Dulwich Hill High School of Visual Arts and Design

Dulwich Hill: A day walk exploring this quietly interesting Sydney suburb

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.

The Boulevard

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.

Sydney Water Sewer Tower

Sydney Water Sewer Tower

Federation Art and Craft Home

Home Detail

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.

Federation Art and Craft Architecture

Carved Posts

Federation Art and Craft Architecture

Rising Sun

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.

Art Deco Unit Block

Art Deco on my Left

Dulwich Hill architecture

Dull architecture in Dulwich Hill on my right

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 Dulwich Hill

Hoskins Park 1925

Waratah Mill Dulwich Hill

Waratah Flour Mill

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.

Johnson Park Dulwich Hill

Toilet Block Johnson Park

Rocket Ship Dulwich Hill

Early Play Equipment

Johnson Park

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).

Arlington Oval Dulwich Hill

Arlington Oval

Sideways Deli and Cafe

Sideways Deli and Cafe

Sideways Deli

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.

Dulwich Hill Development

Old houses in front of new unit block

Federation House Detail

House Detail

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.

Hands Building New Canterbury Road

Hands Building

Gallery 448 Dulwich Hill

Above Gallery 448

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

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.

Street Art Dulwich Hill

Street Art Detail

Dulwich Hill High School of Visual Arts

Street Art Club work of art

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.

Baptist Church Dulwich Hill

Threatened with being demolished

Dulwich Hill Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church

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.

Marrickville Road Shopfronts

Marrickville Road Shopfronts

Dulwich Hill Development

Development behind the facade

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.

Keith Street Dulwich Hill

Keith Street Dulwich Hill

Dulwich Hill Development

Gutted

Keith Street

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 Detail

Layers of Paint

Dulwich Hill Light Rail

Dulwich Hill Light Rail

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.

Read about Pyrmont, another interesting Sydney suburb with history and sculpture here.
Next stop: Mosman

Useful information:

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

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):

Dulwich Hill Walk Map

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Hi Jo

    I don’t know a lot about the Federation style, but I think only the photo you labelled “Keith St” show true “Federation” style houses. Oh, and the first one, “House Detail.” The rest looks to me as if its more Art Deco, especially “Gutted,” the toilet block, the flour mill and No 87 “On my left.” Art Deco is from around the 1920s, but Federation was earlier – hence the name, of course (Federation of Australia being Jan 1, 1901.) You can see Federation was domestic, pretty, with the typical lacey verandahs and often a lot of stained glass whereas Art Deco is more geometric and plain. And used for public buildings such as the factory, shops etc – although obviously there was a lot of domestic Art Deco architecture as well.

    Art Deco was an international movement but Federation quinessentially Australian, so I’d imagine those Art Deco buildings would have been considered madly “modern” and international by comparison to the pretty home-grown Federation houses. Funny, because Federation is probably more appealing to our modern eyes, isn’t it?

    1. Author

      Mandi, of course, you’re right. The photos as you describe are Art Deco. I chose them as I liked them more than the ones I took of Federation homes – which I had difficulty capturing well. Hence the photos are not illustrating the text. I love the Federation style and learnt more about it on this walk but I love Art Deco too. Thanks for your insights. Jo

  2. I really loved this post, Jo. Houses were stunning. Photo’s capture the place well, as usual.

  3. The detailed brickwork and antique wrought ironwork is gorgeous. I love that the old flour mill was reassigned to be residential apartments. Hopefully a way will be found to save the old churches and rich history of Dulwich Hills.

    1. Author

      Hi Bernadette, as always a lovely thoughtful comment.I was so excited to find the flour mill. Jo

  4. I love Dulwich Hill! I’m surprised you didn’t see more young families in the area…I am particularly fond of the newly renovated supermarket there, and its fancy walk in cheese room! Yum!

    1. Author

      Hi Georgia
      There were young mums in the parks and a few having morning tea at Sideways. I need to find the supermarket. Always love a cheese room. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Such a lovely introduction to Dulwich Hill. I love the idea of preserving the Flour Mill as an apartment block. Great street art too!

    1. Author

      Thanks Margarita. I was thrilled to discover the flour mill and always enjoy street art

  6. I must go and check out the street art in Dulwich Hill. I know the local high school has an arts speciality but I had no idea there was a street art program!

    Another walk I want to go and do soon.

    1. Author

      Hi Paula. I only learned of the street art club when I read who had done the work in a couple of laneways. The village is good for coffee or a meal too.

  7. What a wonderful resource you are building here for anyone who wants to walk in Sydney. If you can make a suburb with the very ordinary sounding name of Dulwich Hill interesting then no suburb will be beyond you. You must come out to my suburb one day. It is a long way out but a lot of people, even those who live in Sydney, have never heard of it. If you do ever want to dissect it let me know and I will pick you up at the nearest railway station (Gordon) and we can go walking together.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment and encouragement. Sometimes it’s pretty lonely out here…thanks too for the offer to meet me at Gordon. To date, I’ve been accessing suburbs by public transport but one day I’ll have to hop in a car.

  8. wow so interesting Jo. you could never be lonely spending a day here

  9. Thank you for this article! Im fortunate enough to have grown up in Dully and love love love the place. Unfortunately these old federation homes and bungalows are under threat- another is on the chopping block at 73 The boulevarde with a DA to demolish this beautiful beautiful home for a FOUR storey plus basement. If anyone is interested, i urge you to comment on the councils website objecting to the DA.

    1. Author

      Thank you Effie. It is sad so many beautiful homes are being demolished all over Sydney. I hope the objections to the DA are successful

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