Flat Building "Alabama" Including Interior | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Flat Building "Alabama" Including Interior

Item details

Name of item: Flat Building "Alabama" Including Interior
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Flat
Primary address: 5 Ithaca Road, Elizabeth Bay, NSW 2011
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
5 Ithaca RoadElizabeth BaySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

5 Ithaca Road is of local historic and aesthetic significance.

It provides evidence of early flat development in Elizabeth Bay and is indicative of the small scale entrepreneurial development of the inter-war years which saw higher density apartment living developed on relatively small sites close to the city and the waterfron.,

Architecturally No 5 Ithaca Road is an interesting local example of the eclecticism of the Inter-war period in Australia with its mix of Neoclassicism, Georgian Revival and Italianate influences and details. Even as in its day, the building was seen to represent the conundrum facing architecture at this time, with the old historic styles trying to meet the challenges of new functional requirements and structural possibilities, it today provides an interesting reminder of these important historical debates and changes.

The building is a good example of historic layering with its original 1926 two storeys, the more simply detailed 1928 storey and it substantially and sympathetic renovations from 1987. It still however retains its essential 1920s form and character, particularly in view from the main Ithaca Road frontage.

Situated in a prominent location, and being highly visible from the adjoining Beare Park and foreshore areas, and from surrounding streets, the building is a local landmark,

Internally the building retains evidence of the original spatial layout, with its unusual large Court/living room along the north-east side of each apartment and substantially proportioned "Best bedrooms/living rooms" with their French doors openings on the street elevation.
Date significance updated: 20 Jan 11
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1926-1928
Physical description: The site contains a three storey rendered masonry residential flat building with the front and side elevations divided into regular bays by heavy pilasters. Original render work decorations, such as the neoclassical cornice, and order frieze at the top of the two storey 1926 façade, the moulded capitals, dentil and rondel at the top of each pilaster and the heavy Italianate rendered pilasters on the front first floor balconies, contribute to its eclectic character. The less decorative detailing on the top floor, with only a small rendered shield applied to the top of each pilaster, reflects a more pragmatic approach to the building's function in the 1928 alterations.

Timber framed doors and windows punctuate each bay on the front and side elevations, and whilst some of these elements have been altered, the new works has matched the existing. Surviving original joinery elements include timber framed sash windows along the side elevation fronting Alabama at No 7, and the French doors on the front elevation. Balconies with French doors have been added on the side elevation fronting the park at first and second floor levels which dated from the 1980s.

The form and character of the wide eaved hipped roof, although extended at the rear in the 1980s, still reads as it did in the inter-war period.

At the front is a narrow landscape area enclosed with an iron palisade fence and plumbago hedge, which appear to date from the 1987 renovations. The original first floor balcony with its heavy Italianate balustrade overhangs the ground floor setback. The balcony to the second floor level is consistent with the 1987 works.

Along the side elevation fronting the park, there is a driveway which provides access to the garages at the rear, on top of which is a single storey flat and terrace. The garages have been altered over time. There is a small courtyard garden in the west corner of the site which is enclosed by the two garages and the boundary wall to Boomerang to the west.

Separating the property from the park is a rendered masonry wall with a return at the eastern end with a small arched gateway, which provided access to the former tennis court that was once was associated with Boomerang.

The south - western side of the building is setback from the property boundary by a narrow path along the five bays of the original building. There is also a slightly wider setback on the other side of this boundary, with a path that leads to the main entry to Alabama.

Internally the building retains evidence of the original spatial layout, with its unusual large Court/living room along the north-east side of each apartment and substantially proportioned "Best bedrooms/living rooms" with their large French doors openings on the street elevation. Surviving early fabric includes timber joinery and some pressed metal ceilings on the second floor.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:20 Jan 11
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Residential
Former use: Residential


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today.

In 1809 Colonel William Patterson granted 30 acres of land to Patrick Walsh, a convict who arrived from Ireland in 1801. This area encompassed today’s Potts Point. Potts Point, became known as Paddy's Point, due to its association with Patrick Walsh. In 1810, after the arrival of Governor Macquarie it was reported that all Grants or Orders of Occupancy of Land given by Colonel Patterson would be cancelled and Patrick Walsh waited to be informed if the land he held was to be given up. Patrick Walsh occupied the land at Paddy's Point (Potts Point) until the early 1820’s during which time he cleared part of the land and erected fences and a hut.

In 1822 Patrick Walsh’s land grant was revoked and the land granted to Mr Drennan. Governor Macquarie had built huts for the Aboriginals at Paddy’s Point and requested the successor of Mr Drennan to let him have the land back again in exchange for other land, as he was interested in what could be done in the way of "civilising the adult natives" who still remained on the point. The land was given back and besides building more huts for the local Aboriginal population, Macquarie provided a fishing boat, fishing tackle and salt and casks to salt their fish with, and so established the Cove as a native village. He gave the village the name of Elizabeth Town, in honour of his wife.

The Aborigines had disappeared from Elizabeth Bay after the departure of their Patron Governor Macquarie and his successor, Governor Brisbane, decided on Potts Point as the site for an asylum. Nothing came of this plan and after the departure of Brisbane. Elizabeth Town was granted to important public servants in the Colony who were encouraged to build grand villas.

One of the first of these land grants was made to Sir John Wylde Judge Advocate in 1822 who was Director of the Bank of NSW. The grant was for eleven acres and was situated at the entrance end of Potts Point. The largest of the grants was made to Alexander Macleay, then Colonial Secretary, who received 54 acres in 1826 from Governor Darling. This land grant stretched from the present Macleay Street down to the water’s edge.

By 1831 seventeen grants of land had been made on Woolloomooloo Hill to a selection of the most politically and economically powerful men in the colony. The purpose of the grants was to establish a stylish area of housing, and for this reason there were certain provisos on them. Residences were to be erected within three years, the house was to cost in excess of £1,000 and had to face Government House across the bay.

The final name of the area Potts Point comes form its association with Joseph Hyde Potts, a Clerk with the Bank of NSW, who was appointed Accountant to the Bank of New South Wales and purchased six and a half acres.

In 1891 the Municipal Council of Sydney, decided to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria by naming the Junction of Victoria Street, Darlinghurst Road and upper William Street as Queen’s Cross. Eight years later the City Council decided to remove duplications of names in the city area. Queens Square, in Macquarie Street, named at the time of Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1888, clearly had precedence, so Queens Cross became Kings Cross, in line with the gender of the ruling monarch.

Major subdivisions of Macleay’s Estate included the Elizabeth Bay Estate, 1865 allotments on Macleay Street, Elizabeth Bay Road and Roslyn Gardens, Macleay’s Estate 1882 (Billyard Avenue, Onslow Avenue) and Elizabeth Bay House 1927 and 1934, (Onslow Place).

East of Elizabeth Bay Road and along Roslyn Street was the Roslyn Estate and the Barncleath and Kinneil Estates. The Kellet, Eaton and Goderich estates at the southern end were subdivided between 1893 and 1911.

West of Macleay Street, the Challis Estate 1889, and various smaller subdivisions along Victoria Street represent the earliest layer of intensive residential development. Subdivision of the Mansion Estates occurred in the early twentieth century with Tusculum 1901, Campbell Lodge 1910, Grantham Estate, 1922 and Orwell House 1921. Many of the grand houses of the period remained until the 1930’s when many were replaced by flat buildings. A further group were demolished in the 1960’s such that only four sites with grand villas remain today.

The spread of flats in the 1920s and 30s was one of the most marked developments in Sydney housing. It was accompanied by large population increases in the municipalities it affected. Flats were the antithesis of suburbia and nowhere was that more evident than in Kings Cross. Kings Cross became the Montemarte of Sydney. Artists and actors moved into Potts Point. William Street was again widened in the 1920s to relieve the traffic pressure. The idea of a tunnel, making a direct route from St. Mary’s Cathedral to the junction of New South Head and Beach Roads was put forward but never realised.

One of the biggest war-time construction operations was the Captain Cook Graving Dock at Garden Island. The growing naval strength and expansionist policy of Japan in the late 1930’s led to a request from the Admiralty in 1938 that a graving dock be built in Sydney. Work began in July 1940 but was not finished until early 1945. Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board reclaimed 33 acres of the sea bed between Potts Point and the southern shore of Garden Island. The Americanization of the Cross, the growth of night clubs and strip clubs, black market trading and rampant prostitution, dates largely from the second World War.

In 1969 a roadway linking William Street and Bayswater Road via a tunnel under Victoria Street was constructed. A total of 118 properties were involved in the acquisition and many of the landmarks of the Cross disappeared forever. On 15 December 1975, the Premier of New South Wales, Tom Lewis, officially opened the Kings Cross tunnel.

During the 1970s Potts Point became the focus of the green bans over development plans for Victoria Street which were lodged in October 1971. Many residents on the city side of the street had already moved out, as the principal developer, Frank Theeman’s, Victoria Point Pty. Ltd., offered them favourable terms. Those who wanted to retain the street’s historic buildings for low and middle income earners were not prepared to do so. The New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation indicated that it would block demolition of the buildings with a green ban and hosts of other sympathisers engaged in a protracted battle with the developers. The battle waged on until 1976 when a fifth plan which called for restoration of 22 of the 32 houses on the building site with a 10 storey complex behind them was approved, and the green bans lifted.

The late twentieth century saw increasing property prices in Potts Point and a revived interest in the 1920’s and 1930’s Art Deco buildings.

The Kings Cross / Potts Point precinct is the only place in Australia with Art Deco development of that scale and in such a high concentration.

The site is part of the

Lot 2 of the Linnaean Subdivision on which the present 5 Ithaca Road is listed was purchased by Herbert Williamson, a gentleman of Sydney in November 1925. In February 1926 he applied to Council for a two storey ' two family residence on the site ( BA 136/26) which was approved and completed later they rear. In October 1926 he applied for a garage on the site. The Sands Directory, first recorded the building as being occupied in 1928 by H Williamson and AJ McLaghlan.

Willamson died soon after the property was constructed and his wife Christina inherited the site., She applied to Council in 1928 to add a third storey , plus an additional garage ( BA 1068/28), and this was approved with construction soon after. By 1921 the Rate books refer to the property as "three flats", with two garages built of brick, and a tiled roof. Christina Williamson died in 1921 and the property was passed onto her children, Joseph Williamson and May Florence Morris, who subsequently sold it to Albert Investments P/L in 1936. Albert Investments P/L , associated with Frank Albert, sheet music/harmonica millionaire, acquired the property in 1936. Albert Investments was formed when the highly successful family owned business. J Albert and Son, retired from musical retailing in 1933 to concentrate sole on publishing. Albert Investments was the company used by Michel Francois (":Frank") Albert, to acquire a large number of urban and rural properties, including this property.

In 1978 5 Ithaca Road was strated as Lots 1 to 4 in Strata Plan 13206, but all lots were purchased by a single owner and this was still the case in 2011. In 1987, major alterations and additions were carried out to the design of Richard Christian and Associates P/L Architects.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Residential-

Recommended management:

The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I58814 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Heritage Study1993 Tropman & Tropman Architects  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenGodden Makcay Logan20105 Ithaca Road, Elizabeth Bay - Heritage Impact Statement

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

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2420837

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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