A blog that explores Australian houses. If you love architecture, design, interiors and interesting buildings of all types, The House Hunter is for you.
Tag Archives: derelict

74 Sophia Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills is one of my favourite suburbs, and this original terrace might have had the greatest emotional effect on me of all the houses I’ve featured on the blog (which isn’t to say they’re not all amazing. They are. You should totally go back and read about them when you’re done with this post). I’m not totally sure I can explain why – I’ve featured dilapidated terraces before – but something about this one is deeply evocative; hopefully the photos can express it better than I can verbally. It’s grungey and when you walk through it you’re transported to this untouched, decaying otherness. I completely adore it.


So, what are the points to note about the house? We’re looking at a three bedroom terrace with a courtyard (and vegetable patch. Win!), in addition to rear lane access. There is no parking, but hey, you’re in Surry Hills – you can get used to that.


The ‘terrace’ itself is a sunroom. I personally prefer when these are converted into terrace structures (ie open to the elements) as I think that looks prettier on houses like these; however, that would require really sensitive treatment in order to ensure it’s in keeping with the design of the house, if it were to be permitted. Plus, some people prefer sunrooms.


The plus side of the house being unrenovated, of course, is it retains every element of its heritage features, which the renovator will hopefully take full advantage of. High ceilings, French doors, wooden floorboards, ornate skirting boards and so on.


My favourite picture.


The current bathroom is an outhouse. It looks exquisite (to me, anyway); pink paint contrasted with square white tiles and a lopsided mirror. Fun fact; the house I grew up in only had an outhouse for a couple of years before my parents incorporated it into the house. So there you go.


The floorboards are original and have different shades and so forth. If possible I’d try polishing the floorboards as is to keep that ‘mismatched/contrast’ look. But keep two things in mind: I have no idea if this is possible, and I am a bit strange in general.


One of the rooms is quite interesting for its time; it has an interior window that looks into the kitchen in order to let light in. This is a common design element of modern-day one bedroom suite apartments. The obvious change here is to knock down that wall and create an open plan kitchen/dining/living area.


Two of the bedrooms are upstairs, one is downstairs. I’m not sure whether the floorplan will be significantly updated when the renovation is done, although a bathroom will obviously have to be included. There is fairly significant space in the back courtyard (it currently houses a bathroom and large laundry area), that could be utilised as a studio/teenager’s accommodation if you were that way inclined. I assume many people would prefer to keep the space for a back garden, but it doesn’t hurt to have room for more living space when you’re looking at a terrace home.



74 Sophia Street is on a cute street in Surry Hills close to the Holt Street end of the suburb (which is the part of the suburb I’m most familiar with. Hello, News Ltd building). That means it’s close to Holt Street dining, Central Station (can’t really get much more convenient than that, can it?) and everything else the area has on offer, which is quite a lot.




It is going to auction. I would buy it if I could and leave it in its original condition as a kind of amazing doll house/squattersville. Ideas like that probably indicate that perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t have the money.


Does this not look like it could be in a '90s Marilyn Manson film clip?

The State Library of NSW has this neat picture of what Sophia Street looked like once upon a time. Most people (surely anyone who’s been there) know the suburb’s rags-to-riches story by now, although the people who know it most intimately are also aware that it still has its ‘characters’, its housing commission residences, its sad stories, and its dilapidated terraces. The original terraces afford those looking for inner-city living with an enviable opportunity, although their numbers are reducing all the time.


The reason this one stands out from the pack is, firstly, it looks plain interesting (look at the photo to the left – amazing!), and, secondly, its size; this is fairly large, as far as Surry Hills terraces go. Many of the houses in the area are worker’s cottages; this one has a wider, more ornate frontage (worker’s cottages also tend to just come straight up out of the footpath, with no front courtyard/dividing space) and more room to breathe.


The suburb has a median house price of around $960k, making it a bit cheaper than its neighbour, Darlinghurst. I can only imagine this is because Darlinghurst borders swanky Paddington. Surry Hills seems to offer a bit more space/parkland than its inner-city cousins Darlinghurst and Potts Point (okay, I’m not sure how Potts Point could be regarded as Surry’s ‘cousin’…but just go with me on this). It’s probably due to the way it was initially constructed; there was more of an emphasis on housing, whereas Potts Point was one of Sydney’s first centres of apartment living. In any case, the suburb is one of the most appealing inner-city post codes; it offers easy access to the city, a plethora of dining/bar options and oozes historic significance.




















182 Denison Street, Newtown

I have been in my share of derelict places, and this is by far the most derelict. Which is what makes it so cool.


It’s a Victorian terrace in a quiet street of Newtown that has never been renovated, and has not been kept in the best condition.


It is creepy.


The photos explain it better than words can, but walking through the place you identify a few things – the inside has had years and years of indifferent living piled on it, with wallpaper peeling to show more wallpaper and an old kid’s rug covering the kitchen floor. It’s been bashed about. Then there’s what looks to be squatter’s writing on the wall of the living area. And there’s the odour upstairs, which was mildly scarring.


It’s exciting and scary to walk through, and it’ll be exciting and scary to renovate. It’s got a good location, a facade that will scrub up nicely and some original features worth saving – the fireplace downstairs is bricked up but has a very pretty frame.






It harkens back to old school Newtown grit, which is another plus point. On the other hand, it will soon be a sparkling refashioned respectable home. It’s currently on the market, so someone will assuredly pick it up and have fun with it. The day I saw it I was late (no surprise there), but the inspection had been busy and there was an overflow of investors exploring it with me. It’s also been listed in SMH‘s ‘Smart Buys’ section (billed as a ‘haunted house’), so I’m not the only person paying attention. Nor should I be.








1/4 Richmond Avenue, Cremorne


This one’s exciting. Seriously exciting. Take a nip of brandy and get comfortable, because this is one you’re going to savour. It’s a duplex in Cremorne – and oh, wow, what a duplex. This is the kind of place that prompted me to start this blog in the first place – it’s stare-worthy, mesmerising, in its way.


Let’s get some initial facts out of the way: a two bedroom, one bathroom, one carspace lower duplex at Cremorne, with a sizeable terrace and around 100 square metres of interior space. It was built in the 1940s, and it’s fairly clear it’s had no renovation work done since. The property is located on the north side of Cremorne, perched on a high-up street that offers nice district views.


Now to the good stuff: photographs.



As an aside, this home was extremely difficult to photograph as it was packed full of potential renovators. It’s on the market and there is serious competition. Disappointing for me, as in my pipe dream fantasy land in which I have enough money to make another property purchase, I was very keen on this one. In any case, it’s popular. I’m impressed that people see the magic of the place, although I also hope that its character is retained.


Speaking of character, it has 1940s charm in spades. The curved wall in the above photo is a prime example, as is the fireplace in the living area you’ll see below.



The bathroom is a particular treasure, but also is the room that probably requires the most work. It’s in a parlous state, and is a tad spooky to stand in, but is somehow, at the same time, utterly gorgeous. The Art Deco-ish yellow tile/sea green combination is actually so catching that I’d consider reviving it in the restoration – even if that means gutting the bathroom and ‘re-doing’ it in its former style. It was once a very handsome mid-century bathroom, and now it has a totally different type of appeal.




The floors are timber, and are in better condition in some rooms than others. The living room is the best example of this, and is also probably the room that’s in the best condition. It occupies prime position at the front of the duplex, and leads out onto an expansive terrace.



The living area is also a good example of how the home would feel as a ‘lived in’ property, as it’s the only space with a notable amount of furniture – all of which, pretty and charming, suits the property perfectly. The fireplace appears to be in outstanding condition.


One door leads to a sunroom, the other to the terrace.




Eerily beautiful.


The kitchen is a retro fan’s fantasy, right down to the seriously awesome oven, which epitomises the mid-century appliance design ethos. Kitchens have always been important, but it seemed like it was mid-century in Australia that they really took off as the ‘heart’ of the home, forming the nucleus of a family’s social activity.



Can whoever renovates this house please donate this oven to me?


The bedrooms follow the same trend as the rest of the home – timber floors with peeling paint. The rooms are generously proportioned, and have high ceilings (always a massive plus on this blog).


One bedroom.


The other bedroom.


This home is a renovator, and it’s a thrilling prospect because it gives the lucky owner the opportunity to restore it and frame it with their own character. However, I’m happy I’ve had the chance to preserve it in its current form, which presents a type of exquisiteness that’s impossible to replicate.

Various, near Kippax Street, Surry Hills



I can’t go a week without capturing some architectural gems, so I took my camera to work yesterday and snapped some pictures. I wasn’t overrun with time, so these photos are a tiny snapshot of a block in the quite large suburb. This is definitely not my only post on Surry Hills – it’s just a teaser. I’m still searching for the right house to feature there.


This is, by the way, my first post published through my iPad – I bought an excellent attachment that allows me to transfer photos from my camera straight onto my beautiful tablet.


The sorbet-coloured terraces march up and down Surry Hills’ hilly streets, which I find extremely pretty. The contrast in the shades ensures that each facade makes its own impression on the viewer.





While Surry Hills is an expensive area, I find it difficult to agree with people who argue it’s been gentrified. I mean, it’s certainly different to what it once was – but I wouldn’t equate it with Paddington yet. Its food and bar scene is definitely its best quality – there is always something of a high standard near by (even one of its sandwich shops, City Edge Cafe, is excellent), and the presence of The Winery cements the suburb’s boutique cuisine and beverage credibility.


But for every renovated terrace, there are ten unrenovated ones.




Its upmarket design stores also provide the suburb with a more genteel flavour, but its grimey, raw undercurrents are still there – the pathways are in cracked disrepair, you’re almost certain to see someone who you suspect has a drug problem, and on a grey day the lines of tiny worker’s cottages can make Surry Hills look sombre.




The houses here are generally Victorian, and range from one-storey attached cottages; two-storey worker’s terraces (more common), which are easily identifiable as they tend to be built directly on the pathway (they have no patio and iron lace fence blocking them from the street) and lack the ornate front yard dividing walls that afford larger terraces privacy from neighbours; larger terraces that presumably belonged to the middle class; and the occasional large Victorian house. A more modern development has been the conversion of warehouses into industrial-tinged modern residences.




I noticed that there is a love heart motif that runs through the suburb’s unrenovated places. My evidence is in the first and last images. Older houses tend to have unexpected features that come out and grab you. That is what makes them so appealing.



37 Lower Fort Street, Dawes Point


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.


Rear of 37 Lower Fort St


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.


Rear gate: alluringly creepy