Wednesday, April 21, 2010

suburb No 32: Woolloomooloo

Tricky. I'm itching to get back out to faraway suburbs but with no time to do so. Hence my choice for
suburb No 32 - Woolloomooloo, 1.5 km east of the city centre.

Prior to this week, the 'Loo' had only ever been somewhere to drive through in an attempt to avoid
a clogged Eastern Distributor.

Turns out - of course - that it's far more than just an 'alternative route'. Even I, in my pre-52 Suburbs
blinkered state, had noticed that it had an amazing old wharf, a pie cart that had been there for
eons and more often than not, one or two gunmetal-grey naval ships parked by the bay.   

But that was about it, I thought. And that is kind of it. But what I wasn't expecting was all the emotion
tied into those three things - wharf, pie cart and navy. So what began as a suburb I could 'knock over'
fairly quickly turned into one that had me wanting to keep snapping, intrigued by the suburb's
past and the extremes of its present.

A super-brief history of the Loo... Aboriginal forever, First Fleet in, farm land sub-divided in 1840s,
grand homes built, then smaller workers homes. Mid to late 1900s, both the wharf and the suburb
were left to run down, earmarked for redevelopment. Both saved from near death towards the end
of the century. The wharf was turned into chic hotel, marina, restaurants and apartments, contrasting
sharply with its less fortunate 'hinterland'. 

Part 1: The tourist trio

a 400 metre long finger

a couple of frigates - HMAS Sydney and HMAS Newcastle

the heritage listed hot dog stand

Part 2: The wharf

The Finger Wharf. Built 1911 - 1915. The largest wooden structure in the world. A place of arrivals and

departures - of cargo, armed forces and new migrants - for almost 70 years. Unbelievably, it almost
ended up on the scrap heap after some years of sitting idle. Saved from the wrecking ball by
conservationists and the Building Workers' Industrial Union in the early 1990s. Today, it's swish-land:
hotel, marina, restaurants and apartments. But I like that anyone can sit with a fishing rod at the end
of the wharf, right next door to R. Crowe's penthouse pad.

picturesque, day and night

of cargo, migrants, the brave - and now tourists

looking back - the wharf that almost wasn't

Hills Hoist not included

sparkling, above and below

sun in the lamp

what's not to love

Part 3: The navy

A bright sunny Monday morning down at the Loo. But shore side at Fleet Base East, the Australian

Navy's main naval base on the east coast, hearts are creaking under the weight of imminent separation.
They have less than an hour together before HMAS Newcastle departs for Guam, Japan, Canada and
Hawaii. It will be four months before fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons and lovers
are united once more.

she's gone for four months - then he's gone for six - "bad timing"

06 departing at 0900

sweet sorrow

how many loves survive?

his medals can't protect his heart

the kiss

last embrace

it may only be four months but to loved ones it feels like...


Part 4: The pie cart - and the lovers

1938. Fella named Harry decides to set up a cafe in a caravan, selling pie 'n peas. More than 70

years later, Harry's Cafe de Wheels is still going strong. Just like the motto of the HMAS Melbourne
sailors who frequent Harry's: 'She gathers strength as she goes'.

a permanent fixture

she gathers strength as she goes 

Even more impressive than being classified by the National Trust of Australia as a 'quintessential
Sydney icon'? Being the place that Australian-born Dubai-living newlyweds, Cat and Adrian, popped 
into on their big day for a quick post-ceremony, pre-dinner hot dog. Harry's was where they had 
enjoyed one of their first dates - as had Cat's grandparents decades before.

true romance

looks vaguely Vegas

let's sit awhile and eat our hot dog

hats off to the lady in white

a bouquet and a hot dog

'should I buy another one?'

setting up a Harry's in Dubai?

surely they've earned a spot on Harry's photo wall

Part 5: Hungry? You have options

Starting with Harry's signature dish, the pie with mashed peas, potatoes and gravy.

the house special, still special after all those years

a million dollar view free with every $5 pie

makes you proud to be Australian

a rare sight - no customer

different crowds

i wonder if the seagulls were as bad in 1951

elegant scavenger

Then there's the upmarket pub meal at another institution, the Tilbury Hotel.

the Tilbury, pub one day, film set the next

old style, with a fresh feel

plate up

Another notch up (the price and people-watching scale): the restaurants that line the Finger Wharf.

China Doll

they've both earnt their stripes

Or you can take a walk around to the northern side of Woolloomooloo Bay to the Andrew Boy Charlton pool
cafe. On the way, you'll pass an artwork that references the site of the first ladies 'baths' in the area, 
created by one Mrs Biggs in 1833.

'Mrs Biggs even had a bathing machine to attract the ladies'

at the Boy Charlton cafe

water on water

If all else fails, you can always park yourself at the end of the Finger Wharf and try to catch your
own dinner...


Mullets and bait

what shall I have for dinner?

Part 6: The bits you won't find in the travel brochure

Behind the main road, beyond the dazzling blue, lies the rest of the Loo. From one extreme of

wealth to another, with plenty of public housing and homeless men sleeping rough. It's no fairytale
existence but it could be a lot worse - once upon a time, in the 1970s, the Loo was close to being
redeveloped with everyone kicked out. While that didn't happen the government did succeed
in ripping through the suburb's centre with massive pylons of the Eastern Suburbs railway viaduct.

land rights when?

an old terrace and the Old Fitzroy

'place of plenty'

10,000 km as the pelican flies from another Frisco

in need of a little tailoring

turning concrete into outback: Guerrilla Gardeners

kids don't see different colours

soon you'll be able to ride your bike down to the Loo

Beauty in the Loo? The harbourside side of Woolloomooloo is undeniably sparkly. But I left dazzled
mostly by the emotions that run deep within the whole suburb, deeper even than those ridiculous
pylons. Love, anger, sadness. Jealousy and joy. And the bravery of those willing to fight for what they 
believe in, from an old wooden building to the freedom of their country.

Onto matters mundane, have you noticed that my 'Monday' post has become 'Wednesday'? Hmm.
I'm not going to stress too much but I'll either try and get it back to Monday or maybe revert to 
post day being Friday. Wednesday is just too mid-week for my liking. 

See you next week.


  1. Now I gotta have one of those pies next time I am up!

  2. As always a fabulously beautiful post. Don't worry about your deadlines. I am certainly not sitting here Monday wondering where you are. It's a lovely surprise to see you pop up in my Google Reader whenever you do. Weekly, not weekly. Not to worry.

  3. Louise I love, love, love your blog. Inspiring!

  4. These images of in and around Woolloomooloo are absolutely stunning - well don. Loving Sydney more and more.

  5. Hi Louise,
    great idea well executed and GREAT photography

    All the best
    michael, Harrys Cafe de Wheels

  6. Whenever you get around to the posts, just keep them coming. So enjoyable, fantastic light.

  7. You missed the University? How could you miss the University of Woolloomooloo?

  8. thank you..
    I love you compositions, you have an incredible eye..
    you make me want to get out there and explore this city more and more. To open my eyes wider, and see the beauty all around..
    You are taking us on a truly magical journey.
    Must make into a book..Please..

  9. scream4noreason - They look good don't they? I'm a gluten-free person so no pie for me.

    katiecrackernuts - Thank you. But you know what, I need that deadline to keep structured and motivated!

    Sheridan and Bev - Thanks so much.

    Michael - So glad you like the shots. I probably should have tried to contact you but I never know what's going to catch my eye. By the way, can you make a gluten-free pie?!! I'm gluten-free and so sad I couldn't eat one of those delicious looking pies.

    Beach Tropic - Thank you. Sydney has such great light.

    N@ - Sorry! I'm not exactly a Python fan so...

    Lisa - Thanks so much. And yes, there will be a book!


  10. Hi Louise,
    I am loving your blog. Such beautiful,nostalgic
    imagery. You have made me homesick for the 14 different suburbs I have lived in during my 21 years here.It's great to be reminded of the wonders our city offers. Must get out on foot more often.
    Can't wait for the book. What a generous gift on your part.

    Love Foo ( Yes! Kill's Sis)

  11. Foo! Wow, 14 suburbs, that is a lot! So glad you are enjoying the tour - if I make it to D Hill, will definitely call on you.


  12. Hi Louise,
    I discovered your blog only yesterday but still had check back again today on the off chance there might be another post. Just love it. Having been born in Sydney but growing up overseas I definitely don't know its suburbs intimately. I first heard of Woolloomooloo in Maggie Alderson's great piece of chick lit Mad About the Boy. Reading you blog and looking at your wonderful photos is such a treat. The images of loved ones preparing to part were very moving.

    Kind regards,

  13. Now that i am finally finished cathing up all these weeks into 3 short veiwing weeks (my internet is slow otherwise i could have dont it in a day) but i wanted to say gorgeous photos love how you capture the place.

    As an eastern suburbs girl i love when you venture out and i can get a first hand veiw of the places that are only names to me.

    As well I would love if you visited my suburb, Bellevue Hill, amongst the ' McMansions' ( whats wrong with a big house anyway??)are some very special old corners and cute shops.

  14. Nicole - Thank you - Glad you like the navy images - I was limited in what I could capture as I was stuck behind a fence. And those guys were so accommodating, considering I was taking up some of their precious last few minutes.

    Goldie - Thanks so much - and stay tuned this week as we're going to venture far far away. By the way, there's nothing wrong with big houses - except when they're devoid of character and ugly! To my mind, it's just such a waste when a lovely old home is knocked down and something cookie-cutter and badly designed replaces it. If the old isn't worth keeping, there are so many ways to design a great new home, even on limited budgets. But you know, it's all subjective.


  15. Hello Louise, I work in one of the restaurants on the finger wharf. You have captured Woolloomooloo perfectly and all its attractions. Especially like the "both earnt their stripes" Great images


  16. What a wonderful tour! From all that romance and love with the navy and then the wedding to all the artwork. You do capture seagulls in motion beautifully too. I do like that neon Harry's sign glowing in the light too.

  17. some good memories there. i grew up down the Loo from the 60's to the 80's, my Aunty still lives there from the 40's & so do some old mates, talk to some original people from the Loo to know what it's really like.. good luck with that and thanks for rekindling some great memories.

  18. so much more than shown