An evolving area

Mount Hawthorn and Oxford Street like many areas in Perth have evolved as our city and community have grown and progressed.

Mount Hawthorn’s Evolution

A road built between North Perth and Herdsman Lake was the catalyst for residential development in the area now known as Mount Hawthorn. In 1875, a land grant was awarded to local dentist Lois Beurteaux, and soon the whole district was divided into 50-acre parcels. In 1887, the first subdivision was established in the area between Anzac and Scarborough Beach Roads by the Sydney-based Intercolonial Investment Land and Building Company.

In 1903 ‘The Hawthorn Estate’ was opened by a syndicate: named so by J. A. Hicks who has recently visited Victoria and considered ‘what Hawthorn is to Melbourne, our estate is to Perth.’ The then fashionable ‘Mount’ was added to the name at a later date to avoid any confusion between the two locations. Two tram services ran up Oxford Street to Scarborough Beach Road throughout this period, which provided easy transport links to Perth and encouraged residential and commercial development.

The boundaries of Mount Hawthorn were recognised by the State Electoral Commission in 1929, and large sections of the suburb were developed by Thomas Scott Plunkett in the inter-war period. The Mount Hawthorn Hotel (now the Paddington Ale House) was erected in 1932. The 1950s and 1960s represented a period of urban infill driven largely by post-war immigration from Europe and a government-sponsored construction program. Around this time many homes along Scarborough Beach Road and other major arterial roads in the area (including Oxford Street) were converted to commercial premises to satisfy the growing demand for goods and services.

In 1976 the building of the Mitchell Freeway cut off access from Mount Hawthorn to Lake Monger, but despite this, the proximity to the city and the many well-maintained character homes in the area saw house prices skyrocket in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of the small, weatherboard stores along Scarborough Beach Road were forgone in favour of a shiny new shopping complex called Mount Hawthorn Plaza, and many of the suburbs original and iconic buildings were renovated or restored. Though perhaps not to the same extent of some neighbourhoods nearby, such as Leederville, this development brought some vibrancy and nightlife to the neighbourhood.

In the 1920s the area surrounding the site at 387 Oxford Street was mostly residential. The subject site was made up of three separate lots (including one vacant lot, number 385 & number 387 Oxford Street). These established residential lots had a windmill, an outdoor toilet and a coop for chickens.

387 Oxford Street History

The below image, which is an excerpt from a sewerage map, shows the site as it would have looked in 1928 as three individual housing lots.

First evidence of the social context of the site was evident with the registration of a Chevrolet car to a James Balmain Blyth at number 387 Oxford Street in 1924. At the time, having a petrol-powered motor vehicle was a luxury not shared by the majority of the Western Australian population until the post-war boom of the 1950s. After the onset of the Great Depression in 1924, around the time Mr. Blyth registered his vehicle, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that there was only one car per 45 persons in Western Australia.

The post-war boom of the 1950s and 1960s, in which the television and other new appliances became readily available and reforms leading to easier access to credit gave rise to a commercial and industrial boom throughout Perth. Sometime between the years of 1965 and 1974, the three residential blocks were merged to one larger commercial site of approximately 3,000 square metres. Official records have not definitively identified the use of the site between the 1970s and 1980s, however it has been speculated that it was home to a motor works business (a theory supported by consecutive aerial images showing rows of parked cars).

In fitting with this consistent vehicular theme, in 1985 it was bought by Midway Taxi Management and operated as a taxi depot for nearly three decades. Operations ceased in the early 2010s and the site has since fallen into disrepair.

Evolution of the site.

Scroll through the images below to see the site’s transformation from 1953 to today.

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