No.47 REDUCED TO RUBBLE
This is what happens when money is allowed to overrule everything else…
No.47 Connells Point Rd South Hurstville, the old doctor’s house, was reduced to a pile of rubble on Thursday 6th June… I know of a few people who will have broken hearts over this, myself included, my condolences go to them.
This is where I started my blog, because of this house. The previous long term owner had sold to a developer and been granted permission to build units on the site by Kogarah Council as part of the sale requirement. Unfortunately they had evaded heritage listing on the property over the years with the preferred intention of future capital return. Well they got their wish, but where the laws allow it, as in this case, property owners will always try to maximize the value of their investment, and by allowing the wholesale destruction of buildings such as this – true heritage assets – just because they have escaped listing, we set ourselves on a path of total heritage desecration, a point from which there is no return.
The sad thing is that there was enough land at the rear of the house to excavate and build three or four units, and that, combined with the house in its current form or redesigning as twin lodgings or a doctor’s surgery would have netted the owner a not unhealthy result financially. There was room for compromise.
Mention must be made of the concerted effort by a small group of residents who tried against the odds to save this house; Robyn, Leesha, Peter, Jane and family. Kogarah council turned a blind eye to its own local heritage and offered no support – I can recall a certain councillor, now local MP, who sniped at a campaigner something along the lines of “do you own the house? If not then why do you care?”… This political ignorance is why we are losing buildings such as this. David McCowen of Fairfax Media who was a local reporter at the time helped cover the story to a detailed level and thanks must go to him and the Leader.
It was noted by passers-by that trees were supposed to be retained, but have all been removed. Also, the stunning art deco lead light motif windows were not even removed from the house to be saved, apparently due to the costs of removal vs resale. Despite the bulldozer making light work of it, the quality of the workmanship of the building and its materials was evident.
Enlarge the image below and take a minute to reflect on how beautiful and perfectly proportioned this house was. The facade with its three coloured arches, the texture and glazing of the brickwork, the three window frames above, the generous eaves; there’s a hint of classicism to it that works so well… there’s something very European about it.
“An imposing interwar Art Deco style residence with a large front entrance consisting of three moulded and rendered archways and with art deco leadlight panelling throughout”- Musescape study
This was a purpose designed doctor’s house and surgery, in the Art Deco style, built 1929-1933 by the young Dr Frank James Howell with his parents, Norman and Louisa Howell on a plot of land from the railway estate period of Hurstville, where land was being opened up along the Illawarra line. It is futile now to go over the blame game, but I can recall Kogarah Council at the time claiming the house was not located in an area of heritage value. One walk up and down the surrounding streets outweighs that theory. If this is not a heritage-rich precinct I don’t know what is… I took a quick stroll and have attached a gallery of houses all within a five or ten minute walk of No.47; many are older than this house in vintage, but not as rare. Unfortunately this great Art Deco masterpiece will no longer be part of that streetscape.
Historical notes by Leesha Payor and Jane Walther (illustrating the local significance of the home and why it should’ve been heritage listed)…
- Part of the Railway Estate, a speculative subdivision of the Australian Mutual Investment & Building Company Ltd. 254 allotments were offered for auction on the public holiday of the Prince of Wales birthday – Tuesday 9th November 1996, just two years after the Illawarra Railway had opened. [ZSP H10/245] (NSW State Heritage Inventory Form – C Betteridge, J. Matthias, L. Murray – 1999)
- The young Dr Frank James Howell with his parents, Norman and Louisa Howell, built their family home from 1929-1933-as a purpose built residence and combined doctor’s surgery.
- Dr Howells’ grandfather John Howell left behind his wife, eldest son and two daughters in Lancashire, and with his son Norman came to Australia in search of employment in 1884. It was almost a decade later before the family could reunite in 1893. Norman Howell gained employment with NSW Railways at the Everleigh branch, where he remained until his retirement in 1929 as ‘Principal Bookkeeper of the Locomotive Branch’.
- Norman Howell married Louisa Norton in 1900, whose ancestry can be traced almost exclusively to convict beginnings, as early as the Second Fleet. Louisa’s family lived in the Canterbury area and the Howell’s two sons were born in Haldon Street Lakemba, Frank James in 1901 and Edwin John in 1910.
- Frank Howell attended the Burwood Superior School and obtained a scholarship to Sydney Boys High School in 1915, allowing him free education and textbooks for 3 years. He completed a degree in Medicine (Master of Surgery) at Sydney University in 1924.
- Dr Howell’s university classmate was Dr John Saxon Crakanthorp, whose 1929 purpose built two-storey home and surgery in the ‘Tudor’ style, at 14 MacMahon Street, Hurstville, was listed as a Schedule 2 Heritage Item in Hurstville Local Environmental Plan 1994. Purchased by Hurstville City Council in 1978, this landmark property re-opened in 2004 as Hurstville City’s Museum and Gallery.
- After graduating, Dr Howell worked for another doctor in the small town of Kurri Kurri, NSW, before starting his own practice in South Hurstville. Set amongst older houses, he bought the remaining vacant allotments upon the highest end of a ridge, 47-49 Connells Point Road, in 1929 from Rosa Trickett. With his parents and brother Edwin, he rented the house opposite at number 24, all leaving to enter their new family home when it was completed in 1933.
- Living alongside their own surgery enabled a doctor to provide after-hours emergency care to patients and the community. Set among older single storey houses, this house was built to mould sympathetically onto the hillside rather than gouge it out. To maintain the streetscape, the building is sited on the two levels of the blocks, only the front half being of two storeys. Part of the setting, was the creation of a public park, to the west side of the house; the building is entirely visible and integrated with both the public park and the pedestrian thoroughfare to access Derwent Street. The private home entrance is accessed from the pedestrian stairs at the side, or from Derwent Street.
- Left to care for his mother in their home after his father’s death in 1946, Dr Howell employed a cook and a housekeeper during the day while he was working. His brother Edwin married in 1949 and with his own family, continued to live with them to care for their mother in the evenings. In a time before locums or medical centres, General Practice was a demanding occupation. The family recall the phone ringing almost every night as patients sought attention and the surgery hours extended very late. Whist visiting a patient on the 22nd December 1956, Dr Howell suffered a massive heart attack, and unable to receive emergency aid, he died that day aged 58 years.
- Dr Howell worked as a General Practitioner for almost 30 years and was well respected; his funeral cortege proceeded down King Georges Road with small groups assembled on the side of the road to pay their respects. Other doctors in the area were few at the time; they included Dr Lee, Dr Crakanthorp and Dr Jackson. For the home and surgery to continue its service to the community, the Howell family sold their estate to Dr Pearson and his young family in 1959.
- Dr Barry Pearson was born in 1924 and graduated from Sydney University, M.B. B.S. in 1952. After opening his practise, he became a Hurstville Rotarian in 1960 and as their President, he engaged their support to commence the first Meals on Wheels Service for the area, by raising the initial funding to build a kitchen within Hurstville Community Hospital. Now called Hurstville Community Food Services, this community-based operation covers the City of Hurstville and the City of Kogarah; opened on 4th July 1967, 30 years later it served its one-millionth meal. Dr Pearson continued his active interest, both as Patron of the service he founded and as a regular volunteer. In 2006 Dr Pearson received an OAM, “for service to medicine as a general practitioner and to the community of Hurstville through aged care and service organisations.”
- Dr Barry Pearson OAM raised his children and maintained his practise for 20 years at 47 Connells Point Road until forced sale in 1982. The home and surgery was purchased and was used as a private residence for the past 30 years. There have only been 3 owners in its 83 years.