07 March 2015

Haberfield: a VERY early Garden City in Sydney (1901)

From my books on Arts and Crafts, I was fascinated with the new movement in architecture and design that was being pro­m­oted by John Ruskin and William Morris as early as 1885-9. At that very early stage, Ruskin seemed to have predicted the Garden City movement, specific­ally favouring a] an improved living environ­ment and b] an integration of town and country. Morris promoted the concept of "decency of surroundings" which included: "Ample space, well built clean healthy housing, beautiful garden space, preservat­ion of natural landscape, pollution and litter free".

It was Ebenezer Howard who pulled all the ideas together in Britain; in 1898 he publish­ed the definitive book called Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Ref­orm. Later, in 1902, Howard revised his book and retitled it Gard­en Cities of Tomorrow, clearly based on ideas of social and urban reform. In this blog I have already examined the development of planned, garden cities that were found in Tel Aviv, Chandigarh and London. But I had not looked at Sydney.

9 ks west of Sydney’s CBD, C19th landowners Dr David Ramsay and his son loved parklands and gardens, and joined the Linnean Society for Natural History. Their heirs did not sell up the land (50 acres) to Richard Stanton until 1901. Stanton was inspired by Britain’s town planning movement which sought to develop beautiful healthy towns, and to regulate houses and streets. Stanton was already a co-founder of the Town Planning Institute of NSW, and the Real Estate Institute. So he could make it happen!

Haberfield
Single storeyed Edwardian homes with verandas, 
each on its own quarter acre block.

When the bubonic plague threatened Aus­­t­ralia for the first time, the response was one of terror in the face of an imminent catastrophe. Health authorities in Sydney were aware that plague epidemics were associated with rat-transported infections and devised prevent­ative techniques to close the ports to sick foreigners. Alas bubonic plague still reared its ugly head in Sydney, in mid January 1900. And people were correct - most of the 1371 deaths from plaque that year lived in Inner Sydney. Any family that had the resources to get out of Sydney’s crowded and slummy CBD.. did so. Quickly.

Timing is everything! When Stanton started subdivid­ing his land in 1901, it was always going to be based on Garden Suburb Movement principles. Called Haberfield, this new suburb quick­ly became noted for its tree-lined streets and substantial Ed­wardian homes of limited height. But it would have been a beautifully laid out Garden Suburb, even had the bubonic plaque not arrived in Sydney.

Richard Stanton promised families that the new development would be "slumless, laneless and publess". His Model Suburb was for the rising middle class; it ensured fresh air, no shared facilities with neighbours and plenty of access to natural sunlight. He ended the negative impacts of unregulated and ad-hoc subdivision, and he banned poor building practices that gave rise to overcrowding. Sewerage to each home meant they no longer needed rear lanes and shared outhouses.

Green spaces rather than formal parks

The Heritage Council of NSW is very specific about what was allowed and what was not allowed in Haberfield from 1901-1917. Houses were typically detached double-brick dwellings that sat on substantial blocks of land (15 m x 45 m). The houses did not have to be identical, but the roofs had to be either slate or tile. Each house had to have a front veranda, encouraging fresh air and green views. Decorative features could include leadlight windows depicting Australian flora and fauna, Art Nouveau timber detailing and tuck pointed brickwork.

Some 1500 houses were built in this area to the architectural plans of J Spencer Stansfeld and D Wormald, partners in the architectural firm Spencer, Stansfield and Wormald. The character of Haberfield was firmly established during those 16 years, and has remained so ever since. The entire suburb of gorgeous late Victorian, Federation, Arts & Crafts houses and Californian bungalows eventually became heritage-listed as one Conservation Area in 1985. In 1991 it became part of the Register of the National Estate of Australia.

To see which of the public buildings are on the State Heritage Register, see Ashfield Council - I will just mention St David's Church Hall (1862). And to see other community resources from the Edwardian era, visit Sydney City and Suburbs blog for the picture theatre, St Oswald's Anglican Church and the shops in Ramsay St.

Haberfield
Note the wide nature strips, tree lined streets and side drive ways

The Dictionary Of Sydney notes the unique historical significance of Haberfield. It was Australia's first plan­ned Model Suburb, embodying the still-evolving intern­ational garden suburb principles. Begun at the time of Federation in 1901, it act­ually pre-dated the best British examples of Letchworth (1904) and Hampstead (1907). The Sydney social experiment was so financially success­ful that it helped define the great Australian dream i.e that each family would own a quarter-acre suburban block. Richard Stanton was not just an early town planning advocate and real estate entrepreneur; he was quite visionary.

**

To retain Haberfield's historical integrity into the future, each house will always have to stay a low, single-storey place with traditional hip and skillion roof forms, and it will have to remain within its garden setting. Other asp­ects to be retained include low see-through front fences, side driveway wheel strips and garden size. Each colour scheme will have to be appropriate to the architectural style and era of the building. The Development Control Plan will continue to look after streetscapes, trees, nature strips and public elements.






17 comments:

Jim said...

The Federation architecture here is so beautiful.

Andrew said...

Although they can't have their appearance significantly altered, I think people pay a premium price to own one within the area. Very interesting.

Hels said...

Jim

I lived in a late Victorian-early Federation home in StKilda for years and loved it. The trouble was the matching homes on either side had been pulled down for ugly blocks of flats :( Haberfield was very wise, protecting its original homes.

Hels said...

Andrew

if a family can afford it, it would be worth every penny. This is living, and protecting the Australian dream.

Joe said...

Despite living in Sydney, I didn't know about the bubonic plague. But now I read that when the plague hit in the early 1900s, it became a catalyst for a program of urban renewal in The Rocks and Millers Point area. The government used fear to confirm long-held perceptions that The Rocks was dirty and overcrowded. 3800 houses, buildings and wharves were soon inspected and hundreds demolished.

No wonder people moved out into cleaner, greener areas.


Hels said...

Joe

as fearful as the bubonic plague was in Sydney, my feeling was that it only came off ships once in the city's entire history and that was in 1900. Yes there was an urgent need for urban renewal and population movement to the suburbs, but that would have occurred even without the bubonic plague.

Jim said...

Hels, I've looked at a few houses in this area. Most of them are well maintained or restored. Sometimes residents built modern extensions at the back of the existing buildings but retain the original house at the front. Usually these are not too bad.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, Haberfield looks like a great area just to drive around and look at all the different houses. Cleveland, Ohio in the early 20th century developed by the garden suburb plan, especially Shaker Heights (and parts of Cleveland Heights), still a great place to explore with beautiful houses, mature trees, and winding streets. As in Australia, there are many architectural rules meant to protect the appearance of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, along with these went social deed restrictions, now long illegal, which stated that the owners were not permitted to sell the houses to blacks, Jews, or Catholics.
--Jim

Hels said...

Jim

I am very pleased the modern residents of Haberfield are still as houseproud as the first generation of residents had been. As long as the Heritage Council regulations are complied with inside private property and The Development Control Plan does the right thing in public spaces, renovations are perfectly acceptable.

Hels said...

Parnassus

Of course *slaps forehead* I should have mentioned the two Ohio garden suburbs I already knew about in this blog:
1. Greenmont in Dayton and 2. Greenhills near Cincinnati
http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com.au/2009/01/garden-cities.html

Have these Ohio garden suburbs been successfully preserved to this day by heritage overlays? (I am not familiar with the social deed restrictions you mentioned, at least not in writing.)

Parnassus said...

Hi again, Cleveland is very far from Cincinnati and Dayton, so I am not too familiar with that part of the state. I did look at the link on your earlier article, and all pride aside, I still have to say that the Cleveland suburbs are much, much nicer. My next trip home I will try to take some characteristic photos and post them. --Jim

Hels said...

Parnassus

of course the Cleveland suburbs are much, much nicer :) But there is another thing I need to ask you.

Most of the planned garden suburbs that I have found around the world were designed following the creation of Letchworth eg 1899till the end of WW1. This includes Shaker Heights, as you mentioned. But Greenhills was a response to the Depression, designed in the ?late 1930s. Perhaps that was a slightly different movement.

Ann ODyne said...

Was just at this blog [as a result of Highriser posting his photo of a bungalow on a rooftop in Manhattan] and thought 'oh Hels would enjoy this'. I did.

Ann ODyne said...


In 1879 George and Richard Cadbury, makers of chocolate and cocoa moved their factory from the city centre to the healthier environment of the ... to provide affordable housing in VERY pleasant surroundings

Hels said...

Ann

In all the posts where I discussed planned or garden cities for workers, I can remember mentioning Bournville in Birmingham ONLY in comparison to Port Sunlight. Shame on me... because your link mentioned all the important issues I was trying to highlight: a rural clean feel, a tenth of the estate laid out as green recreation space, factory employment close at hand, decent conditions for workers, small but decent housing, education for the children and nursing care for all.

So thank you. The Cadbury Brothers were very smart.
http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/port-sunlight-model-village-for-lever.html

Andrew McAlister said...

I live in haberfield! In a California bungalow (I think) I rent as the quarter acre block-Australian dream costs 2 million around here. This blog was very informative! Great work!

Hels said...

Andrew

once the suburb went on the National Heritage Register, were all the original (and nearly original) houses saved? I have seen historical treasures (in Melbourne, I must admit) bulldozed by nasty developers at 3 am, before the authorities can stop the destruction.