Her­itage in peril

Fu­ture of for­mer hos­pi­tal in Thornleigh & grand old home in Tur­ra­murra in ques­tion

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - By Jenny Bar­lass

A pas­sion­ate ar­chive search to un­earth the past of a for­mer hos­pi­tal fac­ing de­mo­li­tion in Thornleigh, may save this piece of lo­cal his­tory.

The site at 22 Belle­vue Street op­po­site Thornleigh shop­ping cen­tre was once a hos­pi­tal built by lo­cal nurse Jane Starkey in the 1930s, with her own money. Now her great, great niece Tara Ormsby, a fam­ily his­tory re­searcher, is try­ing to save it from the bull­dozer.

Cur­rently the cot­tage has a De­vel­op­ment Ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore Hornsby Coun­cil to build a five storey block of flats which is per­mit­ted use (sub­ject to de­vel­op­ment con­sent) in an R4 High Den­sity zone. When the DA was lodged in 2016, there was no her­itage list­ing on the prop­erty, and the ap­pli­ca­tion is cur­rently hav­ing as­pects of the de­sign re­viewed be­fore it pro­gresses to the lo­cal IHAPS for con­sid­er­a­tion.

The DA is fac­ing lo­cal op­po­si­tion and res­i­dents have set up the Save the Thornleigh Hos­pi­tal House Cam­paign, in­clud­ing Tara Ormsby. She is hur­riedly re­search­ing the hos­pi­tal’s past to se­cure a her­itage list­ing on it.

“I will be pulling to­gether ev­ery scrap of in­for­ma­tion on its past and putting it un­der the noses of the Coun­cil of­fi­cers in­volved in the DA so they can give this their best con­sid­er­a­tion pos­si­ble,” said Tara.

Tara’s Trove re­searches so far show that in the 1930s, nurses were run­ning smaller hos­pi­tals for peo­ple to go for mi­nor pro­ce­dures and ail­ments. “In 1935 my rel­a­tive Jane Starkey do­nated the premises to the Health Week Ex­ec­u­tive so that el­derly women of the era could re­side in a safe place.

“I have a real pas­sion for the past - with­out it we have no di­rec­tion for the fu­ture. This is an op­por­tu­nity to pre­serve our his­tory for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Coun­cil’s list of her­itage items cre­ated in 1991, has been re­viewed five times since then, and this prop­erty has never been nom­i­nated or sug­gested as a po­ten­tial her­itage item. “Coun­cil staff have hit the pause but­ton to al­low them to in­ves­ti­gate the her­itage sta­tus fur­ther,” said Coun­cil­lor Janelle McIn­tosh, co-chair of the Coun­cil’s Her­itage Com­mit­tee.

“Sis­ter Starkey did a lot for the com­mu­nity at

the time. Yet her legacy was rel­a­tively un­known till now. So we need to do the right thing and get to the bot­tom of whether the house is of his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.”

A spokesman said: “Coun­cil has taken note of com­mu­nity con­cerns about the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the build­ing and this will be a fac­tor in the assess­ment. Her­itage plan­ners and the lo­cal stud­ies co­or­di­na­tor will be con­sulted as part of the assess­ment be­fore a rec­om­men­da­tion is made to IHAP.”

It’s un­clear when it will go be­fore the IHAP, as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the her­itage po­ten­tial of the site has af­fected the time­line.

Save the Thornleigh Hos­pi­tal House Cam­paign spokesman Phil Buck­ley said: “We want to see the prop­erty turned into a lo­cal Thornleigh his­tory mu­seum to hon­our the nurse who do­nated it to the area.”

Ten­ant Emily He­garty has rented the prop­erty for the last six months with her part­ner. A tour of the prop­erty re­vealed in­tri­cate orig­i­nal plas­ter mould­ings on ceil­ings and many other her­itage fea­tures. “This is a beau­ti­ful house with lots of char­ac­ter and we love liv­ing here,” she said.

Coun­cil­lor Janelle McIn­tosh added that “new her­itage stud­ies are go­ing on while we re­view the Lo­cal En­vi­ron­ment Plan so this is the time for any­one in the com­mu­nity to be ask­ing the coun­cil to con­sider their home if they be­lieve it has her­itage po­ten­tial.

“We don’t want to get to the stage with other houses the way we are with this one, that it’s the 11th hour and we don’t have all the in­for­ma­tion to de­cide.”

IN TUR­RA­MURRA

Hil­lview, a col­lec­tion of his­toric build­ings bor­der­ing Kiss­ing Point Road, the Pa­cific High­way and Boyd Street, is also fac­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

Cur­rently owned by the North­ern Syd­ney Lo­cal Health Dis­trict, this col­lec­tion of build­ings, gar­den, sta­bles, wall and gates is one of Ku-ring­gai’s most im­por­tant his­toric sites.

Once used as a guest­house for peo­ple es­cap­ing the city in the late 19th cen­tury for health respites and later a board­ing house, to­day it’s used for a range of health­care ser­vices in­clud­ing speech and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pies.

Kathy Cow­ley from Friends of Ku-ring-gai En­vi­ron­ment (FOKE) has spo­ken to neigh­bours bor­der­ing the Hil­lview site who said they had spo­ken to sur­vey­ors work­ing on the site a few months ago.

“This sparked our con­cerns due to the cur­rent pol­icy of the State Gov­ern­ment sell­ing off and ra­tio­nal­is­ing so many pub­lic as­sets,” said Kathy.

FOKE asked lo­cal MP Alister Henskens to in­ves­ti­gate if a sell-off was planned. He said: “I am in­formed that it is in­cor­rect for FOKE to as­sert that a de­ci­sion has been made by the Lo­cal Health Dis­trict to sell the Hil­lview prop­erty.”

Fur­ther, a state­ment by own­ers NSLHD said: “NSLHD is con­sid­er­ing a num­ber of short and longterm op­tions to en­sure the Hil­lview prop­erty is able to pro­vide health ser­vices from ap­pro­pri­ate fa­cil­i­ties, and the build­ing is prop­erly main­tained. As the op­tions are be­ing con­sid­ered, no de­ci­sion has been made.”

Yet FOKE is not con­vinced the fu­ture of the build­ings is safe. “They may not be im­me­di­ately ear­marked for de­mo­li­tion but what were the sur­vey­ors do­ing there?” she asks. In the mean­time, neigh­bours and FOKE are con­cerned about the state of dis­re­pair of some of the build­ings.

“We will still be pur­su­ing the mat­ter of Hil­lview’s up­keep and re­main con­cerned that there are not enough funds be­ing pro­vided to en­sure Hil­lview’s his­toric her­itage listed build­ings are re­ceiv­ing ad­e­quate funds to keep them in work­ing or­der,” said Kathy Cow­ley.

“We un­der­stand the sta­bles/garages and an­other build­ing have been closed due to dis­re­pair. We were told by a worker that $1mil­lion is needed to re­store the build­ings.”

The Na­tional Trust last week told FOKE that its Built Her­itage and Land­scape Con­ser­va­tion Com­mit­tee will look at whether the prop­er­ties meet the cri­te­ria for State Sig­nif­i­cance.

There are 24 prop­er­ties in the Ku-ring-gai Coun­cil area on the State Her­itage Reg­is­ter that have a State Sig­nif­i­cance, in­clud­ing the for­mer home of the fa­mous artist Grace Coss­ing­ton-Smith.

The Save Thornleigh Hos­pi­tal House Cam­paign Cam­paign leader Phil Buck­ley with rel­a­tive of orig­i­nal owner Tara Ormsby and ten­ant Emily He­garty

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