LIFE AND DEATH OF THE FULL SERVICE STATION

If you are a lover of Art Deco as am I, you may be slightly miffed by the loss of one of Sydney’s only remaining original 1930s full service stations. If you have been swayed by the Petrolmania craze that has taken over our televisions you may be a little saddened by the closure of one of the last purveyors of oil from glass bottles and classic automobile nostalgia. And if you are simply a fan of good old-fashioned driveway service you may just miss the welcoming sight of the Salisbury Service Station at Stanmore for it is about to be wiped from our motoring maps and minds forever.

You certainly won’t miss the rising concrete frame of yet another block of boutique apartments with an overzealous moniker, this time known as ‘The Radius’, perhaps as some kind of bizarre lip service homage to the semi-circular floorplan of the Art Deco structure it is destroying.

The family-run business is set to shut up shop and leave the Percival Road location it has graced since 1930, having being sold to a developer who will make full use of the prime inner west location and valuable crossroads pocket of land.

Owner Norm Iacono. No wonder he's smiling. Image Daily Telegraph.

Owner Norm Iacono. No wonder he’s smiling. Image Daily Telegraph.

Current owner Norm Iacono doesn’t seem to be all too upset with the outcome. He took over the reigns from his grandfather in 1997, ran the shop for several years and is now happy to be moving the business to Summer Hill while selling the Stanmore site for a king’s ransom. Pointing the blame at higher running costs due to petrol storage laws, his comments to media that “A lot of people come in and say what a great building it is, but the building was built in the 1930s, so there is no real significance for architecture” initially struck me as slightly odd for a small business owner who has traded not only in petrol but also nostalgia for so many years. After all, you don’t see too many Art Deco service stations from the golden era in such original unchanged working order. But when you consider he is set to benefit financially by the full demolition of the site you can see how quickly nostalgia is pushed to the side like some old rattle gun that has come to the end of its useful life.

The vintage oil bar at the Salisbury still in use, but not for long. Image Daily Telegraph.

Norm is hopeful however that the developer will pay some sort of tribute to the heritage of the site, by displaying the oil bar near the entrance to the restaurant or something to that effect… It could have a Model T Ford parked in the foyer for all I care, it will still be just another oversized concrete box with a Model T parked in its foyer. There is simply no substitute for the original item.

It would have been nice to retain at least the drive-through frontage part of the structure and re-purpose that as an outdoor cafe – I mean, we are talking a matter of a few square metres for pity’s sake, would it be so hard to retain at least that much heritage within the total area of the site?

a 1951 photograph of the Salisbury service station. Image Daily Telegraph.

A 1951 photograph of the Salisbury service station. Image Daily Telegraph.

Unfortunately this buy-up of prime service station sites across Sydney is not confined to just this fine example. It is happening all over and many old independent stations are being bought and converted into apartments as developers fight to get hold of these prime main arterial slices of land. Among others, another Art Deco workshop at Princes Highway Tempe recently closed and is slated for residential redevelopment.

This art deco former service station at Tempe is set to disappear.

This Art Deco former service station at Tempe is set to disappear.

And sadly the lack of understanding and protection of Art Deco is not limited merely to the destruction of petrol stations. Retail shopfronts of the era are also making way for the modern. This one in particular at Liverpool Rd. Ashfield, a beautiful example of 1930s expression, is set to go. A DA for the total removal of the Koles Foto/Manchester shopfront was approved in August by Ashfield Council who don’t seem to appreciate the beauty of their own area enough to respect its architectural merits. What will rise in its place will undoubtedly not share the same level of pizazz this shopfront exudes. Sad times indeed for fanciers of Art Deco and Sydney heritage moreover…

Stunning shopfront in Ashfied, set to go.

Stunning Art Deco shopfront in Ashfield, set to go.

Main title image Daily Telegraph.

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