I have always known that there’s a Carlton in Melbourne, but only recently discovered that Sydney also has a suburb named Carlton. That’s a good enough reason to explore the Sydney Carlton today.
Carlton: North of the Railway Line
Adjacent to the Railway Line, Stell Reserve is a narrow, neatly kept strip of grass. This little park is named after the writer and founder of the Miles Franklin Award, Stella (Miles) Franklin who lived the last 20 or so years of her life in the family home at 26 Grey Street, Carlton. You can find a statue of Miles Franklin in nearby Hurstville.
Three rows of used lawn mowers stand stationery on the sidewalk outside Carlton Mowers, a shop in Carlton Parade. The business is for sale. So is Burnham, the Art Deco building over the road. I take time to examine the details and craftsmanship in some of the older buildings around here.
Two interestingly shaped roofs of a building in Short Street attract my attention. The roofs are the ogee pavilion roofs of the Carlton School of Arts (1900). “Ogee” (what a lovely word), describes an ‘S’ shaped line or moulding.
Once a private dance hall, the Carlton School of Arts was later used as a cinema, billiard saloon and meeting place. Today you can learn Russian Martial arts there or hire the hall for functions.
With fewer people sewing their own clothes, the Sewing Machine Service Centre is closed, the premises for lease. Apart from the two reasonably well patronised coffee shops, things look a bit sad with quite a few shops vacant.
Carlton Brake and Clutch Workshop
In the Carlton Clutch and Brake Workshop, a faded window advertisement for a “Mann Filter” makes me chuckle. Remove one ‘n’ and there’d be a queue of women lining up for one of these. A man, noticing my camera, invites me into the workshop.
He’s worked here for 31 years, and the previous owner for 40 years before that. Apart from old motor oil and tyre advertisements, there’s also a mismatched collection of bits and pieces on every available surface. When I notice a dirty white bust of Bob Hawke, he says “we have everything here”. In keeping with the political theme, I joke “Even Barnaby Joyce’s Akubra” pointing to the hat on the bonnet of a rusted cab.
Shopfront Contemporary Arts Centre
Formed in 1976, the Shopfront Contemporary Arts Centre is a youth led Arts Cooperative, providing a venue for young people and emerging artists to “find their voice”. A fundraising thermometer outside indicates that they are about halfway with their ambitious fundraising goal of $185K.
Heritage listed Carlton House stands out from its neighbours. Pretty glass panes and decorative wood panels enclose the veranda on one side while a metal balcony railing decorates the other veranda.
Two men chat outside a house in what sounds like an Eastern European accent. Branches from a tall olive tree hang over the footpath. Neat houses line this side of the street, facing a row of unit blocks.
There are no clouds in the sky, it’s not too hot and there’s a pleasant breeze. A lovely day to be exploring Carlton. Tinsdale Reserve provides a pleasant green space for people living in the surrounding unit blocks. The spicy aroma of curry cooking emanates from one of the units as I pass by.
Interesting Architectural Features
On noticing a row of semi-detached houses with original pressed metalwork in their gables, I divert from my route. The walls of some are plastered, while others still display their original brickwork and there’s a simple sandstone cottage further up the hill worth looking at.
Carlton Hardware, with its faded sign, would be one of the few independent hardware stores left in Sydney. A man wearing a pale blue tailored shirt and dark pants paces up and down outside the store, talking on the phone. When passing him, I do a double take when I realise that he’s wearing a gun.
After a short walk up Hill Street to number 56 where I’m rewarded with a fine example of Federation architecture, I return to cross the railway line at the station.
Carlton: South of the Railway Line
Like many Australian pubs, The Royal Hotel dominates a corner position. The Art Deco detail above the brickwork takes the form of uncurling fern fronds.
The shopping strip on this side looks slightly more prosperous than that on the other side of the tracks. The ghost sign once advertising “Fish and Chips” has given way to Wok and Roast. Two fire engines race past, sirens blaring. I peer into the Tattoo Parlour where a man lies face down, arm extended.
Stepping on St George (depicted in a series of large square pavement tiles) reminds me that the local footy team is of course, St George Illawarra. One of the fire engines returns, sirens silent now. The emergency must be over.
St George Russian Orthodox Church
The St George Russian Orthodox Church in Garfield Street is understated. The small gold onion dome supports a simple cross above a simple brick building. About 200 of the ethnic Russians from China and others of mixed Russian/Chinese descent who moved to Sydney to avoid the Cultural Revolution, joined this newly formed parish in the mid-1960s.
An impressive gnome collection stares out at me from a second-floor balcony. I’ve seen a number of garden gnome collections around Sydney, but none as large as this one.
Two little boys play in Augusta park while their mum chats on the phone. They show me the leaves and petals they are collecting to feed a bird which they plan to catch. I explain to them that the bird is a Magpie. One replies “no, it’s a bird.”
Varied Architectural Styles
The house and garden at 5 Planthurst Rd, which is described in the State Heritage Registry as a “substantially intact, single storey weatherboard cottage with simple late Victorian stylistic influence”, is undergoing significant renovation. I doubt it will be of heritage significance once the renovation is finished.
In Arthur Street, the houses are a real mixture of architectural styles, but number 43 is another Federation beauty. The mint green trim of number 45 spoils the otherwise authentic Federation style.
Walking along Princes Highway I smile at the shop named “The Department of the Car Interior”. Not quite in Carlton but worth the walk, I find the Harold Fraser Oval Gates. Over the road from where I stand, they feature illustrations representing athletics, hockey, cricket and tennis.
On my way to Kogarah Park, I pass the white arches beneath the painted breeze brickwork of White Castle. This unique building must be a landmark on the Princes Highway. The store, which used to be a Keith Lord furniture showroom, now sells catering equipment and kitchenware.
Jubilee Stadium (in Kogarah Park) is the part time home to the St George Illawarra Dragons. I walk the “Walk of Fame” reading about the featured players as well as the plaques recognising the people and businesses who supported the project. One reads that “Dan Simpson only got his name here for turning 50”.
En route to Anglo Square, I pass a pawpaw tree with small green fruit attached to the trunk. Next door two unripe mangos hang from a small tree.
Anglo Square, a green space surrounded by houses, is home to another property of local heritage significance. Lohengrin, built C1915 has been lovingly restored. There is plenty of Federation Architecture in Carlton if you know where to look.
Why Walk through Carlton?
Carlton in Sydney, quite different from Melbourne’s Carlton, has a charm of its own. If you are into Federation Heritage, you will find fine examples here and perhaps like me, find a few little things to chuckle about.