Monday, 18 April 2011

Tempe House

This house, now magnificently restored, has quite a history – from glamorous high society home, to a school operated by early Sydney philanthropist Caroline Chisholm (she previously appeared on the Australian five dollar note), through nearly a century as a home run by Catholic Good Samaritan nuns for women judged to be in “moral danger”.

In the past few decades it has been in danger of total dereliction, the gardens and grounds overgrown and inaccessible.

Unfortunately, the only way the house has been able to be restored has been in conjunction with a major high-rise housing development. While I haven’t got an issue with the flats themselves, I do feel they mar the line of sight of Tempe House and divorce it from its context of expansive grounds. It has also meant the excision of a part of the rocky knoll to one side, called “Mount Olympus”. This part of the grounds has also been restored as a garden, for the private use of the apartment dwellers.
On the positive side, the vast lawns down to the Cooks River have been rehabilitated.

The house was built for a wealthy and successful Scottish émigré, Alexander Brodie Spark. He had travelled extensively in Europe, having undertaken the classical gentleman’s Grand Tour of classical sites, and named the estate “Tempe” after the Vale of Tempe in Greece, and the rocky hill he named “Mount Olympus”.

In 1834 he commissioned colonial architect John Verge to design an arcadian villa with resemblance to a Greek temple. Behind the house there was an orchard, greenhouse, shrubbery and gardener’s cottage. On the river he constructed a rococo bathing house.

For a full history and more photos see my Postcode 2205 blog entry on Tempe House.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting information regarding the pros and cons of development as a way to achieve preservation.

    i was interested to read your comment about the origin of the name Tempe. There is a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona named Tempe, where Arizona State University. It was named many years ago by a person in the old West who passed himself off as royalty, but who had knowledge of Greek and mythology. He claimed that the area of Tempe reminded him of the Valle Tempe in Greece. He also came up with the name for Phoenix, as a new city arising from the ashes of an ancient native American settlement.