Whitewash at the U.S. Laundry

While one would not think it today, American forces had a large presence in Fremantle during the Second World War.  One of the final vestiges of that era is threatened with demolition if Fremantle Council’s Planning Services Committee (PSC) gets its way.  The building in question is the former USA Laundry building located at the Fremantle Arts Centre.  A modest building with a modest use but none the less an important part of Fremantle’s social history.  The place was built by the Americans from Oregon that they brought from America, so it represents a rare remaining example of the cultural heritage of that period and is unique in its construction.  Issues recognised by the Council’s Heritage Planner whose report recommended refusal of application for demolition from Western Australian Museums (WAM). WAM used the building as Restoration Laboratories for 35 years (1970-2005) they decided it was unfit for their workplace use 2005.  At PSC on 12th January a representative from WAM spoke enthusiastically on the need for demolition due to its derelict nature, as a result of WAM neglect & a sad indicator of their stewardship.  Apparently, If WAM application for demolition is approved the Council gets the vacant site for use by FAC.

Previous Council debate on this application centred on the cost of renovation and possible use for the building rather than the crucial aspect of what Heritage values the building has.  This is a most unfortunate example of double standards, Council is (suitably) unforgiving when refusing the Dept of Housing & Works requests for demolition of Hilton homes based on buildings poor state of repair, posing an asbestos risk and not being appropriate for their use; yet Councillors are using the same arguments for an application relating to a building on the FAC site.

The role of Councillors is to provide leadership, not to management; ratepayers pay senior managers large amounts of money to do that.  If the Council truly believe demolishing buildings of significant cultural and built Heritage values shows leadership, then the Fremantle Society has its work cut out in 2011.

Please get in touch on 0417 901 809 or president@fremantlesociety.org.au if you have any personal interest in, or stories of, the site or the WW2 US Navy era in general.

Heritage Matters #2

Fremantle Prison development application.

A major development application is before Council at the moment for a YHA hostel at Fremantle Prison.  The WAPC will make the ultimate decision once they have received Council’s recommendation, who is seeking community input until 4th January 2011.  The Society intends to make a submission on this important world heritage site and we urge interested people to do the same.

In brief the application is for a 214 bed hostel and associated ablutions, kitchen and recreation rooms, plus a swimming pool.  The hostel will be housed in the old Women’s Division utilising existing buildings and 3 new transportable buildings, one of which is 2 storeys.  I attended the Council viewing of the drawings on 16th December where I found Council officers helpful but the drawings very limited.

If you wish to discuss this application or make comment on the Society’s draft submission feel free to contact me.

Pilot’s Cottage.

We now have the keys to 11 Captain’s Lane.  The Society’s lease starts on 1st January 2011, however, in the interim we are cleaning the cottage, see Roel’s previous posts for pictures.

The Society does need your help if we are going to make the best use of the cottage, so please get in touch if you can do basic carpentry & handyperson work, clean, paint or work in the garden.  We also need to acquire a gas cooker.  There is already a good social atmosphere and we do find time to sit on the veranda and enjoy the view (and a beer) at the end of work.

Jon Strachan

Merry Christmas

The Fremantle Society Committee extends its warmest Christmas greetings to you all.  May the holiday period see you in the company of good friends.

We are looking forward to the Society going from strength to strength in 2011 and welcome member’s involvement; our strength is in our bonds, so please get in touch and become an active member, your time and skills will be very much appreciated.

For those who have not yet joined, 2011 will be a great year to make the move to help support Fremantle’s Cultural, Social and Built Heritage.  Membership forms are available on the website or from any Committee member.

A Very Merry Christmas from Jon Strachan and the Fremantle Society Committee!

Merry Christmas

The Fremantle Society Committee extends its warmest Christmas greetings to you all.  May the holiday period see you in the company of good friends.

We are looking forward to the Society going from strength to strength in 2011 and welcome member’s involvement; our strength is in our bonds, so please get in touch and become an active member, your time and skills will be very much appreciated.

For those who have not yet joined, 2011 will be a great year to make the move to help support Fremantle’s Cultural, Social and Built Heritage.  Membership forms are available on the website or from any Committee member.

A Very Merry Christmas from Jon Strachan and the Fremantle Society Committee!

Heritage matters #1

Home Straight.

The Fremantle Society is about to get a new home; the Committee is very excited about the prospects of moving into Fremantle’s premiere heritage precinct.  Once the lease is signed I will let you know where it is and invite all Society members past, present and future to join the Committee in giving the place a much needed spruce up.  Make it a new year’s resolution to get out the marigolds and become an active member of the Society, enjoying the view from the balcony over a drink and sausage sizzle after a day’s work will be the highlight of your social calendar!

Grand National.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the ICOMOS Christmas dinner.  The evening was tinged with sadness due to empty the chairs of those attending David Dolan’s funeral in South Australia.  David was described in a eulogy as a “much loved and respected heritage champion”.  I remember David as one of nature’s gentlemen with great enthusiasm for cultural heritage, he will be sadly missed.  A meal was enjoyed at Villa Roma with good humour and good company.  The highlight of the evening was a tour of the National Hotel.  Owner Sean Butler and Architect Gerard McCann lead the tour.  Internally there is still a lot of work to do, but the phoenix is rising.  The always positive Gerard said the fire had allowed them to remove many of the previous unsympathetic additions and work.  Sean is a professional developer who should be congratulated for showing leadership in taking on what was a difficult project, clearly he is very enthusiastic about the Hotel and I look forward to buying him a beer when the hotel opens for business.  Share our tour with the photos below.

UNBALANCED THINKING ALLOWED

As a still wet behind the ears President of the Fremantle Society I thank Bryden Dalitz for his Thinking Allowed (Fremantle Herald 4-12-10) because it gives me a perfect opportunity to respond.  I make no apologies for the effectiveness of Fremantle’s peak heritage lobby group, the Fremantle Society, we are good at what we do; perhaps Bryden could look closer to home and lay some blame for “economic growth being severely lacking” at the feet of the business lobby group for whom he works and question why the Chamber of Commerce has not achieved similar success.  Bryden sends mixed messages berating the heritage lobby for their recent work but complimenting us by telling readers; “..citizens of Fremantle should be grateful to groups who went against the zeitgeist of decades past and prevented many wonderful and iconic buildings that characterise Fremantle from being destroyed.”  A case of wisdom in hindsight …..

Bryden sings the praises of ING’s Victoria Quay proposal, whilst criticising opposition to it.  I argue a large box shopping centre with multi-storey carpark is not the highest and best use for Victoria Quay, it would not “bring people to the West End“; they would drive past local businesses to park, shop and leave, as at Bondi Central in Sydney and Harbourtown in West Perth.  But of course ING did get planning approval, but then chose to do nothing until their approval is close to lapsing.

Similarly, Council recently granted a third 2 year approval for a heritage building in the West End which remains boarded up rather than adding to Fremantle’s vibrancy.  I must here mention Fremantle’s biggest disgrace, the Cantonment Street woolstores which Council granted development approval over 4 years ago, yet nothing has been done, effectively stifling that end of town.

Bryden, it’s not groups trying to protect our assets, our point of difference, our heritage, that holds Fremantle back, but owners of significant sites and buildings allowing them to disintegrate along with Fremantle by land-banking instead of developing, maintaining and even using these assets.

Enjoy your trip to Melbourne and when you are in hip Lygon or Acland Streets check out the buildings, you will find low rise heritage, like Fremantle’s West End.  Go to Sydney and check out Paddington, travel the world, I bet you come back to Fremantle.

Jon Strachan    9-12-2010