Dulwich Hill is the last station on the Light Rail – a good a reason as any to discover the Light Rail and a new suburb at the same time. When researching Dulwich Hill, I learn that it has many examples of Federation style homes. The suburb also appears in Louise Hawson’s 52 Suburbs of Sydney. I take the train to Lewisham Station, planning to catch the light rail later on.
To get to Dulwich Hill, I walk through the Lewisham section of The Boulevard. There, a beautiful brick tower with cream brick detail, towers above adjacent houses. Completed in 1909, it is one of Sydney Water’s five historic sewer vents. It is exciting to discover something special so early in my day.
Federation Houses and Unit Blocks
Walking down The Boulevard, I find myself looking left and right at the features of the beautifully restored federation houses. This is why I am here. Leadlight windows sparkle beneath carved wooden features under the eaves. There is detail in the cement work under gables. I feel quite inadequate and somewhat frustrated not knowing the correct terminology for what I am seeing.
A narrow 2-storey terrace is up for sale. Over the road, a couple chat on the balcony of a ‘60s unit block where once Federation homes stood. There are more unit blocks ahead and another is under construction. The sound of power tools cuts the silence while yellow and orange safety vests contrast against the grey concrete.
A man in a colourful Hawaiian shirt, stops briefly to chat when he sees me taking photographs. He comments that “they’re beautiful houses”, and that he “put two photos of houses on Facebook and got so many likes”. He tells me that the light rail is not running until the 29th. I hope he’s wrong as I want to at least ride a short section of the track.
The narrow fronted, free standing homes in Piggot St remind me of the workers cottages I saw in Five Dock. One of the houses is called Mandalay. I wonder how many other houses have this name? I am pretty sure I’ve seen more than one on my regular walks.
Dulwich Hill Residents
A thin old man with a weathered complexion walks past me and then a woman shuffles past pushing a walker. Both avoid eye contact when I try to greet them. Perhaps my camera is threatening or maybe they are just wary of strangers.
Hoskins Park is a little park with a small play area. A mother sits on the swing with her young daughter. Another older man with a straw hat and walking stick greets me and comments on the “nice day’. Already I have seen more elderly people out and about than in any other suburb I have explored. Does Dulwich Hill have a large concentration of older folk?
Waratah Flour Mill
As I read about the Waratah Flour Mill, built in 1914 alongside the freight railway line, the light rail rumbles beneath me. Phew…. it is working on this end of the track and I now understand why the nearby light rail stop is called Waratah Mills.
The Mill conversion into residential apartments was sympathetic to the heritage of the building and won several awards.
Surprisingly, a sign points to the Greenway and Cooks River. Surprising because this section of the Greenway pedestrian/cycle track is yet to be completed. It turns out to be only a very short paved path to Johnson Park. For now, cyclists follow a road route.
The park is well-maintained with shade cloth, cricket nets, basketball court and exercise equipment. Bandicoots nest around here and people are encouraged to control their dogs. Nearby on Arlington reserve young people practice football (the round ball kind).
The Sideways Deli Café seems like a good place for a break. It is busy with mums, older folk meeting up and a couple of business types. The man behind me keeps interrupting his conversation to answer his phone. Phone call over, he resumes his loud conversation with “of all the toys I’ve got – catamaran, jet ski, motorbike whatever…whenever I get on my racer I relax”. I wonder if his toys make him happy.
New Canterbury Road
The walk to New Canterbury Road takes me past more Federation and other style homes. On the corner of New Canterbury Road, Hands Building (1912) looks rather sad. Grimy with peeling paint work, the convenience store below is dark and dingy with posters plastered on the windows.
A Chocolate factory shop, Candlelight Confectionery, draws my attention and I make a detour to peer in the window. If it wasn’t so hot, I would buy something to take home but today any chocolate would end up a melted mess.
Gallery 448, a showcase for urban art is not yet open. The exhibitions here are different and interesting and I briefly consider waiting the half hour or so until it opens but decide to press on and return another day.
The blue and white artwork on the side wall of a house catches my eye. It doesn’t do anything for the pretty cottage. Over the road women in headscarfs leave the Greek orthodox church with its small blue dome. This and other nearby churches could be demolished for new developments. Behind me I hear a man call out “take care” as he returns to his car having delivered a “Meal on Wheels”.
Dulwich Hill High School of Visual Arts and Design
The Street Art Club of the Dulwich Hill High School of Visual Arts and Design has painted artwork along local laneways. While this is a way to prevent the less appealing tagging style of graffiti being painted illegally on blank walls, I wonder how residents feel about there being a street art club. Don’t get me wrong – if you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know I’m a fan of street art.
Multicultural Dulwich Hill
Along New Canterbury Road units are being built behind a facade from 1903. At least the façade has been retained. Large photographs depicting early Dulwich Hill street scenes decorate the IGA windows. “Dully” Village has many opportunities to sample food from all over the world and there’s even a restaurant dedicated to sausages. There are also many empty shops.
In Marrickville Road, in keeping with the different cuisines available, people converse in many different languages. While awaiting customers, a barber practices on what looks like the Arabic string instrument, the Oud, with its rounded wooden body.
Dulwich Hill Suburban Streets
Having walked through Dulwich Village, I turn down MacArthur Parade. A poster on a fence protests “No high rises for Dulwich Hill”. It is part of the Save Dully Action Group which claims that 120 years of history is under threat.
Again, I notice the detail in the houses. Different motifs decorate front gables. The sunrise motif symbolises the dawning of the new century. Houses were built in Federation style around 1890 -1915.
On the corner of Keith Street, a pleasant surprise awaits. A row of beautifully preserved little cottages deserves more than a cursory look, while beautiful old trees line Canonbury Grove. In Wardell Road, an art deco style unit block has been gutted for redevelopment. At least the shell of the building remains.
Outside the Dulwich Hill Station, a group of skate boarders thunder past me. Here, while most of the shops are tired, Dear Delicious café which promotes sustainable food practices stands out with its clean charcoal walls and yellow window frames.
Dulwich Hill Light Rail
I’ve just missed the light rail, but the next one is not far away. Passing all four Dulwich Hill light rail stops in airconditioned comfort, I stay put until I have to alight due to trackwork.
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Next stop: Mosman
Plan your trip at transportnsw.info
I found this explanation of characteristics of Federation Houses.
And a map to assist you: You can download the map here
(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):