Having lived in Chatswood for many years, I wonder how well I actually know this North Shore suburb? Today, by exploring on foot, I’ll find out by searching out public art, local parks and heritage buildings.
Finding Public Art in Chatswood
Outside the station, two women catch up over coffee before work. Commuters stream past me, walking hurriedly from bus to train or train to bus. My brain struggles to block out the noise of a busy weekday morning at the Chatswood Interchange.
Chatswood Transport Interchange
How many times have I walked past the striped yellow ‘tower’ emerging from the paving not realising that it’s made from recycled car panels?
Words and a tree etched into one side of the artwork and an LED display on the reverse, ‘Chatswood Transport Interchange’ encourages people to consider actions that promote sustainable living.
The original Chatswood Signal Box, removed and stored in 2006 to make way for The Chatswood Transport Interchange, was reassembled at the Bus Interchange. Peering through the grimy windows, I discover the interlocking machine with its long, coloured levers which manually operated the track crossovers and signals.
Terrazzo recalls Ruth Cracknell
How many times have I walked over the ‘Terrazzo’ circles, never thinking to look more closely? Set into the pavement, these artworks include words by Ruth Cracknell, the actress of Mother and Son fame, who lived here, on the corner of Brown Street.
She said “I lived on this corner during the forties and fifties. I remember the Kings Cinema on the opposite corner” and “When I was a child I would catch tadpoles….”
Trains, busses, cars and other man-made noises interfere with my thoughts. This busy transport hub and shopping precinct is noisy.
Henry Lawson, Shadows and a Horse
The words of the poem, “Chatties Wood” etched into tiles outside the Zenith Theatre, are barely visible. I make out a few words, Henry Lawson, and the date 1919.
Henry Lawson, who lived in Willoughby, wrote the poem about the origins of the name Chatswood. ‘Chattie’ being Charlotte Harnett, wife of the Mayor of Willoughby in 1868.
Tall blue steel laser cut pieces decorate the Zenith Theatre forecourt, while not far away there’s yet another artwork, ‘Shadow Play’. The ‘shadows’ etched into the paved tiles are only visible from a certain angle.
A rusted metal horse stares down at me from a grassed terrace. I climb the stairs for a closer look. ‘Relic’, commissioned for the Chinese Year of the Horse in 2014, references the history of the site since European settlement.
Walking back to the Interchange, I pass red flags advertising Eat Street and recall that the roti at the Malaysian Mamak is pretty good.
The Memorial Rose Garden and other Parks
An exhibition window (which needs a serious clean) along a pedestrian walkway displays five ‘Windows to the Past’ taken from the original railway station.
Down a short flight of stairs is the frieze of ‘Roses’ and the Memorial Rose Garden. Here, each rose bush (imported from War Cemeteries in France) is dedicated to a Serviceman from Willoughby Council who died in the Boer War, World War I or II, Korea, Vietnam or Malaya.
Chinese music wafts towards me from a corner of Chatswood Park. Two elderly couples dance arm in arm. The tempo changes and they smile as their steps quicken.
Grandparents watch their charges in the busy playground, but no one climbs over ‘Kulla Moves Out’ an interactive artwork created from recycled brickwork.
Low rise unit blocks line one side of Johnson Street opposite old federation houses. One of these houses, Boronia, is home to the Willoughby District Historical Society and Museum.
Stepping up to the veranda to read a notice on the wall, I notice a bulging sleeping bag stretched out behind the low wall. It moves. I’ve disturbed the person sleeping there and quickly move away not wanting to embarrass them.
I walk into Currey Park along the Tingha Pathway with mosaic insets to a sculpture of Tingha Woman. The woman is a symbol of the Dreaming. A reminder that you will be punished if you break tribal law.
Photographs of local birds by local photographers hang in the Exhibition Space at the entrance to Willoughby City Council. This council really does support art in all its forms.
Red and white signage in both English and in Chinese characters hangs outside the Australia Post Office. Many shop signs in Chatswood Mall are also in Chinese. Many people of Chinese origin now call Chatswood, with its Intensive English School, home.
Interestingly, in 1898, Chinese Market Gardens occupied the area which was acquired by Council and is now Chatswood Oval.
Decorative railings, separate pedestrians from the busy street. How many people even notice that the detail in the fencing references local flora.
The first heritage building on my list is in Tulip Street. To get there, I come across a whole bouquet of flowers: Wattle Lane, Daisy Street and Iris Lane. The name ‘Wyckliffe’ carved into the sandstone gate post has weathered considerably. White wrought iron railings surround the veranda and an ornate frieze wraps the turret.
Retracing my steps now, I discover a bronze plaque in the pavement outside St Pius X College. I read that the land the school stands on was given by a former Auditor General as a Catholic Burial Ground in 1863 and was used as a cemetery until about 1907-17.
Described as the “Cultural Home of the North Shore”, The Concourse houses a theatre, concert hall and the Chatswood Library. There I discover ‘2000 Faces of Willoughby’. This photographic mural recognises Willoughby’s rich cultural heritage.
Birds fly across the walls or stare at the viewer from woody perches in the current exhibition ‘Flight and Form’ in The Art Space.
Outside the Concourse, people peer over fencing to a steel boat frame resting below in a shallow pool of water, its reflections and shadows making interesting shapes. ‘Visiting Enki’ is yet another public artwork in Chatswood.
Another brass plaque, this time at 387 Victoria Avenue tells the story of the Dreadnought Theatre which opened in 1912 and was the first real picture theatre in the district. Originally an open-air theatre, the building was replaced and it underwent a few name changes before closing in 1977.
More Chatswood Parks
While Chatswood Chase is convenient for a quick bite of lunch, I feel rather out of place in my walking gear among the lunching North Shore Ladies and don’t linger.
Arriving at Beauchamp Park the quiet after the bustle of the shopping precinct is palpable. Walking through the beautifully maintained garden, to next group of sculptures on my list I also discover a playground complete with flying fox, a dog and a black and white cow.
A Memorial Khackar (Cross-Stone) stands a corner of the park. Dedicated to the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centenary it was unveiled in 2015.
Opposite Vinnies, a series of closed in arches form the facade above a little strip of shops. Here you’ll find Mongrel Boots and Sweet Delights Bakery as well as a couple of eateries.
Mashman Park is an interesting place. The pottery business which operated on this site from 1885 until 2000 is reflected in the artworks on the wall and surrounding the fountain.
Owned by the Mashman Brothers the company produced pots, bowls, platters and urns as well as drainage and sewer pipes. Royal Doulton and then Caroma bought the company to manufacture sanitary wares.
A little girl chats to herself as she negotiates the uneven stepping stones surrounding the sandpit in Bales Park, her mum looking on from a distance. On the oval, a woman hits a ball for her dog to retrieve and a young man wearing only sports shorts sunbathes on his back in the full midday sun.
Heritage in Chatswood
‘Windsor Gardens’, a heritage listed late Victorian building, now forms part of an aged care facility. A real estate sign advertises units of various sizes for sale. Over the road, I count six of the ‘Seven Gables’, another heritage listed home. The seventh must be at the back.
The tennis court besides the home known either as Hilton or Broxbourne is in a sorry state. A rusted padlock secures the gates to the semicircular driveway and curtains to the street are closed.
Apparently, the residents enter this Romanesque Revival style home through the rear extension, parking in the double garages at the back.
There’s still more to see in Chatswood, and I return to Westfield. There I walk through Hawker Lane, an Asian Street Food precinct which is still busy even though the lunch hour is over.
On my way back to the station I pass Ripple, an artwork probably not recognised as such by many. The droplet of water and resulting ripples carved into polished granite slabs means much more than the seating it is used for.
Final Thoughts on Chatswood
Today I learnt much that I didn’t know about Chatswood, a suburb I lived in for over ten years. It just goes to show how a little research, and stopping and looking around can enrich the experience and knowledge we have of our surroundings.
List of Artworks
- Chatswood Transport Interchange – by Peter D. Cole & Daniel Tobin. The Interchange
- Terrazzo – by David Humphries. 10 Brown Street
- Zenith Towers – Ross Shepherd and Jessica Hodge. Zenith Theatre forecourt Railway Street
- Shadow Play – by Daniel Tobin. Corner O’Brien and Railway Streets
- Roses – by Peter D. Cole. 69 Albert Avenue
- Relic – Andew Townsend and Suzie Bleach. 7 Railway Street
- Kulla Moves Out – by Tim Spellman. Corner Albert Avenue and Orchard Road
- Tingha Woman – by Joe Hirst and Marie Stucci. In Currey Park, Victor Street
- Railings – by Suzie Bleach and Andrew Townsend. Corner of Anderson St and Victoria Avenue
- Visiting Enki – by Wendy Mills. The Concourse.
- Beauchamp Park Artworks – by Chris Bennett and landscape architect Ric McConaghy. Corner of Darling and Nicholson Street
- Paydirt – by Peter Day and Joanne Fuller. Mashman Park, 176 – 196 Victoria Avenue
- Wheel – by Suzie Bleach and Andrew Townsend. Mashman Park, 176 – 196 Victoria Avenue
- Ripple – by Hew Chee Fong & L M Noonan. Chatswood Mall near stairs down to station
- 20 Tulip Street – Wyckliffe
- 251 Mowbray Road Seven Gables
- 258-260 Mowbray Road, Windsor Gardens
- 313-315 Mowbray Road Hilton, also known as Broxbourne.