Street History: Lawrence Street, Alexandria

January 17th, 2020 - by Brad Gillespie

Lawrence Street is one of Alexandria’s most desirable addresses.

Residents living on the tree-lined inner city street are walking distance to cafes, restaurants and schools as well as playgrounds and the greenery of Sydney Park. They are also less than five kilometres away from the CBD and close to a range of public transport.

Lawrence Street is part of a much coveted, mainly residential grid of streets and lanes that run parallel to McEvoy Street/Euston Road and Mitchell Road. Comparable to the Golden Triangle, many argue that this is among the best parts of the suburb.

Name

Usually streets in this area are named as an ode to the British Monarchy or after key colonial figures. However, the origins of the name ‘Lawrence Street’ are not known. It was first listed in the John Sands Sydney and Suburban Directories in 1886. There were only five listings on the street at the time.

History of ownership

Naming traditions aside, its past is very typical of inner city Sydney. The land now known as Lawrence Street, belonged to the Gadigal people – the traditional custodians of the land.

In 1823, a 1400-acre parcel of land was granted to William Hutchinson, a former convict, who made it good in Australia. In 1814, Hutchinson became the Superintendent of Convicts and Public Works and in 1820 Hutchinson, Daniel Cooper and others had founded a water-powered flour mill called Waterloo Mill.

Cooper and Solomon Levey purchased the parcel of land and mill in 1825 and by the 1850s Cooper was the sole owner of both.

The area that is now Lawrence Street is part of what became known as Cooper’s Estate, although the actual street was established after further subdivisions after 1884, when Cooper’s heir auctioned off freeholds from the Cooper Estate Waterloo.

Industry

While the land was passed between different owners, Alexandria and surrounds were in a perpetual process of transformation.

The natural resources of the land drew a variety of industries into the area, including dairies and market gardens. When the City of Sydney banned noxious industries, tanning and wool washing businesses relocated to Botany Road and in the nearby low-lying basins.

Brickmakers established themselves here in the mid-19th century, while the opening of the Sydney Terminus of the Sydney to Parramatta Railway in 1855, encouraged more workers to labour in the area.

Despite the employment opportunities in present-day Redfern, Alexandria, Waterloo and Surry Hills, only 1500 of the 6500 workers lived in these suburbs during the late 1850s.

But as manufacturing in the area grew, especially after World War I, so did the surrounding population.

The Street

Lawrence Street began to develop in the 1880s and there were a total of 20 listings on the street by 1897 and was further built upon during WW1 and had a mix of commercial and residential dwellings.

In the 1930s it was home to two brass foundries, a shoe company, Spriggs Asbesolite Co. Ltd and two engineering works.

Today

The street contains architectural traces of its history today and its architecture consists of a blend of working class housing, warehouses and industrial development belonging to Victorian, Federation and inter-war periods.

Many of these buildings have had modern makeovers providing their owners with the best of both worlds. Here are a few of the street’s designer landmarks:

Former Terraces

233 Lawrence Street, Alexandria

This three-bedroom terrace was renovated by award-winning architect Paul Pholeros. The new floorplan allows the space to be flooded with light and the glamorous open-air bathroom takes advantage of the structures new-found seclusion.

277 Lawrence Street, Alexandria

The bulk of this Victorian terrace was demolished to make way for this bespoke home: The Spiegel Haus by Carterwilliamson Architects. A two-storey, steel plated, inverted butterfly window presides over the neighbouring terraces, while an oversized awning marks the entrance. Inside the space is airy and feels generous thanks to clever use of mirrors. The surfaces are composed of striking combinations of earthy timber and concrete.

Former Warehouses

2-14 Lawrence Street, Alexandria

“The Gallery” is a boutique residential complex that was a warehouse in its past life. Today its industrial features have been repurposed into 15 homes, consisting of units and townhouses. Each residence has a leafy outlook and modern amenities: fluid living and dining areas, spacious bedrooms and lift access to a secure car park.

236-238 Lawrence Street, Alexandria

The former Tighe Bros. brass foundry has been converted into several three-bedroom homes. All of them have an open-plan kitchen and dining area with soaring ceilings and a versatile loft space. Each home also has an urban retreat in the form of a private courtyard.

Past listings

13/240 Lawrence Street
236 Lawrence Street
225 Lawrence Street
175 Lawrence Street
174 Lawrence Street
54 Lawrence Street

If you’re interested in buying or selling on Lawrence Street, Alexandria, contact my team today.