Everyone’s seen it when driving along Mill Point Road…And everyone may or may not know that it’s standing proof of the early establishment and development of South Perth.
This building was constructed c. 1900 by Frederick Stidworthy – a skilled South Perth builder, contractor and stone mason. Stidworthy’s stone masonry skills can be seen at the Perth Zoo, in particular the cave-like bear pits. Stidworthy also built the South Perth Road Board office in 1904, now know as Heritage House Cultural Centre (corner Mill Point Road and Mends Street).
Lucy, Frederick’s wife, ran tea rooms from the lower-ground of the building between 1902-1918. This was a great location to run tea rooms from as the entrance to the Perth Zoological Gardens was just on the opposite side of Suburban Road (renamed Mill Point Road in 1947; the Zoo entrance eventually moved to Labouchere Road). So one can imagine that Lucy got a fair bit of patronage from those who travelled over to visit the Zoo for the day!
It’s interesting that there is still the connection of food, beverage, socialisation and business with the building today, just as it was back in the early 1900’s. By the way, Sopranos have some delicious food and the front-of-house staff are lovely! I wonder what the typical food experience was like when Lucy was running the show…It’s a shame that we don’t have any photographs in our collection of the building during this period of its operation!
Sure, we all have ’em…piles of “stuff” – in the office, in the bedroom, in the spare room, in the car boot. You name it…
I have lots of piles of “stuff” in the Local History collection that were carefully arranged by a previous librarian or staff member. They had squirreled away fascinating documents and ephemera items in ‘safe spots’ or filed them away in an organisational system that only made sense to them. So now I am the lucky one who gets to sort through the “stuff” and make it accessible to you. Regardless of how time consuming it is, I always manage to uncover something exciting.
For example, the other day I discovered a poster that outlined the South Perth Road Board’s by-laws in regards to Public Parks & Reserves (believed to have been produced between 1922-1956, the second period during which the City was classified as a Road Board). One clause boldly stated something along the lines of ‘goats on leash are not permitted on any Park or Reserve within the boundaries of the South Perth Road Board’. I don’t think we would see too many leashed goats being taken for an afternoon walk around South Perth these days, but in the early 20th century this could have been highly likely with the use of South Perth’s foreshores for agricultural purposes.
Yesterday I sat down with yet another pile of “stuff” and uncovered this little gem – a tramway time table for the ‘South Perth local service’ between Mends Street Jetty and Como. This could have been produced at any point between 1926-1950 (the Mends Street Tramway Extension was officially opened on 8 October 1926 and the tram service was discontinued on 10 June 1950. Also, Foy & Gibson’s Pty. Ltd. is in existence on Hay Street during this period, as are the offices for State Ferries and West Australian Government Tramways, situated at 514 Hay Street, Perth). It looks as though this is only half of the original time table (with evidence of tearing on the upper left corner of the passenger fares side). If I ever uncover the other half, I’ll be sure to share!
Ever thought you’d like to give up a bit of your time to help your local community? Do you have an interest in history and would like to be involved in keeping an iconic Western Australian building open to the public?
The Old Mill is seeking new Old Mill Volunteer Guides to ensure that this happens. Volunteers are generally rostered on once a month, on a Saturday or Sunday, from 1.00 pm – 4.00 pm. General duties are welcoming visitors to the site, recording attendance numbers and souvenir sales and answering any questions that visitors may have about the Old Mill.
If you’d like to express your interest in becoming an Old Mill Volunteer Guide, please contact Jenna Lynch on 9474 0811.
The former Pagoda Ballroom was originally built as tea rooms in the early 1920s in response to the popularity of Como Beach. It was built for a Mr & Mrs Gordon to operate. As described by John McLay ‘ … we’d go down to the Pagoda. And Mr and Mrs Gordon would be sitting out there in their evening frock and dress suit and about four customers inside, all in their dress suits. You know, it was really posh, but it didn’t take on’. Infrequent tram and ferry services from Perth proved to be problematic for business and the Depression was to have an effect on the tea room trade.
The building was used as living quarters for soldiers serving in WWII. When a Victorian army veteran who had quartered at the Pagoda revisited Perth, it was discovered that notches carved out of the window sills served as locations for rifles to be placed through.
After WWII the Pagoda was reopened and became a popular ballroom and reception centre. Like many other ballrooms it was unlicensed, however alcohol could be found. Kegs would be brought by attendees and the taps passed through a window. The Pagoda hired out the jugs.
Over the years the building was also used as a venue for roller skating, jazz music, ballroom dancing and weddings.
Today the octagonal building is known as Pagoda Restaurant and Bar. The pagoda style roof and the building’s exterior has been restored to its former glory in the unique Edwardian Oriental style.