Take a walk down Ward Avenue and explore its unique history with Jason Boon.

Stretching from above the Kings Cross Tunnel at Kings Cross Road, across Bayswater Road and all the way to Elizabeth Bay Road, Ward Avenue is a street with a fascinating history.

Join me on a walk down the avenue to explore its unique history…

Before Ward Avenue

From 1810, the ridge area known as Woolloomooloo Hill (or Darlinghurst Ridge) was home to around five windmills. These were used to grind flour for bread and to carry out other industrial tasks pivotal to the fledgling colony.

By 1830, however, the colony was expanding. Governor Darling had grand plans for the whole area – then broadly referred to as Darlinghurst – and earmarked it for residential development.

Darling planned a series of mansions along Darlinghurst Road, and these large landholdings (and the windmills) are visible on this early map showing “the original crown grants and colonial mansions”.

Ward Avenue didn’t yet exist when the map was drawn up. However, the origins of Bayswater Road (then called Upper William Street North) and Kings Cross Road (Upper William Street South) are visible, along with many names that remain synonymous with our area.

Among the landholders and mansions are names including Macleay, Craigend, Kellett House, Roslyn Hall, Greenknowe, Brougham, and Springfield Hall.

The other side of New South Head Road is marked as “bush”. In 1924, the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal published the recollections of Arthur Dowling (born 1850), who said the area was “covered in bush and large gum trees”.

“Goderich Lodge” and “Waratah”

In the same map, the land where Ward Avenue now exists was owned by Irishman Thomas Macquoid. He was Sheriff of the Supreme Court of NSW and had been given the land under a Crown grant.

Macquoid lived in a mansion called “Goderich Lodge” on the grounds of his estate, occupying the same corner where Kings Cross’s famous Coca-Cola sign now stands.

Goderich Lodge was a “[t]wo-storey villa with wide verandah and shuttered sash windows” designed and built by architect John Verge, who was responsible for many of the colony’s finest and grandest homes.

From 1842 it had many occupants, including the Tooth brewing family and William Grant Broughton, the first Anglican Bishop of NSW who moved from the nearby mansion “Tusculum”.

Macquoid’s landholdings also appear to extend to neighbouring “Waratah” and “Seven Oaks”, surrounding what is today Ward Avenue.

During the late 1800s, the original four-acre land grant had been subdivided. Several properties were then built on Macquoid’s original estate, including “Oakleigh”, which still stands at 18 Ward Avenue (more on this amazing home later).

Goderich Lodge stood until 1915 when it was demolished to make way for the former Hampton Court Hotel, now the Hampton Building. All that remains is a lingering reminder in Goodrich Lane, which runs from behind the Coke sign to Ward Avenue.

Carving out Ward Avenue

Subdivision maps from 1909, then 1911, show further lots being auctioned off from the Goderich Estate. Meanwhile, the Waratah landholding next door seemingly remained more intact, with tram lines running down both Bayswater Road and what was then called Woollcott Street.

A 1937 map shows Ward Avenue still didn’t exist quite as we know it today. It was instead part of Roslyn Avenue and Kellett Avenue. The final stretch, which now links it to Kings Cross Road, hadn’t even been built.

This may explain why the Darlinghurst end of Ward Ave actually has no buildings with Ward Avenue addresses. Instead, they are side-on, with frontages to Bayswater Road or Kings Cross Road.

A tree-lined “Avenue” interrupted by transport links

Today the street is a tree-lined avenue, twisting and turning down into Elizabeth Bay, scattered with shops and restaurants, and full of the eclectic charm and character that make our area so appealing.

At one end, Ward Avenue is home to the area’s much-needed public car park. In the 1970s, the other end was transformed by the opening of the Kings Cross Tunnel.

There are still some major landmarks along Ward Avenue today.

Number 3: The Roosevelt

“The Roosevelt” is a classic residential Art Deco walk-up building. Peek through the glass doors to catch a glimpse of the art deco staircase with terrazzo floors.

Number 4: Marlborough Hall

Marlborough Hall was designed by prominent art deco architect Emil Soderston and completed in 1938. It is a landmark seven-storey L-shaped block of what was described at the time as 63 “bachelor flats”.

As heritage consultant Andrew Woodhouse writes:

“His use of mottled brick, horizontal bands and a six-storey, amber glass stairwell façade are indicative of this new, functionalist style. This chevron-shaped glass wall is one of his architectural signatures, also used on his design for the City Mutual Life Assurance building, 10 Bligh Street, and is designed to increase light into interiors.”

The building was planned to offer almost every flat a North-East aspect and an ideal view of the harbour. The apartments’ livability and their unique art deco charm mean they’re still coveted today.

Number 5-7: Claremont

This five-storey residential building offers residents an indoor pool, sauna, and gym.

Number 6-8: Madisons

A unique apartment building has a tranquil internal tropical courtyard overlooked by balconies and a distinctive curved facade with glass bricks.

Number 12: The Oxley

One of many art deco blocks along Ward Avenue, “The Oxley,” built in 1936, has its name on the long glass window that runs up the building, along with many other glamorous Art Deco details, including the eye-catching entrance doorway.

Number 18: “Oakleigh”

“Oakleigh” was placed under a heritage conservation order in 1985 and officially added to the NSW State Heritage Register in 1999.

Dating from the 1880s, it is described as a Victorian-era villa “in Italianate style, built as a gentleman’s townhouse, with five well-proportioned rooms and four smaller utility rooms/bathrooms over three storeys, and a belvedere or tower room”.

In the early 1900s, it was converted into a boarding house owned by the Boucher/Williams family, who also owned properties on Kellett Street. A rear ‘L’ shaped three-storey addition was added with 12 more rooms and kitchenettes connected by a timber verandah.

In 1949, Florimond and Cecelia Coucke and their family moved into Oakleigh with Cecelia’s mother, Lucy Kendrick, after arriving from Europe. In 1963 they bought the house for £3,000.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, the house became known for its artistic, bohemian atmosphere and soirees, which attracted artists, poets, and writers. It is said to have formed the inspiration for “Maison Le Guessly,” a house described in Bryce Courtenay’s book, “April Fools Day”.

By the 1980s, Oakleigh was under threat from developers keen to create a multi-storey hotel, but the family managed to save their home. After five generations, they sold it in 2022.

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Article by Jason Boon

In a real estate market that is the focus of Australian, and indeed worldwide attention, Jason Boon's results in the Sydney scene make him a highly significant figure within the industry. A long-term specialist in the Potts Point and inner eastern suburbs area, he is uniquely placed to leverage his skills and local knowledge as the area undergoes significant change and diversification. Jason ha…