The inner west Sydney suburb of Annandale is a short bus ride from Central Station. I’ll be looking for heritage buildings on Johnston Street, an historic sewer aqueduct and will at long last get to visit the nearby Tramsheds.
On the way to Annandale
A crowd gathers before a temporary stage in a corner of Central Station Grand Concourse. The Aboriginal artwork on the backdrop indicates that this is a NAIDOC week event. Four beautifully painted message sticks stand tall on a table besides the speaker.
NSW Trains are celebrating the history and culture of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community by transporting message sticks on trains all over New South Wales. One of the artists, a Canberra Train Station employee talks eloquently about the meaning of his work. and then walk to Railway Square to catch the bus.
I catch the bus at Railway Square and get off on Parramatta Road about 100m short of Johnston Street. The aging shopfront facades on this section of Parramatta Road are all close to 100 years old.
Heritage Architecture in Annandale
The heritage listed Goodman’s Building (1890) on the corner of Johnston Street and Parramatta Road has narrow suspended awnings on Parramatta Road and wide posted balconies on Johnston Street. Opposite is a great art deco hotel, The Empire Hotel which was remodelled in 1937.
Strolling down Johnston Street, it is soon obvious that the architecture around here is pretty special. While I have driven down the wide street a few times, it is clear that to fully appreciate the beauty and history of the architecture in Johnston Street Annandale, it is necessary to walk.
There are finely renovated terraces and grand homes, while the more modern buildings are fortunately not jarring to the eye.
All that remains of Annandale House (built by George Johnston on his farm Annan) are the sandstone gates which once stood on Parramatta Road west of Johnston Street. Annandale House was built in 1799 in a similar style to Elizabeth Farm in Parramatta. It was demolished in 1914. The gates were moved to their current location behind the tall Annandale Public School fence.
National Trust plaques indicate the heritage of a series of homes. I admire ‘Norton’; ‘Grant Leigh’ with its weather vane and pointed spire clothed in shingles and ‘Androniki’ whose tower has a copper shaped roof. ‘Katieville’ has a square Italianate tower and what looks like the original brick stables with double white wooden doors at the end of the driveway.
Although I have walked the streets of many Sydney suburbs, I have never seen so many beautiful old and historic homes in one short stretch. There are also a few interesting art deco buildings in the mix.
Hunter Baillie Church
Along Collins Street are a few more mansions worth looking at. Behind me, the beautiful sandstone spire of the Hunter Baillie Church pierces the clear blue sky. This spire, at a height of 56 metres, spent 111 years as the tallest spire in NSW. The 70 metre twin towers of Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral (completed in 2000) now have that honour.
Buddhist Temple in Annandale
From the corner, I notice The Annandale Temple. I decide to venture in now, earlier than planned. At the end of the driveway, a man removes camera equipment from the boot of a shiny black car. A smartly dressed young woman wearing a fawn trench coat chats to a parishioner nearby. The Channel 10 logo gives them away.
The Thai Cave Rescue
The Temple is a Thai Buddhist Temple. The couple are a film crew getting a back story to accompany the story on the rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from a Thai Cave. I have been following the rescue closely and so far, only four boys have been taken from the cave.
A woman wearing an apron greets me warmly. She reaches into a cupboard and offers me tea or coffee. I struggle to answer, suddenly overcome with emotion. The people here are Thai and have come to pray for the boys.
Around us there’s a hive of activity as women prepare food. Someone cuts oranges into slices and arranges them on a tray. Another stirs a pot. An older man approaches and tells me that the monk would like to speak to me. The monk sits cross legged on a raised ‘shelf’ lining the length of the hall. I kneel to his level. Choking back tears I try to explain what I am doing there. The plight of the boys has really affected me. We talk a bit about the boys and how the international community is behind the rescue.
Perhaps today is not much different from any other day at the Temple. People come daily to make offerings to the monks. The difference today is that there are a number of visiting monks – in the end nine sit before their shiny bowls to accept the food offerings – and that today’s prayers will focus on the boys. I know very little about Buddhism, but it might be time to learn more.
Returning to Johnston Street, I inspect and admire the Hunter Baillie Church more closely. Further on are the old Council Chambers which house the Neighbourhood Centre and next door, a beautiful old sandstone and brick church built in 1891. There is so much detail in the decorative carvings which depict the first carvings of Australian Indigenous fauna and flora. I find a kookaburra, a bird of prey and a possum.
Seeing the Garden Centre in Booth Street reminds me that I’ve been here before. Flowers and plants line the footpath. People greet each other. There is a real sense of community here in Annandale. Having eaten at Black Toast before, I go there for an early lunch.
The café is comfortably busy. There are at least four laptops open on various tables. A small business meeting is in progress. How great that the free Wi-Fi creates a pleasant communal work space.
Further down Johnston Street
Back on Johnston Street, Eleanor, a single storey beauty is yet another National Trust Heritage Home. There are too many beautiful houses with interesting features to describe and photograph. You’ll just have to take a stroll down Johnston Street and discover them for yourself.
On a nearby corner is the Cornersmith day time cafe, a branch of the original store in Marrickville. It stocks pickles, recipe books and groceries and serves a seasonal menu highlighting their pickles.
Colourful hammocks hang from The Toucan Shop awning. The shop which operates on Fair Trade principles sells Latin American products made by artisans from several Latin American countries.
Witches Houses of Annandale
Keen to see the “Witches Houses” of Annandale so named for their spires, I continue down Johnston Street. Once a row of eight built by John Young, only a few of these distinctive houses remain. There is Kenilworth, the final home of Henry Parkes, Highroyd, Oybin built in 1880 and now dwarfed by a horrible 60s development and finally The Abbey, a grand gothic sandstone mansion. It is easy to imagine filming a dark eerie ghost scene here.
On my right is the Vocational College, Annandale TAFE where apprentices learn trades including rigging and scaffolding. It explains why so many young me in bright orange vests have passed me on my walk down Johnston Street.
Another Side of Annandale
On my way to discover a different side of Annandale, I make my way to Whites Creek and the Bone Boilers Walk. This is where waste from the Glebe Island abattoir was recycled to produce the tallow that was then used to make soap and candles. The objectionable smell from boiling caused complaints from new residents and the council was forced to close the works down.
Whites Creek Sewer Aqueduct
The Whites Creek Sewer Aqueduct built in 1896 is clearly visible in Whites Creek Valley Park. It and the Johnston Street Sewer Aqueduct was the first structure in Australia to use Monier Patent reinforced concrete in its construction.
Wandering through suburban streets to the other side of Annandale I notice a brown felt slipper peeping out from behind a drop down blind. The other slipper is on the foot of a barely hidden leg. An elderly man naps sheltering behind the blind.
Peque Swaze painted the mural on the Revolver Café wall in his distinctive style. I know him from the RIP piece in St Peters. The community noticeboard is filled with business cards offering services from music tuition and language classes to gardening and tarot workshops.
The late Victorian Winkworth Steps take me down to lower Rose Street from where I walk first to the Federal Park Wetland and then to The Tramsheds. Not officially in Annandale (actually Forest Lodge) but close enough, my friends have often spoken about The Tramsheds and it is high time I take a look.
Greeted by the low buzz of conversation, and a warm atmosphere I wonder why I’ve never been here. On my right is a green tram. Fresh pasta hangs from a horizontal pole in the window of Flour Eggs Water. The chef prepares ingredients for the next batch.
The converted Rozelle Tramway Depot is described as a dynamic district for dining. The exposed pipes and wiring in the roof space add to the atmosphere which certainly feels dynamic.
Back in Annandale, I find Johnston Creek Sewer Aqueduct and then wander the streets enjoying the late afternoon sun. Just when I’m hanging out for a cup of tea, I find some in the form of a Lan Choo Tea Ghost sign.
Beale Piano Factory
The Beale Piano factory was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere in the early 1900s. All elements of piano manufacturing were carried out in this complex. These days the building is an apartment complex, the rows of windows ‘capped’ with contrasting brick arches.
I find yet another ‘ghost’ tea sign, this time for Bushells hiding under the awning of a very dilapidated old store, nestled between two renovated cottages. This sign is unlikely to survive when the store is renovated.
The Annandale Hotel
I once saw my friend Martin Rotsy (of Midnight Oil fame) playing with The Break at the Annandale Hotel – before Midnight Oil did their recent world tour. Back on Parramatta Road, on the way to The Annandale Hotel, I pass The Happen Store (a creative workspace), Annandale Recycling Works (an eclectic second-hand furniture store) and The Vintage Record. I wish there was time to poke around in these inviting looking stores.
Julie sits on a high stool outside The Annandale Hotel, her little pooch sleeping at her feet. We chat about this blog, about Annandale, community and the flight path. Her husband joins us with their drinks and I bid them farewell. She is an artist, and a local. We’ll look out for each other on Instagram.
A varied day of discovery
Today has been a big day. Experiencing Aboriginal culture before even getting to Annandale, a taste of Buddhist culture, a feast of architecture and much much more. Do take yourself off to Annandale and experience this interesting suburb for yourself.