Picture this: a suburban street full of small terrace houses…and then suddenly, this behemoth.
In the 1950s, it was home to British General Electric, manufacturer of consumer electronics that spent the war years making radios and lamps for the war effort. Through a series of mergers, British Electric found itself far removed from the consumer electronic market that it had built its reputation on, and it fell out of favour in the Australian market (along with all things British) in the early 1960s. At that time, Encore Sewing took the stage.
I can’t begin to explain the world of sewing and the fascination it held for so many throughout the 60s and 70s, but through another series of mergers, Encore was eventually engulfed by the Singer empire. As everyone knows, if you leave a heritage former industrial building unattended in Sydney’s Inner West, it’s gonna get occupied FAST. These days it’s residential, or ‘a creative space’ in the carefully chosen words of the building’s real estate agent. The biggest mystery is what the sign below Encore Sewing said. I look at these kinds of things all the time and even I’m stumped. If you know more, feel free to share.
Proudly presented by Coca-Cola is the Good Fortune takeaway. Over the years, I have never, ever seen this place open. Coke’s absolutely saturated it with signage, and there’s faded evidence that there was once even more. I’m guessing this wasn’t a place you headed to when you felt like a Pepsi.
If I were conspiracy minded, I might argue that Coke has paid (or threatened) the current owners to keep the signs up for the free advertising. Does this work as advertising? Is anyone looking at the dead husk of a Chinese restaurant and getting thirsty? The small, weathered sign on the side informs us that the advertising space (not a shop, an advertising space) is under exclusive contract to Coca-Cola. Can I ask why? It’s not like this is the Centerpoint Tower, or a place with amazing exposure. It is across the road from a school, however…the conspiracy deepens.
As old as the place is already (six digit phone number), the peeling paint on the awning suggests there’s an even older entity waiting to expose itself to the world. The shop appears to be part of the residential complex behind it, so it’s likely that someone bought the house and closed the shop. Good fortune for the homeowner, bad luck for the Good Fortune.
In yet another sign of the times, a unit block will replace this former Liquorland bottle shop, which is heading to virtual pastures, having moved online on May…1th?
How could they make a mistake like this? Didn’t anyone spot the error when they were painting the sign on in hot pink? Does May the 1th fall right after Smarch? Was this a leap-100-million-years and we just don’t realise that a May 1th hasn’t occurred since a stegosaurus got laughed at by his unlearned friends for painting May 1th on his soon-to-be-moving bottle-o?
You know what? Good. I’m glad they’re moving. That way I don’t have to pay twenty dollarth for a bottle of wine.
It appears that this shop has been absorbed back into its adjoining house now, making it entirely residential. But it’s fun to imagine how this would have been in the day. The big display windows, now boarded up, would have been full of fantastic new models each Saturday morning, strategically placed to catch the wandering eyes of kids as they drove past along Church Street on their way to Putney or Top Ryde Shopping Centre. Later in the afternoon, families might stop in and check out the assortment, and perhaps if they were lucky, the kid’d get a model so they’d have something to do on Sunday. I know what I’d be asking for: “I’ll have a Marisa Miller, two Brooklyn Deckers, a Rosie Huntington-Whiteley…”
Following on from the Homebush Abattoir is the story of Rhodes, NSW. ‘We’re judged by the company we keep’ has never been truer than in the case of Rhodes, an industrial suburb closely identified with chemicals for most of the 20th century. The winning of the 2000 Olympic Games and subsequent renewal of the former abattoir site at Homebush Bay forced the NSW Government to remediate Rhodes, on the other side of the bay. It was hoped the suburb would be reborn as heavy residential by 2000, but this goal has still not been achieved. The primary reason is this site:
Timbrol was Australia’s first major organic chemical manufacturer, and was established here on Walker Street in 1928. Chemicals manufactured by Timbrol between 1928 and 1957 include chlorine, weed fungicide, and the insecticides DDT and DDE. To commemorate this achievement, a neighbouring street has been named after Timbrol:
In 1957, Timbrol merged with the American chemical concern Union Carbide to form Union Carbide Australia. Union Carbide had a reputation as an innovator within the chemical manufacturing industry. Facing competition from the neighbouring CSR plant, Union Carbide stepped up production of existing chemical products and created many new ones. During the Vietnam War, Union Carbide produced Agent Orange at their Rhodes site.
Whenever Union Carbide would reclaim land from Homebush Bay, it would do so by dumping toxic waste and building over it. This method was extended to the Allied Feeds site further up Walker Street. In 1997, Greenpeace found 36 rusting drums of toxic waste on the former Union Carbide site.
Faced with declining demand, diminishing returns and increasing competition, Union Carbide abandoned its Australian operations entirely in 1985. They were allowed to leave without conducting any kind of cleanup of the Rhodes site. Between 1988 and 1993, the NSW Govt began remediation attempts with the intention of using Rhodes as an Olympic village for the 2000 Sydney Games, but it was only in 2005, with the onset of private residential construction on the sites, did any serious remediation work take place. Many blocks of units were completed between 2005 and 2011, but remained empty as the ongoing cleanup work made the area too toxic to live in. Remediation was completed in early 2011, and construction has resumed.
Homebush Bay remains toxic – swimming and fishing are prohibited, and any fish caught in the bay are too poisonous to eat. The remediation work by Meriton and Thiess and has supposedly made the area safe to live in, but only time will tell.
UPDATE: It’s one year later. Is it safe yet? Find out.