57-61 Lower Fort Street

57-61 Lower Fort Street

This terrace was built by on land purchased by Dublin born Flavelle brothers (John & Henry) in 1851 from the Catholic Church to whom it had been left by William Davis (the Wexford Pikeman turned publican). The Flavelles bought 2 blocks – the 1st to the N of Davis St and the other the block behind on the W of Downshire St for £346.10s. It seems that there was a house already on one of these blocks which the Flavelles moved into initially. The 1st indication of work on the site was an advertisement in the Herald of 16 March 1855 “Quarrymen wanted – Apply to Booth & Co at Messers. Flavelle’s New Buildings, Fort Street”. By October 1855 the work was complete and surplus materials were auctioned off on-site. No 57 was the largest of the three houses, with its rear stable block, coach house and Ionic portico, and was the new home of John’s family. The other two houses were advertised to let.

“TO BE LET Two of these newly erected handsome family residences, in Lower Fort Street, adjoining Mr Campbell’s garden. Each house contains seven rooms, spacious entrance-hall, servant’s room, kitchen, wash house, verandahs at rear to parlours and drawing rooms, commanding extensive views of the Harbour and North Shore, large yard, &c., water laid on. They are finished in the best and most modern style, and fit for immediate occupation by respectable families. For terms, &c. Apply to FLAVELLE BROTHERS, 203 George Street.”

In 1863 John bought out Henry’s share for £3000, Henry having returned to the UK in 1857 . He also bought another block on the S side of Davis St, next to his grand terrace. John, variously an optician, photographer, entrepreneur, jeweller and occasional property developer, married Catherine Rossiter on 13 Feb 1847 at the Garrison church and by 1869 they had had 9 children, though 2 died in infancy. Various extensions had been added at the rear of 57 but by 1869 the family built a new home, “Wellbank” in Concord, and moved there in 1869. All 3 houses in Lower Fort Street were then let to ‘respectable residents’ including merchants, ministers of religion, an inspector of police, a book seller and a master mariner. In 1890/1 John developed the land to the south of Davis St, building 2 more houses (63–65 Lower Fort Street) to let. By the depression of the late 1890s the area was changing and the large private homes were becoming boarding houses for dock workers and people working on and around the harbour. The property was resumed under the “Darling Harbour Wharves Resumption Act” and passed to the Sydney Harbour Trust. Between 1906 and 1922 the Trust built Walsh Bay. The backyards of the houses were cut short as a new Downshire Lane was formed with part of the western wing of 57 being demolished to allow for the road construction. In 1922 the construction of the Harbour Bridge saw the demolition of Upper Fort Street and Princes Street homes but the western side of Lower Fort Street remained largely unchanged with 57 remaining as a boarding house until the 21stCentury.

(John Bulford)

57scaffolda      57scaffoldb

After the government sold 57–61 Lower Fort Street, each of the new owners carried out major repairs and restorations. These are exterior photos from 2012.