Chapter 9 - Creative Paddington

by Peter McNeil, art historian

Creativity embraces literature, art, music, design and many aspects of business, and it also encompasses the everyday and the domestic, the ephemeral acts of cooking, gardening and decorating, as well as the actions
of workers employed by others. Creative artists have often been associated with bohemianism, which has shifted meaning and emphasis over time. In the 1890s it might have been bohemian just to be a writer or painter; in the 1920s to attend an ‘Arts Ball’ semi-clad or dressed in masquerade; by the 1970s much of Paddington debated feminism and the Vietnam War and identified with the counter culture. They lived in share houses or bought a small terrace if they could find the money. The ‘musos’, actors and DJs of the 1980s and
’90s nearly always have a Paddington party story. The creatives of Paddington today are more likely to run an art space, architecture or design firm, engage in public relations and media, trade commodities, or be retired doctors
or lawyers.

The Paddington we view today: well-kept, expensive, well-heeled and with many trees, bears little resemblance to the Paddington of just 50 years ago. Paddington was once poor and shabby. Yet it was precisely the flexibility
and charm – as well as the affordability – of this almost intact late Victorian streetscape that appealed to musicians, poets, artists, journalists, anarchists and ‘free thinkers’. Much of the accommodation was transient and therefore flexible, which was not typical outside the inner city. Paddington’s views towards Sydney Harbour or Botany Bay and its partly hilly environment also cannot be overlooked as a factor in its appeal. Anyone with an eye for beauty liked the vernacular architecture of mixed shops and terraced dwellings, and the sense of a slightly seedy Mediterranean hill town. The terrace house roofs run like the lines of a seashell up and down the Paddington hills and ridges, perfectly captured in a late work by Donald Friend. In an ABC documentary
for Four Corners in 1962 . . .



















Chapter 10- Changing landscapes

by Helen Armstrong, landscape architect, academic

. . . Streets and gardens are layered cultural landscapes that often reflect changing social values. In Paddington, the streets and gardens have ranged from the high Victorian terraces defining streets to marginal slums and more recently various shades of gentrified landscapes, often including street closures in the form of pocket parks. . .

 . . . the environment movement of the 1960s changed perceptions and
values related to urban bushland. As a result, the creation of Trumper Reserve in 1967, from the rehabilitation of a former quarry, included planting the area with native plants. By the late 1970s the reserve was heavily infested with weeds.  At the beginning, people enjoyed the green space without discriminating between weeds and native bush, so weed control was
relaxed, however by the second decade of the 21st century, urban
bushland management has become more rigorous. . .


. . . Paddington became depressed and run down in the early 20th century.
The streets of terraces were treeless and the back gardens were ‘… a bit of grass, a frangipani tree, clothes lines and some staghorns’.14 With the advent of migration following World War 2, European migrants moved in and sought
to adapt their terraces, often changing the back garden in the process. Greek migrants for example planted olive trees, figs, lemons and herbs and arranged their back gardens for family gatherings with trellises and grapevines over paved areas to provide for dancing. In their turn, the migrants’ shops and vibrant street life attracted bohemian artists to Paddington. They altered their cheap rental properties, forming collectives with shared vegetable gardens.
The bohemians also embraced the environment movement of the early 1970s, digging up the concrete laid down for Greek dancing and planting eucalypts and bottlebrush in their small gardens and streets. These plantings were later to outgrow both the gardens and the narrow streets.  . . .


















Chapter 11 - Survival

by Peter Spearritt, social scientist

If you want to show a visitor to Sydney, from Paris or even Tokyo, examples
of places that have managed to retain their residential heritage, you don’t have many options. Chief among them are Paddington and Millers Point, both subject to gentrification. In Millers Point, the state government both built the stock, to house maritime workers and their families, and – retaining it for a century –
saved the fabric. Now that it is being sold off it will be interesting
to see what redevelopment pressures emerge.

Paddington continues to be protected by a web of resident-owners sharing
a well-developed sense of the locality. While there is very little short-stay accommodation within the suburb, the rise of Airbnb has seen the praises
of the terrace sung yet again. This works well when you have resident-owners letting out a room or two, but if investors build up multiple terrace house portfolios to let out room by room, it would create huge price pressures for current tenants and turn more and more of the suburb into short-stay tourism accommodation. The so-called ‘sharing economy’ will benefit investors, but tenants in both the inner suburbs and coastal resort towns will be priced out
of the housing market.

Walking around Paddington’s streets today you still find relics of the horse-drawn era, including backyard stables. And when you look at commercial premises which have had a dramatic change in land use – like the cinema
at the Fiveways which is now a supermarket – you often find photographs
of the prior use, as you do at the Paddington Reservoir Gardens, replete
with nostalgic images of the former petrol station, built on a concrete
platform over the reservoir itself.

The partly demolished Royal Women’s Hospital (1901–97), now repurposed
as fancy apartments, also admits to its history. And if you ascend four floors
to the rooftop of the landmark Royal Hotel, the Paddington Fiveways is spread out beneath you – a dominant late 19th century landscape where people
jostle with traffic and outdoor diners enjoy the streetscape. To the west, in
the setting sun, beer or cocktail in hand, you see the concrete, steel and
glass of the modern city, just three kilometres away.

What a miracle that Paddington survives . . .

Explore this fascinating history

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 © Copyright 2018 by The Paddington Society  •  created with WIX                                                                                                                Image credits

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