A Self-Guided Walk
Well-known writer and broadcaster, Clive James was born in Kogarah and John Hewson (former Liberal Party Leader) went to Kogarah High School. If that isn’t incentive enough to explore Kogarah, the long list of heritage buildings certainly is.
Discovering Multicultural Kogarah
Stepping off the train at Kogarah Station, I soon find three examples of commercial heritage. The buildings, with very different facades, are obscured by rows of electricity wires, their early beauty taking second place to newer colourful shop signage.
Taxi drivers standing alongside their shiny red cars chat in Arabic, awaiting fares. A sign advertises the Intensive English Program offered by Kogarah High School, possibly reflecting the diversity of the local population.
Almost in confirmation, two men pass by chatting in an Indian dialect. A Medical Centre advertises that they speak English, Greek and Hindi and a Sikh wearing a royal blue turban strides crosses the road.
Kogarah High School
Over ninety percent of students at Kogarah High school come from a non-English speaking background.
Around the corner from the three-storey heritage school building, more modern wings face the “school oval”. Well, that’s how the sign describes a fenced dry uneven surface of weeds and brown grass with no shade. I suspect very little sport (or anything else) happens here.
There’s no sign of the Lyndhurst Gallery at the listed address. The two-storey Victorian Italianate Terrace with rusted filigree screening seems to be a private residence. In a nearby street, heritage listed homes mostly maintain their original features.
An air- filled Santa decorates one terrace and new street brass numbers adorn the wall of another. The ubiquitous yellow, red and green bins seem out of place in front of the delicate ironwork decorating a red bullnose verandah.
Back in the commercial area, a sign advertises “A touch of salsa” for as little as $5 per week. That would be fun.
A row of terraces has survived the push for development. Next to them, a more modern strip of apartments and tall buildings surround and almost swamp the art deco Grace Chinese Christian Church.
People leave the Greek Orthodox Church via the back entrance to the car park. Mostly older women, they stop to chat at the end of the ramp before going their separate ways.
The Court House nestles between two newer buildings. Described as a Federation Arts and Crafts style public building, it no longer hears criminal matters but apparently the Administrative Tribunal holds sessions here.
Hungry locals can choose from a range of Cafés and restaurants whose fare of both local and international cuisine includes Greek, Thai, Japanese and Italian.
Planning Gone Wrong
Number 8 Belgrave Street (“Tokio”) is an example of planning gone very wrong. This heritage home, now occupied by St George Health has been almost squeezed out by developers. I wonder at the planning decisions that allowed the room of an adjacent building to overhang the roof and almost touch the chimney.
There’s a hearse parked outside the front of the Greek Orthodox Church. Dressed in black, people gather and embrace under the covered entrance. Opposite, a statue of Bruce Lee almost points to the church.
Kogarah Town Square
It’s almost as if Kogarah Council decided to make this plaza a place of remembrance, remembering people and events with little or no connection to each other.
One plaque remembers Kenneth Slessor, a distinguished journalist who lived “here in ‘Islay”. A series of concrete blocks forming a backdrop to a now dry fountain recognises workers who die or are injured in the course of their work.
And a statue commemorates the link between Australia and the Greek Island of Lemnos. How does Bruce Lee fit in with all this?
Kirk Place consists of two churches. The older (1893), whose arched windows display colour x-ray style pictures of the human body houses a Physiotherapy Practice. The other (1928), a brick church with stained glass windows is a Dermatology Practice.
Towering over them a larger modern building houses a contemporary Presbyterian Church and other ministry buildings.
A group of terraces seem to have been transplanted from an English village. Opposite the heritage Fire Station two busy cafés, Concrete Jungle and Culture Bean do well with the St George Hospital over the road.
Rocky Point Road
Two fire engines pass me at an unhurried pace. With so many fires around Sydney, I wonder where they are off to. A woman, waters her colourful garden with a bucket.
Along Rocky Point Road there’s a Greek Cake Shop, a Greek Restaurant and a Florist with a Greek looking name. I didn’t realise this area was a Greek hub.
Across the road are two more heritage houses. Four tall grey chimneys feature on one and decorative bricks highlight the corners of the other. There really is a lot of heritage in Kogarah.
A Bush Walk
Now, I pass newer homes on my way to a short bushwalk. At first the bush track eludes me, but soon I’m strolling along enjoying the sound of birds in the trees and children playing in a nearby school playground.
A local man, wearing bright orange shorts walks his dog helps me with directions. Pointing ahead, he tells me the path runs parallel to the sea (we’re that close) and if I keep going, I’ll eventually reach a road. That sounds right.
Four women playing tennis concentrate on their game. On another court, a player calls out “Come on Veronica”. Veronica strolls onto the court and then exclaims “Oh my racquet” and steps off the court again.
For a while I walk on the soft dry pine needles covering the ground between the stretch of water alongside the path and an oval. A fish jumps out of the water, its splash forming ripples on the otherwise smooth surface.
The Laughing Goat
Unusual names attract me, and so I make my way to The Laughing Goat Café for lunch. Located inside The Southern Antiques Centre, I wish there was time to explore the old wares after my tasty open sandwich and coffee. Instead I make do with some quick window shopping.
More Heritage in Kogarah
In Ocean St, each heritage home has different attractive architectural features. Open front doors behind screens lead to darkened passages within. Perhaps young families or retirees live here.
A click, click, click attracts my attention. Looking up, I see a young girl clipping her fingernails over the balcony.
The beautiful Kogarah School of Arts dominates a nearby corner. Opened in 1887, this building with its Victorian Italianate architecture surely has many stories to tell.
In Railway Parade, there’s even more heritage. Awnings and shop signage camouflage the original features of the “Subway Shops”. I cross the road to better view the facades.
The narrow H.V Evatt Memorial Park with its well cared for garden would be a peaceful resting spot if it weren’t for the trains racing past only a few metres away.
Opposite, I count three massage parlours, all within cooee of each other. Further down the street, a lead turret topping a round brick tower draws me closer.
I’ve noticed the turret from various points today and approach with not a little wonder, not having seen a building quite like this in Sydney. Starting life as a post office in 1890, it now houses the Kogarah Neighbourhood Centre.
Reflecting on Kogarah
Today, I’ve walked the suburb where Clive James spent much of his childhood, passed the school attended by John Hewson and found a vast array of beautiful heritage buildings. Kogarah certainly turned up trumps.
Walking Map and Notes