Jamison House/‘Villa Piccolo’
No.17 Baden Road
Thomas Esplin was the son of architect Donald Esplin. He worked with his father in the firm Esplin and Esplin from 1933 until 1940.
In 1936 Thomas designed a three bedroom residence for a Mrs Jamison on Baden Road on the eastern side of Kurraba Point in the Inter-War Mediterranean / Spanish Mission style. The house took advantage of a very steep block so that living areas on the upper floor and bedrooms on the lower floor had views of Sydney Harbour. A foundation of stone arches created the impression of a three-storey Mediterranean villa from the water. Painted white, and with little else around, it would have been a striking structure reminiscent of a southern European coastline. Indeed the house was written up in the May 1937 issue of Decoration and Glass as a building of ‘Spanish influence... adapted to modern Australian design’. The twisted columns, evident in the plan, are typical of the glamorous Spanish Mission style. The name ‘Villa Piccolo’ seems to have been given to the house at a later date.
Mrs Jamison’s house was built on the Kurraba Point Estate created by wealthy timber merchant, race horse owner, and later politician, EK White who bought a large parcel of land on the point for £30,000 in 1929 (about $7.5 million in current terms) – reputedly after a win at the race track.
Despite its magnificent location on the Harbour, Kurraba Point was then barely developed. Indeed the western side of the point had been quarried for the stone used on Fort Denison in the 1850s. After that, a soap and oil factory operated on the foreshore there and its owner Patrick Hayes proudly built his own home above it, despite the smell and noise. The factory was replaced by the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company ferry engineering works and depot in 1883.
A colonial home called ‘Kurraba House’ had existed near Mrs Jamison’s house since the mid-19th century and this was replaced by a large English Revival / Federation era house at No.2 Baden Road in the early 1900s. Two other similar houses were built on the street at this time. EK White built his own home ‘Baden House’ there but had difficulty selling his subdivided lots, probably because of the Great Depression. Consequently he constructed several large blocks of flats nearby in the 1930s to maximise his return.
In the post-war years, Kurraba Point became more valued for its beauty. The ferry depot was demolished in the 1960s and that site became a park. EK White’s home was demolished in the early 1980s and replaced with a set of town houses that set a record for rental costs. The story of Kurraba Point thereby followed the history of much of Sydney Harbour, as foreshore industry left to be replaced by parkland and the clamour for water views filled all available land with residential dwellings.