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Postpone the Sale - and Put up a Damn Sign!

The scandalous handling of the sale of an $8 - $10 million ratepayer asset by Fremantle Council was brought to the public's attention last week by the Fremantle Society and caused a furore on social media, and again in the Herald, which has been dutifully covering the scandal since 2013 when: "In December 2013 the council offered to sell the site to a developer friend of mayor Brad Pettitt, pushing through a quick deal so he could apply for tax credits of affordable housing- so quick its publicly released business plan contained misleading information." (Herald October 24, 2020).

But, despite the furore, Council has still not even erected a sign on the property to be sold, and nor has it postponed the sale in order to employ a local or major real estate agent to make sure there is enough publicity to get a decent sale price. That is simply not good enough.

The Fremantle Society contacted many people, among them Hayden Groves, the former State President of REIWA, who replied:

I was astonished to see this property come up for sale using a ‘sale by owner’ platform several  ......Not only is the decision not to use a professional at arms’ length agent a poor governance decision from a local authority, it risks determination of fair market value for an important asset.

Hayden reiterated his concerns today, calling Council's actions "indefensible."

Site was home to CY O'Connor

In the meantime, thanks to Garry Gillard and his amazing treasure trove of Fremantle material, Fremantlestuff, which covers Fremantle Society records and articles in detail, a fascinating history of the Quarry Street site is emerging.

The site once housed Park Bungalow, the home of Colonial Secretary Barnett. It was a large 16 room house with verandahs and stables. The very year he moved out, sold his furniture, and leased the property to CY O'Connor, he held a lavish party as described below in January 1891:

"On Wednesday the 14th, Mr. and Mrs. Barnett gave a musical " At Home " at their residence, Park Bungalow, Fremantle. About 100 guests were present, including His Excellency the Governor, the Premier and Mrs. Forrest, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Mr. Marmion, Mr. Justice Stone and Mrs. Stone, the Commandant and Mrs. Phillips, the Archdeacon of Perth and Mrs. Watkins, the Resident Magistrate and Mrs. Fairbairn, and a large number of the ieadisg residents of Perth and Fremantle. An extremely good musical programme had been arranged........ The spacious verandahs were complètely enclosed with canvass and flags and decorated with bamboos, shrubs and flowers, the whole being lighted up with numerous Japanese lanterns."

Garry Gillard quotes Tony Evans:

"For the first year in Fremantle, the (O'Connor) family leased 'Park Bungalow', 7 Quarry Street, then owned by the Colonial Surgeon, Dr H.C. Barnett. When Dr Barnett returned to occupy his house in January 1893, the O'Connors rented, for a few months only, 'Yeldam [Yeldham] House', Lot 300 in Cantonment Street. Afterwards they leased 'Plympton House', a short distance away in Beach Street, overlooking the Swan River (now the harbour). The family would move back into 'Park Bungalow' in 1896 for four years, then return to 'Plympton House' in 1900. ... 'Park Bungalow', dating from the early 1870s, was built of local limestone on raised ground overlooking Fremantle Park and within sight of the present-day Fremantle Arts Centre (then the asylum). It had high ceilings, a library, dining room, music room and drawing room, bedrooms and a wine cellar. A housekeeper's quarters were located on a lower level. What would have been an important consideration for O'Connor was the provision of stabling for horses, a feature also of 'Plympton House'. Both 'Park Bungalow' and 'Plympton House' would have been substantial residences for those times, fitting homes for someone in O'Connor's position.

Sadly, 'Park Bungalow', which could have become a Fremantle museum to C.Y. O'Connor, was demolished in the early 1960s. A good impression of the style and atmosphere of the interior of 'Park Bungalow' can be gained from a visit to 'Samson House' in Ellen Street, diagonally opposite across the park. Owned by National Trust and open to the public on Sunday, it was built around the same period. The O'Connors were frequent guests of the then owners, Michael and Mary Samson."

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society


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