Tornado at South Hurstville

GRLS 19-0051. 15 Truman Street, Claremont Estate, circa 1913.

The Claremont Estate was one of the estates which opened up South Hurstville as a suburb.  It was offered for sale on 18 October 1912.  A major selling-point for the estate was its proximity to Hurstville railway station, which was asserted to be ten minutes’ walk away.  A more dubious assertion was that roads had been formed and metalled as approved by Kogarah Council – in subsequent years there were regular complaints about potholes and other failings.  The estate comprised 143 lots, fronting Belmore Road (now King Georges Road), Hurstville Road, Halstead Street, William Street, Rickard Road and Truman Street.  Halstead, William and Truman Streets were newly created by the estate.  Halstead Street was named after Charles Halstead, an architect who had recently been Mayor of Kogarah.  Eleven of the lots fronted ‘Oatley Bay Creek’, now known as Poulton Creek, which flows through Poulton Park.

The sale was heavily promoted, and thousands turned up on the day, to hear Hurstville Band play selections and have a picnic.  To entertain the children, a scramble was advertised, where dolls, peanuts and lollies were thrown from a horse and cart to whoever could catch them.  This turned into a fiasco, with grown-men tussling with one another: “more of a rugby scrum than a happy children’s party” commented the Propeller newspaper.  But the main business at hand was highly successful, and 83 of the 143 lots sold within the first week.  Upwards of 25 shillings per foot of frontage was paid for the more desirable lots.

Our photograph, taken in circa 1913, shows one of the first houses on the estate, at 15 Truman Street, with its proud homeowners.  This photo makes for an interesting comparison with sketches drawn in a notebook in the State Library’s collection [SLNSW MLMSS 4242].  In a recent blog post from the State Library, details are given about the notebook, which was kept by Carl Moore, a commercial artist.  Early in 1913 he attempted to purchase one of the few remaining blocks on the estate.  His sketch shows what sort of house you could have for your money, depending on whether you spent £180 or £320.  Evidently 15 Truman Street was at the lower end of the scale.

SLNSW Carl and Gertrude Moore notebook

Mr and Mrs Moore’s lot was on the corner of Stanley Street (renamed for patriotic reasons as Australia Street during WWI) and King George’s Road.  They may or may not have known that shortly before they decided on their purchase, a ‘tornado’ had swept over the Claremont Estate and the nearby Florida Estate.  The Propeller of 10 January 1913 reported that several newly-erected weatherboard cottages on the estate were blown off their foundations, and in one case blown right over, and “brick chimneys were torn off and hurled several hundred yards away”.  They may have felt that the worst had passed, but Nature wasn’t finished with the Claremont Estate.  Later that year, according to the Propeller of 28 November 1913, a freak ‘whirlwind’, which lasted for three minutes, overturned a half-completed house on the estate.

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