Chippendale is my destination today. My rough itinerary includes art, recent history and a tasty meal. Only 0.7 square kilometres in area, Chippendale has become a trendy destination with its vibrant art scene and the newish Spice Alley. But more on that later.
As the train approaches Central Station I look for the former Mortuary Station. Besides it hangs a three-storey high portrait of Florence Taylor, Australia’s first woman architect. I always thought that she designed the impressive Gothic inspired building. In fact, she was born ten years after the station was built.
I leave Central via the Devonshire Street Tunnel. Always filled with a fast moving stream of people, the tunnel is lined with murals depicting railway scenes. Buskers contribute to the busy scene. I wonder how many of these people realise that they are walking on the site of an old cemetery.
Outside the Mortuary Station, I view the historic landmark through the locked gates. Funeral trains used to depart from here bound for Rookwood Cemetery. Struck by the beauty of the delicate spire and sandstone substructure gleaming in the sun, I try to imagine the scene as hearses and mourners enter the curved driveway. As I attempt to get a decent photograph, a passing walker asks if I know what it is I am photographing. Happily, I do. Many don’t.
My daughter recently introduced me to the White Rabbit Gallery on Balfour Street. Opened in 2009, it showcases significant collections of Chinese contemporary art. The exhibition today, as always, is fascinating with many thought provoking works that have often taken years of painstaking work to complete. I look closely at a ‘wooden’ school chair and desk. I can’t really believe what I am seeing and have to check the description. What looks like wood is actually clay. A military tank made from fine Italian leather fills the third floor exhibition space. Fallen in on itself the barrel lies limp on the floor. Is the artist is making a point about the impotence of war?
It’s morning tea time and what better place to stop than the tearoom at White Rabbit. I watch fascinated as the flower of my Princess Flower tea opens. Beautiful as well as refreshing.
Wandering along Abercrombie Street I discover a wall of great street art along a side street. I know a little about street art and get a bit of a buzz when I recognise one of the artists, Bird Hat. Perhaps Zigi’s art, wine and cheese bar commissioned the works. I put the bar on my ‘places to return to’ list.
There are numerous galleries in Chippendale. I pop into Spot 81. The animal themed exhibition includes finely decorated ceramics and two striking dog sculptures. Unfortunately, they are rather beyond my budget. After a quick look around Mop projects, I walk past the old heritage listed Blackfriars Public School building to Broadway where enter gates to Notre Dame University.
St Benedict’s Church is on my left. Claiming to be Australia’s first consecrated church, the building was completed in 1852 and shortened and widened when Broadway was widened in the mid-1900s. I realise that I have confused St Benedict’s with St Barnaby’s that burnt down in 2006. There’s maintenance or renovation work being done today. I follow a woman into the church. A few people are kneeling in the pews. I am looking for the historic organ. There it is on the back wall. I am unable to see four of the oldest change-ringing bells in Australia, but if I ever want to become a bell ringer, I can do so at St Benedict’s.
I make my way to Central Park. Workers in high visibility vests call to each other over the noise of cranes hauling skips of building materials. Central Park precinct is a relatively new development and there is more building happening. A young child runs to the water feature, his mum following closely. Students and office workers enjoy the sun on this otherwise cool day. A wind activated sculpture slowly turns. Here tall modern buildings, including a heliostat and tall vertical garden are interspersed with older buildings from the days when this site was the Kent Brewery. It’s hard to imagine that this area was once a slum, considered one of the worst areas of Sydney to live in.
I take a look inside the renovated Old Clare Hotel where original features have been incorporated into the design. Off Kensington Street I find Spice Alley, the newish Asian style street food market. It is lunch time, and is positively buzzing. With so many dishes on offer, I struggle to decide what to have for lunch. Another lone diner is leaving. He offers me his chair. I look around, soaking in the atmosphere.
Back at One Central Park I pass people playing table tennis at tables provided by the shopping centre, on my way to the Japanese Foundation gallery. The featured artist has spent years hand knotting fine silk thread sculptures. The edgy work by artists with a close street art association shows me a different world. The sculptures remind me of a face I saw installed on wall earlier today.
Chippendale may be small in size, but it is rich in art and recent history (particularly beer brewing history). I’ll be back with friends to savour more of the foodie side.
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Next stop: Bronte
The Mortuary Station is not generally open to the public but can be viewed through the fence.
The White Rabbit Gallery is open Wed – Sat 10am – 5pm. Admission is free as are the daily tours at 11am and 2pm. The gallery may be closed in February and August to allow for the installation of new exhibitions.
Spice Alley is cashless: Use paywave or charge a debit card on site. It is open 11am – 10pm (last orders 9:30pm) every day.
Click here to plan your trip.
And a map to assist you:
(If you would like a pdf of the map, email me via the contact page, and I will send one to you).
(NOTE that the time indicated on the map does not allow for any stops. I take an average of 4-5 hours when I explore):