A local real estate agent commented recently —‘Properties in Dalgety Street are tightly held’.
It got me wondering — Why is that?
I really should have the answer to the question at my fingertips because I’ve lived here in Dalgety Street, East Fremantle for around 42 years, as have a surprising number of my neighbours.
At the time of purchase the appeal of the home was easy accessibility to the beach and river, the aesthetic charm of all the older homes nearby and proximity to pre-America’s Cup Fremantle. Tick, tick, tick. But over the years it’s become much more than that.
We didn’t appreciate the significance of it at the time, but since 1915, apart from one couple in 1979, our house has only ever been a home to two families – the Bull family and mine.
There has always been a natural turnover in Dalgety Street, creating a mix of ages in the community. It’s really very life affirming. In 1980, we were the youngest in the street but there were families with babies and families with teenagers and some of our near neighbours were quite elderly and happily ageing in place.
The homes they built were amongst the first in the turn of the twentieth century Woodside Estate and they proudly held the history of the street. We learned many stories from them about our neighbourhood: about a WW2 bomb shelter under the Hills hoist in our back garden and Afghan camel traders, in earlier times, selling their wares to neighbours in the track alongside our house, as they made their way from Fremantle Port to the Goldfields.
On top of that, there was Mr Drysdale’s timber yard behind number 54 and, of course, the Woodside Maternity Hospital, just up the hill, housed in the Federation era Woodside ‘mansion’ and mid-century buildings. It’s set in an expansive garden with large old trees planted by the original owner William Dalgety Moore in the early 1900s. I’ve grown to feel a real sense of place and continuity in my street.
With the arrival of each new resident in Dalgety Street an old building is kept alive, our common goal in a street with so much history. Over the last century each new resident has left an impression on their house and garden but the streetscape has barely changed in all those years. Original setbacks have been honoured and architecture, put in place a century earlier, sympathetically preserved and restored. There is a strong sense everyone views themselves as custodians of the local heritage.
It’s evident successive owners have always seen it that way. And we’ve been so lucky, until recently, that the custodian of William Dalgety Moore’s turn-of-the-century house and grounds has been the State Government. It’s the much loved heritage centrepiece of the surrounding Woodside precinct. In fact the State Government’s inHerit website describes Dalgety Street as ‘largely intact’ since 1915 with ‘rarity value as a cohesive middle class suburb’. A place only gets to be old if you let it get old and care for it. Everything looks like its always been there.
Dalgety Street is a well-known and well-loved street beyond its own residents. It’s where 50,000 Western Australians were born at Woodside Hospital. I’d love a dollar for every time someone has related to me their special connection to Dalgety Street.
I take a regular stroll up and down Dalgety Street. I’ve been doing it for over 40 years and I’ve never tired of it. It’s a walk in the park, literally. Its quiet, safe and everything is at a neighbourly scale; its premier amenity. The road itself is not wide at all but the verges are well-cared for and much wider than usual; substantial enough to accommodate many large shady trees.
The story goes the President of East Fremantle Football Club wrote to the Town Clerk of East Fremantle (they were actually the same person) requesting the verges be reduced in some streets so roads could be widened to accommodate parking on game days. A lucky escape for Dalgety Street.
The gardens along the way are also full of trees so I’m surrounded by all the colours green which I love. It gives me such a sense of well-being.
My neighbours take great pride in their front gardens; always something in flower to stop and admire as the seasons go by. G&M’s Illawarra flame tree and red-flowering gums showing off their vivid red blooms every Christmas. The Swan River daisies and freesias cascading over P&J’s wall and an avenue of seemingly never-ending rose blooms at T&M’s.
The trees and gardens attract a lot of birds, the birdsong easily heard above the traffic buzz of Canning Highway and the more distant Stirling and Leach Highways. Magpies, ravens, wattle birds, honeyeaters, kookaburras, butcher birds, magpie larks, galahs, parrots and willy wagtails to name a few. Always great excitement when the word is passed along that the red-tailed black cockatoos have been sighted in the trees at the hospital gardens or P&A’s huge lemon scented gum.
If my granddaughters are in tow the walk is punctuated by stops at the swings hung in the street trees by J&I, K&F and many other neighbours. So there’s often the lovely sounds of children laughing and playing. We also have to stop at K&J’s intriguing letterbox, N’s vintage windmill above a well dug by convicts apparently and B’s house which used to be our local corner shop.
We usually bump into a neighbour or two and exchange a greeting or catch up on goings on. In fact its the sort of street where your neighbours notice if you haven’t put your bins out and there is such generosity when you need a hand with something. There’s a palpable community spirit and genuine caring.
The young son-in-law of a long-time neighbour asked me last week — ‘Aren’t you bored living in the same house for so long?’ ‘Well no’, I said. ‘There’s so much more to it than that’.
* By Joanne Taggart
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