A Self-Guided Walk in Hurlstone Park
When I tell friends that my daughter has moved to Hurlstone Park, most ask “Where’s that?”. Today I want to find out more about this small suburb tucked next to Dulwich Hill in Sydney’s Inner West, a place most apparently know little about.
Alighting at Hurlstone Park Station, the heritage listed Platform buildings appear similar to those at Hawkesbury River Station, my station. The original features of the stair rails are also worth a second look.
Discovering the Streets of Hurlstone Park
Turning right from the station, a mobile phone tower and modern signage above and below three decorative arched windows overwhelm what was once an interesting building. Over the road a tiny white cottage nestles between the street and the railway line.
A retired couple relax in the sun on their veranda with coffee and a cigarette. We exchange greetings, commenting on the pleasant warmth after the rain. A worker calls out to them “Lovely in the sun”. The man replies with a drawn out “beeeuudiful”.
Pieces of furniture and other bric a brac overfow the veranda of a corner federation home. They may be clearing out but perhaps a hoarder lives here. The house opposite has a similar problem. Bags of all shapes and sizes and piles of soaked clothing fill the small front yard.
Owning a heritage listed home must require constant maintenance. The semis at 58 and 60 Garnet Street could do with some attention to the facia boards. The slate roof, terracotta capping and entrance porch are typical of the era.
A few homes in Garnet Street are heritage listed and others display original features. Strolling down the street is rewarding to anyone interested in 1880s architecture.
The Garnet Street Group
Four homes make up the so-called “Garnet Street Group”. These narrow-fronted cottages, identical in structure, but with slight differences have carved bargeboards (a new word for me – it means the board fastened under the gable) and decorative rosettes.
An elderly man with a white beard, wearing a beanie and large overcoat walks towards me. Carrying a green and a blue shopping bag, one in each hand, he looks me in the eye and says “Hello”. I get the feeling that Hurlstone Park is a friendly neighbourhood.
New Canterbury Road
In contrast to Garnet Street, new unit blocks line New Canterbury Road. While a few original buildings remain, they are tired and many are empty or closed. The Watch Repair man has gone, the Cycle Shop is moving and while sign in the Upholsterer’s door says it is open, the shop looks dusty and closed.
On the other hand, next to the pharmacy ‘The Skein Sisters’, a niche wool and knitting shop looks bright and friendly. The last time I saw a shop dedicated to wool was in Penrith.
Greek Community in Hurlstone Park
St Stephanos Greek Orthodox Church makes me wonder if Hurlstone Park is a Greek enclave in Sydney? Perhaps it is – near the empty Brake and Clutch place (they have moved) with its surprising pressed ceiling on the awning and leadlight detail, a Greek shop sells religious artefacts.
Over the road there’s a Greek Bilingual Bookshop. Unfortunately, its façade has been graffitied over with a large curvy white “THIS” bordered in black.
Looking up and down Canterbury Road, from the traffic light, there’s the modern Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL, a Puppy School inhabiting the 1923 ‘Buying Centre’ and even though it’s 11am on a Thursday morning, Police are pulling motorists aside for a RBT.
Two cement bulldogs guard the gate of a home in Melford Street. Strongly tempted to rub the nose of one, I photograph it. Then I can’t resist and caress his rough nose.
Euston Road Group
The smell of paint fills the air outside one of the “Euston Road Group” of heritage listed homes. While messing around with my camera, the owners come out to ask what I am doing.
Mollified by my answer, the man (wearing a Rabbitohs jumper) asks if I want to see inside the house. I demur but we end up chatting anyway. The wife says that this group of houses were all built at around the same time. She tells me that Council may provide a limited amount to assist owners with maintaining heritage listed homes.
Further down the road, another Rabbitohs supporter, wearing a green and red beanie walks out of his driveway. I comment that “there are lots of Rabbitohs fans around here”. He replies forcefully that “It’s a good team”.
In Euston Park, a wet limp Australian flag droops from the pole near the war memorial. A drink bottle on the bench and plastic container with straw and green lid on the memorial mar the solemnity of the space.
A woman laughingly calls out to a man tinkering with his car “when are you going to get it going”. He light-heartedly replies “got to get it registered first” and bends back down over the engine.
The Sugar Mill in Hurlstone Park
Crossing the pedestrian walkway over the rail line, a piece of history comes into view. Like ‘The Flour Mill’ in Dulwich Hill, this former Sugar Mill, built in 1841 has been converted into a residential building.
After operating as a Sugar Mill for 13 years, the building was used for various purposes including an engineering works, butter factory and bacon factory. Nick Scali Furniture owned the building from 1983 to 1997.
There are people around, more than I have seen in many other suburbs. Well serviced by public transport, and with shops nearby, people seem to walk rather than get in a car.
The Cooks River Cycleway in Hurlstone Park
Ongoing community action to clean up the Cooks River is working. Birdlife has returned to the river and the cycle path alongside the river makes for a pleasant ride (or in my case walk).
A large bird flies across the path ahead of me landing heavily on a soft branch which bends under its weight. Wanting to identify the bird, I approach slowly. The yellow tailed black cockatoo looks at me curiously but apart from cocking his head doesn’t move. I chat to him and he chats to his mate.
Leaving the Cooks River, I explore more of suburban Hurlstone Park. One small front yard has become a mini banana plantation, plastic bags protecting the fruit.
If I didn’t know better, the murals and small size of Edgeware Public School would lead me to think it was an infant’s school. Actually, this ‘School for Specific Purposes’ caters for students in years 7 to 10 who have conduct disorder.
A man pushing a wheelbarrow through Burnett Street Reserve wears a sweaty pale blue T-shirt with the insignia of the ‘Mudcrabs’. This local community group works to clean up the Cooks River and surrounds.
Hopetoun Street Group
Another group of heritage homes, the ‘Hopetoun Street Group’ also display striking features. One has a sulphur crested cockatoo painted in the apex of the gable, a vine frieze and lacey ironwork.
Hurlstone Park Village
In the village of Hurlstone Park, dates on the building facades indicate their age. 1904. 1912. 1905. Hand painted tiles of a cow, sheep and pig indicate that a butcher once traded here.
An older woman who has lived in the area for 50 years tells me that apparently the closed Hot Bread Shop still bakes bread, but sells it through the local grocer. Her step son used to live in the house next door to where my daughter now lives.
She says that ten years ago people could wander across Crinan Road, but now there is more traffic and with the cafes, more people. She points out the Drapery and Mercery sign. Today it’s a pop-up vintage store. She doesn’t know why Con’s Shoe Shop isn’t open for business but tells me that Con is an old man now.
Hurlstone Park with its friendly face, heritage architecture and river walk could easily be called a ‘hidden gem’ of Sydney. My daughter is lucky to have found a place here.