactly where the lines ran.

I believe the photograph at the top of this post shows the 'Special' turning off Oxford Street and into Greens Road, Paddington, on its way to Moore Park. In the background there is a smokestack, which I assumed belonged to the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington (which still marks the horizon today), but it would be in completely the wrong position if that is Greens Road. If anyone can identify it, please let me know.

This one, above, was definitely taken at the corner of Greens Road and Oxford Street. As my source says, the "luminous" colour photographs "have a depth and intensity of colour that only film from that era seems to provide. Gems!".

Here's another one, above, showing the trams cruising down Oxford Street. Again, that smokestack is in the background.

The photograph above shows a tram turning from Elizabeth Street into Liverpool Street, on its way to Oxford Street. The trams really were beautiful with their lovely heritage green and cream, with red-trim, paint. They also, for some undefinable reason, remind me of great big caterpillars wriggling along the streets.

The photographs also brought to mind a book I received early last year: Bondi to the Opera House, the trams that linked Sydney, by Dale Budd and Randall Wilson.
The 92-page book was published by the Australian Railway Historical Society (NSW division) and is a comprehensive and educational look at Sydney's tram system, once one of the world's largest.
Budd and Wilson are certainly passionate about the Sydney trams, which scuttled along the streets from 1879 to 1961, and one of the things I love about the book is that they place contemporary photographs alongside historical ones, such as this one:

According to the caption information, Bennelong Point, now the site of the Sydney Opera House, was once home to a tram depot designed by government architect Walter Vernon. 
Trams terminating at the Fort Macquarie depot would arrive on the western side, while those beginning another trip would travel around the depot to its eastern side to make their first stop at the Man O' War Steps.
The ornamental tower you can see in the top left corner of the depot housed an elevated water tank - the  early 20th century version of fire safety.
Prior to the tram depot being built in 1901, the headland was home to the real Fort Macquarie: a square stone fortress with an armament of 24-pound guns and five 6-pounders. Boom.

A tram climbs through the Bronte cutting, now a car park (Copyright: From Bondi to the Opera House, by Budd and Wilson).

According to the authors, "the Sydney tram system extended from Narrabeen in the north, to La Perouse in the south; from Bondi in the east to Ryde in the west.
"From the 1920s to the 1940s there were up 1,500 trams operating on 290km of lines serving the city and more than 70 suburbs. Trams carried more than a million people every weekday."

Tram passengers line up at Market Street stop on Elizabeth Street, Central Sydney (Copyright: From Bondi to the Opera House, by Budd and Wilson).

There are more than 250 photographs in the book, featuring trams in a vast array of suburbs including Birchgrove and Balmain, Botany and West Kensington, Manly and Milsons Point. There are also a couple showing William Street and Kings Cross.
Most of the photographs were taken by John Alfred, who apparently "had a special talent for spotting unusual vantage points, often elevated," the book says.
"Starting in the 1950s he took more than 4,500 colour transparencies of Sydney trams: his total body of work amounted to more than 21,000 images, almost all of trams and trains throughout Australia."
Alfred died in 1969 - in a road accident - and his photographs are now in the collection of the Mitchell Library, part of the State Library of NSW. 
The authors owe him a great debt. 

One of the Kings Cross photographs in the book is identical to the one above, which I have framed on my wall. My father picked it up at a garage sale in the 70s. The only clue to its origin is the name of the framer printed on the back: Mr Frame of Wetherill Park. But I think it was a common travel pic of the 1940s as I have seen it before in many places.

 Pic copyright: From Bondi to the Opera House, by Budd and Wilson.

This photograph (above) showing the tram passing within a few metres of The Gap is one of my favourites in the book. I would have loved to have ridden that tram. The authors say the view would have been "stunning"

Pic copyright: From Bondi to the Opera House, by Budd and Wilson.

Back in the 1950s some major fool decided to start closing off the electric tram lines and replace them with diesel buses, the same vehicles that today emit such a foul stench and ear-grating noise throughout the city. Bravo.
The photograph above shows the last tram in George Street, Central Sydney, in November 1958. 
"It is after midnight, a wreath has been attached and everyone is trying to get into the newspaper photographer's picture," the caption says.
"This scene was repeated many times as the tram network was progressively closed down."

 Pic copyright: From Bondi to the Opera House, by Budd and Wilson.

The La Perouse and Maroubra routes were the last to be served by the trams, with the final day of operation on 25 February 1961.
"Travellers packed aboard the trams and crowds gathered at vantage points along the route," the book says.
The very last tram (pictured above) was "jammed to the rafters" and it would be "36 years before a tram again carried passengers in Sydney."

Pic copyright: From Bondi to the Opera House, by Budd and Wilson.

Some of the trams were donated to various institutions and museums, such as the Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus, south of Sydney. Many other trams were burned to death, as illustrated in this very sad photograph above.
Trams, or light rail, returned to Sydney in 1997 and the authors hope that this network is expanded.
The City of Sydney is pushing the NSW Government to commit to an expanded network, including the addition of a line along George Street, which they would like to close off to north-south traffic.
Part of their vision is detailed on their website, which is worth visiting just to see, at the bottom of the page, a film that was shot in 1906 by someone on the top of a vehicle cruising down George Street
The animation at the top of the page showing what George Street would look like with trams today is also pretty cool.
From Bondi to the Opera House, the trams that linked Sydney
By Dale Budd and Randall Wilson
Australian Railway Historical Society (NSW)
92pp, $39.95

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.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: Past and Present: French Photographie

I was contacted last week by a Frenchman Marc Coetmellec who emailed me three photographs his father had taken of Darlinghurst in the 1960s. They have never been published before, so I am very pleased that Marc sent them to me to include on my petite blogette. The photographie is fantastique.
This first one, looking down William Street, shows the original Bar Coluzzi on the left. 
There is a similar photograph in the City of Sydney Archives, which shows the cafe proprietor standing at its doorstep. 

The scene today is quite different as the road was realigned in the 1970s for the Kings Cross Tunnel, Sydney's first road tunnel according to this website.

Marc's father, Jean-Yves Coetmellec, visited Australia frequently in the 1960s as a merchant seaman on board the Tahitien (do click on the link to see a photograph of this lovely ship). 
Jean-Yves was a mecanicien, or mechanic, with the French maritime company Messageries Maritimes (again, click on the link to see the beautiful old shipping posters).

The Tahitien would have docked at Woolloomooloo so Jean-Yves would have been well placed to explore the local area, including Darlinghurst and Kings Cross. I wonder what the Frenchman thought of Sydney in the 1960s. And would he be interested to see what the area in these photographs looks like today:

Marc said he had many more photographs of Sydney taken by his father and he promises to email them to me. I can't wait to see them and will publish them here as soon as I can.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Across the Border: Central Sydney: Plant Life: Royal Botanic Garden

Now that awful winter has passed and the sun is out the best place to be is outdoors, so last week my friend Crystal Kaye and I headed to the city's backyard, the Royal Botanic Garden.

From Darlinghurst, it's just a short walk down William Street . . .

. . .  and across The Domain, looking back to see the neat rows of antique terraces and modern apartments of Potts Point, the new and old faces of our city.

Soon after arriving at the garden, close to the Macquarie Wall, we were hit with a boom of colour: pink, red and creamy white tulips, heads the size of apples, necks craned to the sun.

I had visited the garden the previous week so I knew what to expect from the annual Spring Walk, but Crystal was overwhelmed with the colour. 
It's so striking and intense, because you emerge from the usual paths of green foliage into a mardi gras of floral freakishness. 

There are those endless tulips, dainty primula, cute pansies, fragrant wisteria (above left), blue mist flowers (above right), blossoming ornamental pear trees and loads of other bee magnets.

There are also plenty of other plants that I couldn't identify, such as these two pinky flowering things (above).

Fortunately, there are plaques on some of the flora so I was able to identify the unusual Japanese spiketail (above), which is one of those plants that you need to stop and look at closely to appreciate the beautiful, intricate buds that form its jewel-like strands. 

I also admired these blue towers of mini flowers (above), which I don't know the name of. 

According to a flier I picked up at the garden, the Spring Walk began in 1856 when shade-loving plants, such as azaleas and rhododendrons (below) were planted along the southern side of the Macquarie Wall. 

Since then, the Spring Walk has become "a much-loved and visited horticultural feature in the garden" and there were loads of people dawdling along the path with us.

The short walk begins at the Botanic Garden Creek and the start is marked by a sculpture of a woman, Spring, which was donated in 1957.

The walk then runs along the Macquarie Wall up to the 1878-built Lion Gate Lodge, possibly one of the best sandstone party venues in Sydney.

Crystal and I mooched on a bench, admiring the lodge's neat lawn and flowering garden, while dreaming of the party we would host in its grounds: live music, real Champagne, canapes.
But then reality kicked in and we knew we would never be able to afford the $3000, or whatever, fee to rent the place and so instead we rambled down to a sunny spot near the main duck pond and polished off a bottle of wine (or two). 


Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of clivia (above) across Darlinghurst and the inner city over the past month?
There are clumps of them everywhere, even in my own street, and I don't remember seeing so many in previous years. 
Is the spread of the waxy orange flower a result of the high rainfall we had over winter?
Or has someone seed-bombed the area?