I look up a lot these days, and as a result am so often rewarded by the sight of something unexpected. Along the main street, any main street, shop awnings and windows are so often cluttered with a mish mash of clashing styles, but a little higher up the facades can be left relatively unscathed. The decorative carved sandstone on this entablature is such a beautiful piece of relief sculpture, and it reminds me of bookends, which makes it even better.
Glebe Point Road used to be a great street to wander down, full of quirky and interesting shops and a passing parade of quirky and interesting people. It’s a less inspiring stretch now because the diversity has gone — about the only establishment left selling anything other than food is the bookshop. However the architecture remains, including this facade with its elaborate intertwined letters. At first I was impatient with its convolutedness, but then rather pleased that I could decipher the letters to so aptly spell FUSS.
From what I can discover, the Foord of Foord’s Buildings was Charles John Foord, an alderman of Canterbury council in the early 1900s. He was obviously of some importance in the area because there is also a Foord Avenue and a Foord Street Footbridge over the Cooks River. The building is pretty shabby these days, but the bas-relief lettering of the nameplate still stands out bold and clear. I particularly like the apostrophe, as well as the surrounding pattern of painted brickwork and faded writing.
For a few days the awning of this shopfront came down and the writing on the iron girder was revealed. There’s nothing special about it typographically—it looks handwritten by someone who is taking care to be neat, too uneven to be a stencil—but its very existence piqued my curiosity. What I learned about Messrs RL Scrutton and Co is that their employees’ third annual picnic was held on 22 March 1902. The picnickers were conveyed by steamer from King Street to the Fern Bay grounds of Parramatta River, where amusements were provided, toasts were made, athletic events were keenly contested and dancing was indulged in throughout the day in the pavilion. The awning is now back in place and the girder is no longer visible — in fact the shopfront with the awning replaced looks exactly as it did before it was taken down. The only reason I can think of for its temporary removal was that it allowed a brief glimpse into a hidden story!
Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin came to Australia from the United States in 1912, when they won the international competition to design Canberra. (Those roundabouts — what were they thinking!) Walter Burley Griffin designed the Willoughby Incinerator in the 1930s, after they had moved to Castlecrag. It was constructed as part of an employment initiative during the Great Depression, and in the 1960s was saved from demolition and was subsequently heritage listed. In its time it has operated as a sewerage plant, a restaurant, an office, and after its most recent restoration has become a community art studio space and gallery. The Griffins believed that architecture and landscape should be harmonious and that buildings should integrate into their surroundings, and this is certainly a fine example.
Government architect Walter Liberty Vernon was responsible for public buildings such as the Mitchell Library, the Art Gallery of NSW, Fisher Library and Central Station — all pretty impressive works. But what I like most is his introduction of the Arts and Craft style to the design of Sydney’s post offices, fire stations and courthouses. Many feature this distinctive and decorative signage style, and Annandale Post Office, build in 1896, has a particularly fine example — well aged and in excellent condition.
The New Brighton Hotel on Manly Corso was built around 1879 but the 1926 that it so proudly displays marks the year it was redeveloped in the Egyptian style. Although the architecture does feature some Egyptian-inspired decorative elements, there’s nothing very Egyptian about the number. But it hardly matters! Manly was a prosperous place in 1926, and preparations for the Manly Jubilee were well under way. Plans included a Venetian Carnival, Jubilee Surf Carnival, Jubilee Grand Ball, Grand Jubilee Water Pageant, and even a visit by the Duke and Duchess of York. The royals never made it: instead, parties of naval officers were brought in as compensation. I don’t know what part the New Brighton played in all this, but I bet the bar was jumpin’!