Wyldefel Gardens in Potts Point are an example of some of the finest 1930s living spaces that were built in Sydney.  Completed in 1936 with the latest modern design and architectural principals applied, they are still at the top end of the Sydney apartment market 80 years later.

The apartments are like a Sydney modernist fairy tale, with a name to match.

Wyldefel gardens, c1940. The flat roof of each apartment forms the terrace of its neighbour (COS Archive 040641)
Wyldefel gardens, c1940. The flat roof of each apartment forms the terrace of its neighbour (COS Archive 040641)

Built on a sloping site that faced the harbour, Wyldefel Gardens consisted of 20 apartments in two rows. Each had a flat roof which made up the outdoor terrace of the apartment behind, allowing all to have a view of the harbour.  The two rows were separated by a common space for the residents, which included a tennis court, swimming pool and gardens.  Living spaces flowed from internal to external areas, taking full advantage of the sites aspect while maintaining privacy for the residents.

The apartments were built for William Crowle, owner of the historic house Wyldefel on Macleay Street.  Crowle imported cars, was a generous philanthropist, art collector and design enthusiast.  On a trip to Germany in the mid-1930s he saw a new apartment block, a neighbour of Hitler as he later said, and decided it would be perfect for his Sydney vision.  The end unit was a two storey apartment Crowle had for himself which he christened Once upon a Time.  This was built above a boatshed, into which Crowle could dock and enter the house, much like a garage.  Crowle employed architect John Brogen to work his design idea into his modernist masterpiece.

Unfortunately for Crowle, when broke out in 1939, the navy at nearby Garden Island decided to build a new graving dock for ship repairs and refits.  As part of this work, the Island was connected to the mainland at Potts Point and Once upon a Time was in the way.  Many of the fine old houses in Wylde Street were demolished and Crowle’s house was to be one of them.

Once upon a Time, at Wyldefel (CoS Archive)
Once upon a Time, at Wyldefel (CoS Archive)

However, in a masterstroke of negotiation, Crowle managed to convince the navy to relocate his house to a new site at Neutral Bay, on the opposite side of the harbour.  His apartment and the boatshed it sat on, was dismantled and rebuilt looking back to its former location.

The house still stands at the end of Kurraba Road and the apartments also survive on their original site, looking across the harbour to Once upon a Time.

Check out the HHT publication, Homes in the Sky: Apartment Living in Australia for more on Sydney’s apartment boomtimes.

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