Surry Hills is certainly worth more than one visit. So here I am back again. Leaving Central Station, I am greeted by a cold biting wind. A sign that summer has ended. Almost immediately I am thrilled to discover something unexpected. A series of large murals, line the wall on my right. They depict workers and travellers over the years, celebrating 150 years of Railways in NSW and 100 years of Central Station.
Further along, thirteen statues in the Ibero-American plaza, recognise the contribution of Portuguese and Spanish speaking people to Sydney and Australia. Noticeably, there is only one statue of a woman. Only a week later I find that the murals are hidden behind fencing. The light rail is coming here it seems.
Prince Alfred Park
A couple with large suitcases aren’t sure where their hotel is. I point them in the right direction. In Prince Alfred Park, the sun has come out and I enjoy the warmth on my back. Elements in the playground reflect the circus pens of agricultural exhibitions held in an exhibition building here in the 1800s. This large park with plenty of grass, a swimming pool, and tennis and basketball courts is an oasis for local apartment living residents.
Across the road a granite building attracts my attention. The engraving over the door indicates it was the premises of the Amalgamated Engineering Union from 1851 to 1929. Nearby, a sign on the gate of a beautiful old sandstone church asks that people not leave donations as “the building is no longer an op shop”. Further on, a beautifully restored terrace is tucked between two tall buildings.
Belvoir Street Theatre
I turn up Belvoir Street and stop to admire the window reflections outside Vampt Vintage Design. Nearby is Belvoir St Theatre. The performances here are often to my liking and I enjoy making the trip down from where I live to see a play here.
Walking past the community housing complex of Northcott Estate, I remember seeing a Sydney Festival show by the Urban Theatre Company here. Today, I admire the mosaic wall on either side of a convenience store and exchange smiles with a woman passing by.
A table tennis table stands idle in Eddie Ward Park. Boys are skateboarding and a dog on the loose prompts a concerned dog owner to pick up her pooch.
I continue on to Crown Street where I cross the road to find the artwork I am looking for. It is in a laneway next to 610 Crown Street. “Village Voices”, created by Astra Howard takes the form of short written prose in bold white plastic lettering. The regularly changing text was developed in local workshops (eg residents of Edgar Egar Lodge – see Part One of Surry Hills). Today the story remembers a lady with red hair.
Shops, shops and more shops
There are many interesting shops in this area. Walking up Crown Street, I pass the Polish Alchemy Café, a Hungarian Patisserie (Kurtosh), The Nepalese Kitchen and Title, a vinyl record store (and more). There’s an organic produce store; Four Ate Five café; The Collector Store; a boutique paper store, Paper 2 and Pure Magik, a boutique designer store. Mrs Red and Sons is a gift boutique.
People sit at outdoor tables and a dog walker in jeans and an orange vest passes with a handful of dogs on leads. I couldn’t find the Arthur Street Community Verge last week. Today I do.
Shannon Street Reserve
Looking closely at the paved area of Shannon Street Reserve, I notice that the pavers represent the layout of surrounding streets with street names carved into the sandstone pavers. The Surry Hills Markets are held here on the first Saturday of the month. Over the road, is the award winning sustainable building that houses The Surry Hills Library and Community Centre.
There are even more interesting shops further along Crown Street. Gelato Messino often has a queue outside, and Bills (of Bill Grainger fame) is also usually busy. Today a sign still says Holy Kitsch, but the fortune teller Paris de Bono has moved in. He not only tells fortunes, he offers fortune telling card lessons.
I find Pigeon Hole clothing store, numerous vintage stores (including Miss Brown, Cream on Crown, The Zoo Emporium and U-Turn) and The MahJong Room where you can play the game over lunch once a month. I really must get there and learn how to use my MahJong set.
Turning down Goulburn Street I pass graffiti and street art before finding myself outside the stark Sydney Police Centre. In another life, I spent a night in the cells here (supporting a client). The NSW Police Force Service Memorial is new to me. It remembers police employees (police officers and support staff) who were killed or injured and then died while on duty.
Around the corner is the dog friendly Harmony Park. I sit on the low red wall and watch a couple of dogs chasing each other and a ball. After a while, I wander to Commonwealth Street and The Paramount Coffee Project (described by Jill Dupleix as “creative and cool”) and the Golden Age Cinema and bar which screens an independent film program in the former screening room of Paramount Pictures.
The King Faisal Mosque in Commonwealth Street is easy to miss unless you are looking for it. A taxi pulls up and parks. The uniformed driver gets out, opens the gate and enters.
Turning into Albion Street to check out Reuben Hills (another boutique coffee roastery), I realise I am passing the old Children’s Court hidden behind a curtain of blue. Demolition and archaeological investigation work has finished and a new building is and heritage restoration is underway.
Signs of an Industrial Past
In Albion Way, a bottle green building catches my eye. Concrete lettering on the corner facade identifies it as the iconic Porter’s Paints building. These days it’s home to the owners of The Minimalist.
Walking back to Belmore Street, a large old sign tells me that Truscott and Son Ink Printers once had premises here. It’s a reminder of the light industry that was conducted here in times past.
Reflections on Surry Hills
Today has been a real mix: shops and memorials, terraces and parks. I hope you agree me that Surry Hills was worth discovering further.
This post is the culmination of a year of fortnightly posts about suburbs of Sydney. There is still so much more to see and explore. Year two here I come. I look forward to sharing my journey of discovery with you.