Thursday, July 4, 2013

Built Heritage - Redleaf Chambers

Thanks to Society member, Kathie Rieth, for granting permission to publish some of the articles she has written for the Society newsletter. Her work on researching buildings in our local area should reach a new audience via this blog. Redleaf Chambers which appeared in the July 2010 newsletter is the subject of our first shared article

Redleaf Chambers
Redleaf Chambers sits at the junction of Railway and Redleaf Avenues, Wahroonga where the roundabout channels traffic through the shopping village and across the railway line. With its curved fa├žade, ornate brickwork, greenglazed brick trims and smart green and cream striped sunblinds, it is a landmark for all Wahroonga residents.

I really like this building, and am pleased it has survived. It has real style - it has pizzaz! I wonder about the man who commissioned it and what the locals thought when it was built. Did they hate it or love it? And what do people think of it now? Surprisingly Redleaf Chambers is not listed on Council’s LEP. It certainly has architectural and municipal significance, two parameters for which buildings are usually nominated.

It was designed in 1937 for local estate agent Malcolm McFadyen by Frank l’Anson Bloomfield, architect for the first crematorium to be built in NSW (Rookwood), and Northern Suburbs Crematorium, and winner with Spencer of the 1950 Sulman Prize for the Top Dog Factory,

McFadyen (1860-1949) was prominent in Wahroonga’s business community and served a number of terms on Council. He lived and worked in Wahroonga from about 1905 when he took over the newsagency in Coonanbarra Road. Within three years he had become a house and land agent, his ads stating “save time by consulting the local man”, and by 1911 had moved to premises in Railway Avenue.

He was a Ku-ring-gai councillor 1911-1913, 1917-1925 and elected Deputy President for 1922 and 1925. In May 1921, along with WS Griffiths and JG Lockley, he was appointed to an advisory town planning committee that examined subdivision plans, regulated setbacks and the like. In 1929, McFadyen strongly opposed the erection of flats in the municipality, stating “The flat dweller belongs to the floating population of the big cities and is of no value to the community”. It seems McFadyen modified his view, because when Redleaf Chambers was completed it was described as “five lock-up shops and flats”. Valued at £5500 it was a substantial and ambitious project for the then-small  shopping centre.

In January 1938 he was advertising for tenants - “Wahroonga, Redleaf Chambers, overlooking the Park, at station, 3 professional rooms, moderate rental to right person.” No mention of flats. Perhaps for a short time people lived there, perhaps McFadyen himself, though by 1943 he was living in 12 Bundarra Avenue with his wife Maggie and elder daughter Sylvia. Eventually the McFadyens moved to Queensland, where their two sons, Roy and Kenneth, and married daughter Millicent had lived for some time.

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