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Highgate Corners: A Brief History

Home > Perth > Architecture | Historic Houses
by Slang (subscribe)
Graphic designer and cyclist who enjoys the world of words...
Published February 7th 2014
Back streets of Highgate offers more than pimps and pushers
Highgate Corners: A Brief History

"Round and round up and down
Through the streets of your town

Everyday I make my way
Through the streets of your town"


'Streets of Your Town' -The Go Betweens

Just like the lyrics, I make my way through the streets of Highgate every day, and marvel at how much history there is to see and learn about.

I'll start my journey with my statuesque neighbour - the Lincoln Street Ventilation Stack is possibly Highgate's most prominent landmark. It's also known as Dumas's Folley and, to most people, "that thing, in Highate that's really tall... no idea what it is...".

Lincoln Street Ventilation Stack is located at 57 Lincoln Street (corner of Smith Street), at its intersection with Smith Street, Highgate, Western Australia.

Built by the Metropolitan Water Supply and Drainage Department in 1935 as a sewer vent, the 38 metre brick Art Deco giant is Australia's second tallest (quite a claim to fame!).

Constructed on top of Highgate Hill to safely discharge acidic gases that could potentially have damaged Perth's sewer network, it proved embarrassingly unsuccessful, inadequately venting the sewer gas and - under certain weather conditions (cringe) - dispersing what gas it vented over the surrounding houses and police station... let's move quickly on!

It was sealed in 1941 after which it was referred to as "Dumas' Folly", after Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, Russell Dumas. Soon after its closure, the Police Wireless Service moved to the adjacent Highgate Police Station (I'll get to these buildings shortly), and the vent tower was given civic duties and was put into service as a radio antenna. The move and the tower's new function were kept secret - initially to protect against Japanese air raids during World War II - and weren't revealed until 1956. The vent continued in this role until 1975 and you can still see several antennas on top of the structure today.

My favourite feature of the tower is the Art Deco brick work, towards its apex - an intricate and delicate addition to the bold face of the tower.

The Lincoln Street Vent is thankfully listed with the National Trust of Australia and the State Register of Heritage Places.

history, architecture
Lincoln Street Ventilation Stack by day


history, architecture
The foot of the stack


history, architecture
Lincoln Street Ventilation Stack by night...


Highgate Hill Police Station and Police Quarters

Until moving into the area, I had no idea that these buildings existed.

Originally established in 189, on the corner of Lincoln and Smith Street, with a staff consisting of a Corporal in charge of seven foot-constables, this station is one of the few surviving examples of a suburban police station built prior to 1900 in the Perth and Fremantle area. And I'm quite certain the estate agent told me it was in fact Perth's first metropolitan police station. Built of brick and iron, it is a good example of an early suburban Police Station consisting of a station, two cell lock-up and police quarters.

The Police quarters, next to the station, were built in 1906, and are on the Heritage Register.

1940 the Higgate Station closed, and the Inglewood Police Station took over the district. However, when Japan entered the War in 1942, Highgate was reopened, to become the covert communication (Radio) centre for the Force, utilising the large sewerage vent for aerials hidden within the concrete tower. The wireless facility remained at this site until 1975 when it was moved to Police Headquarters at East Perth.

Possibly the station's saddest, yet bravest stories involves Sergeant Alec Mark (Officer in Charge from 1923).

In 1928, Sergeant Mark was murdered in a shooting at the Brisbane Hotel (another corner building). The 53 year old unarmed sergeant sacrificed his life by intervening to prevent 52 year old Edmund Nicholas Kelly, from killing the barman at the hotel. The barman had earlier refused to serve the intoxicated Kelly, who then left the pub and purchased a loaded hand gun from a Wellington Street second-hand dealer. After a shooting rampage in the city, Kelly returned to the hotel, where he fired two shots at the barman, one missing by inches.

Sergeant Mark, attracted by the disturbance, appeared in the bar. Kelly then turned the weapon on the Sergeant and fired again. Though seriously wounded, Mark ran at Kelly, tackling him to the floor, and held him until others came to his assistance. Sergeant Mark managed to accompany Kelly back to the station, where he bled to death, making Sergeant Mark the only acting officer to both arrest and die at the hands of the person he accosted.

This tragedy caused much public outcry, as Kelly, who had numerous convictions, in other countries as well as in Australia, had been given an 'indeterminate sentence' in 1921, and had been paroled only a short time before he killed Sergeant Mark. He was subsequently convicted of wilful murder. The shooting of Sergeant Mark was the catalyst for strict new gun laws both in WA, and other states. It could be argued that, tragic though it was, Sergeant Mark's death prevented many more tragedies in the years since that fateful day.

The police station is now a museum, open every Friday morning. Best to ring first, as this is a volunteer operation. Also on the premises is the beautiful old Ford Anglia Police car used during patrols.

On the opposite corner to the station are a collection of really quaint cottages, developed by surveyor Charles Crossland in 1874, and named for his birthplace in London. The seven cottages at numbers 54-66 Lincoln Street and are known to date from 1892.

This row of seven identical single storey single fronted detached cottages with hipped roofs and bow verandahs supported by timber posts or verandahs altered to form skillion roofs. The verandahs of the houses are, unusually for Perth, constructed to the street boundary and the picket fence forms a balustrade to the verandah. The houses are set close together.

The cottages, known as the "police cottages" are in the Federation Georgian style, dating from the late years of the nineteenth century. The cottages demonstrate a way of life no longer practised.

history, architecture
The row of seven cottages on Lincoln Street


Perth Oval and Loton Park

The land on which the stadium is built was known as Loton's Paddock, after the previous owner William Loton, Lord Mayor of Perth. The Paddock had been reclaimed from part of Stone's Lake, which was part of a lake system known as The Great Lakes District which included Lake Monger and Herdsman Lake.

Loton sold the land to the City of Perth in 1904 with the purpose of providing recreation for the residents of the area. After the 2004 redevelopment part of the ground reverted to public open space and was co-named Loton Park, to honour Loton, and Yoordgoorading as a reference to the original Indigenous inhabitants of the land.

In the early 1930s imposing white entry gates were built on the north west corner of the ground - at the intersection of Bulwer and Smith Street. These have since been heritage listed.

The oval has seen many uses, ranging from an air field for planes, through to music festivals and concerts, and various sports; soccer, Australian rules football, boxing, cricket, and rugby union. There is an event on at the oval at least once a month. The event website provides a comprehensive list.

Its literary claim to fame is a mention in the book Zero Hour by Clive Cussler. The books main character Kurt Austin negotiates a pair of tickets to a Rugby match at Perth Oval, after helping out Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agents.

history, architecture, entertainment, events
The heritage listed gates at Perth Oval


history, sport, events
Capturing the action during a football game in 1919


Loton Park Tennis Club

Loton Park Tennis Club is the second oldest continuously operating tennis club in Western Australia. The Clubhouse and grounds are, in fact, heritage listed.

The Club is named after Sir William Loton. Sir William was a wealthy merchant, member of the WA parliament and one time Mayor of Perth. City of Perth purchased the Loton Paddocks for 6,000 pounds in 1904. At the time of the purchase, tennis had found favour with Perth's wealthy and the demand for courts was significant. By 1916, Loton Park included several grass courts and one can only imagine what condition the grass would have been in. It was also in 1916 that the City of Perth was approached regarding the use of Loton Park for a proposed new tennis club.

The clubhouse was built on the corner of Lord and Bulwer Street, in June 1922 and is still in use today. Extensions were built in 1932, and the ti-tree hedge that divided the tennis club from Perth Oval was planted in 1947 and extended in 1955. This hedge was removed by the Town of Vincent in 2006 but a replacement has been planted.

In 1997, two grass courts were converted into hard courts to offer tennis all year round. It was also the year Loton Park Tennis Club was officially listed with the Heritage Council of Western Australia as a place of historical significance.

Loton Park Tennis Club's latest incarnation as the premiere gay and lesbian tennis club in Australia (if not the world!) began in 1994/95. The first gay Open Day was held on 21 April 1995. In 1996 and 1997 the new management obtained about $100,000 in grants to restore the Clubhouse and undertake other work that secured the Club's future. Today Loton Park's reputation as a gay and lesbian tennis club is well established. However, Loton Park welcomes players of all abilities and persuasions (and even non-players looking for a social outlet) are welcome to enjoy the atmosphere of Loton Park Tennis Club, and share a piece of history at the same time. If you fancy a game, the Loton Park Tennis Club website is full of information about events and court hire.

history, sport, events
Loton Park's heritage listed clubhouse
Source: Loton Park Tennis Club website


sport, events
Loton Park courts by night
Source: Loton Park Tennis Club website


Serbian Orthodox Church of St Sava

On a sunny Perth day, the copper topped domes of Australia's second oldest Serbian Orthodox Church, and the first to be built in Western Australia, can been seen sparkling away on on Smith Street in Highgate.

The heritage listed Serbian Orthodox Church of St Sava comprises a church (built between 1954 and 1955), bell tower (1974) and Sunday school building (1984).

State heritage minister Albert Jacob said the buildings told the story of the thriving Serbian population in the post-World War II period and the growing need for a place of worship and education.

State heritage minister Albert Jacob says the church is an exceptional example of Christian Orthodox church design and highly significant because all original elements were intact.
"The dome topped church roof and bell tower provides an impressive interior space that houses ornate artworks, finely painted wall icons and mosaics," Mr Jacob said. And I agree, whatever your belief system, this little building has a peace and simplicity that's wonderful to behold.

The Serbian community is set to celebrate the church's 60th anniversary in 2014 - a year filled with a variety of celebrations and festivals.

history, architecture
St Sava facade


history, architecture
St Sava's beautifully proportioned exterior


So there we have it - a brief tour around my block, and a look at the amazing things found on Perth corners. Whether a music concert, a sporting event, a museum visit or just a gentle stroll, the back streets of this town have something for everyone.
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Your Comment
Welcome to WN, Slang.Nice article; I like reading about the history of places.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12398) 1983 days ago
Congratulations on coming 2nd.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12398) 1970 days ago
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