On Sunday October 6 the classic Federation style St George Bowling Club on Harrow Road Bexley was burned down by vandals. Nearby residents awoke to see flames gutting the heritage listed building around 1.45am.
Three people, aged 19, 15, and 14 were arrested at the scene, but the 14 year old was subsequently released on a youth caution. A fourth man, 18, has also been charged with the arson attack.
The bowling club, founded in 1900 and relocated in 1919 due to railway expansion, had remained uninhabited and its greens overgrown for several years. At a time when bowling clubs are struggling to maintain membership, many are folding or seeking other options such as amalgamation. Two clubs in the St George/Sutherland region have sought amalgamation in the last year alone, while another, Mortdale Bowling Club, was closed and demolished last year. Others are left derelict such as the St George Bowling Club, and can easily become a target for vandals and arsonists.
It is upsetting to see any building lost to deliberate arson attack, but to see a beautiful and rare Federation example of a bowling club such as this go up in flames is devastating. As a result the area has lost one of its landmark buildings and heritage treasures.
Bowling clubs are true community assets – they retain open space for recreational activity, and foster vital social gathering among residents. Not only that, they hark back to an Australian way of life quickly disappearing before our very eyes, and are often, as in this instance, architectural gems that warrant retention. Occupying large swathes of open real estate, they are also targeted by dozer-happy developers for ever-increasing medium density residential supply.
It is our opinion that the site of the St George Bowling Club should remain a public asset, and if not suitable as a bowling and recreational club, should be re-purposed for child care facilities or something similar. The fabric of the heritage clubhouse appears to have escaped the brunt of the fire, despite the interiors being gutted and the roof structure showing extensive signs of collapse. Being a double brick structure, the clubhouse could be re-built in the original style and used once again as a communal facility.
For it to be redeveloped as residential units would be a travesty for the community and send a very clear message to developers that they can get their right of way over publicly owned sites once a heritage building is vandalised or partially destroyed by fire.
Considering the state of the building, Inheritance has formally requested Mayor Shane O’Brien and Rockdale Council to rebuild the clubhouse as a heritage item for adaptive re-use as a club or childcare facility. At this stage we are awaiting response.
We also believe the state government should be adopting a strategic plan for the future of lawn bowling clubs if and when they should reach the end of their useful life as a club. This should be a statewide policy that prohibits private development on bowling club lands, instead preserving the community assets for what they were originally intended, public open space and/or public amenity. Anything less is a sell-out.
A nearby club at Hurstville was partially converted into a communal vegetable patch a few years ago, and a highly successful one at that. Many former clubs have been re-purposed as child care or elderly care facilities, many more have been sold out to private development, a point that may resonate with members of the 50-strong Sutherland Croquet Club who have practiced their game on the lawns next to Waratah Park, Sutherland for over thirty years, and have now been told that the grounds are being redeveloped for highrise of more than 500 units. See that sad story here.
The value of a simple bowling club cannot be overstated, as a place to get together, as a place to meet and greet, to share a laugh, a story, or a beer. A place for our elderly to congregate and play their sport, out in the open, in the fresh air, and live a more helathy lifestyle at a time when our medical professionals are trumpeting the virtues of activity and well-being… When or if population dynamics and financial pressures dictate that a club is no longer viable as a bowling club, then it should be re-purposed, to suit the next trending requirement. But it should always remain a public facility, with open space, community, and heritage in tact. More than anything it is public asset. And let’s not forget, once an asset like this is lost, it is lost for good.
As for the brainless vandals that caused the devastation to the St George Bowling Club, they will probably never know the full extent of the devastation they have caused…
Title image: still from video by Storm Pickett.
Well, time flies and we’ve already notched up two years within the blogosphere here on these pages of Inheritance…
It seems just about ripe for a format change too, as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the state of heritage loss currently being enacted all around us… time constraints, life getting in the way, etc. etc. and more openly it’s getting a little monotonous writing the same old story that generally reads something like this: “beautiful building neglected, beautiful building acquired by developer, developer knocks down beautiful building, ugly big building rises where beautiful building once stood…”
I had thought we would be learning collective lessons by now and while I believe the general public may be cottoning on ever so slowly, single-minded politicians and the development lobby still hold the trump cards and aren’t afraid to use them to keep the current wave of urban renewal riding off strongly into the sunset. Meanwhile residents are held to ransom and left to watch in horror as wonderful heritage assets are systematically stripped from their neighbourhoods wherever the wrecking ball of developers decides it wants to swing.
So now we will take a more general overview of current heritage issues, in order to cover more ground more succinctly and keep updating while still maintaining the original focus of publicizing heritage neglect and destruction that keeps people like me in business and gives us something to do with all our otherwise misguided energies…
Heritage Brief August 2014
Art Deco waste in Chatswood
Another day, another demolition… This time it will be a beautiful art deco block of units at 745 Pacific Highway, Chatswood which sold in late 2013 for a reported $3.5 million and will be replaced by, you guessed it, another modern block of shop-top apartments reaching five stories in height and no doubt maximising real estate value of the highway frontage by leaning right over the footpath and every border of the property.
A shame to see the beautiful stylised brickwork of this building and symmetrical forms sacrificed for more faceless monolithic residential stock. No building that replaces it will ever have the same level of workmanship or quality of design that this art deco wonder had, that much I can guarantee. So it’s overdevelopment 1: heritage nil.
If anyone is local and handy with a screwdriver I would suggest going over and salvaging this beautiful set of art deco doors from the jaws of the bulldozers. The owners obviously don’t care and shame on council for not making removal of doors and fittings part of the deal.
Ramsgate shops lost
Not much was left of this charming row of Federation shops along Rocky Point Road in Ramsgate. A real estate agent in a shopfront to one side had originally opposed the DA (surprisingly), and for some time their little corner of the site was left standing. Now they too have decided it was a better option to get out, leaving nothing behind of the heritage architecture but a gaping hole in the ground soon to be filled with more units that actually rise above what the local DCP allows for by a massive two stories. With Rockdale council controlling one side of Rocky Point Rd. and Kogarah Council the other, it seems both parties have engaged in a race to decide who can ruin their side of the street the quickest. (For more info read here). Overdevelopment 2: heritage nil.
Princes Hwy, Highway to Hell
Further along at Princes Highway Rockdale, the story emerged of an elderly couple who decided they didn’t want to sell their family home of 60 years, when a massive eight storey development took shape next door. Instead of bowing to the pressure by developers, Barry and Betty Dickson decided to stay put, and after several months of jack hammering and earth moving going on just over the fence, health effects are starting to take their toll on the resolute couple… perhaps they regret not moving after all.
But then again, “you show me where there’s a house on a corner block with room to park five vehicles close to the hospital and with a shed” said Barry to Fairfax reporters. Let’s hope he can continue to live the way he wants to, without too much bad karma from the ruthless encroachment of land grabbing all around. Overdevelopment 3: heritage nil.
Nearby on the corner of the rapidly changing Gray St, an old converted Federation doctor’s surgery is about to make way for ever more units. This street is also home to the yet to be opened new Emergency Department of St. George Hospital, and every house opposite (currently old cottages) is on the chopping block. Quite an interesting planning strategy, putting a new ambulance thoroughfare on one side and multiple blocks of units on the other, considering the street is already gridlocked during peak hours. I hope nobody I know will be waiting for an ambulance once this is completed, it may be a nervouse wait… Overdevelopment 4: heritage nil.
Kogarah is gone…
Expect to see much more desecration around Kogarah. At the council meeting of July 29, the motion to send the new ‘Kogarah Housing Strategy 2031’ to the NSW Department of Planning to go on exhibition, was won by 10 votes to 1. One councillor, Lachlan Mclean, who prides himself on not supporting overdevelopment, made these comments against the motion:
The proposal is an extreme overdevelopment of North Ward and I refer to 3 key examples that will anger residents and ultimately detract from our lifestyle:
1) The change to allow buildings of up to 11 storeys or 33 metres in peaceful residential streets such as Palmerston Street, Victor Street, Victoria Street and Stanley Street.
2) The change to allow buildings of 39 metres on Railway Parade backing onto Bellevue Street and the Kogarah South Heritage Conservation Area.
3) The change to allow buildings of 21 metres or up to 7 levels on the Princes Highway backing on to John Street in Kogarah Bay and Wyuna Street in Beverley Park.
…Some will say, let the proposal go to the Department and then let the residents have their say. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that so many North Ward residents will be outraged by these changes and I don’t want to put them through the stress of having to justify why 11, 12 or 13 storeys shouldn’t happen next door to them.
…This proposal doesn’t strike the right balance and won’t provide residents with a better lifestyle. It is all very well to speak about the needs of future generations, but there is no evidence that the necessary infrastructure will be in place to support these changes – our roads will be gridlocked and will struggle to cope with future population growth.
Wise words indeed from the North Ward councillor. Yet his thoughts are clearly in the minority on this council. Kogarah, unfortunately, like many other suburbs, has NO chance of a sensible planning strategy now. Well done Lachlan for rejecting the draft. Shame on you, Kogarah Council, for burying your ratepayers in high rise, many of whom, wouldn’t even see it coming.
Sports Club calls last drinks
South Hurstville Sports Club has become the latest casualty in the shrinking world of bowling clubs closing its doors after 57 years of service. The struggling club called for last drinks on Saturday June 28 as they move to amalgamate with nearby Peakhurst Bowling Club. The classic Art Deco building is owned by the Catholic Education Office, and we strongly hope the owners will be able to repurpose the wonderful architecture, however no plans have been announced for the site. I will be personally contacting the Catholic Education Office to suggest this.
This news comes on the back of the St George Bowling Club at Rockdale being completely demolished by council after arsonists caused damage to the roof structure. This was a superb piece of architecture on a prime ‘development site’ and it appears Rockdale council have done nothing to save it. (For more info read here).
It never ceases to astonish me that every time a club like this closes, more isn’t done to protect the site from private development. The local population are losing amenity, a place to congregate, a place to mingle, to socialise, and to gather… When that former social space becomes a closed door development, the whole community loses out, especially the elderly.
Kyle Bay’s future outlook
Nearby at picturesque Kyle Bay, residents are fighting to keep their leafy bay ‘leafy’, after a hushed rezoning push-through and development has been proposed for the 24,000 square metre Kyle Williams estate. The privately-owned bushland site that currently occupies much of the expensive hillside is much loved by locals who fear the loss of natural amenity. Indeed this is one of the last natural areas of remaining bushland so close to the mouth of Georges River.
The land was bequeathed by Caroline Milne Williams who ran a respite home for convalescing children until her death in 1939. Currently the heritage-listed Legacy House continues that tradition on site, however the Greek church-affiliated Estia Foundation is proposing a massive and potentially uncapped expansion via the rezoning. More than 200 objections have been sent to council.
For those who water down concerns of residents stating they only want to hold on to their million dollar views, well, wouldn’t you? If you invested into a house and suburb with a certain natural outlook, and all of a sudden that outlook is threatened, and the prospect of watching new development rise up becomes a reality, then why wouldn’t you complain… Amenity of the estate is not the issue here, it is suitability of the site. Overdevelopment 5: heritage nil.
Gosford council recently looked at a motion to rename Brisbane Water and the Broadwater ‘Mariners Cove’, however the motion was defeated after observers including our own NSW Heritage Network scrutinized the renaming in connection to the Central Coast Mariners football club, of which Gosford City Council is an official major partner. And rightfully so – if renaming of geographic sites starts here, where will it end – ‘Bluetongue Bay’ or ‘The Coffee Club Ranges’…?
In Eden, the case of Hotel Australasia has gone before the Land and Environmental Court recently as a Section 34 mediation, as the developer Great Southern Developments tries to sell the merits of a third supermarket in a town that doesn’t really need it, on the site of the historic and characteristic local pub. The result as it now stands will see the hotel completely demolished.
The developer had indicated they would spare the 1951 front skin of the building while seeking financial compensation of $460,000 for lost rental space as a result of retaining the facade, but council decided this was too much to pay, leaving concerned residents and local heritage with nowhere to stand. Hotel Australasia has long been described as the ‘heart and soul’ of Eden, now the township will have to survive without it.
This is what happens when mediocre councils shy away from heritage listing in the first instance – you lose old pubs and so forth, you get big developments cropping up, parking and congestion issues to boot, and supermarkets nobody needs. Not the best outcome for a town like Eden. (For more info read here).
And the saga of Avoca Beach Theatre continues… It has been reported that council is seeking donations from the cinema owner under a Voluntary Planning Agreement (or VPA) to allow for a redevelopment of the cinema that, again, none of the locals seem to want or need. These costs will cover refurbishment of adjoining Hunter Park, and resurfacing of a nearby carpark (without providing extra parking spaces). It should be noted that the redevelopment will not include any onsite parking for theatre-goers or staff… None. It should also be noted that the redevelopment also includes luxury apartments that will directly overlook the park.
And so it appears that the owner may well be able to do whatever they want, provided they throw generous amounts of money in the general direction of council. Ahhh democracy, it’s a wonderful thing… (For more info read here). (For an interesting video link click here).
If you have any local issues to cover, please email email@example.com with the subject Heritage Brief.
What constitutes a gateway building? What does it even mean, this wildly encompassing propagandist term ‘gateway building’? Is it a building with a gateway attached or a gateway within a building? I believe it is a recent turn of phrase, coined by councils, developer lobby groups and probably the Liberal government, in order to raise the building heights to ridiculously grotesque levels on certain sites at main intersections at entry points to basically every suburb in the land. And that they do, to full extent. Oh they do love a good gateway. The bigger the better. Yep, you can’t beat a good gateway.
And while councils and developers are falling over themselves to create the next great gateway to some generic overcrowded hovel that isn’t really worth driving through in the first place, it may be time to reflect on an older school of gateway building, perhaps a different kind of gateway, built to a much more human scale than what is currently being offered up by the usual suspects who seem obsessed with leaving misguided legacies of their own Trump Towers overshadowing our once scenic suburbia.
Let’s look at Blackshaw Pavillion. Until recently, this inoffensive interwar red brick utility commanded a prime position on the corner of Forest Rd. and King Georges Rd. at the edge of Penshurst Park – a gateway of sorts to Hurstville, Penshurst and Beverly Hills. Unassuming and typically Australian in appearance, the site of the pavillion welcomed visitors to the park and the area for many decades. It was built for a former local alderman who had a love for the game of cricket, as a player’s pavilion overlooking the former oval.
Since then the oval has long gone, replaced by leaner practice grounds over the years and more recently a large aquatic centre-come-gym, which seems to be expanding and swallowing up more of the former green space every time you blink an eye. At one stage there was an old bowling club a little further into the park, but that has also been weeded out.
Now Blackshaw Pavillion is gone too, reduced to a pile of smouldering rubble, in the shadow of another new gateway building across the road, the massive towers sprawling along Forest Rd at the old Dominelli Ford site that appear more like a concrete fortress when approaching from the west.
Word has it that council wanted the pavilion gone due to asbestos, but the demolition was carried out without any proper removal or remediation of the site. In fact, the pile of bricks remained for a number of weeks without any covering. So what was the real reason? Well perhaps that will yet come to reveal itself. Chances are Hurstville Council just didn’t want to pay the upkeep of what it sees a redundant building. Meanwhile other councils have found ways of re-inventing disused maintenance buildings, like the very successful transformation of a pumphouse service shed in Bigge Park Liverpool which has flourished after being reborn as a trendy park café.
What is interesting or in reality more worrying is that Hurstville Council tried to demolish Blackshaw Pavilion before, a couple years ago, before meeting strong community opposition and pulling their plans at the eleventh hour. That resistance, this time, was not forthcoming. Which makes one wonder why. What has changed?
Perhaps the demographics have changed, the population that may have put in submissions against these developments in the area have either moved on or passed on. Others feel burnt out by development fatigue, no longer able to pick up the laptop and write off another submission to council for fear of fertilising their ever growing migranes or going completely and utterly mentally ill before their time. I know the feeling.
Whatever the case, the new gateways are arriving and the older, more human, more welcoming gateway buildings are disappearing or becoming just a throwback to another time. A time before councils were run as thinly disguised commercial building companies, before developer land frenzies and state government sponsored concreting booms altered our cityscapes forever. A time before ‘gateway building’ became a term, let alone a flashy catchcry to push through even more ugliness in place of sanity. I wish we could build a gateway back to building codes of past…
Title image by Tanya Jordon.