Building on our block

This is an attempt to show some of the changes on the 'city block' on which I live - bounded by Stack, Montreal, Stevens and Wood Streets in Fremantle.
Most of the changes are on Wood St. The reason for this is that the state government had reserved a strip of land along Wood St, where it planned to build the 'Fremantle Bypass'. This was a perfectly logical extension to Stirling Hwy coming down from the north over Stirling Bridge to join up with the Roe Hwy coming across southern Perth to the coast. The land was under the control of the Main Roads Board. The plan for the highway has been withdrawn and the land sold.

This is the corner of Wood and Stevens Sts. Behind the transported house - still on its two trailers - you might get an idea of the three vacant blocks behind it - which you'll see below being built on. This 1416m^ block had been vacant at least since 1992, when I moved to the area.

This is the house that arrived in two pieces on the back of two trucks just weeks before. Now it's for sale, marketed as a colonial restoration, or something.

Moving around the corner into Stevens St (you can see the transported house to the left) here is a compressed-earth house at an early stage. When I first heard of this technique in 1978, it was called 'rammed earth', and hippy types would get together and chuck mud and straw into moulds and cheerfully stamp on it together. I may have made that up.

Here are more snaps of the compressed-earth house during construction. You can barely make it out in this one.

This one begins to show why I took more than one photo. At this stage it was a striking structure.

To the right of the compressed-earth house, here's one house up, and another not yet begun. They are two of four new houses on what used to be one vacant block owned by Main Roads until the 'Fremantle Bypass' was taken off the planning agenda. Behind the vacant block is a house being built on a battleaxe block from Wood St.

Here are the three new houses in Stevens St more or less complete. The transported house is mostly out of shot on the left, the compressed-earth house is behind the tree.

I find it a little amazing to see four large houses on what used be one 1416m^ house block.

Back on the other corner of Wood St - with Stack St - another 1416m^ block that was vacant in 1992, and another four houses to be built.

At this stage the first owner has dug out a lot of the stone and put up a tower - from the top of which the sea can be seen, and all of Garden Island - in an attempt to sell the blocks.

The land was bought - and all four houses built - by the same project home builder, and all four are of one storey - and yet, seaviews were possible from a second floor - as you can almost see in this snap.

Limestone blocks - for the retaining walls - which were dropped in the middle of the road. Whoops.

The houses were built right up to the retaining walls, and indeed on them.

This is the enormous roller that damaged the ceilings in my house. It's just two houses from mine. This whole area is limestone caprock, and the vibration from the machine - which has a pneumatic vibrator fitted - is going straight through the hill to my stone foundations and up to my ceilings and cracks are appearing. I raced down the street with my camera and persuaded one of the contractors to stop work while he came and observed the damage. He agreed it was significant, and later even paid me (a few hundred dollars in) compensation, when I asked for it.

Back in the middle of this bit of Wood St, another four houses are built on battleaxe blocks. I couldn't get shots of them from the street, and anyway, I was more interested in an extension that my neighbour was building, as he's an architect.

This is where the neighbours were up to with their extension in October 2007. Those pieces of steel on the western side of the house took two cranes and several workmen to put there.

In the foreground is the temporary electrical supply for houses about to be started.

Now it's 28 April 2008 and the walls are nearly up on the extension.

In the foreground you can make out the slab for one of the two new houses on the battleaxe block.

The light was striking this evening.


It looks as though there were only fourteen building sites on this 'city' block when it was first surveyed, four of 1593m^ and ten of 1415m^ (assuming they were all the same size, mutatis mutandis). By the time I got here, five had been subdivided (one into three) and there were sixteen dwellings (and three large blocks vacant). I hadn't been here long before I divided my 1593m^ into three.
After the highway was taken off the plans, and the blocks sold, there was a dramatic increase in the amount of subdivision and building. I now count thirty-one dwellings (plus one child-care centre taking up one of the larger blocks). So the number of dwellings has almost exactly doubled since 1992 - and there's still room for another six, by my reckoning.
Update. That's now 33, and one of those is prolly a pair of semis, making it 34. Not counting a caravan. There are still three vacant blocks, which will bring the total to 37.


Garry Gillard | New: 10 October, 2007 | Now: 26 June, 2017