The 1927 Elders Wool Stores – Future & Present

Two years ago this coming July, the Adrian Fini led Hesperia announced its latest urban redevelopment challenge – to breathe new life into the State heritage listed 1927 Elders Wool Stores on Cantonment and Elder Place, Fremantle.

In its announcement, Hesperia explained the redevelopment would support the natural extension and revitalisation of Fremantle’s historic West End, which is true enough, and laid out its vision to reinvigorate the site ‘into a thriving community, having been left largely inactive for several decades.’

Its primary focus, Hesperia said, would be to ‘conserve the heritage and artistic values of the area and seamlessly integrate the site with its surrounding urban fabric to create a sense of community, vibrancy and connection to place with a mixed-use precinct.’

These words no doubt will have soothed the fears of many Freo locals who have long hoped to hear of such plans for the last remaining old Freo Wool Stores structure, rather than be presented with plans for its simple demolition.

As the history of the Wool Stores recounted in the State heritage listing explains, once upon a time the Wool Stores were two large structures – one south of Goldsborough Street extending to Queen Street, and one north. The one south was in fact demolished to make way for the ‘Wool Stores’ shopping centre development, which is currently in its second iteration.

The northern Wool Stores site extended from Goldsborough Street to Parry Street. Some years ago now, the northern portion fronting Parry met the demolition ball to make way for the apartments fronting Parry, Cantonment and Elder Place (which takes its name from the old Elder Wool Stores), as shown in this photograph.

The 1927 Elders Wool Stores we refer to today is all that remains of the earlier Wool Stores structures. And it too has its own interesting development history.

The structure we see today, along with its earlier northern part, evolved over time. In 1908 the site contained eight brick terrace houses, a substantial stone residence, a duplex, stables and St John’s Anglican Rectory.

Construction on the Wool Stores commenced in 1927 for Goldsborough Mort and Co Pty Ltd (from which Goldsborough Street took its name), with additions made in 1950-56 and 1969-70. If you look at this photograph, you will see the different facade of the older structure to the south, fronting Goldsborough Street. The remaining part to the north is more recent.

A declining wool industry and changing operation methods meant that large wool stores were largely redundant by the 1970s.

Hesperia has undertaken to conduct ‘a wide-ranging engagement process’ with local stakeholders to obtain community, business and Government input into the future uses for the site.

It has also engaged heritage architects, Griffiths Architects (no strangers to Freo), as specialist consultants on the project ‘to assist in finding opportunities’ to bring the Wool Stores to life.

In that regard, Shipping News readers won’t have missed our post earlier this week reporting on the hopes and aspirations of the local skateboarding community to have their interests in Cantonment Street regarded in the redevelopment of the site.

As to what the Wool Stores presently looks like inside, well you won’t be surprised to learn the pigeons have pretty much had untrammelled access to the place for some decades. And the evidence is readily available for all to see! This photograph of inside the top floor in 2010, shows the pigeon artwork years in the making! We assume it’s only more impressive today.

The last image and those that follow were kindly supplied to us by Andrew Sullivan, elected member for the Coastal Ward, Fremantle City Council. The further pics show the more recent sections of the Wool Stores structure, first with steel columns and beams but still lots of timber joists and flooring – as well as more examples of pigeon artwork.

The future for the 1927 Elders Wool Stores promises to be exciting and we look forward to bringing you updates on Hesperia’s plans for breathing new life into it as they materialise.

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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