First published in The Sydney Morning Herald on September 17, 1981
The battle for Sydney’s Montmartre
The battle for Victoria Street, Potts Point – the Montmartre of Sydney – is on again.
This Parisian street, dappled by leaves, is marred at its northern end by a row of crumbling terrace houses. The National Trust says the magnificent nineteenth century terraces are being demolished by “wilful neglect.” The director of the trust. Mr John Morris, yesterday accused the State Government of “standing by and doing nothing” to stop the houses from falling into disrepair.
An inspection by the Herald later revealed a sad scene in Victoria Street. The terraces from numbers 55 to 85 on the city side of the street stand behind a tall wire fence. But windows are smashed and torn out, doors have been removed and saplings are growing out of wall cracks and floorboards in one building.
The roof has been removed from at least one house leaving it open to the weather. Mr Morris said the terraces had been left vacant since the first great battle to save the street in 1973-74. Victoria Point Pty Ltd., a company owned by a developer, Mr Frank Theeman, bought the terraces and others at the southern end of the street, with plans to redevelop the site for high-rise residential buildings.
An agreement was finally reached under which the old terraces from 55 to 85 would be restored and a few others demolished to make way for a block of units of sympathetic design. Mr Morris said the State Heritage Council had imposed a permanent conservation order on the house at number 55. But the rest of the terrace was protected only by an order which prohibited demolition, but did not require the owners to keep the buildings in repair.
“The terraces stand forlorn, victims of neglect and vandalism,” Mr Morris said. “Intricate decoration is crumbling and windows and doors have been removed. These terraces are part of the Victoria-Brougham Street precinct which is classified by the National Trust. This precinct has rightly been described as the Montmartre of Sydney.”