SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hooray - Happy Birthday House!

The big weekend has finally rolled around. We Fitzroy residents/researchers have turned revellers to salute some of our suburb's oldest buildings, beneath the banner: Happy Birthday House! Of course every celebration needs a party and no party is complete without balloons, so I made sure I collected mine from the hallowed steps of the Fitzroy Town Hall first thing yesterday. And as I look out the window now, I can see them tied to the front gate whipping about in the breeze.

With 'Jolly Jo' and Tom Keel of the Fitzroy Residents' Association at Fitzroy Town Hall

I was particularly looking forward to meeting up with some fellow local history nuts. And they didn't disappoint.
I've always wondered why the Town Hall was built where it is, with no view of mountains or expanses of water as is usual for such grand municipal buildings. The only view from our town hall is of a row of modest houses and of course, as it's Australia, a pub. Jo and Tom were able to enlighten me.
Apparently, the city elders settled on the site simply because they could get it for free. Perhaps they intended one day to move elsewhere, but that never happened. But, as far as I'm concerned, it couldn't be better placed. 
It is just so unexpected and quirky to be wandering along the back streets and to stumble upon such a grand building. I know when I first saw it I could hardly believe my eyes. Also, as we Aussies pride ourselves on our egalitarian roots, why shouldn't the most eminent building in Fitzroy be no ivory tower, but instead located right in the thick of things, where ordinary people go about their lives?
There's not much Tom doesn't know about the neighbourhood, and he pointed me in the direction of what are believed to be its oldest houses.

These three 'One-up, One-down'ers at numbers 4,6 & 8 Moor Street were built in 1851 

This row of tiny houses were probably workers' cottages. I was intrigued when I realised that I had recently come across the home of a very close neighbour of theirs constructed around exactly the same time. But this one couldn't have been more different.
Rather than being built of solid bluestone like the one-up, one-downers, the house located at 42 Moor Street was made from corrugated iron, that 'wonder material' of the 19th century. Instead of being built to last, it was designed to be dismantled and portable. Rather than being made on site by local tradesman, the iron house was pre-fabricated probably in Manchester, England, packed in a wooden crate and transported to Australia by ship.
Lucky for us, 'Bellhouse' was rescued from demolition by the National Trust, and you can visit it, as I did, at 399 Coventry Street, South Melbourne.

Bellhouse - believed to be the only remaining example of the work of Edward T Bellhouse

I couldn't help wondering what the the next-door neighbours made of the iron house. It was easy to imagine them hanging out of their upstairs windows and exchanging asides as the strange-looking kit home took shape next door. They must have been blown away if the advertising was correct - which I know is highly unlikely - that 'from their simplicity of construction they can be erected in a few hours'.

Glass Terrace Gertrude Street - Celebrating its 159th Birthday any day now

I can quite understand why Andrew Levy, who lived in Glass Terrace in 1878 was dismayed at the loss of two of his favourite pieces of jewellery - a gold ring and an egg-shaped pearl. All I can say is that I did by best, Andrew. I had a good hunt around, but drew a blank. Sorry.

You might have noticed that, because I always drop everything for a party, I haven't fulfilled my promise to tell you more about the seedier side of old Fitzroy. And especially the tale of the Obscene Demands of Docile Young Woman.
But watch this spot.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your blog and love the photo. What a fun day it has been seeing all the balloons around Fitzroy. Definitely an event to build on and to encourage us all to get more engaged with the history of our home and those around us. Best wishes 'Jolly' Jo!

11:03 PM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, Jo.
I agree, it has been quite an event. And I'm sure it's given lots of us, who needed a nudge, the motivation to start researching the past of our home.
Well done Fitzroy Residents' Association!

2:30 AM  

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