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A lost Camden mid-20th century icon, the White House Farm

At South Camden there was once a favourite restaurant and venue for local weddings and receptions. It was the White House Farm at 451 Hume Highway South Camden. The restaurant was demolished in the 1990s and replaced by a service station. The site of the White House Farm is the location of many fond memories for family and community celebrations and anniversaries.

Camden White House Farm Chroncle19Feb1986_0001
White House Farm Restaurant and Reception Centre Camden about to go auction in 1986 (Camden Museum)

Mid-20th century modernism

The White House Farm is a local example of mid-20th century modernism influenced by a ranch-style from the West Coast America. It was timber construction, a tile roof and shutters to the windows.  Camden had a number of ranch-style houses that was a style of domestic architecture that was popular in Australia in the 1960s. A number have since been demolished, like the White House Farm. The ranch-style architecture is described for its long, close-to-the-ground profile, and wide open layout. The style fused modernist ideas with the wide open spaces of the American west to create an informal and casual approach. One characteristic of many ranch-style buildings were extensive landscape grounds. The unpretentious nature of the style was particularly popular between the 1940s and 1970s. The style lost popularity with a return to more formal and traditional styles of architecture.

 

Located on the Hume Highway to capture the passing traffic the White House Farm was built in 1966 and run as a restaurant function centre by the owners, Mr and Mrs Henry Hart, until they it sold in 1985 to Alfred and Jennifer Milan. The complex had a large commercial kitchen and could hold two wedding receptions at the same time. It had a seating capacity of 220 in two dining rooms, one of 75 and the other of 130.

Restaurant menu

In 1984 the restaurant advertised ‘Chicken in the Basket’ for $12.50. Patrons could have a ‘whole tender, spring chicken, old fashioned stuffing, baked to perfection. Served in a basket surrounded with  special fries, crumbed onion rings and homemade corn and banana fritters’. This delicacy was accompanied by the ability of patrons to select their ‘sweets’ from a self service area. Complimented with tea and coffee of choice. This ‘tradition’ was proudly introduced by Hart  family ‘in the 1950s’.

White House Farm Menu 1984_lowres
Flyer for White House Farm Restaurant Camden in 1984 (Camden Museum)

The restaurant traded five-days a week from Tuesday to Saturday, lunches from 12 to 2.30pm, and dinner from 6pm. Sunday was reserved for private functions. There was the attraction of a half-price children’s menu. Bottles of wine averaging between $5-$6. The restaurant menu had a number of delicacies that are not very common these days. Entrees of prawn cocktail, fruit cocktail,  and melon with ham, while the main dishes specialised in steaks and included carpet bag steak and steak diane. There were the poultry specials of chicken southern style and chicken in the basket (whole) and salads which included ham and chicken and cheese and pineapple. On Facebook Susan Vale recalls as a child ‘I remember sleeping in the car parked in front while mum and dad enjoyed a rowdy dinner with friends. It was the place for a nice meal’.

 

Weddings

Weddings were catered for with formal or informal reception rooms from two available menus at the exorbitant price of $13.00 and $14.50 per head. The grounds provided award winning ‘beautiful garden style settings’ and the owners could organise music, photographer and cars for the bride and groom. The motel was a two minute walk away a local motel, the Camden Country Club Motel (now also demolished). The wedding party could bring their own drinks and there was no time limit. In 1990 the Camden press claimed that ‘newlyweds are promised a relaxed and special day’. The garden had a ‘relaxed and friendly atmosphere’ and it was like have a ‘home garden wedding’. For those who wanted something a little different the restaurant owners could organise a Scottish Piper ‘in full regalia’ or a ‘Sweep-a-gram’.  The restaurant had their own DJ, master of ceremonies and musicians. The brides and grooms were promised ‘romantic weddings in a colonial home atmosphere’ catering for groups between 30 and 130 guests. One of those brides was Marie Larnach who recalls on Facebook that she had her ‘wedding reception there in 1973’. Similarly Brenda Egan had her wedding there as well.

Camden White House Farm Wedding 1980s_0001
Wedding at White House Farm Reception Centre Camden in the 1980s (Camden Museum)

The owners lived in a two-bedroom flatette above the main building. The auction notice for February 1986 said that it was ideal as staff quarters. The notice boasted that the White House Farm was a local ‘landmark’. The restaurant was sold with an adjacent  two-bedroom cottage.

 

The White House Farm had lots of parking space on a lot of 6872 m2 and was an ideal venue for local weddings and large family functions.

 

Development proposal

The Shell Company of Australia  lodged a development application for a service station on the site in April 1992, which proposed the demolition of the White House Farm restaurant. Shell had been prompted to go ahead with the development on the basis that there would be increased local traffic from the Cawdor Resident Release, which never did proceed. The Camden press noted the development of the site was always a possibility after 1989 when Camden Council changed the zoning of land on the fringes of the township. (Camden Crier, 6 May 1992)

 

Resident opposition

The Camden press reported that residents had campaigned for three months against the Shell proposal.  There was an initial public meeting held near the site at Easter 1992 with 60 residents. This was followed by a public meeting at the Camden Downs Retirement Village in April attended by 115 residents. Deputy Town Planner Graham Pascoe outlined the legal responsibility of council towards the proposal. Mr John Wrigley for the Camden Residents Action Group called for a show of hands for the no position, with resounding support. Alderman Geoff Corrigan supported the residents’ viewpoint and labelled the development proposal ‘architectural vandalism’ and claimed that the service station had ‘no heart or soul’. (Camden Crier, 6 May 1992)

Camden White House Farm Garden3 1990 MacAdv
White House Farm Camden with view from front Garden in 1990 (Camden Museum)

Over 90 objections were sent to Camden Council from local residents along with a petition of over 200 signatures. Individual submissions against the service station proposal centred on

  • Incompatibility of the development
  • Loss of residential amenity
  • Local of landscape quality
  • Social and economic effect
  • Noise and traffic impace
  • the adjoining residential area and adverse impact from proposed trading hours of 6am to 12midnight. (Camden Crier, 5 August 1992)

Council decision

The development proposal was raised at a Camden Council meeting in July 1992. Shell Company of Australia was represented by Mr Graham Rollingson of Martin, Morris and Jones real estate developers and spoke in favour of the development application. Several alderman spoke against the proposal including Aldermen McMahon, Hart, Corrigan and Feld. The residents’ interests were represented by spokesman Phil Kosta. The meeting was conducted by Deputy Mayor Frank Booking in the absence of Mayor Theresa Testoni. The council rejected the proposal on the grounds that the development application was not in the public interest.  (Camden Crier, 5 August 1992)

 

Court decision

In 1993 the Shell Company of Australia won a Land and Environment Court case to allow the construction of a service station on the site, ensuring the demolition of the restaurant and function centre. The local press reported that local residents were appalled with the decision, and Camden Council had initially rejected the proposal after resident objections in July 1992. Shell appealed the decision in the Land and Environment Court in December 1992. Council deputy town planner Graham Pascoe expressed disappointment at the decision. (The Chronicle, 12 January 1993)

White House Farm MacAdvert6June1990
This promotion for the White House Farm Wedding Reception Centre in Camden was part of a newspaper wedding special in 1990 (Camden Museum)

Today the site of the White House Farm is occupied by a service station.

Comments on Facebook:

Marie Lanarch:

Marie Larnach Had our wedding reception there in 1973.

Manage

I only know that my husband and I had our reception at the White House Farm on 15th September, 1973. It was a lovely place, little bridge out the front for photos etc. The meal was lovely. Not sure what else you need, but I hope this helps. Marie (Larnach) (18 Sept 2017)

Charlene Lindsay

Charlene Lindsay My grand parents bought the place in 1965/66. I was around 2 years old. My mum, dad, aunty Angela and uncle Tino run the restaurant between them for over 25+ years. The original building had the living area upstairs. The original kitchen of the restaurant was where the bar area in later years was situated. Before the Sydney/Melbourne freeway was completed greyhound buses used to stop by for lunches. The party room was built by my dad and uncle Tino. The kitchen addition at the rearvof building was built years later with the final extension to the a rea built in the 1970’s. We could have a wedding of 150 odd people in the party room a wedding of 80 or so in the dinning room extension and the restaurant of another 50 odd people going all at once. Seriously busy. Most popular table was ‘lovers corner’. Back in its heyday drivers like Peter Brock Alan Moffitt Colin Bond would dine there after racing at Oran Park. My grand parents also lived in the next to the White House Farm. That house was previously owned by an old lady by name of Mrs May. She used to sell her fruit n veg by the side of road Hume Highway. I miss those days 😊. After my aunty Angela died my grand father didnt have his heart in it anymore – pardon the pun! Later my uncle Tino and his second wife Nelly bought out the rest of the family.
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 · 15 September at 19:28

Ian Willis: What was your grandparents last name?

CL: Harry and Sitska Hart they came over from Holland in about 1950. They had identical twin daughters Angela and my mum Charmaine and a son Henri.

Ian Willis: Did your grandparents build the restaurant?

CL: No they built the wedding reception dance floor room and the restaurant addition on north side of the original building also the commercial kitchen and the fish pond. 😏

Katrina Woods I had the privilege of being neighbors of Charlene Lindsayparents Paul & Charmaine – I worked in the local store at Douglas Park & one day Paul asked me if wanted to work at The White House Farm ? In about 1979 ? I took up his offer – had many enjoyable Saturday & Friday nights – worked the weddings in the restaurant also kitchen – i was blessed to have had my engagement & wedding at this venue .
Fred Borg was also working there in my time & he also was our MC at our reception – Thankyou to Paul Charmaine , Tino & Mr Mrs Hart letting me be a part of Camden History
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3

 · 15 September at 22:41

Susan Vale I remember sleeping in the car parked in front while mum and dad enjoyed a rowdy dinner with friends. It was the place for a nice meal.
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2

 · 15 September at 06:44

Sheila Caris Our wedding reception was there on the 8th of February 1975 – must have been one of the hottest days of the year & no air conditioning!
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 · Reply · Message · 15 September at 22:23

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Chris Robinson
Chris Robinson We had our wedding reception here in 1990. Very happy memories. The owners and staff were wonderful.
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 · Reply · Message · 15 September at 17:13

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Julie Coulter
Julie Coulter What a flashback! We were married in the gardens 1982 and the had our wedding reception here!
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 · 16 September at 08:56

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Sue Kalmar- Grono
Sue Kalmar- Grono Anne Kalmar-Poli
Liz Kalmar-Carroll is this where we were asked to leave cause we were too loud???
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 · 15 September at 13:47

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3 Replies
Annie Austin
Annie Austin Our wedding in 71 it was the place at that time.Beautiful.
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4

 · 15 September at 17:50

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1 Reply
Marie Larnach
Jeanne Skinner
Jeanne Skinner Hahaha wow flashback alright 😊
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 · Reply · Message · 16 September at 09:06

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Ryan Punch
Ryan Punch Did that burn down or am I thinking of something else?
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 · Reply · Message · 14 September at 20:50

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Sean Couley
Sean Couley Can’t believe it made way for a petrol station.
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 · Reply · Message · 15 September at 21:58

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Tracey Kennedy
Tracey Kennedy We had our wedding reception there 23rd March 1985.
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 · 15 September at 20:43

Manage

1 Reply
Christie Williams
Christie Williams Can’t believe they knocked it down and put servo there
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 · 16 September at 08:02

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Phyllis Moloney
Phyllis Moloney I had all our work xmas parties there
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1

 · 15 September at 21:04

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Chris Terry
Chris Terry Had our wedding reception 1976
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1

 · 15 September at 18:36

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Julie Ralphs
Julie Ralphs Wow, that was another lifetime ago. Had my wedding reception there in May 1988. Charming venue.
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 · Reply · Message · 17 hrs

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Megan Murdoch
Megan Murdoch My parents held my Christening there in 1965!!
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 · Reply · Message · 15 September at 19:08

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Michelle Maree
Michelle Maree Where is White House Farm?
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 · Reply · Message · 16 September at 13:18

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Sharon Stewart
Sharon Stewart Very interesting history read Char, the good old days are in our hearts
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 · Reply · Message · 16 September at 14:47

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Brenda Egan
Brenda Egan Had my wedding reception at the White Hours Farm
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 · Reply · See response · 14 September at 21:25

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Denise Taranto
Denise Taranto Sandy Evans….was this your venue?
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 · Reply · Message · 16 September at 10:29

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Sueanne Gray
Sueanne Gray Yes Cheryl Gray and Malcom 💞
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 · Reply · Message · 15 September at 22:37

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Jennifer Hazlewood
Jennifer Hazlewood Another memory for you Alison Donohoe
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 · Reply · Message · 15 September at 13:25

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Louise Skinner
Louise Skinner Yep had our wedding reception there in 1979.
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1

 · 16 September at 09:24

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Kate Solomons
Kate Solomons Had a great 21st birthday there in 87
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1

 · 15 September at 21:23

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Cindy Cox
Cindy Cox We had our wedding reception there in 1987
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 · 15 September at 21:07

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Jane Mary Darling
Jane Mary Darling We stayed there on our wedding night. !
Craige Cole Anna & I had our wedding reception at White House Farm on a windy October evening. It was a fantastic venue and the best party I have ever been to.
Such a pity that the state government got involved in a local decision.
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 · 16 September at 05:20

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Grant Herne
Grant Herne Guess what I proposed to ann rather nervously on a sat night a long time ago at white house farm
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cafes · Camden · Elderslie · First World War · Heritage · Interwar · Modernism · sense of place · Uncategorized

Camden modernism

Cooks Garage in Argyle Street Camden the route of the Hume Highway c.1936 (Camden Images)
Cooks Garage in Argyle Street Camden the route of the Hume Highway c.1936 (Camden Images)

Camden Modernism

One of the hidden parts of the history of Camden is the influence of modernism.   Few in the community know much about it at all. Yet it has an important influence on the town in a variety of ways from domestic and commercial architecture to host of other areas. Modernism is a vague term that describes a philosophical period from the mid-1800s to the mid-20th century

Camden was not isolated from global trends and cultural forces and the trends around modernism are part of this story. The forces of modernism shaped the world were influenced by industrial growth, the growth of cities and the First World War.  The Great War and the Russian Revolution challenged ideas from the past and the failure of the status quo. The senseless slaughter of the First World War challenged the moral authority of progress from the Enlightenment.

Many supporters of modernism in Camden and across the world rejected the certainties of the Enlightenment and the dogmas of religious belief. Modernism influenced art, music, architecture, social organisation, daily life and  the sciences.

Major events during this period included the development of the railway, the  The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, the building of engineering structures like  the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) and the Eiffel Tower (1889), the innovation of the electric telegraph from 1837, the adoption of standard time by British railway companies from 1845 and the invention of photography.

Modern ideas in art also began to appear more frequently in commercials and logos, an early example of which, from 1919, is the famous London Underground logo designed by Edward Johnston. The skyscraper is the archetypal modernist building. There was the emergence of the Bauhaus School and Art Nouveaux. A more sinister reality was emerging on the Continent, in the form of Nazi art and Soviet agit-prop. Only Art Deco, a rather sleek design style aimed at architecture and applied art, expressed any confidence in the future.  There was the rise of fascism, the Great Depression and the march towards the Second World War.

The period of modernism includes the Victorian period, the Edwardian period and extends to include the interwar period of the 20th century. During the Edwardian period Camden was influenced by the dairy revolution, which saw  innovations in the dairy industry. While the economic development  and material prosperity of the interwar period was driven by  the emerging Burragorang Valley coal industry.

Fashion parade illustrating changes in modernism in Camden
Fashion parade illustrating changes in modernism in Camden

Modernism and changes in fashion

Shock horror – women show their legs and wear pants

Changes in fashion through modernity, including in Camden, were representative of changes and continuities in society. The changes were brought by the Industrial Revolution and the technology that it spawned and probably the greatest of these was the railway and in the 20th century, the motor car.

The railways were the greatest revolution of the early modern period and created mass movement of people, regular timetables and triggered the appearance of mass tourism. Steam ships hastened this and Camden folk regularly travelled to the metropolitan centre of the Empire in London.

The growth of industrial society and capitalism brought increased wealth and increased leisure time, entertainment and personal freedom. Mass culture clashed with high culture and the First World War brought the horrors of mechanised warfare.

Many new pastimes were brought by new inventions that included the bicycle, the movies, the motor car, the wireless, the telegraph, the aeroplane and the milk bar. The popularity of the bicycle gave women increased freedom of movement which was represented by the fashions they wore while cycling. There was the need for increased freedom of movement, a new social force had arrived.

Young folk in Camden went to the movies at the Star Empire Theatre and later the Paramount Cinema. They were exposed to the latest fashions in clothing, motor cars and all things American. Icons of early 20th century American culture including the movie stars  like Charlie Chaplin and Shirley Temple.

The inter-war period fashions saw women freed from the corset and there was the appearance of cosmetics and rayon, which replaced expensive silk. New industrial processes produced ready-to-wear. There were shorter hemlines and shock horror – women showed their legs and wore pants.

Consumerism was hastened by the Victorians and really gained momentum during the inter-war period. Social norms were challenged and new ideas created by new technologies drove many changes in the daily life of those living in the Camden district.

Camden general stores, like Whitemans and Cliftons, carried goods from all parts of the British Empire for the consumption of the local community. Modernism was a transnational force that embraced the Camden community.

Interwar Modernism in Camden

The interwar years were a period of transition and increasingly the motor car replaced the horse in town, and on the farm the horse was replaced by the tractor, all of which supported the growing number of garages in the town. The interwar landscape was characterised by personalised service, along with home and farm deliveries by both horse and cart and motor cars.

Despite the prosperity of the interwar period the town was still dominated by the colonial gentry and their estates. Apart from their convict labour in the early years, they established a system of class and social relations that ordered daily life in the town from its foundation until after the Second World War.  While the townsmen dominated the early period of local government, by Federation the landed gentry had usurped their power and had imposed their political mantra of conservatism on the area. The dominance of the Macarthur’s Camden Park over the local economy during the interwar period was characterised by the construction of the Camden Vale milk processing factory (1926) adjacent to the railway. It was an example of Camden’s industrial modernism. The company developed TB free milk and marketed it through the Camden Vale Milk Bar, a retail outlet on the Hume Highway (1939); complete with a drive-through.

For a country town of its size the town had modern facilities and was up-to-date with the latest technology. The town had two weekly newspapers, Camden News and the Camden Advertiser, there was opening of the telephone exchange (1910), the installation of reticulated gas (1912), electricity (1929), replacement of gas street lighting with electric lights (1932) and a sewerage system (1939), and by 1939 the population has increased to 2394. The town’s prosperity allowed the Presbyterians built a new church (1938), while a number of ‘locals’ built solid brick cottages that reflected their confidence in the town’s future.

Selected examples of interwar architecture

Dairy farming

  1. Camden Vale milk processing factory, 11 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in 1926 by the Camden Vale Milk Co, a subsidiary of Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd.
Camden Vale Milk Depot Argyle Street Camden 1926 Industrial modernism (Camden Images)
Camden Vale Milk Depot Argyle Street Camden 1926 Industrial modernism (Camden Images)
Camden Valley Inn, Camden, c.1938 (Camden Images)
Camden Valley Inn, Old Hume Highway, Camden, c.1938 (Camden Images)
  1. Camden Vale Inn, Remembrance Drive (Old Hume Highway), Camden (now Camden Valley Inn). Architect: Cyril Ruwald. Builder: Herb English. A milk bar on the Hume Highway built in 1939 by the Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd to market its Camden Vale milk from TB tested dairy herds on Camden Park. It was ‘designed in the Tudor style, with walls in attractively coloured brickwork suggesting a touch of modernity’. [ Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, Camden Vale Special Pasteurised Milk Production and Distribution, Camden, Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, c.1938.]

Motor industry

Cooks Garage in Argyle Street Camden the route of the Hume Highway c.1936 (Camden Images)
Cooks Garage in Argyle Street Camden the route of the Hume Highway c.1936 Interwar Spanish Mission Style (Camden Images)
  1. Cooks Garage, 31-33 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in 1935. Owned by WH Cook. It was built in the Spanish Mission style, and was characterised by terracotta roof tiles, a front loggia, rendering of brickwork and shaped parapets. Since demolished.
  2. Main Southern Garage, 20-28 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in the mid 1930s.
  3. Dunk House, 56-62 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden, in 1937. The building was a car showroom, shop complex and professional suites owned by EC Dunk.
  4. Clintons Motor Showroom, 16 Argyle Street, Camden. The car showroom was built in 1947 by Mark Jensen for Clinton Motors, the Holden dealership in Camden. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory it is a rare masonry Art Deco style building with large shopfront windows and wrap around awning.

Retail

  1. 102-104 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1939. Stuckey Bros, bakers and pastry cooks, occupied premises and fitted it out in 1940. According to the Camden News it was ‘fitted with every modern device’.

Banks

Bank of NSW, 1938, Argyle St, Camden the route of the Hume Highway (I Willis)
Bank of NSW, 1938, Argyle St, Camden the route of the Hume Highway (I Willis)
  1. Bank of New South Wales (Westpac), 121-123 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1936. The two storey building had a residence upstairs and a banking chamber downstairs. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory the building is Georgian Revival style.
  2. Rural Bank, 115-119Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1937. The two storey building had a residence upstairs with banking chamber downstairs. Art deco style. There is trachyte stonework on the facing of building.

Churches

  1. Presbyterian Church, 42 John Street, Camden. Built in 1938. Architect: George Gray, R.Vale. A brick church, which according to the Camden Heritage Inventory the buildings is Gothic Revival (Gothic Interwar) style.

Hotels

11.Camden Inn (Hotel), 105-107 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1933. Tudor style.

Agriculture

  1. Front, AH&I Hall , 191-195 Argyle Street, Camden. The brick front of the building was added to the weatherboard hall in 1936. The original hall was constructed in 1899 by George Furner for JW Macarthur Onslow as a drill hall for the Camden Mounted Rifles.

Cinema

  1. Paramount Theatre, 39 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in 1933. It was owned by DJ Kennedy who had interests in other suburban movie cinemas in the Sydney area. It was designed in the Spanish Mission style.

Residential

Elizabeth Street, Camden

  1. Cottage, 25 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in the 1930s by Mel Peat.
  2. Flats, 33 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in 1930.

Menangle Road, Camden

  1. Cottages, 1-3 Menangle Road, Camden. Built between 1924-1925 by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory a group of Californian Bungalows.
  2. Methodist Parsonage, 24 Menangle Road, Camden. Built in 1935.
  3. Cottage, 26 Menangle Road, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1931 for N Freestone.

Murray Street, Camden.

  1. Cottages, 24-28 Murray Street, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1937. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory a group of Californian Bungalows.

Hospital

  1. Extension, Camden Hospital, Menangle Road, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1939.

Aviation

  1. Bellman Hangers, Camden Airfield, Macquarie Grove Road, Camden. Built in 1941. The Federal Government acquired the airfield from Edward Macarthur Onslow in 1940 for a central flying school under the Empire Air Training Scheme. The hangers were erected by RAAF  as temporary accommodation for aircraft. They were designed by NS Bellman in 1936 (UK) as temporary buildings.
Howlett's Cafe and Milk Bar, Camden, 1954 (Camden Images)
Howlett’s Cafe and Milk Bar, Camden, 1954 (Camden Images)

 Camden Cafes and Milk Bars

The local milk bar is a largely unrecognized part of Camden modernism where the latest trends in American food culture made their way into the small country town by Australian-Greek immigrants. The design, equipment and fit-out of local cafes and milk bars was at the cutting edge of Interwar fashion.  The cafes were a touch of the exotic with their Art Deco style interiors, where fantasy met food without the social barriers of daily life of the Interwar period. Camden milk bars rarely just sold milk shakes unlike their counterparts in the city. To make a living and ensure that their businesses paid their way the cafes and milk bars also sold fruit and vegetables, meals, sandwiches, lollies, sweets and chocolates.

These include Camden Cafe owned by the Sophios Bros, then the Cassimatis Bros in the 1930s. It became the Capital Cafe in 1935. There was the iconic Camden Valley Inn Milk Bar opened with a great fuss in 1939 on Camden Park estate by the Macarthur Onslow family.

Stuckey Bros Building Bakers Argyle Street Camden c1941 (I Willis 2012)
Stuckey Bros Building Bakers Argyle Street Camden c1941 (I Willis 2012)

Stuckey Bros Building Camden, Bakers

Camden has an art-deco style inspired building at 102-104 Argyle Street. It is the 1940 Stuckey Bros Pastrycooks and Bakers building, built by Harry Willis and Sons. The bakery was operated by HH & LC Stuckey and a bakery had been on the site from before 1912, when the Stuckeys purchased the business from J Fleming.

The building front is yellow-cream brick called polychrome, meaning a brick with more than one colour.  The shop front above street level is finely detailed with curved bricks and bay-style window in the centre of the building. The roof is green tiles.

The building is an interesting and unusual example of a two-storey Interwar retail building. The use of decorative polychrome brickwork is unusual for Camden township. It is an attractive example of a commercial building, and while the street level shopfronts have been altered it has not compromised the intergrity of the remainder of the building.

Camden News 24 April 1941
Camden News 24 April 1941

Originally the shopfront was tiled with curved glass (bow windows) defining the shop entrance. There was a laneway on the western side (facing the shopfront the right-hand side) with access to the rear of the premises, which now has a retail business located on it. Many Camden Argyle Street laneways have been filled in and are now occupied by retail premises. How many can you pick?

The shopfront is the public interface for retail premises and streetscapes. Stuckey Bros  original shopfront window glass had metal surrounds and a tiled entry (ingos/outgo or setback) that made it three-dimensional and interesting. A style of shopfront that was common from the Edwardian period. The shopfront awning is still largely as it was in 1940.

According to the Camden News Stuckey Bros was fitted out with every ‘modern device’. The shop opened at 6.30am, and the first shop assistant arrived at 8.00am. The shop closed at 7.00pm and operated 6 days a week. The doughmakers came in at 11.00pm and the bakers used wood-fired ovens, which were fired up over the weekends as it took too long to heat them up when cold.

Stuckey Bros did home deliveries  with a horse and cart to Camden, Elderslie, Cobbitty and Brownlow Hill. The mailmen would take bread to The Oaks, Burragorang Valley, Yerranderie, Werombi, and Orangeville. The Stuckeys kept their horses in the Rectory paddock next to St John’s Church.

The Stuckeys were a staunch Methodist family and Beryl Stuckey played the organ at the Methodist Church, while Frank Stuckey was the superintendent of the Sunday School for over 20 years from the 1940s.

The site of the Stuckey Bros shop and bakery  had been used as a bakery from 1852 when William McEwan built a premises and in the 1890s Mrs McEwan helped her sons Geordy and Alf run the business.

Read more @ Frank Stuckey, Our Daily Bread, The Story of Stuckey Bros, Bakers and Pastrycooks of Camden NSW, 1912-1960. Camden, F Stuckey, 1987.

Dunk House, Argyle Street, Camden c.1937 (I Willis 2013)
Dunk House, Argyle Street, Camden c.1937 (I Willis 2013)

Dunk House, A Modern Car Showroom in Camden.

There is a building at 56-62 Argyle Street, Camden, which is an understated Art Deco style example of the Interwar period. It is Dunk House. Its integrity is still largely intact and it clearly shows the impact of the new found wealth in the town from the Burragorang coalfields.

Dunk House has intact art deco style motifs adjacent to the entry above the display window front. There is black tiling on the shopfront, and a brass surround of the large display window on the former car showroom. The showroom has intact timber flooring and the interior and shopfronts have little changed from the 1930s when the building was erected by its owners. The brass names plates are still attached to the shopfront where the tenant business would put their name plate.

The Dunk House was built by renowned Camden builder Harry Willis & Sons in 1937. The premises was a car showroom, shopping complex and professional suites owned by EC Dunk. Downstairs there were 3 shops, the largest being a car showroom for General Motors cars. Upstairs there were 8 ‘compartments’ or rooms or what we would not call professional suites, each fitted out with modern amenities which included water, wash basin and electric light.

The tenants in 1937 included the downstairs shopfront leased by L Lakin, grocer and Mr Boulous, mercer. Later they included JL Hogg, dentist and in the 1950s dentist Newton Tobrett. At the rear of the property there a series of sheds which operated at auction rooms run by the Dunks.

In 1938 EC Dunk was the Camden agent for General Motors Chevrolet cars.

Camden Advertiser 14 August 1938
Camden Advertiser 14 August 1938

For more information on Interwar Camden click here

Gayline Drive-In Movie Theatre at Narellan

One of the notable attractions in the local area in the 1950s-1990s was the drive in movie theatre, which was located on Morshead Road, Narellan (now Narellan Vale). Along with rock ‘n roll, transistor radios, the bikini, the mini-skirt, it defined the lifestyle of the baby boomers. It was as popular with teenagers as it was with young families. It was a defining moment for a 20th century culture that was based around the icons of the period: cars and movies.

Signage from the Gayline Drive-In Movie Theatre at Narellan (I Willis)
Signage from the Gayline Drive-In Movie Theatre at Narellan (I Willis)

The drive in at Narellan was owned and operated from 1967-1992  by EJ Frazer and operated as the Gayline Drive in Movie Theatre.

Modernism in 1960s Elderslie NSW

Wrought iron work, Macarthur Road Elderslie NSW 1960s (I Willis 2010)
Wrought iron work, Macarthur Road Elderslie NSW 1960s (I Willis 2010)

The lands releases in the Camden suburb of Elderslie in 1960s have produced a number of houses that have expressed mid-20th century modernism. The house designs were taken from the book of project homes of the day and were quite progressive.

Australian architects including Robin Boyd were expressing Australian modernism. These architects were commissioned by housing developers like Lend Lease to design their housing estates.  One such development was the Lend Lease Appletree Estate at Glen Waverley in Melbourne. Another Lend Lease land release and group of show homes were at their 1962 Kingsdene Estate in Carlingford,

The Elderslie homes were built by the miners who worked in the Burragorang Valley and they wanted new modern houses. They generated the wealth that funded the urban growth of the  Camden suburbs of Elderslie and South Camden.

Elderslie was one of the original land grants to John Oxley in 1816. The area has been dominated by farming, particularly orchards and vineyards.

Elderslie examples of 1960s modernism include houses in Luker Street characterised by low-pitched rooves, open planned but restrained design, with lots of natural light streaming in full length glass panels adjacent to natural timbers and stone. There are also ranch style houses in River Road with open planning and wide frontages to the street, some architect designed.

These houses are all located in and amongst Federations style farming houses of the Edwardian period. The Federation style houses were on large blocks of land that were sub-divided during the 1960s.

The now demolished Henning’s house in Macarthur Road (image) is an example of open planned ranch style. Other modernist designs are the blocks of flats in Purcell Street, with use of decorative wrought iron railings.

Sunset Avenue in Elderslie was a new land release with a mix of 1960s modern low-pitched roof open planned houses interspersed with New South Wales Housing Commission fibro construction homes.

Other land releases of the 1960s were the New South Wales Housing Commission 1960s fibro houses some of which are located in Burrawong Road and Somerset Street.

Example of modern design from the early 1960s at 64 Macarthur Road Elderslie NSW (I Willis 2010)
Example of modern design from the early 1960s at 64 Macarthur Road Elderslie NSW (I Willis 2010)

Ranch-style housing in Elderslie

There are a number of ranch style houses in the Elderslie area along Macarthur Road and River Road in particular. Some are brick, while others are timber construction.
Ranch-style housing is a significant post-Second World War housing style. The housing style has been noted by architect Robert Irving as an Australian domestic architecture style. Parramatta City Council has recognised the housing style of heritage significance.

American History of Ranch-Style Homes
The original house style came from California and the South-west of the USA, where architects in these areas designed the first suburban ranch-style houses in the 1920s and 1930s. They were simple one-storey houses built by ranchers who lived on the prairies and  in the Rocky Mountains. The American architects liked  the simple form that reflected the casual lifestyle  of these farming families. After the Second World War a number of home builders in California offered a streamlined, slimmed-down version. They were built on a concrete slab without a basement with pre-cut sections. The design allowed multi-function spaces, for example, living-dining room and eat-in-kitchen which reduced the number of walls inside the house. The design was one of the first to orient the kitchen/family area towards the backyard rather than facing the street. The design also placed  the bedrooms at the front of the house. The marketing of the ranch-style house tapped popular American fascination with the Old West. (Washington Post, 30 December 2006)

Katherine Salant, ‘The Ranch, An Architectural Archetype Forged on the Frontier’, Washington Post, 30 December 2006

Residence, 64 Macarthur Road Elderslie

64 Macarthur Road Elderslie c1960 (IWillis 2010)
64 Macarthur Road Elderslie c1960 (IWillis 2010)

Sunset Avenue in Elderslie was a new land release with a mix of 1960s modern low-pitched roof open planned houses interspersed with New South Wales Housing Commission fibro construction homes.

Other land releases of the 1960s were the New South Wales Housing Commission 1960s fibro houses some of which are located in Burrawong Road and Somerset Street.
The integrity of the residence was intact until it was demolished in 2011, including the front fence that was built in 1960 by the Hennings of ‘Chromatex’ bricks. There were a number of mature trees on the site that added to the aesthetic quality of the site.

In 2011 a ranch-style house in Macarthur Road Elderslie was unfortunately demolished to make way for a pre-school. Camden’s ranch-style houses are part of the town’s post-Second World War development and growth.

The Macarthur Road house was one of a number in the Elderslie area and two of these have been demolished. One of the demolished ranch-style houses, Kalinda, was located off Lodges Road Elderslie and owned by the Whiteman family. The Whitemans owned a general store in Camden that operated for nearly a century. The house was a weatherboard cottage and demolished in late 1990s to make way for Sydney’s urban development in the Elderslie area. The house was located high on the ridge with a pleasant outlook facing west over the Narellan Creek floodplain. Visitors approached the house from Lodges Road by driving up to the top of the ridge along a narrow driveway.

 

 

cafes · Camden · Heritage · Interwar · Local History · Narellan

Interwar Camden

Central Camden c1930s (Camden Images)
Central Camden showing the intersection of Argyle St (Hume Highway) and John St. View west along Argyle St, WH Anderson fountain in middle of intersection, c1930s (Camden Images)

The interwar period in Camden was a time of economic development and material progress. The prosperity of the period was driven by the local dairy industry and the emerging coal industry. The population of the town grew by over 35 per cent between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second, so that in 1939 the town was the centre of a district that covered 455 square miles (1180 square kilometres) and with a population of over 5000.

Camden was one of the most important commercial and administrative centres between Sydney and Goulburn. The town was the centre of the police district, it had the regional hospital, it was the largest population centre and it was a transport node of a district which spread from Campbelltown to the lower Blue Mountains.

Cooks Garage 1936
Cooks Garage, Argyle St, Camden the route of the Hume Highway through the town in the 1930s, 1936 (Camden Images)

 

Hume Highway

During the interwar period one of the most important economic arteries of the town was the Hume Highway (until 1928 the Great South Road). Most understood the value of the rail connection to Camden; most obviously because you heard it, smelt it and saw it. Yet few understand the significance of the Hume. The highway had ran up the town’s main street from colonial times, until 1973 when it was moved to the Camden Bypass, and then subsequently moved in 1980 to the freeway.

The highway and railway were the conduits that brought the international influences of modernism and consumerism to the town, and the goods and services that supported them. These forces influenced the development of the local motor industry , the establishment of the local cinemas and the development of the local airfield. All important economic, social and cultural forces for the time. ‘Locals’ travelled to the city for higher order retail goods, specialist services and entertainment, while the landed gentry escaped to the cosmopolitan centre of the British Empire; London. Conversely the Sydney elite came to experience the new gentlemanly pastime of flying at the Macquarie Grove Airfield.

Camden Valley Inn, Camden, c.1939 (Camden Images)
Camden Vale Inn & Milk Bar, Camden, c.1939 (Camden Images)

Camden Modernism

For a country town of its size the town had modern facilities and was up-to-date with the latest technology. The town had two weekly newspapers, Camden News and the Camden Advertiser, there was opening of the telephone exchange (1910), the installation of reticulated gas (1912), electricity (1929), replacement of gas street lighting with electric lights (1932) and a sewerage system (1939), and by 1939 the population has increased to 2394. The town’s prosperity allowed the Presbyterians built a new church (1938), while a number of ‘locals’ built solid brick cottages that reflected their confidence in the town’s future.

Despite the prosperity of the interwar period the town was still dominated by the colonial gentry and their estates. Apart from their convict labour in the early years, they established a system of class and social relations that ordered daily life in the town from its foundation until after the Second World War. While the townsmen dominated the early period of local government, by Federation the landed gentry had usurped their power and had imposed their political mantra of conservatism on the area. The dominance of the Macarthur’s Camden Park over the local economy during the interwar period was characterised by the construction of the Camden Vale milk processing factory (1926) adjacent to the railway. The company developed TB free milk and marketed it through the Camden Vale Milk Bar, a retail outlet on the Hume Highway (1939); complete with a drive-through.

The interwar years were a period of transition and increasingly the motor car replaced the horse in town, and on the farm the horse was replaced by the tractor, all of which supported the growing number of garages in the town. The interwar landscape was characterised by personalised service, along with home and farm deliveries by both horse and cart and motor cars.

Bank of NSW, 1938, Argyle St, Camden the route of the Hume Highway (I Willis)
Bank of New South Wales, 1938, Argyle St, Camden the route of the Hume Highway (I Willis)

Morphology of town centre

The layout and shape of interwar Camden has changed little from the 19th century and the town centre has a certain bucolic charm and character that is the basis of the community’s identity and sense of place. The strip shopping and mixed land use support the country feel that has become the basis of the modern ‘country town idyll’.

In recent years Camden has been targeted by the New South Wales government as one of the growth centre for the Sydney metropolitan area. It has become part of Sydney’s exurbanistion on the rural-urban fringe. City types move out of the city looking for places where ‘the country looks like the country’. This has only served to re-enforce the duality of the love/hate relationship the community had with Sydney and the city/country divide that has been part of the rural ideology of the area.

The ‘locals’ for their part have retreated to nostalgia in the form of an Arcadian view of the world through a ‘country town idyll’. The romance of the idyll is based on the iconic imagery of Camden as a picturesque English village, with the church on the hill, surrounded by rural vistas. The idyll has become a defence mechanism against the onslaught from Sydney’s urbanization and the interwar heritage that is part of the town’s iconic landscape.

Macquarie Grove Airfield 1930s Camden (Camden Images)
Macquarie Grove Airfield 1930s Camden (Camden Images)

Selected Examples of Interwar Architecture in Camden

1. Camden Vale milk processing factory, 11 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in 1926 by the Camden Vale Milk Co, a subsidiary of Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd.

2. Camden Vale Inn, Remembrance Drive (Old Hume Highway), Camden (now Camden Valley Inn). Architect: Cyril Ruwald. Builder: Herb English. A milk bar on the Hume Highway built in 1939 by the Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd to market its Camden Vale milk from TB tested dairy herds on Camden Park. It was ‘designed in the Tudor style, with walls in attractively coloured brickwork suggesting a touch of modernity’. [ Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, Camden Vale Special Pasteurised Milk Production and Distribution, Camden, Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, c.1939.]

3. Cooks Garage, 31-33 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in 1935. Owned by WH Cook. It was built in the Spanish Mission style, and was characterised by terracotta roof tiles, a front loggia, rendering of brickwork and shaped parapets. Since demolished.

4. Main Southern Garage, 20-28 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in the mid 1930s.

5. Dunk House, 56-62 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden, in 1937. The building was a car showroom, shop complex and professional suites owned by EC Dunk.

6. Clintons Motor Showroom, 16 Argyle Street, Camden. The car showroom was built in 1947 by Mark Jensen for Clinton Motors, the Holden dealership in Camden. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory it is a rare masonry Art Deco style building with large shopfront windows and wrap around awning.

7. 102-104 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1939. Stuckey Bros, bakers and pastry cooks, occupied premises and fitted it out in 1940. According to the Camden News it was ‘fitted with every modern device’.

8. Bank of New South Wales (Westpac), 121-123 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1936. The two storey building had a residence upstairs and a banking chamber downstairs. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory the building is Georgian Revival style.

Camden's Argyle St (Hume Highway) in 1938 with Rural Bank on left looking east (Camden Images)
Camden’s Argyle St (Hume Highway) in 1938 with Bank of New South Wales and Rural Bank on left looking east (Camden Images)

9. Rural Bank, 115-119Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1937. The two storey building had a residence upstairs with banking chamber downstairs. Art deco style. There is trachyte stonework on the facing of building.
Churches

10. Presbyterian Church, 42 John Street, Camden. Built in 1938. Architect: George Gray, R.Vale. A brick church, which according to the Camden Heritage Inventory the buildings is Gothic Revival (Gothic Interwar) style.
Hotels

11.Camden Inn (Hotel), 105-107 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1933. Tudor style.
Agriculture

12. Front, AH&I Hall , 191-195 Argyle Street, Camden. The brick front of the building was added to the weatherboard hall in 1936. The original hall was constructed in 1899 by George Furner for JW Macarthur Onslow as a drill hall for the Camden Mounted Rifles.

13. Paramount Theatre, 39 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in 1933. It was owned by DJ Kennedy who had interests in other suburban movie cinemas in the Sydney area. It was designed in the Spanish Mission style.

14. Cottage, 25 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in the 1930s by Mel Peat.

15. Flats, 33 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in 1930.
Menangle Road, Camden

16. Cottages, 1-3 Menangle Road, Camden. Built between 1924-1925 by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory a group of Californian Bungalows.

17. Methodist Parsonage, 24 Menangle Road, Camden. Built in 1935.

18. Cottage, 26 Menangle Road, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1931 for N Freestone.
Murray Street, Camden.

19. Cottages, 24-28 Murray Street, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1937. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory a group of Californian Bungalows.

20. Extension, Camden Hospital, Menangle Road, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1939.

Bellman Hangar at Camden Airfield 1941 (I Willis)
Bellman Hangar at Camden Airfield 1941 (I Willis)

21. Bellman Hangers, Camden Airfield, Macquarie Grove Road, Camden. Built in 1941. The Federal Government acquired the airfield from Edward Macarthur Onslow in 1940 for a central flying school under the Empire Air Training Scheme. The hangers were erected by RAAF as temporary accommodation for aircraft. They were designed by NS Bellman in 1936 (UK) as temporary buildings.

References

Archives, Camden Historical Society.
Tropman & Tropman, Camden Heritage Inventory, Camden, Camden Council, 2004.

cafes · Camden · Entertainment · Heritage · Interwar · Leisure · Local History · Modernism · Retailing

Camden Cafes and Milk Bars

Howlett’s Milk Bar, Camden, 1954 (Camden Images)

The local milk bar is a largely unrecognized part of Camden modernism where the latest trends in American food culture made their way into the small country town by Australian-Greek immigrants. The design, equipment and fit-out of local cafes and milk bars was at the cutting edge of Interwar fashion.  The cafes were a touch of the exotic with their Art Deco style interiors, where fantasy met food without the social barriers of daily life of the Interwar period. Camden milk bars rarely just sold milk shakes unlike their counterparts in the city. To make a living and ensure that their businesses paid their way the cafes and milk bars also sold fruit and vegetables, meals, sandwiches, lollies, sweets and chocolates.

The history of the milk bar

The milk bar, along with other aspects of Art Deco style of the Interwar period, are going through a nostalgia boom. Hurstville Museum curator Birgit Heilmann has written an article ‘Sydney has taken to milk’ with memories of the local residents on milk bars in the St George area. The museum recently hosted a touring exhibition ‘Selling an American Dream: Australia’s Greek Café’, which was part of the ‘In their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project’ based at Macquarie University.

Before the fast-food phenomena exploded in Australia in the 1960s the Greek café was an important influence on Australian eating habits. The mixed grill was supplemented with sodas, milk shakes, hamburgers, ice-cream sundaes, milk chocolate and hard sugar lollies. The Australian Greek café was a transnational phenomena whose origins are buried in the Greek café start-ups on the US east coast where Australian-Greek immigrants, who came from the US, learnt the trade as they came to terms with American modernism.

The first milk bar in Australia opened in 1932 in Martin Place in Sydney. It pioneered many of the aspects of the milk bar and was an instant hit. By the 1940s the milk bar had taken off and combined refined dining, ease of access, local cuisines, soda fountains and the first fast food. The milk bars were popularized in the 1930s with the introduction of the milk stirring machine and the malted milk shake maker, while before this the 1920s soda fountains were popular.

According to Macquarie University researchers Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski milkshakes were originally a health food made with milk, fruit, cream, eggs, chocolate, malt and other ingredients. Ice-cream, milk fat and artificial flavours were popularised in the 1950s.  Milk bars and cafes were a combination of food and fantasy, and in country towns they were a touch of exotica that often combined with the Hollywood movie palace. The Greek café, according to Joanne Back at the National Museum, was the centre of entertainment in country towns and the centre of life for the first date and the first kiss in the booth. Greek cafes according to Leonard Janiszewski  transfered ideas from the USA and transformed them into a  combination of American style food trends with Australian cuisine. They were aimed at the whole family and acted to break down the social class barriers that were common in country towns. Greek cafes were often fitted out in the latest in Art Deco style design and furniture from Europe and USA (streamline Art Deco). Sometimes the temperance movement influence was instrumental in trying to get young people away from the hotels.

Advertisement Camden News28 June 1923
Advertisement Camden News28 June 1923

Camden Cafe, 95 Argyle Street, Camden

One of the longest surviving Camden sites which hosted a café is at 95 Argyle Street, Camden. The site is currently occupied the Café Crème Della Crème.  Up to 1920 the site was occupied by Jimmy Stuckey who ran a fruit shop and Stuckey Bros sold cakes, bread, there where their bakery was closed and before this Amy Stuckey ran a boot making business

The first dedicated café on the site was owned and run by the Greek Sophios Brothers and called the Camden Cafe. In 1922 the Les and Dave Sophios renovated the site to bring it up to the standard of ‘leading city restaurants’. (CN7/9/22). The brothers owned and operated a confectionary factory at Lithgow which made chocolates. The brothers also operated cafés in Sydney which they sold in 1925, and at Lithgow, which was called the Blue Bird Café. The Lithgow café operated at a ‘Sundae and Candy Shop’ and boasted ‘an American Soda Fountain’. (1930Freemans’ Journal) The 1925 Camden News claimed that the brothers operated ‘the finest Sundae Shop in the State’. (CN12/11/25)

In 1925 the Sophios brothers sold out to fellow Greeks the Cassimatis brothers.  Manual and S. James ‘Jim’ Cassimatis ran the café from 1925 to 1946 and in 1935 renamed the business the Capital Café. They rented the site off the Stuckeys until 1939. In 1927 the brothers advertised the business as the Camden Café and Refreshment Rooms and sold:   fruit and vegetables;  afternoon tea, coffee, chocolate with biscuits, cakes, sandwiches or toast; ‘meals til late’; fountain drinks and ice cream.  Between 1946 and 1950 Ina Cameron and her husband Gordon ran the café  while Cassimatis’s were  in Greece.

Since 2008 the site has been occupied by Café Crème Della Crème a continental patisserie.

Advertisement Camden News 13 January 1927
Advertisement Camden News 13 January 1927

 Cameron’s Capital Café 1946-1950

Ina Cameron recalled (CHS Meeting 14/4/2008 and and Camden Advertiser in 2010 and 2008):

In 1946 Ina and her new husband Gordon took over the Capital Café in partnership with her brother and sister in law. They spent 4 years there  and Ina says that it was a hard 4 years, although ‘I loved cooking’.

‘The day started at 6.00am cleaning up the long fridge and making sure that everything was OK for opening. We worked all day. All that had to be done every morning.  We had to get bread early and put in the fridge to cool it down so that we could slice it up and then put out on table to make sandwiches.

‘On Monday we had fruit and vegetables from Sydney market. I had to do a ‘fruit window’ and get rid of bad fruit. On Monday we made 5 gallons of fruit salad and sold a serve for 2/9.

‘Meals served a mixed grill, 2/9, steak and eggs, 2/6, sausage and eggs, 2/-.We had the best place for tea and coffee. The banana splits were very popular and it felt like we spent half our time making them. We did meals, scones, sandwiches – we did everything. Sausages came from Boardmans, and bread from Stuckeys.

‘The shop layout. There was a long window of ice-cream and one of milk. Along the top of the counter there were little containers with flavouring for milk shakes. Seats in teh café and closed in booths at the back.

‘The buses travelled between the Sydney to Melbourne on the Hume Highway [which ran along the main street] and they would stop in the morning and afternoon. Drivers had a uniform and pretty handsome as well.

‘The pictures were twice a week and we would finish up after midnight after the picture crowd had been and gone. Tuesday was Camden sale day and we provide sandwiches, along with late dinner and fruit salad. The girls who waited for us liked to be on that night [sale day] because they got good tips.

Advertisement Camden News 14 April 1938
Advertisement Camden News 14 April 1938

‘The Chinese market gardeners would bring their vegetable to us, whatever was in season. The Chinese market gardeners grew vegetables along the banks of the Nepean River. They give me a bag of fresh vegetables each time they travelled into town. I enjoyed chatting with the gypsy king who would drop into the store  for a cup of tea whenever he was in town to visit the gypsies who lived at the bottom of Chellaston Street.

The 1948 Camden Social Survey stated that Cameron’s cafe [Capital Café] employed 4 girls and catered to the Pioneer Tourist Car. There are 4 Pioneer buses a day and a Fox tour once a fortnight. The buses usually contain 20 passengers plus the driver. The tours are on their way to Adelaide, Melbourne, Kosciusko and the Riverina Irrigation areas. The authors of the survey felt that  ‘the number of tourists does not tax restaurant facilities.’

 Camden Café 1938-1945

Len Hearne wrote in 2014 that Frank and Mary Hearne owned and operated the Camden Café at 91 Argyle Street, (now Camden Pharmacy). The café was a popular stop for servicemen from in the local area [from the Narellan Military Camp, RAAF personnel from the Camden Airfield and the NCOs stationed at Studley Park ECTS]. They came into Camden ‘by the truckload and inevitably they all made their way to the Camden Café for a decent meal. Frank and Mary got to know some of the servicemen before they were shipped out to the horrors of a distant war front. There was one US soldier who was a real loner. His name was Chuck and was based at Green’s Corner [Narellan Military Camp]. He had previously worked in a diner in Los Angeles and when on leave in Camden he would always want to held out in the Camden Café. He left a box of his personal items with Frank and Mary and they tried to contact his home after the war without success.  The truckloads of young servicemen who came into Camden when on leave had just one thng on their mind – girls- and would end up missing their truck back to their base. They would often come to Frank and Mary asking them to phone a taxi.

Howlett's Cafe, Camden, 159 Argyle Street, 1954
Howlett’s Cafe, Camden, 159 Argyle Street, 1954 (Camden Images)

 Other memories of Camden Cafes

The 1948 Camden Social Survey stated the the hospitality sector (cafes, hotels) were the most common form of employment in Camden and employed 74 women out of a total of 121 employed in the sector. It  stated there were 5 cafes in Camden employing 20 people in addition to the 5 owners.

 

Donald Howard recalls in his memoir The Hub of Camden (2002) the cafes of the 1940s. ‘In the first summer [working at Whiteman’s General Store] I found myself consuming 6 milk shakes a week. In those days they were rich and creamy with natural fruit flavouring, but 6 a week meant that 20% of my gross income was being blown on my appetite. I took a drastic step and halved the intake. I was learning that to achieve a certain goal, some sacrifice was often needed. One more lesson for life!’.

Fred Gibson, who came to Camden in 1953, recalled there was the Paris Café on the corner of Argyle and Hill Street, Howletts Café  is now a hamburger joint. He said that ‘milk shakes were what we drank when you under 20. You never thought of going to the pub. You often bought soft drink – ginger beer  – sometimes put a scoop of ice cream in the drink.

In 1938 Pinkerton’s ran a café and they baked their own buns, pastries and cakes. In 1949 Burnell & Sons operated a milk bar at 122 Argyle Street, next to the Commonwealth Bank (recently the site of Gloria Jeans Cafe to 2014). They served McInven’s Ice Cream, iced drinks, fruit and vegetables and offered home deliveries from the milk bar.

Camden Valley Inn, Camden, 1997 (Camden Images)
Camden Valley Inn, Camden, 1997 (Camden Images)

 Camden Valley Inn Milk Bar

The most iconic Camden milk bar was the Camden Valley Inn Milk Bar which opened in 1939 by the Macarthur Onslows as part of the promotion of their Camden Vale brand of milk. It traded on the healthy qualities of milk at a time when they were promoted by milk authorities in New South Wales. It is one of the outstanding buildings of the Interwar period in the Camden area and was built in the mock-Tudor style that was popular at the time. It was fitted out with the latest milk bar equipment and was noted for having the first drive-through facility in the Camden area where patrons were served milk shakes while seated in their car.

John Wrigley stated in the District Reporter in 2005 that the inn was constructed to promote the sale of Camden Vale milk products which were produced by Camden Park Estate. It was located at the southern end of Camden on the Hume Highway and promotional material boasted: ‘delicious milk drinks of all kinds made from Camden Vale special milk will be served. Camden Vale milk and cream will also be for sale. A feature will be the delicious morning and afternoon teas’.

It was opened during Health Week in November 1939 and RH Nesbitt, the chairman of the NSW Milk Board officiated at the opening. He was given a gold fountain pen and paid tribute to the achievements of the Camden Park Estates Ltd. ‘Doctors Harvey Sutton and Petherbridge set the seal of approval of the British Medical Association upon the proceedings’. There were lots of speeches on the subject of the progress of the dairy industry, the modern hygienic methods of production and distribution with special mention of the ‘keen city demand for the special grade of fresh milk under the name of Camden Vale’. Amongst the guests were Major General James Macarthur Onslow, Dr Harvey Sutton, hygienist, eugenicist and educator and Portia Geach from the Housewives’ Progressive Association of NSW and others.

The inn was designed by architect Cyril Ruwald and the entrance door to the inn was under a porte-cochere in the form of a breezeway or drive-through.

Annette Macarthur Onslow  stated it had the appearance of an old coaching stage. She stated in 2005 in the District Reporter that architect Cyril Ruwald was a friend of her parents, Edward and Winifred Macarthur Onslow. They spent much time examining photographs of English country inns and how to achieve the same ‘charming settled look’ in Camden.

Apparently trade in milk-shakes was brisk as the concept was relatively new to Australia as was the concept of a drive-through ‘where one could remain seated in a car and buy take-away milk shakes in waxed cartons’.

Gladys Mead ran the milk bar. Annette Macarthur Onslow recalls: ‘To us children it was a place of wonder with bottles of colourful essences and generous containers of creamy milk which, with a dollop of ice cream and quick whisk, could fill four glasses for 4d. Gladys was a wizard cook. Her Devonshire Teas with freshly baked scones, whipped cream and strawberry jam found plenty of customers.’

Paris Cafe Camden

Ruth Funnell Wotton on Facebook 28 May 2015) says

My Aunty & Uncle owed & ran the Paris Cafe on the corner of Argyle and Hill street Camden . I remember as a child sitting on the backstep of the shop and being treated with an ice cream cone … because my mother used to go and help with the busy times of day lunch time etc … Their name was Amos & Dorothy Dowle ….much later years the Sumners Annette Mark etc parents ran it I recall ?

 Read more about Australian cafes and milk bars

Read more about the exhibition: ‘Selling an American Dream: Australia’s Greek Café @ the National Museum of Australian in Canberra Click here

and @ the Hurstville Museum and Gallery Click here

Read about the Macquarie University exhibition: ‘Selling an American Dream: Australia’s Greek Café Click here and Click here

Read Birgit Heilmann’s article ‘Sydney has taken to milk’  Click here

Listen to more in these podcasts on ABC about ‘Greek Cafes’ on Radio Bush Telegraph 5 August 2014 Click here and the ‘Olympia Milk Bar’ on Radio National on 26 March 2011 Click here

Read more on Sydney Greek milk bars @ Scratchings Sydney Click here and Neoskosmos ‘The Birth of  a Milk Bar’,  Click here and in The Sydney Morning Herald in an article ‘Milk Bars and Rock Music Living the American Dream in a Greek Cafe Click here

Leonard Janiszewski with the story of Australia’s Greek cafes and milk bars on ABC Local Radio  Conversations with Richard Fidler 2 May 2016 Listen Click here

ABC Radio states

When the first Milk Bar opened in Martin Place, Sydney, in 1932, people queued in their thousands for a taste of America. With its art deco design, and single, sweet product, the impact of Adams’ Black and White 4d. Milk Bar was far-reaching. As they spread across the country, to every town on the railway line, Greek-run milk bars and cafes became a focal point of community life: for celebrations, meetings, family meals and romance. For more than 30 years, historian Leonard Janiszewski and photographer Effy Alexakis have investigated and documented the history of Greek Australian culture. They discovered these cafes and milk bars were a kind of Trojan horse for the Americanisation of Australian culture, bringing in American refreshments, cinema, and music.

Further information on Leonard Janiszewski’s Greek Cafes & Milk Bars of Australia  Click here