Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Woollahra is that inner eastern Sydney suburb clinging to the north facing high slopes below where Oxford Street ends and the old road to South Head starts. The apex (the divergence of Oxford Street, Old South Head Road, and the road, incongruously called Ocean Street, which drops down to the harbour) is the site of the huge late 19C Water Reservoir which superceded some of the smaller reservoirs  of the early colony. These roads run along the ridges of what must have been the most incredibly beautiful high country of the harbour.

Just below this crest, just enough to be protected from the southerlies which roll over the ridge and eddy somewhere lower, is the cross street, the main street or high street, of Woollahra, an old and once charming suburb now marketed as a village. This is a village. Woollahra is really the beginning of the end of the eastern spread of terrace housing, with the exception of the big Points (Potts and Darling) and some single houses around the high parts of Darlinghurst. It is where you  first encounter single dwellings and some are quite substantial. 

While for years now the excellence of the position has driven a frenzy of renovation and regeneration, bang in the middle of this once local shopping street sits a little outpost of entropy.

115 Queen Street. 

It doesn't carry a name, not like the much talked about St Kevin's next door. It has always been simply : the house where Joan lived.  The talk was that the house was being run down to avoid any heritage encumbrance and before it was auctioned, some effort was made to consider its purchase as a place of significance for all the obvious reasons and for all the obvious uses. The sort of thing that didn't happen to Patrick White's house which is not that far away. The matter did not escape her attention. Inevitably it went to auction and sold for a very large sum of money.

After 12 months of being boarded up, the outcome is apparent and it could have been a lot worse.

The house was built in two stages. The Original house was a sandstone single storey cottage known as "Vine Cottage" built 1856-1863.

A second storey was added c. 1891 by Richard Alston, the grandfather of Dame Joan Sutherland. Dame Joan Sutherland lived in the house for 19 years. The Family sold the house.

Since the 1950s the hosue has deteriorated and was puchased in a derelict state by the current owners in 2008.

Woollahra Council had approved an application to conserve, restore and reconstruct in accordance with the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter under the supervision of a heritage consultant. The work by APD Building will ensure the future of the building.

The Building will form part of a single residence with a contemporary addition at the rear.

The developer is here and architects likewise.

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