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  • Writer's pictureJon Ruwolt

'Gracious' Gordon Federation standouts

Ku-ring-gai Federation Heritage, Part 1 - Gordon

Note: Ku-ring-gai Council has about 40 Heritage Conservation Areas; view most of the listed areas here. Ku-ring-gai residents are fighting redevelopment pressures - Read more....

The heritage of Ku-ring-gai comprises a rare blend of fine domestic architecture within a landscape of indigenous forests and exotic planting and gardens.

  • Ku-ring-gai is `a municipality of national and cultural significance for its fine collection of twentieth-century domestic architecture, which is of high aesthetic, historic, scientific and social values, benefiting past, present and future generations. 

  • Many of the older homes are architect-designed and surrounded by attractive gardens.

  • The established landscape and visual character of Ku-ring-gai need to be preserved and enhanced.

The character of Ku-ring-gai is defined by

  • Large indigenous and exotic trees whose canopies form the skyline, characterise the streets and dominate garden spaces throughout the whole area; and

  • The unique presentation of private gardens which are given due importance in residential settings and designs.

  • Remnants of indigenous forests and Blue Gum High Forests* within the municipality.

There are way too many to examine here, and anyway not all are Federation-era houses.

So here are my pick of the Federation-era listed sites in this Ku-Ring-Gai Council area. 

  • NB The earliest listed local heritage house nominations (Municipality of Ku-ring-gai heritage study, 1987) are not available on the web, and in the Federation era there was a Ku-RIng-Gai Council fire (when?) which destroyed most paper records, especially of building approvals. 

  • The distinctiveness of Ku-ring-gai lies in the fact that it was developed progressively throughout its history as the needs of the community grew, with input and interaction between residents, architects and development.

Many books have been written about Ku-ring-gai's history, its architecture and natural environment; its picturesque quality and the notable residents that have lived and worked in its suburbs.

Housing in the area consists predominantly of houses on medium to large-sized lots.

  • There are a few unsympathetic alterations or intrusions into the area.

  • The Gordon Precinct is significant in the way it epitomises the area and era in both the excellent, intact nature of its houses, their gardens and street plantings. - Zeny Edwards

Gordon in 1921 was described as

  • a quiet and charming suburb with “many magnificent residences of unique design, including bungalows and superior cottages”. 

  • Suburban development followed the outbreak of bubonic plaque in the crowded inner-city and ill-health caused by poor sanitation and inferior buildings.

  • The virtues of the suburban house, set apart from its neighbour allowing free air circulation, and surrounded by health-giving gardens, and with ready access to bushland, as is the case of Ku-ring-gai, were lauded. Kate Higgins, HERITAGE CONSULTANT,

The most significant Federation houses in Gordon are:

  1. 1886 Rochester, 51 Werona Avenue, Gordon

  2. 1913 Tulkiyan 707 Pacific Highway, Gordon - designed by eminent Edwardian architect B.J. Waterhouse

  3. 1901 Aberdour (aka Gortgowan), 23 Nelson Street, Gordon​1901-1920  Millthorn, 38 Nelson Street, Gordon

  4. 1901 Theace,  24 Nelson Street, Gordon

1. Aberdour (formerly Gortgowan), 23 Nelson Street, Gordon NSW

'Aberdour' is a gracious 1901 Federation Queen Anne residence on 3,300sqm showcasing a sympathetic renovation over two impressive levels.

  • architect thought to be G M Pitt jnr. for William and Bessie Fitzsimons, he was a Macquarie St. dentist

  • Gortgowan named for an estate in Ireland

  • gates were originally part of an 1876 iron fence enclosing Hyde Park, Sydney

  • bay window under an over-sized gable with ornate timber detailing

  • bespoke joinery, palatial interiors

  • superb alfresco entertaining encompassing formal gardens,

  • north-south tennis court and in-ground pool

  • elegant foyer, opulent formal lounge and formal dining room, both with marble fireplaces, 

  • sumptuous master suite with a dressing room, fireplace and honed marble twin ensuite.

  • huge family and casual dining area with a gas fireplace,

  • gourmet Carrera marble kitchen, guest bedroom and exquisite bathroom with a spa bath. 

  • Sold on 24 Jan 2011 for $5,775,000

Rochester has been a local landmark for well over a century. 

  • Set on approximately 1151sqm, Rochester's formal parterre gardens, circular gravel drive and unique facade are part of Gordon's historical fabric.

  • themed colour schemes in every room offering an incomparable ambience

  • magnificent entrance hall with striking ornate arches, lavishly decorated ceilings throughout

  • imposing formal lounge with bay window, separate dining room with fireplace

  • master bedroom with huge ensuite, including bath and double shower

  • four other bedrooms and bathrooms, including one each in the self-contained downstairs in-law or teenage accommodation

  • beautiful wraparound open front verandah, an enclosed side verandah, office/study and tv room

  • Sold on 05 Dec 2013 for $2,338,000

  • Read more: Sales listing and photographs​​📷

3. Theace,  24 Nelson Street, Gordon NSW

Gordon mansion sells for record $6 million

The leafy suburb of Gordon, on Sydney’s upper north shore train line, has a new property price record:

The grand, heritage-listed residence Theace, at 24 Nelson Street, has sold for $6.05 million.

  • The sale trumped Gordon’s previous record, set in 2010, when Aberdour, the Queen Anne Federation residence on 3236 square metres across the road, at 23 Nelson Street, sold for $5,775,000.

  • The pool at Theace, 24 Nelson St, Gordon. Photo:

  • That record was almost beaten in August when a six-bedroom McIntosh Street house, on half the land size of Aberdour, sold for $5.75 million.

  • All three properties come with the obligatory tennis court, pool, modern extension and at least double-car garaging.

  • Theace has the largest land holding, its exquisitely landscaped gardens covering 3550 square metres.

  • ​Veteran property developer Peter Icklow, who is chief executive of Monarch Investments Group, and his wife, Kea, paid $330,000 for the house in 1983.

  • A few months later they paid $215,000 for the neighbouring property.

Since then, the property-savvy couple have restored, renovated and extended the house across the former boundary, tripling the size of the original house, designed by Oliver Harley in 1904. 

  • Mr Icklow said it had taken 12 months to sell the home. “

4. Tulkiyan, 707 Pacific Highway, Gordon NSW

Tulkiyan was designed by Bertrand James Waterhouse, an architect who was popular for his residential work (he was also responsible for the design of Nutcote, the home of painter May Gibbs).

He designed Tulkiyan in the Arts and Crafts style that he favoured in much of his work.

  • Tulkiyan was built on part of a land grant that went back to 1823. The land changed hands many times until it was acquired by the Donaldson family, who commissioned Waterhouse to design the house.

  • Tulkiyan stayed in the hands of the Donaldson family until 1994, when it was bequeathed to Ku-ring-gai Council. Tulkiyan has a state heritage listing.

  • December 2017 Newsletter:

  • Tulkiyan, the State Heritage Listed 1913 Gordon house owned by Ku-ring-gai Council, has been closed to public access since 2012.

  • From 2004 the house had been opened to the public for open days and group visits run by the Friends of Tulkiyan volunteers, who included a number of KHS members....

  • Last year (2016) Ku-ring-gai Council made an Agreement with the Historic Houses Association of Australia (HHAA) to administer Tulkiyan with a view to reopening for public access.

  • An accident with the hot water service inside the property has since damaged part of the house and affected its State Listed contents. These materials are soon to undergo extensive remediation and conservation work.

Tulkiyan is a valuable piece of local heritage which should be properly restored, and managed to continue its role in describing the local history of Ku-ring-gai.

Read more about Ku-ring-gai's federation heritage at - OR

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