Glenhurst, a Victorian Italianate house was built in 1878 by solicitor George Evans on part of “the villa allotments on Mrs Darling’s Darling Point”, released in 1833 and 1835 for auction by the New South Wales Colonial Government. After Evans died in 1882, the house was sold to Henry Hudson, from the construction company Hudson Brothers. Between 1902 and 1907, the land was further subdivided along the reclaimed Rushcutters Bay shoreline, and Glenhurst, and the one-and-a-half acres on which it then stood was bought in 1912 by another builder, William Stuart. In the 1950s, the Stuarts decided it was time to sell, but in those days, large houses close to the harbour weren’t in the demand as they are today, and it was passed in at auction.
After some consultation, the Stuarts, who had been in the construction business for three generations, decided to demolish the house and build a block of apartments on the one-and-a-half acre site. Specialising in high quality projects, and as a monument to the house they’d lived in for more than 40 years, whatever went up, they believed, had to be “a prestige job”.
As mentioned in one feature article at the time, domestic help was difficult to come by, which helped lead to the increased popularity in home units – this was a chance to do something very special indeed.
Architect D. Forsyth Evans was engaged to design what was dubbed “the largest block of home units in Australia”.
Into this he incorporated many innovative design and construction ideas he’d gleaned from overseas research trips. New technology was used for the slab and lift construction of the building, and during marketing, mention was made of the 200ft per minute lifts leading down to the foyer at one end, and garage at the other.
In order to maximise views of the garden and harbour, and allow for cross breezes, the architect designed Glenhurst Gardens to have an ambulatory, which was a very different approach to apartment building design. Vincent James Pty Ltd, a company specialising in the sale of home units, knew that Glenhurst Gardens was something special, and employed various methods to reinforce that. Unlike the cookie-cutter approach that tended to happen with most home units, here there was plenty of scope for potential owners, buying off the plan, to have individual touches in their apartments, with colour scheme and tiling options available to all.
On the top two floors, however, the developers tried something completely new – buyers secured completely blank individual spaces, which were then custom designed and configured to suit. One of Australia’s best known furniture stores, Beard Watson, was employed as a furniture consultant during the process.
An important feature of the new building was its garden setting, which had been created and maintained for 46 years by William Stuart’s gardener, Ted Woodley. In order to preserve as much of it as possible, the building was carefully designed and sited on a very small part of it.
A gardener was employed during construction to ensure that the remaining garden, with its lawn-surrounded swimming pool, built in 1941, would be maintained in readiness for the completion of the project and marketing of the units. In fact, the award-winning garden was used as a selling point in much of the marketing material of the time.
The first resident moved into the building in 1959.
It was reported, however, that she only bought the apartment once she was completely satisfied of its earthquake resistance potential. She inhabited the same apartment without incident until about 2006, by which time she was 107 years old.
Over the years, the building has attracted many interesting residents from concert pianists to authors, including Jessica Anderson, whose most well-known novel was the Miles Franklin award-winning Tirra Lirra by the River. Since Glenhurst Gardens was built, it’s been important to all residents that it be regularly maintained and, if any work is done, that the design intentions of the original architects be respected. Most apartments have been renovated, but in spite of new regulatory codes being implemented, minimal modification to the architecture has been necessary.