Artarmon

Wilkes Avenue, now Wilkes Plaza, provides access to the railway station from the east.
Wilkes Avenue, now Wilkes Plaza, provides access to the railway station from the east. Its Edwardian commercial buildings are complemented by the Interwar flats near the station.
This photograph was taken on 16 March 1936.
WDHS David Warner Collection #655.
The suburb is believed to be named after the land granted to William Gore in 1810. Gore had arrived in Sydney in 1805 with Governor Bligh, who appointed him to the position of Provost-Marshall (equivalent to sheriff). Gore’s family home was Ardthelmon Castle (pronounced Art-e-mon), located near Raghley in Ireland, and the name was ‘adapted’ by Gore as Artarmon Estate. His residence from 1818 was a modest cottage on the estate named Artarmon House, which was replaced by a grand residence (also called Artarmon House) in 1869.

During the 1850s orchards and market gardens were established in the area, while bricks were made in the area from 1828. By 1889, the brick industry at Gore Hill was the largest in New South Wales, and it laid the foundation for the establishment of the Artarmon Industrial Area in the 1950s (see below).

The opening of the North Shore Railway on 1 January 1890 paved the way for Willoughby’s estates to be subdivided for residential development, but it was not until the opening of Artarmon railway station in 1898 that Artarmon Estate was subdivided and the urbanisation of the suburb commenced.

A housing boom in Artarmon during the 1920s, with a number of fine Federation houses being constructed, but it was the Californian Bungalow homes constructed during the 1930s that gave east Artarmon its special character. The Artarmon Conservation Area seeks to protect this heritage. From the 1960s, more intensive development began to change the character of the suburb west of the railway and in 1969, Willoughby Council initiated the West Artarmon Residential Area Redevelopment Plan, which paved the way for high-rise residential towers, including a number of well-designed public housing developments.

Artarmon Industrial Area

The southern part of Artarmon between the North Shore Railway and the Pacific Highway developed a strong industrial base from the 1880s, with the initial focus being on brick-making and by 1912 the brick industry was the main employer in Artarmon and the Gore Hill area. With the demise of the industry in the 1940s, the area was zoned as an industrial area under the Cumberland County. By 1951, 42 factories had been established in the area with 444 employees.

Initially the focus was on small firms engaged in light industrial activities, but over time there was a shift to high-tech industries, particularly those associated with film and television production and distribution. The advent of television from 1956 saw Artarmon become the base for the Australian film and television industry and this sector remains a major employer in the area. Light industrial activities continue to be dominated by automotive repair workshops, printing and publishing, and recycling services. The iconic industries featured in our collection include Speedo Knitting Mills Pty Limited and, Buzza Products Pty Limited.

Artarmon Conservation Area

Map of Artarmon Conservation Area,
Map of Artarmon Conservation Area,
courtesy Willoughby City Council.
The Artarmon Conservation Area comprises the area east of the railway and south of Mowbray Road to Artarmon Reserve and east to Sydney Street, together with the 1920s shopping precinct on Hampden Road west of the railway station. It was developed in two stages.

The major streets, such as Artarmon Road and those in the western precinct closest to the station, such as Muttama Road, were partially developed prior to World War I and consequently are characterised to a greater degree than other streets by development from the Federation era. There are also some grand villas and houses of this period on the eastern edge along early transport routes, such as Sydney Street. The remainder and bulk of the area is predominantly bungalow development from the 1920s and 1930s, ranging from typical California Bungalow styles to the transitional 1930s Interwar bungalows of brown to liver brick with red or brown tiled roofs. There are a few semi-detached cottages on the eastern edge and some two storey flat buildings, dating from the 1930s, are located closer to the station. Some of these older flat buildings feature Art Deco or Spanish Mission characteristics.

The National Trust of Australia (NSW) recognised the importance of this heritage by classifying it as an Urban Conservation Area in 1989. The Artarmon Conservation Area is outstanding for its intactness, with few unsympathetic intrusions occurring. The wide range of largely intact California and Interwar bungalows as well as Federation housing in generally good condition, occur in either groupings of consistent styles or subtle blends of successive periods to produce a mix of interesting and varied streetscapes. The area is significant as a harmonious and unified 1910–1920s lower North Shore residential area whose development relates to the opening of the railway.

The history of the Artarmon Shopping Centre was subject of a major research project by the Artarmon Progress Association in 2010-2011. Its results were presented in the 2011 National Trust Heritage Festival exhibition ‘Amazing Stories’. The material generated by the study was presented to the Local History section of the Willoughby City Library in late 2011.


Further reading:

Warner, Grace, Artarmon: Past, Present and Future, Chatswood, Willoughby Municipal Council, 1988.
Artarmon Progress Association website: http://www.artarmonprogress.org.au


Heritage Sites

Windsor Gardens, 246-260 Mowbray Road

Constructed in 1888 as the family residence of the American journalist Frank Coffee, this grand residence was originally named Iroquois. It is a two-storey mansion with a tower and was built as an out-of-town gentleman’s residence with extensive gardens and accommodation for carriages. The Coffee family lived there until 1930, when it was sold to John Burke. Allan Gilbert purchased the property in 1945 and converted the buildings into a reception area for weddings, parties and conferences, renaming the complex Windsor Gardens. Heritage listed by the National Trust and Willoughby City Council, the property has subsequently been adaptively reused as a retirement village.

Artarmon Railway Station

Artarmon Railway Station with its pre-1916 timber platform building.
Artarmon Railway Station with its pre-1916 timber platform building.
Postcard donated Mrs A. Hammond,
WDHS collection
A station was not provided at Artarmon until 1898 following the sub-division of Broughton Estate, and then it was moved to its present location with duplication of the North Shore Railway in 1900. In 1916 (in the midst of the Great War) railway officials suddenly decided to dismantle the Old Glenbrook railway station building, which had been bypassed by the replacement of the Glenbrook Zig-Zag, brick by brick and rebuild it at Artarmon. This is the only occasion in the history of the NSW Railways that a brick building has been relocated and the decision has been attributed to the influence of wealthy business people living on the North Shore. The replacement platform building at Artarmon is similar in style to the brick structures constructed elsewhere on the line during its duplication, but there are subtle differences that reveal its former life at Glenbrook. The building is listed on RailCorp’s Section 170 Heritage Register.

Parks and Reserves

Artarmon retains extensive areas of parklands due to a decision by the colonial government to set aside a large area of land there as a ‘Reserve for Recreation’ in 1869. An elevated portion was to become the site for the council chambers, but was never taken up for this purpose. The elements of this original reserve that remain as parkland are as follows:

Relief works to develop the sports ovals in Artarmon Reserve
Relief works to develop the sports ovals in
Artarmon Reserve near completion, 5 August 1935.
WDHS David Warner Collection 0558

Artarmon Reserve

This area of 6.9ha east of the railway line and south of Burra Road is the headwaters of a branch of Flat Rock Creek and it retains a significant area of natural bushland. It is a declared bird sanctuary and nature reserve. There is also a sporting oval and bowling green.

Artarmon Park

Located to the west of the railway, this 3.6ha park has been divided by the expressway.

Thompson Park

Located on Reserve Road and named after Dugald Thompson, the first Member for North Sydney in the Federal Parliament, this is an active recreational area with a sporting oval and children’s playground.

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