Looking Back: Rosebery And Waterloo In 1917

Just over 100 years ago, the foundations of today’s Rosebery were laid.

And while the area has undergone changes in the intervening years, there are some similarities between then and now.

A glimpse of Sydney life in 1917

In 1917 an insightful book appeared on the market, aimed at helping Sydneysiders decide which suburb to call home. Like an old fashioned version of Domain or Realestate.com.au, it aimed to help people find their perfect suburb.

Hitting the shelves as World War I entered its penultimate year, Where to Live: A.B.C. Guide Sydney & Suburbs positioned itself as “invaluable to the newcomer, homebuilder, investor and people desiring to rent furnished and unfurnished homes, flats and residentials”.The book’s alphabetical listings outline around 100 suburbs, giving details of available housing, house prices, public transport fares and the cost of various utilities.

Among the many areas featured was Rosebery.

“A model of modern comfort”

In 1917 Rosebery was a newly minted development. It had been planned by architect John Sulman in 1911 and developed by Stanton and Sons between 1911 and 1920.

One of Sydney’s first planned suburbs, Rosebery was intended as an area for both housing and industry. This is reflected in the suburb’s entry in Where to Live.

It begins by stating the suburb will “not only be distinct as an industrial residential suburb from all other parts of the municipality but should serve as a model of modern comfort to workmen, as far as beautiful homes and conveniences are concerned”.

Rosebery’s “splendid rural homes”

Allotments available in Rosebery in 1917 were touted as “beautifully situated” and “commanding extensive panoramic views”, something that’s hard to imagine in today’s busy streets. Another big difference between then and now is cost: the land was sold at a mere £3 10s per foot.

Then there were the houses. The features we know so well in Sydney’s iconic Federation houses found their beginnings here, and photos in Where to Live show some of Rosebery’s very first examples of the style, surrounded by open space.

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Getting around

For just 2 pence, Rosebery’s 1917 residents could travel to the city by tram. While today’s locals get around via buses and trains (including the upcoming Sydney Metro), back then commuters relied on the Waterloo, Botany, Zetland or Mascot tram lines.

By 1917 the tramlines had been converted to electricity, and in a few short years, the popular public transport system would reach its peak of 320 kilometres of track.

A century of change in Waterloo

Waterloo didn’t enjoy the same reputation in the early 20th century. The suburb isn’t even mentioned in Where to Live – the book simply distinguishes Rosebery from other manufacturing suburbs like Waterloo, which it refers to as having “squalid conditions of living” and “small and grimy rows of unhealthy cottages”.

In contrast to Rosebery, housing in Waterloo was generally chaotic and unplanned. Sydney’s first industrial suburb, Waterloo experienced increasing industrial and population growth, fuelling development – and problems. As the 20th century began the consequences of this became more pronounced, with Waterloo having one of the highest rates of mortality in the city.

This picture sits in contrast to today, with Waterloo undergoing a facelift on many fronts. Most notable is the development of Green Square and the state government’s urban renewal program, set to bring more community spaces, a new primary school and other upgrades.

Looking to buy in Rosebery or Waterloo? Call my team today.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Article by Brendon Clark
‘The details matter - through every part of the process.’ With decades of runs on the board alongside a fresh outlook, Brendon is co-director of Clark - and one half of one of Sydney’s most dynamic and successful real estate duos. Having carved out a reputation for results in the… Read More
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