13-33 Louis Street, (“The Block”), Redfern. Sydney, New South Wales

Gentrification of terraces has come so far in Australia that it is sometimes easy to forget that just a couple of decades ago most were the forgotten and neglected homes of the working classes. However this is still very much true in pockets of Sydney and to a lesser extent Melbourne where terraces remain low cost rentals bordering on ghettos and slums. Here is a notorious such one known as the “Louis Street row”.

Photo by Michael Gardner. All rights reserved. Used with permission

13-33 Louis Street The Block Redfern Sydney New South Wales

Nowhere is this more evident than in Sydney’s “The Block” in Redfern, an area with an incredibly rough reputation which is officially declared a “no go” zone for taxis.1

Here the demolition of terraces is seen by many as a solution rather than an architectural or social crime. Such is the condition of these once gracious homes that many of them have been reduced to shells by decades of neglect and abuse. This row of terraces on Louis Street is an epitomy, seen by many as a “struggle street” and one of Australia’s most notorious, standing by the Mundine boxing academy, an enduring symbol of the area’s history of urban indigenous struggle. Much of the Louis Street row has already been demolished. The rest has been practically condemned, awaiting complete demolition as part of an ambitious urban renewal.

Even Redfern is finding it hard to escape gentrification with many couples taking the punt to move in and restore old terraces in parts of the suburb. However The Block’s reputation remains a very hard nut to crack and continues to resist the trend and is likely to attract govenment intervention.

It really is quite hard to describe these houses, heavily modified over the years and in a state of crumbling disrepair, paint peeling off, heavily tagged and graffitied. Most are stripped of any cast ironwork, missing their fences and even balustrades making them quite dangerous places to live in. They are however typical of most late 1860s double storey terraces, marching up a gradual incline. They are parapetless with sloping roof and party walls extending above the roofline in blade fashion. The party walls feature blind arches.

The unfortunate homes, along with their tenants will likely be forcibly removed from Redfern’s street in coming years.

  1. The Block, Redfern. Time Out Sydney. http://www.timeoutsydney.com.au/aroundtown/the-block-redfern-28.aspx

2 Responses to “13-33 Louis Street, (“The Block”), Redfern. Sydney, New South Wales”

  • The Aboriginal Housing Company has plans to rebuild housing on the Block, the concept plan was approved in 2009. Check the AHC’s website for info about the award winning plans. http://www.ahc.org.au/

  • Brian:

    I lived in Louis Street back in 1971. It was not “in” Redfern then, but part of Chippendale 2008.
    Actually, lived in two houses in the Street.
    The first, number 57, didn’t have the front balcony intact way back then.
    That house could have been a lovely little two bedroomer, done-up with a lot of money spent. Rear lane access.
    Then we went “down the hill” to either #13 or #15 Louis Street.
    Much larger.
    The Rent went from something like fifteen dollars per week to around twenty (or more) dollars per week.
    This was at a time that the local population was mainly of the WWII generation and Migrants in the Street.
    The Indigenous Australian face was still a bit of a stranger in the Street.
    Behind us, across the laneway, one of the houses was being used as a Brothel.
    The Ladies used to pick the men from the drinkers at the Empress Hotel.
    Actually surprised to see one of the ladies get a mention in the Roger Rogerson book.

    Those houses were almost beyond recovery way back then.
    Sad to see them all being knocked down.

    Fond but not fading memories.

    I’ve got the photos to stop the memories fading.

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