Monday, August 16, 2010

Suburb No 45: Dulwich Hill

Why 'Dully', 8 km from the city centre? Well, I kept hearing about people who loved living there and
was curious. Just up the road from the thriving suburb of Marrickville, maybe it would be similar I

Not really it turns out. While Marrickville bustles, Dulwich Hill quietly snoozes. So much so that

when I first arrived I really did wonder what all the fuss was about. Then slowly it grew on me and
I realised Dully's relative calm is part of its appeal. A handful of the shops haven't changed for 30
years, still run by the original Greek migrant owners. Yet 47 different nationalities now attend the 
local public school. There's a great cafe that caters for the baby boom Dully's currently experiencing.
And not long ago Gleebooks even opened a shop there. Oh, and for anyone trying to buy a home in
Sydney sans a crippling mortgage, it was until fairly recently, affordable.

A few facts. Started out in life as Petersham Hill, then Wardell's Bush, then South Petersham and  

Fern Hill. Finally ended up as Dulwich Hill, after Dulwich in the old country. Variety of architectural
styles, from Romanesque to Federation. Experienced waves of migration, from Greeks and Portuguese
to Pacific Islanders, Africans, Vietnamese and Chinese. Most recently it's been Anglo families
desperately searching for affordable real estate.

The new arrival that's got everyone talking, however, is Gleebooks. And after a long wait, Dully will

also be getting the light rail extension within the foreseeable future. Too much excitement indeed.

Let's saunter.

Part 1: The Greeks

They came, they saw, they set up shop. That was back in another century but some are still there. Like

George, the tailor who'll whip up your hem for $10 and give you a sermon on socialism for free. 
Anastasia and Con who run Thessaloniki, a cake shop. Luigi's Bakery, where the bread flies out the
door by noon. And David Kasmaroski's Eumundi Smokehouse (okay, he's actually Russian but it's close

those were the days

George's shop, unchanged for 30 years

George, the tailor/socialist

politics and cotton

Anastasia's cake shop

Greeks love their lace

Gregory Athanassiou, patron of the cake shop

Gregory's lucky charms

lucky to get anything after 11

they come from near and far

oranges from the Sentas Bros

signs of a former life

Part 2: Newer migrants

I met three Fijians, two Bangladeshis and one Eritrean. Just a few of the 47 nationalities that attend Dulwich

Hill Public School.

Lice, Mereani and Losalini from Fiji

she's brought up her family in Dulwich Hill (Kainga is 'family' in Tongan)

far from home yet right at home

Hajara and Hamja from Bangladesh

life is like a fairytale now

i hope it has a happy ending

Lini from Eritrea


Vietnam in Dulwich Hill

Part 3: The most recent arrivals

So much for sleepy Dully. Gleebooks have opened their doors, there's a cafe that sprawls out onto

the pavement with the best of them and now the light rail is going ahead. Whatever will happen

there's a Gleebooks in Dulwich Hill!

the fresh face of Dully

Sideways Cafe, epicentre of a baby boom

he's cute, sure, but you still love me right?

the light rail is finally coming

Part 4: Colourful Dully - Green

colour your world

eek, are you me?

green pins and celery sticks

art and religion

eats your greens and oranges


and loneliness

 Part 5: Colourful Dully - Blue and Yellow

i heard it was once a brothel

packs a punch

bright lights



weathered but still standing

Part 6: Colourful Dully - Black with accents of silver, red and orange

The Right Reverend Brian Iverach - "you can call me Bishop"


rock and roll baby

devils of Dully

red lipped lady


three toned

let there be light

The beauty in Dulwich Hill? The slow reveal, its lack of pretension and the fact that 47 different
nationalities can go to school together - and I'm told, all get along.

See you next week.


  1. Too funny -- I was in the Last Drop Cafe (next to the new Gleebooks) last week working away on the laptop when I looked up to see a woman with a camera leaving. For some reason I immidiately thought it was you but by then you were out the door otherwise I'd have said g'day. Nice to see what you've done with the old girl.

  2. This is where I grew up! I lived in Windsor Road and then Arlington Street the junction of these 2 streets is where Sideways is. It used to be Nash's General store I used to buy a white paper bag of mixed lollies for 10 cents! I now live about a minutes drive from Sideways, I must like it here. Beautiful images as usual Louise.
    Cheers Brent

  3. Elizabeth - Wish you had grabbed me and said hello! Glad you like it.

    Brent - Oh, as much as I like Sideways I'd love to have seen Nash's General Store! You must have seen so much change over the years. Surprised I didn't run into you too!


  4. Thanks for letting me know which cafe to avoid!

  5. I live in Dulwich Hill and it's all true... I love the quiet lack of pretension, excellent food, hidden shopping gems and its proximity to Newtown, Leichhardt, Marrickville and the city.

    Your blog is tops as well, btw.

  6. Beautiful pairings as usual - you have such a great eye. And this is a special one for me, as we lived in Dulwich Hill for eight years up to 1999. My only issue with what you say is that it has definitely changed in 30 years, and in the decade since we've left in particular. Gleebooks!! I can barely believe it... We always used to joke how one day something trendy would come to Dulwich Hill, with an eye to the lifestyles of our friends down the road in hip and happening Newtown...Dully was the poor cousin, but we could afford to buy, not just rent...

  7. Helen - Like your enthusiasm! There are many proud Dully residents it would seem.

    scream4noreason - ha ha!

    J Bar - 47 nationalities - yep, that's multicultural.

    Anon - It is mid-everything isn't it?

    Anon - Thank you, glad you like the pairings. By the way, I didn't say the suburb hasn't changed in 30 years - I said there was a handful of shops that haven't changed in that time. Because I agree with you, there has definitely been change - Gleebooks etc!


  8. Wonderful juxtapositions and an eye for detail and that beauty which is not so glaringly obvious. I love the portraits of Hajara and Hamja. Two things I keep thinking after looking at this post: 1. I want to move to Dulwich Hill (!!) and 2. People who are so closed to immigration/refugees/etc need to see this, the vitality, the richness of existence that occurs when cultures collide. (Ah! I'm feeling all inspired!)

  9. Great textures in this one - tiles, lace, stained glass and peeling paint, my favourite - and love all those rainbow colours! My paternal grandmother's father owned a shoe shop in Dulwich Hill in the early part of the 20th century, and they lived there as well, which I remember her talking about all those years ago. Great post!

  10. Fiona - Aren't Hajara and Hamja just lovely? She holds that child with so much love and he in turn is so wonderfully cheeky with a smile to melt ice, it was a privilege to take their photo. To your point about people who are closed to immigration needing to see images like these - I agree but you know what they really need to do is get out and meet people like Hajara and Hamja - talk to them - understand them a little better. Then they become people just like you and I rather than generic 'immigrants' or 'refugees'. That's my five cents worth anyway.

    Louise x

  11. Nat - I loved that peeling paint too - it's on the outside of a home that I hope the owners can revive rather than demolish.

    Wish we could travel back on time and visit that shoe shop!


  12. Louise, discovered your blog today ( via a friend's comment on FB). You have a great eye, photography skills and I love the juxtapositions of photos too. I enjoyed 'walking' through Hurstville and Brighton ( places I've lived) and looking forward to future posts on Sylvania, Summer Hill,Petersham, Beauty Point and Waverton, ( places where I've lived) . This is a great nostalgia trip esp for those of us who now live oversea

  13. Hi Louise, I've been admiring your work here and the photos on the Dictionary of Sydney as well, and now you've done my suburb! I will be in touch about buying some, they are lovely. I've lived in Dully for 20 years on and off, and there's nowhere better. Especially now with the Portuguese flavour and a bookshop. You captured a lot of it.

  14. I always wait for your new post! Amazing as usual.

  15. another suburb i knwo well my mums oldest firend my aunty i call her used to live in dully for years basicaly my hole life shes jstu moved to earlwood two eyars ago both lovely spots i mis her garden but i never got to her dully house much so small cramped was good but jstu not easy for me she prefered to come ehre or meet us at a resteraunt now shes in earlwood ive been there heaps of times in the last nearly two years a lovely big house easy to get to and better parking LOL and of course a river runs right outside the loungeroom windo lov3ed dallie love earlwood love the area wats the next suburb oh and light rail is it really being built wastn that all canceled coz of that bunbgled metro thing its all confusing to me

  16. Sofie - Thank you, so glad you enjoyed your walk down memory lane. Stay tuned for at least one of those other suburbs you mentioned.

    Emma - Thanks! 20 years, you must have seen so much change.

    Fer de Argentina - Many thanks!

    Ellen - Apparently the light rail is really happening - but yes, I agree, I get confused about which rail where etc given the recent shenanigans!


  17. Just catching up after 3 weeks in the sun in Qld (perhaps you can do towns next!!).
    Loving the light as usual, Bright Lights and Diamonds this time.
    Di xx

  18. amazing and a wonderful idea..
    now I feel bad that I not go to Australia to see my family...

  19. What a great read :) We are new residents to Dully, having just bought (finally) and we love it. Going exploring around the area is so interesting.

    I love how it is unpretentious, Dully is what it is. I would have loved to have seen it when the tram ran through Marrickville Rd.

    I hope it stays modest. Would hate to see it get gentrified.

    My fave photo pairing is 'weathered but still standing' :)

  20. Fabulous stuff. You have such an eye for capturing the essence of each suburb.

  21. As a Brisbane boy (via London, Yokohama and finally Coogee), settling into Dulwich was tough after our Coogee landlord sold our place. We'd had friends who told us to try the inner west and, as we weren't able to find anything under $500 a week in Coogee, it was more of a forced move. I loathed the place at first, knew nobody and even contended with a psycho for a neighbour. Hated it even. Wanted it to slide of the murky banks of the Cooks River in flames where it could rot in its beachlessness.
    But things changed. Starting with making friends on the L28, Dulwich opened up to me. Luigi's has been in the New York Times, I'm told, though I have never made it there early enough to see the full range (heard 6am is the best time to join the queue). The smokehouse is heaven to the connoisseur carnivore and it has a rare serenity that can't be found in other parts of Sydney.
    Refreshingly underglorified and only ever so slightly gentrified with a frankness to its character that reflects its people. A great place to get away from the city's cruel spotlight and those that want to run over you towards it. And when and if I want that, Newtown is just down the road.

  22. Hi Louise I live in Hurlstone Park, sandwiched between Dulkwish Hill and Summer Hill, and this used to be the original Fern Hill (the railway station has the old sign on it) but they changed its name to Hurlstone Park because of all the 'Hills'. Now no-one knows where it is heheheh. Love the photos of course. Kept hoping I'd see HP but now that you've done my Hills guess that won't happen. Will be looking out for the book one day.... Deb

  23. fantastic juxtaposition of images -love it!

  24. Another Dully resident fan here - thanks for more great pics! Like christopherdee we moved to DH fleeing the expense of the eastern beaches. Two kids in a two bedroom unit just wasn't cutting it.

    Now we live 8kms from the city, surrounded by beautiful neighbours - coming home to bags of passionfruit at my front door - 'spare' yayas and papoulis if my kids ever need them - street parties at xmas time - Luigi's at the top of the street - and how about The Valley Lebanese pizza on Marrickville Road? (it's fabulous) And then to top off Gleebooks opening, we now have a secondhand modern furniture store in our street! Plus the most laidback kids park in Sydney, Hoskins in Piggott Street. Love it. Thanks again

  25. Fantastic Photographs. I live in Abu Dhabi now and there just ain't nuffin like D'wich Hill here.

  26. makes my home look cool ;)

  27. I love Dulwich Hill and we have made it our home here for the past four years. Have a talk with the son taking over the business at Sentas Bros from his dad - he has so many stories to tell about the old Dulwich Hill and its less than salubrious past. Fascinating!

    We have had a recent and tragedy - Eumundi Smokehouse shut down and no-one I know has any idea what happened :( My partner and I are devastated about this - it was the jewel in DH's foodie crown.