Victoria Street is one of the most beautiful streets in Potts Point, boasting established plane trees, spectacular views of the city and grand old Victorian homes.
Set back from the road, “Carara”, a sandstone building at 99 Victoria Street, is one of the grander residences on the street.
We take a look at its fascinating history, which mirrors the ups and downs of Potts Point over the decades.
When was Carara built?
The original Crown grants for the land on which 99 Victoria Street stands were given to AB Sparks and J Stephens, according to early maps of the area. In 1852, this land became part of a subdivision called the Tusculum Estate. When the subdivision was created, the land where 99 Victoria Street is located seems to have belonged to a “T Jones”.
Newspaper reports reveal that by 1862 there was a property at 99 Victoria Street, which was the site of many auctions of “household furniture and effects”. One entry from the Sydney Morning Herald of 14 February 1862 reads:
“MR. MURIEL has received instructions to sell by public auction, at 99 Victoria Street, Woolloomooloo, on THURSDAY next, the 29th instant, precisely at 11 am., A quantity of really good furniture, Pianoforte. Engravings, & Also, a quantity of very superior household requisites’
However, it’s not clear whether the house that stood then is the same as the one we’re familiar with today.
Does an 1887 map hold the key?
A surveyor’s map dated 15 June 1887 shows the same house that stands at 99 Victoria Street today.
The map reveals the footprint of a two-storey stone residence with front and back verandahs. A laneway runs down its left-hand side, and the front of the house is marked as “Gardens”. The land holding is double the size, and adjoining the back rear lane of the property stands a two-storey stable made of brick or stone, with a yard and a garden.
The property is recorded as being owned by “Broziac” and occupied by “Friedman”.
The Sands Directory (like an early version of Sydney’s White Pages) shows who lived where and what they did. The 1887 directory lists the occupant of 99 Victoria as Abraham Freeman (note the slightly different spelling). Earlier Sands directories suggest he lived there as far back as 1884. However, merchant Abraham Brodziak (again, slightly different spelling), his landlord, lived in the property in 1882 and 1883.
Unfortunately, the Sands Directory wasn’t published in 1881, but in 1880 Brodziak was living nearby on Darlinghurst Road.
Does this mean that Carara was built or rebuilt around this time?
Parlour maids, politicians, poultry and petty crime
In 1890, life seemed good at Carara. An advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald reads: “WANTED, for the suburbs, a good House and Parlour Maid. Apply 99 Victoria Street.”
But life wasn’t always rosy. The area – and modern city life – was still developing, and Sydney’s inner city was becoming downmarket.
In early 1903, Dr Mailler Kendall, Town Clerk, received a complaint about “nuisance from J. Mandelson’s poultry farm adjacent to premises 103 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst”. The files include an “Inspector of Nuisances’ report” and statements from neighbours, including the residents of number 99 Victoria Street.
In August 1910, in the NSW Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime, Ethel Frost of 99 Victoria Street reported a missing watch: “Lady’s small gold half hunting watch, blue enamel on the outside dial, ‘From Mother to Ethel’, on the inside case.”
Another life with “rooms to let”
By 1912, “Carara” was being rented by the room, which was common at the time, as an advertisement in the Daily Telegraph reveals:
“DARLlNGHURST.— CARARA, 99 Victoria Street North. Well-furnished Flat, double, single Bal. Rooms.”
The Town Clerk’s correspondence folders from the summer of 1913-14 contain a complaint from an Alice Davidson “of inadequate water supply at ‘Carara’ 99 Victoria Road”. A notice was served on the owner to rectify the problem.
Room renting continued for several decades as an ad from the Herald from Tuesday 15 March 1921 reveals: “Rooms to Let Apply at once Under entire new management AT 99 Victoria Street, Potts Point.”
In 1929, a dressmaker at 99 Victoria Street advertised her services, and in 1930 more rooms were advertised for rent again.
The Green Bans
Many decades later, “Carara” had a front-row seat during the green bans of the 1970s.
In 1973, the NSWBLF placed a green ban on Victoria Street. This was an attempt to preserve the streetscape and retain a larger proportion of low-income housing stock in what had become an inner-city, working-class residential area.
The ban was not well received by developers, some of whom were alleged to have links to the criminal underworld.
According to an ABC Report, 103 Victoria Street, just two doors up, was the site of a suspicious fire that killed a young Aboriginal Woman, Esther George. Many of the abandoned, boarded-up houses on Victoria Street were occupied by squatters or the homeless, who lived in them without power, water or gas.
A commercial, sporting and musical life
By 1987, an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that the home had become commercial premises. Legal recruiter Mahlab listed 99 Victoria Street as its Sydney office. Then, in the early 2000s, it operated as a Pilates studio.
In 2007, Antony Partos bought 99 Victoria Street. Antony is a composer and ran his music company, Supersonic, from the building for several years. From there, many award-winning scores were written, including the crime drama feature Animal Kingdom, as well as Snowtown, amongst many others.
In 2010, it became home to Kings Cross Conservatorium, a school of rock that has taught hundreds of local children how to play guitar, drums and more.
99 Victoria Street today
Set behind an iron fence with its spacious front garden, you could be forgiven for thinking not much has changed at 99 Victoria Street in over 100 years.
99 Victoria Street is currently on the market. Offering enormous potential and a flexible layout with six bedrooms, two bathrooms and parking for two cars, it’s a rare opportunity to own a centrally located piece of Potts Point history.
This grand double-fronted Victorian residence spans over approx 310sqm internally and showcases a delightful fusion of contemporary finishes and period features. Zoned mixed-use, it could be re-imagined as a magnificent home or used for a combination of residence and business. Find out more here.