Since this is the first house I’ve hunted down, I felt as though I should seek out something I have a penchant for: a big old house showing signs of dereliction, its beauty faded under a long history and a period of neglect. In my view, these houses are the most fascinating – they’ve been mistreated but still have the bones of a magnificent home. There’s also that eerie little fear in the back of your mind that they might be haunted; they’re scary, but something about their mystery and old grandness draws you in. (Unfortunately, this might allow the potential ghosts inside to grab you.)
Dawes Point makes a great starting point for these, as it seems to be littered with decaying places with notable histories. 37 Lower Fort Street stood out not so much due to how it looked (the street is full of equally eye-catching places), but because its history is literally stapled to it: some helpful person has gone to the effort of typing up the house’s past and attaching it to its front panels.
Not all of it is amazingly interesting stuff, so I’m going to give you a brief run down on the semi-exciting parts of this house’s history (the rest of the information is transcribed here):
- It was built in 1833, making it an Old Colonial (too old even to be a Victorian!).
- The man who built it was an enterprising guy called Thomas Edwards. He was an orphan by the age of 12, but eventually became a successful trader basing his work in China.
- Edwards started his career young, leaving his hometown of Sussex by ship. “I took to sea, but the sea did not take to me,” he wrote – so it seems as though he wasn’t a fan of that mode of transportation.
- The building was first used as a residence and counting house for Edwards.
- The house went through a number of transformations. It was resumed by the government in 1903 after the Bubonic Plague outbreak, and was used from 1910 until the 1970s as a boarding house.
- The present occupants (it does actually seem to be lived in currently, although no one answered when I knocked in my earnest attempt to pry some information from the people who own it) plan to renovate it for residential use, fulfilling a pretty normal cycle right now of old house > dereliction> use as commercial premises > renovation for use as a house.
The house apparently sold for just over $3 million in 2009, which all things considered (Harbour Bridge and harbour views) makes sense. I imagine it would be a 99-year leasehold, but I can’t find any evidence to support my claim.