House - Hy Brasil | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


House - Hy Brasil

Item details

Name of item: House - Hy Brasil
Other name/s: The Gem
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 62 Chisholm Avenue, Avalon Beach, NSW 2107
Parish: Narrabeen
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Pittwater
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT10 DP25969
LOT10A DP25969
LOT12 DP25969
LOT14 DP25969
LOT5 DP25969
LOT6 DP25969
LOT1-3 DP34633
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
62 Chisholm AvenueAvalon BeachPittwaterNarrabeenCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Hy Brasil is of State significance as one of three 'organic' houses designed by Alexander Stewart Jolly in Avalon. Hy Brasil with its simple construction of stone and timber and set in its native bushland setting represents Jolly's architecture and phillosophy regarding the built form and its relationship to the natural Australian landscape. (Heritage Office)
Date Significance Updated: 29 Oct 07
Date significance updated: 22 Sep 11
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.


Designer/Maker: Alexander Stewart Jolly
Physical description: Residence of Interwar exotic style distinctive to the architect. Satisfying use of natural materials and simple forms to harmonise with bush setting. Single storey stone house with stone chimney and terracotta tile roof.

Hy-Brasil originally comprised a main living space with verandahs to the west and east and bedroom and kitchen to the south. Constructed of local rock faced sandstone. The house has been planned around a large central stone fireplace and the use of natural materials of stone and timber represents a distinct 'organic' design philosophy. Particular interest exists with the fireplace structure as the mantel consists of a three metre long stone slab.

The house has a contemporary style in its design influenced by Californian Bungalow and Organic architectural movements with the use of large picture windows, exposed internal stained timber rafters and beams coupled with a low pitched horizontal roof.

Hy-Brasil which derives its name from the mythical Isle location of the Garden of Eden, has magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean to the east and Pittwater to the west. Pedestrian access to the house via a narrow winding pathway up a steep slop through large sandstone boulders.

Native trees have been retained around the house and supplemented by plantings of ornamental exotics, notably sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), pampas grass (Cortaderia sp.), fruit salad plant (Monstera deliciosa), tree ferns (Cyathea sp.), giant bird-of-paradise flower (Strelitzia nicolai) and azaleas (Rhododendron indicum cv.s).

Extensive use has been made of the local sandstone which has been cut to provide steps, garden seats, retaining walls, pools and a barbeque.

The area to the west of the house contains terraced lawns leading down to a sandstone cliff which forms a well-defined boundary to the property. Below the cliff, natural bushland extends down to the properties below.

The overall impression of Hy-Brasil's setting is one of blending of the house into natural bushland.

Source: Heritage Council Branch Managers Report No.300/80 24 October 1980; plant names added by Stuart Read, 20/8/08.
Current use: Residence
Former use: Holiday retreat


Historical notes: The site "Hy-Brasil", is part of lands acquired by Mr. & Mrs. Ted Herman and held over many years with the intention of protecting the hill-top setting of the Alexander Jolly designed house at its centre. Ted Herman is the son of the important 20th century Australian painter Sali Herman, and his daughter Nada is also a successful painter.

The land on which Hy-Brasil is located was originally part of 1200 acres of land granted to John Joseph Therry on 31 August 1833. It was subdivided as part of the Pittwater Estate, a subdivision for villa sites. The first owners of the land (Lot 8A of the Pittwater estate subdivision - main part of the site where Hy-Brasil stands now) were Joseph Dalton and Daniel Claney who transferred the land to George Holland in December 1882. Holland held the possession of the land until July 1927 when he sold it to Redway Thomas Pawley and Arthur George Potter. The ownership of the land passed on to Albert Travers Black after just two months and a year later Kathleen Wilhelmina Jolly wife of the Alexander Stewart Jolly purchased it from Albert Travers Black in 1923. She became the registered proprietor of the land on 4 March 1931

Mrs Jolly transferred the land, which was still undeveloped together with its surrounding neighbouring allotments, to the Australian Land Development & Investment Company limited on 15 April of the same year. Eventually the land was purchased by Arthur Wilson on 24 June 1935 and shortly after he commissed Alexander S. Jolly to design a weekend retreat on the property and called it 'The Gem'.

'The Gem', a stone and timber cabin now known as Hy-Brasil was built in 1936. Another change in ownership occurred in February 1949 and Rachel Jane Donaldson became the registered proprieor of the property. She held the ownership of the house until when it was bought by Ted Herman in 1958. The name Hy Brasil, which denotes the “Island containing the Garden of Eden” was given at this stage. (CityPlan Heritage January 2006)

Hy Brasil was nominated for a Permanent Conservation Order in 1980 by the Herman family. The Order was placed on 31 July 1981 and was transferred to the State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.

The item has also been on the Royal Australian Institute of Architects 20th Century Register of Significant Buildings since 1979.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Hy Brasil is of State significance as an excellent example of twentieth century 'organic' architecture and is one of three listed works by the notable architect Alexander Stewart Jolly. The unique bushland setting of the building, large tiles and stone terracing form an integral part of the design philosophy. This distinctive style influenced the later 'Sydney School' architectural movement of the mid sixties. (Heritage Council Branch Managers Report No.300/80 24 October 1980).
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Associated with an important architect (A.S Jolly) and owner-resident (Ted Herman).
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The ridge-top siting of Hy Brasil is prominent from the surrounding area and takes advantage of superb panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Pittwater. Native bushland has been retained and enhanced by the well chosen exotic ornamental planting to provide a setting which complements the natural qualities of the house. (Heritage Council Branch Managers Report No.300/80 24 October 1980).
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Held in high regard by the local community.
SHR Criteria f)
One of a small number of intact houses within a distinctive local style, by the architect A.S Jolly. Rare, expansive bushland setting.
SHR Criteria g)
Representative of the small, romantic and architecturally intentional cottages forming an important part of the municipality’s diverse housing stock.
Integrity/Intactness: Although its setting has received some development, the home itself retains a high level of integrity in its fabric.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

A CMP should be prepared to guide continuing use of the house and setting.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan  04 Feb 94   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
   Barrenjoey Peninsula & Pittwater Heritage Study  No
Barrenjoey Peninsula & Pittwater Heritage Study Vol.31989 Macdonald Mcphee P/L Craig Burton  No
Barrenjoey Peninsula & Pittwater Heritage Study Vol.31989 Macdonald Mcphee P/L Craig Burton  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenGeoff Searl1988Warringah History
WrittenGraham Jahn1997Sydney Architecture
WrittenJan Roberts1999Avalon Landscape & Harmony,
WrittenNSW Heritage Branch1980Heritage Council Branch Managers Report No.300/80 24 October 1980

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2270157

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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