‘Kooyong’, one of the Upper North Shore’s largest (although not the largest) and most impressive estates listed today with $9m+ expectations. The 1894-built manse was originally named Upton Gray and designed by the architect Sir John Sulman. Although today Kooyong is undisputedly one of the Upper North Shore’s most prized estates, that status is more of a result of the substantial landholding it’s maintained through the years and less being a bellwether for prestige development in the area. In fact, Sulman’s design of Upton Gray for John Gillespie of the Gillespie brothers’ Anchor Flour Mills was an emulation of Pibrac, Warrawee’s first mansion. Pibrac was designed by John Horbury Hunt, Sydney’s pioneering architect of the Arts & Crafts and ‘North American Shingle’ style. Upton Gray/Kooyong’s design quite clearly pays homage to neighbouring Pibrac’s roof lines (and material), double-storey asymmetry, and idiosyncratic chimneys, while incorporating a mixture brickwork and earth-toned stucco rendering that was quickly gaining steam in the lead up to Federation and the years immediately after.
A 1970 view of Pibrac, Warrawee’s first mansion and neighbour to Kooyong, taken by Wes Stacey. Pibrac sold for $7.25m in June 2007.
Warrawee, like much of the Upper North Shore, began life first as supplier of Sydney’s timber in the early 1800s. As the timber supply depleted, the region’s higher rainfall and elevation proved to be an ideal gardening district with large estates (Big Island Estate, Vanceville Estate, etc). However, the region’s life as a gardening district would not last long. In 1882, plans were announced for the Upper North Shore railway which led the pastoralists to subdivide (prematurely, in some cases) their land in preparation for suburban development. Pibrac was the first substantial estate to be built with construction finishing about a year prior to the opening of the Wahroonga and Turramurra train stations (to the north and south of Warrawee, respectively). Warrawee spent 10 years without a train station and as a strictly non-commercial residential precinct. Even after local resident J. C. Remington successfully lobbied for the opening of a Warrawee station in 1900, Warrawee’s relative prestige compared to Wahroonga and Turramurra was maintained. “The exclusive residential character of the area became more pronounced after the opening of the railway station [in 1900], as prominent wealthy residents, particularly Joseph Beresford Grant, gazumped commercial developers by buying up every site with a possibility for commercial use and building houses on the sites.”
Another interesting aspect of Warrawee’s early growth that historian Zany Edwards can’t seem to get enough of is the prevalence of battleaxe blocks long before the post-war subdivision of large estates gave the term “battleaxe block” provenance in Sydney real estate circles. This was mostly the result of the 1917 subdivision of the Warrawee Garden Estate and the 1920 subdivision of Pibrac. Aside from the newly laid out Pibrac Avenue, no other streets interfered with the 1890 street plan of Warrawee, meaning that large estates (Upton Gray/Kooyong included) were largely invisible from the street and only accessed via driveways sandwiched between inter-war homes that strutted their stuff to the street (see Whit-Hame).
A 1943 aerial (above) showing contemporary parcel lines. A recent aerial view below showing some impressive Pibrac Avenue comparables.
But all of this is merely a historic lead-up to assessing where Kooyong stands today. Seeing that the estate sits on over 2 acres of land (only small portions of the estate were subdivided off over the course of its history), it truly is one of the largest landholdings in the region. Although, as one of our most prolific Sydney tipsters pointed out to the Radical Terrace, it is far from being the largest, regardless of what the agents or Margie Blok say. That honour goes to ‘Mahratta’ at 1526 Pacific Hwy in Wahroonga that sits on nearly 7 acres of land; furthermore, 39 Chilton Parade in Warrawee sits on over 10,000sqm of land (compared to Kooyong’s 9,076sqm) and sold for $6m in Nov 2007. Nonetheless, not winning the size crown doesn’t hurt Kooyong’s position. Since last selling for $6.35m in Dec 2008, the owners undertook a rather stunning renovation on the property giving it the appearance of a world class property as opposed to the usual tired Upper North Shore mansion 20 years (or 120 years) past its prime. Once we finally saw the interior photos on the listing, The Radical Terrace admits its surprise at its rather “humble” $9m+ expectations. Seeing that Warrawee record holder 27-29 Chilton Parade sold for $11.5m in Dec 2010, we assumed that Kooyong would at least try to join the $10m+ club. Pibrac Avenue is, without a doubt, the Upper North Shore’s most consistently high-priced pocket of real estate. The Pibrac mansion, now on only 4465sqm, sold for $7.5m in June 2007, and 27 Pibrac on a similar lot size sold for $6.6m back in 2003. Kooyong, aside from being over twice the size of these two properties, is now in far superior interior condition.
Kooyong’s dowdy kitchen at the time of its 2008 sale (above); the kitchen as it appears today in all it’s rehabbed glory (below).
Perhaps the subdued price hopes for Kooyong are in response to the seemingly endless supply of Upper North Shore trophy estates that remain lingering on the market. 10 Water Street in Wahroonga, Carinya in Pymble, Roselyn in Killara, Amberleigh Manor and Bolton Grange (both in Wahroonga) all remain on the market. Perhaps most apt for comparison is Kooyong’s architectural (and parcel size) sibling ‘Craignairn’ on a 7100sqm corner lot in Wahroonga. The home has been languishing on the market for years without a buyer. However, as an insider was quick to point out to the Radical Terrace, the privacy and location of Kooyong, in addition to the knock-out interiors, are sure to justify a far higher price.
The listing: ‘Kooyong’, 55 Hastings Road, Warrawee
We eagerly await to learn of Kooyong’s future. In the meantime, check out some impressive interior listing photos and floor plans galore below!