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URGENT: GOSFORD FUNERAL PARLOUR FACES ITS OWN MORTALITY

A stunning heritage-listed funeral parlour near the waterfront in Gosford that has ushered out the lives of many local identities is itself facing the possibility of an untimely end. Creighton’s Funeral Parlour at 37 Mann Street was built in 1938 in the Art Deco style by architect F. Vanderwyck Snr. The Creighton’s family business was known in the area since 1844 and was involved in building and demolition work before becoming funeral directors in 1872. Six generations of the Creighton family practiced locally under the business name.

The building is treasured not only because of its association with the well renowned family, but because it is such a marvelous and rare example of an Art Deco purpose-built funeral parlour.

Externally, a grand central arch surrounded by decorative red brickwork heralds the main entrance. This is flanked on either side by secondary arches with quality timber framed lead glazed windows, and the theme is continued on the upper floor with a trio of balconettes showing ornate cast iron balustrades, and three magnificent streamlined parapets at roof level surging into the sky. Decorative balustrades also surround the lower windows. The construction is of textured cement rendered brick, comprising two stories at Mann Street, sloping back steeply to become one storey at the rear.

On the Georgiana Terrace side (left hand, facing) is an enclosed balcony made of locally quarried rock-faced ashlar sandstone while on the opposite wing is a sandstone garage consisting of twin Tudor arches and matching parapet. Behind the garage doors are open concrete pits to allow access for working on the funeral hearses. This has been currently re-purposed as a cocktail bar, showing clever use of a heritage asset. Rather interestingly, the roofline on the Georgiana Terrace side is scalloped while the garage side is straight-lined.

Internally, a central porch leads to the house chapel that extends below street level and is surrounded by small offices. An interesting feature are the backlit frosted glass windows obviously created due to a lack of natural light filtering into the room. Original drawings for the floorplans show that very little has been changed since 1938.

The parlour is located right in the middle of an identified heritage precinct containing several unique buildings, some of which the Creighton family were involved in constructing, including the heritage-listed 1929 former School of Arts directly opposite. According to the Australian Govt. heritage database:

‘The site is located on the main street of Gosford within a precinct of civic and commercial buildings, including Gosford Council Administration Building, the Sydney Electricity building, the Old Gosford Court House and Police Station (now a branch of the Conservatorium of Music), the School of Arts building, the Post Office, Gosford Public School and several churches including a small sandstone church designed by Blacket. This precinct is located near Gosford Wharf which served as the main transport link to the area before the railway was opened in 1887. With the opening of Gosford Railway Station, the main commercial area re-established itself about 0.5km to the north in close proximity to the station, leaving the earlier civic buildings in a group near the wharf.’

Such a beautiful, rare and significant local building that has indeed been heritage-listed because of its qualities should never come under threat. However current owners Zenith have submitted a DA to turn it into a 15 storey skyscraper with 4.51:1 floor space ratio while only retaining the façade of the original Creighton’s funeral parlour, completely overwhelming any heritage reference to the site while destroying the interiors and the structural make up of the building.

original drawing

Original drawing for 37 Mann St. Note structural design changes. Source Gosford Library.

Kay Williams plans

Development plans loom large, courtesy Kay Williams

 

This outcome is simply unacceptable. While the developers will claim they are retaining the façade, the fact is they are destroying the heritage of the building and simply paying lip service to what has stood there and served the people of Gosford since the pre-WW2 era. There is no way that sticking a façade onto the end of a 127 apartment vertical glass monster is any substitute for the genuine heritage this site commands. What’s more is that the façade of the parlour will not be able to be left standing in situ while excavation takes place all around it. Rather, it will be deconstructed and pasted back together as an afterthought using new artificially aged and recycled materials, meaning the original fabric of even the façade will be completely falsified.

While we may not be able to stop unsightly highrise development from infecting waterfront areas up and down the eastern seaboard of Australia, we certainly should be able to stop the wanton destruction of locally listed heritage assets such as this one. The DA, being rushed through council currently, only allows comments until 24 September. The controversial rezoning of the site to a 36m height limit by council has opened the door for this kind of overdevelopment. I strongly urge people to use the link on the council website to oppose the demolition of this building in any shape or form by clicking here. Even a simple comment is helpful.

Remember, September 24 is the cut-off date. Save local history Gosford City Council, do not even think about sacrificing this very unique heritage treasure. A façade is not heritage. It is only a glimpse of what was once there…

Creightons2

Images from 2006 by Spike Anderson.

SPIKE ANDERSON

Oozing Deco charm… Images from 2006 by Spike Anderson.

Creightons4

Balconette with balustrade. Images from 2006 by Spike Anderson.

Creightons1

Lovely rounded corners. Images from 2006 by Spike Anderson.

A more current image, with eccentric colour scheme. Image: Then and now.com

Internal chapel. All this would be lost under the DA. Image Rappoport

Internal chapel. All this would be lost under the DA. Image Rappoport Pty Ltd.

Internal chapel ceiling plaster detail. All this would be lost under the DA. Image Rappoport

Internal chapel ceiling plaster detail. All this would be lost under the DA. Image Rappoport Pty Ltd.

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HAZZARD AND HERITAGE: A MATCH MADE IN HELL

On the Australia Day Weekend and in light of the recent news of the historic Jolly Frog hotel in Windsor being gutted by fire, we take a look at the dire state of heritage in one of our most treasured precincts and the case Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has to answer for…

Brad Hazzard has been at the helm of the Planning Department in NSW for a number of years now, and the crowning factor of his tenure has been his ruthless insistence to push through overbearing developer-biased planning reforms on to an unsuspecting public on every front, with scant regard for residents’ wishes or indeed what were once considered commonsense controls.

In a clearly sneaky and contentious move, Minister Hazzard approved the controversial Option 1 road project through Thompson Square at Windsor just five days before Christmas 2013, obviously trying to sneak another trick beneath the public’s wary gaze just as everybody was gearing up for the summer holidays.

Thompson Square is Australia’s oldest surviving public square, and the attempted push-through of this project goes some way to highlight the contempt this government has for the heritage of NSW. A total lack of heritage knowledge, a combined political bully-boy mindset of which pure ignorance is at the heart, a ‘leave nothing to the people’ thuggish mentality is the only way I can describe it.

It reminds me of an old example in Vienna, Austria, where in the late 1980s a large postmodern glass sheeted building known as Haas Haus was inflicted upon Vienna’s most important public square, Stefansplatz, directly overlooking the Stefansdom, Vienna’s grand Gothic-Romanesque cathedral. The building was roundly criticized at the time and still remains ridiculously out of place and in fact completely unnecessary in the context of the historic Baroque-lined market square. The point here is, what may seem like a good idea by a small group of hard-nosed bureaucrats at the time, has long lasting consequences and in fact can severely scar or even totally deface an important historic precinct long after those few decision-makers have waltzed out of parliament with their golden pensions in hand.

Haas Haus in Vienna, infringing on Stefansdom Cathedral. Photo by Rory Hyde.

Haas Haus in Vienna, infringing on Stefansdom. Photo by Rory Hyde.

At least in Vienna, they seem to know when to stop… Closer to home, in Sydney’s Circular Quay, a similar issue, with the so-called ‘Toaster’ building occupying pride of place next to our iconic Opera House and crowding the shores of the famous harbour with square glass and metal shapes. And more recently, the Museum of Contemporary Art building extension, the so-called ‘Mordant Wing’ (or ‘moron wing?’), causing even more conflict with the surrounding heritage of the public space, introducing oversized flat black and white cubes into a maritime precinct that was characterised by sandstone Georgian and Art Deco architecture. This wing was added without the usual input from the Heritage Council, the very overseer that Hazzard and O’Farrell’s government are trying so hard currently to stifle.

Windsor’s Thompson Square is equally under threat, not from any one particular unsympathetic building, but rather a ghastly modern road cutting through the side of the square and continuing over the historic crossing on a suspended concrete byway replacing the oldest bridge on the Hawkesbury River.

Riders approach the Square. Image CAWB.

Riders approach the Square. Image CAWB.

Raising the Flag.

Raising the Flag. Image CAWB.

The Eureka Flag flies in defiance, Austrailia's oldest square.

The Eureka Flag flies in defiance over Australia’s oldest square. Image CAWB.

Residents’ action group CAWB has fought hard to keep this destruction at bay, enduring six months of continuous occupation of the square, and raising awareness of the need to protect such a historic site as their beloved Windsor. Noted historians and heritage architects such as Clive Lucas and high profile celebrities have added their voices to the campaign, the latest being Wendy Harmer on Australia Day 2014.

The CAWB, in its media release, says “In approving this strategically inept project, Minister Hazzard has ignored the overwhelming evidence of the government’s own experts…evidence that demonstrates this project fails to deliver on traffic, flooding and heritage.”

Unfortunately, in another blow for local heritage, the nearby heritage-listed and historically linked Jolly Frog hotel, unoccupied for a year, was gutted by fire on 20th January in unusual circumstances. Fire crews were called to the blaze around 9.45pm to find the building well alight, and a crime scene has since been established to determine the cause of the fire. CAWB fear this may pave the way for a wider road leading in to Windsor and through the Square, and say the hotel should and must be rebuilt, not demolished thereby further eroding the heritage values of the area.

The Jolly Frog hotel up in flames. Image NSW Incident Alerts Facebook page.

The Jolly Frog hotel up in flames. Image NSW Incident Alerts Facebook page.

Brad Hazzard, the Minister for Planning, and Robyn Parker, Minister for Heritage and the Environment, as well as Barry ‘the wrecker’ O’Farrell, should be standing up and working towards viable solutions for situations such as Thompson Square, not bulldozing their way through the tide of public angst currently on show. They are clearly ignoring their elected responsibilities as a government for the short-sighted aims that don’t really make any sense to the average Australian citizen.

Why are they intent on destroying this historic square, this wonderful vestige of Governer Macquarie’s legacy, this scenic and picturesque river crossing, this peaceful place bathed in colonial history? Why are they intent on replacing a two-laned bridge with another, uglier, more brutal, out-of character, two-laned bridge? Is it for CSG mining trucks to get more easily to the western escarpments as some have suggested? It defies logic.

Hazzard, O’Farrell, Parker and co.; you have so much to answer for in only your first term. You are a failure of government. You are intent on bulldozing our irreplaceable heritage at every turn, rather than performing your sworn duty of protecting it. You should be ashamed of your actions, and just because you are wielding the axe of power at the present moment, doesn’t mean your time of judgement won’t come soon enough. Tens of thousands of us are already judging you, we are casting a watchful eye over your actions in the fields of heritage, the environment, and sustainable development, and without surprise, you have unanimously failed in every respect in just your first term. We dearly hope, that you won’t be allowed to enter a second term, for the sake of what little is left after your torrid demolition spree over the entire state.

Do you trust this man with protecting OUR heritage?

Would you trust this man with protecting OUR heritage? That would be Hazzardous.

Main title image: Hazzard and Heritage, Inheritance 2014.

Read about the Government’s Planning Reforms here.

Read original Thompson Square post here.

“HEAR YE HEAR YE” AUSTRALIA’S OLDEST PUBLIC SQUARE UNDER THREAT

Thompson Square, in historic Windsor, north west of Sydney, is under direct threat by a proposal to upgrade the adjoining road and Hawkesbury River crossing. Councillors voted 9-3 in an April 2012 meeting to replace the current bridge (the oldest structure crossing the river) with a wider modern bridge incorporating an approach through Thompson Square, praising the virtues of such a misguided idea – “Thompson Square will be enhanced by filling in the existing roadway and the new bridge alignment will follow Bridge Street which has always been there and has always led down to the river,” Cr Bassett said. In actual fact it would alter the face of the square forever, drowning out the peaceful heritage ambience with a concrete expressway-like road coughing up fumes and noise of thundering B-doubles all over the picturesque town and square.

The Doctor’s House (c1830) view of Thompson Square and river
Image VIBE property.

The Georgian era square, which has its origins in 1795, is widely considered the oldest civic square in the country. Another, in the Rocks, has been filled and built over as was argued by Hawkesbury historian Jan Barkley-Jack at the council meeting against obviously ill-informed councillors, members of which still deny that this is in fact the oldest public square. The square has been labelled the best preserved vestige of the Governor Macquarie’s grand era of civic planning. Surrounded by restored period buildings, including the graceful Macquarie Arms Hotel, Australia’s oldest pub, this is no doubt a very significant link to Australia’s early settlement days when the west was opened up along the mighty river.

It would be completely defaced by the ludicrous proposed ‘Option 1’, which dictates the installation of a $31 million, two-lane, modern high-level bridge across the Hawkesbury. It is the preferred option for the short-sighted council as well as the State Government, offering “best value for money”, but there were actually nine options put forward by the RMS (the revamped Road and Maritime Services department under the O’Farrell government), alongside an option preferred by community groups to create a bypass, which would have a far less negative impact on the town and square. The existing Windsor bridge, opened in 1874, is also under direct threat of removal by option 1.

Option 1 and Stage 2 development RTA

Looking over the NSW Govt Road projects website, there is more than a hint of irony between what they say and what they propose to do. These are direct quotes:
“While Windsor needs to modernise its infrastructure this must be done with sensitivity to its history, heritage and cultural values.This is especially true of Thompson Square”. (…sensitivity? Framing the square with a concrete expressway?)
“RMS is committed to creating a replacement bridge that will not just support but enhance the living history of Windsor.” (… by support and enhance the living history they mean demolish and remodel the living history)
“The new bridge will have a visual and physical impact on Thompson Square. But in backfilling the existing road cutting and realigning it along one side of the Square, the new bridge presents an opportunity to integrate the precinct into a unified green space:

  • Three roads reduced  to two.
  • Usable area increased by more than 500m sq.
  • Enhanced picnic areas near the town centre and closer to the river, away from traffic.”
    (…so they are going to improve Australia’s oldest civic square by backfilling and alteration, sorry, not on this site, that won’t do)

There is even a pretty diagram that shows the evolution of Thompson Square, trying to show all of us that this is just the next step to happiness ever after. Click the image below.

Isn’t government propaganda pretty in 2012?

In reality, Windsor Bridge would be replaced with an uninspiring concrete incrementally launched bridge such as one at Corowa (pictured below), looking like any other new bridge or overpass in the state really. And as shown by the RMS 3D modelling, the view and noise of the roadway would be quite obtrusive looking out from the square, being raised as it is and so close and wide. Even the gentle age old slope down towards the river would be lost… one would have to look hard to even see the river from there. Is all this appropriate for what is essentially one of our most important and in tact historical sights in the country? We don’t think so.

Bridge at Corowa, the type preferred by RMS for Windsor Bridge replacement.
Yes it is boringly ugly. Image RMS website

Where’s the river? You’d have to bend your neck to see it.
3D Modelling still, RMS website

Like any ridiculous idea, the project does have its multitude of opponents, in the form of local residents, action groups and noted historians. One such group is the CAWB (Community Action for Windsor Bridge) with a marvelous website link here. http://cawb.weebly.com/

There was a community rally held on site 3 June that attracted a vast crowd and has yielded petitions numbering supporters in the thousands. Sydney’s prominent heritage architect, Clive Lucas, has thrown his support behind the cause. ”There’d be very little written about colonial architecture in Sydney that wouldn’t include the buildings in Thompson Square. They’ve put Thompson Square back in such good order,” he said. ”Balconies that were boxed in with asbestos or removed altogether have been restored. To spend all this money fixing the buildings, then destroy the square is extraordinary.”

Graham Edds, a heritage architect and member of the local action group, commented to the SMH ”Australia needs to realise Thompson Square isn’t just the green bit in the middle. It is the only remaining civic square in Australia from the 18th century. It goes back to 1795. Historically it was the meeting place of all the early [Hawkesbury] settlers when it was the food bowl of the fledgling colony. They brought their produce here and picked up their own supplies. It was a civic square 15 years before Governor Macquarie formalised it in 1810 … and now we are putting a four-lane highway through it.”

And against all this public scrutiny, the council has reverted to some underhanded tactics. Building owners around the square, who have been posting CAWB (Community Action for Windsor Bridge) banners, have been ordered to remove them under the pretense that they constitute “advertisements”. And in another turn of events, a petition by the same group has gone missing mysteriously from its storage place in the Vault.

Strange happenings indeed in Old Windsor…

Thompson Square 1870’s
Hawkesbury City Council Library

Check the following related government project links:

State Significant lnfrastructure Application https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmajorprojects.affinitylive.com%2Fpublic%2F23782bc940181fdee2f535ae32ab2c95%2FWindsor%2520Bridge%2520Replacement_%2520Application%2520Form.pdf

Application Report https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmajorprojects.affinitylive.com%2Fpublic%2F1c6a789759de0e54007c76b5b82bec95%2FWindsor%2520Bridge%2520Replacement_%2520Application%2520Report-1.pdf

Presentation NSW Govt  https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rta.nsw.gov.au%2Froadprojects%2Fprojects%2Fsydney_region%2Fwestern_sydney%2Fwindsor_bridge%2Fdocuments%2Fwindsor_bridge_presentation_urban_design_and_heritage.pdf

Options Report https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rta.nsw.gov.au%2Froadprojects%2Fprojects%2Fsydney_region%2Fwestern_sydney%2Fwindsor_bridge%2Fdocuments%2Fwindsor_bridge_options_report_aug2011.pdf