58 and 58a West Street, North Sydney
and Colin Street, Cammeray
Most semi-detached houses in North Sydney were of relatively modest size and design. The pair designed for Hugh Boyd in Cammeray in 1920 were typical.
It was apparently a speculative project as Boyd was going to build the houses in Colin Street himself. He lived in William Street, North Sydney. Unusually for such a simple structure, Boyd enlisted an architect to draw up the design, in this case DE Walsh of Castlereagh Street. The modest homes were to have key English Revival design elements, most notably the rough-cast chimneys and the gentle curve of the verandah frontage. The application was approved on the condition that the shared wall be extended into the ceiling – a safeguard against fire. Note the identical layout of these semi-detached dwellings. Note also the shared chimney for the main bedroom and ‘drawing room’ in each dwelling. The latter was probably intended as a special room for entertaining guests. Both shared chimneys are evidence of cost saving. In the end Boyd's semis were not built. Possibly the extention of the internal wall was a problem. Instead, a detached dwelling of similar age survives on the block.
In contrast to Walsh's design, the semi-detached houses at 58 and 58a West Street featured a high degree of decoration and detail. These were built on vacant land for Robert Weare in 1910, with the design and application submitted the previous year by architect Gordon McKinnon.
These semi-detached houses are an excellent example of English Revival / Federation style. On show are the skills of carpenter, mason, bricklayer and tiler – in keeping with the Arts and Crafts philosophy of William Morris. The ornamental brackets on the double verandah posts are elaborately shaped with a swirling, organic pattern. The decorative valance which runs between each post have lathe turned rods. The pattern is replicated in the pots on top of the typically tall, rough-cast chimneys. The verandah has colourful tessellated tiles and whole structure rests upon rough cut sandstone blocks. The picturesque variation which characterises the style is obvious with the many shapes and textures used in the exterior elements which includes a small circular window.
Robert lived with his wife Ruth in 58, which they called ‘Osterley’ – possibly after the suburb west of London or the grand house and park which gave that area its name. The adjoining dwelling, called ‘Otranto’, was rented out.
However, Robert had little time to enjoy his new home. He died in 1911. As was typical at the time, the funeral began at the home of the deceased, probably with a viewing in a casket. From there Robert’s body was transported to Gore Hill Cemetery followed by friends, family and other mourners.
Ownership of ‘Osterley’ passed to Ruth. She retained the house where her husband died until 1918 when both 58 and 58a were sold to the unmarried Kinnane sisters Alice, Anastasia, Catherine and Ellen who then rented out the premises. Ruth Weare continued to live in the home she had known until 1919 when she disappears from the historical record. It is very likely that, as an older woman, Ruth was not in paid employment. Possibly the proceeds of the property sale paid the rent and her daily needs.