There are about 25 to 30 Pioneer buildings still surviving in Rockdale which were built prior to the Illawarra Rail line being opened in 1884.
Many have survived and are still worthy of their heritage status, unfortunately some have fallen in to a bad state of repair but are still worth conserving. Of these buildings there are four that are the most important pioneer building in our city. These are-
- Tempe House 1836. 1 Princes Highway Arncliffe. This palladian villa, built of rendered stone quarried from a nearby hill is the most historically significant building in Rockdale. Built in 1836 to the design of colonial architect John Verge (1782-1861) whose other work include Tusculum at Potts Point, Camden Park at Camden, Denham Court at Ingleburn, Elizabeth Bay House at Elizabeth Bay and Toxteth Park at Glebe, as a country retreat for wealthy Sydney merchant, Alexander Spark, it was so favoured by Spark that it became his principal residence and he died there in 1856. It was purchased by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney in 1881. "Tempe" is the oldest building south of the Cook's River. It is the building from which the suburb of Tempe takes its name. It was, at one time, used as a school by Caroline Chisolm. Recently it has been restored an is an excellent example of the work of a very important colonial architect.
- Lydham Hall 1860. 18 Lydham Avenue Rockdale. Lydham Hall was built in 1860 of material quarried locally by Swedish stone mason, Sven Bentson, for a local wealthy butcher, Joseph Davis. It is one of the few substantial domestic buildings erected in Sydney during the gold rush periods and represents an excellent example of the transition from the simple Georgian style of architecture to a more elaborate Victorin style. It stands on the highest point of land between the Cook's and George's River. At one time the home of David Stead who gave the suburd of Banksia its name, it was also the home of the distinguished authoress, Christina Stead.
- Wilson's Farm House 1855. 310 West Botany Street Rockdale. Wilson's Farm House is the last surviving example of the modest pioneer homes built along the banks of Muddy Creek. Constructed of locally quarried stone with rendered rubble internal partitions, it originally had a detached weatherboard kitchen. It was built somewhere about 1855 by James Wilson, formely overseer to Colonel Johnson of Annandale, on land previously owned by John Bowmer. Wilson lived there until his death in 1869. His widow remained in the cottage until 1880 and the property was still owned by the Wfamily as late as 1910. In more recent times it was the centre of a Chinese market garden until its aquisition by the then Cumberland County Council for county open space. Although the building is now owned by Rockdale City Council, it is in fair condition, though poorly sited and in need of a dedicated Conservation Plan to make sure it is conserved for the future. It is an important piece of our cities colonial past that unfortunately is being neglected by Rockdale Council.
- Forsythe 1868. 57 Hannam Street Turrella. (pictured above) This particularly attractive free stone home was built in 1868 by Samuel Jeeves, a wool scourer, who used the waters of the nearby Wolli and Bardwell Creeks to wash the fleeces bought from the numerous slaughter houses located in the immediate vicinity. This activity was moved to Botany in the 1880's. This building has been well cared for and has been renovated in the past few years. Because of its age, its association with an important early industry, its method of construction, its appearance and its architectual merit it is a worthy colonial home worthy of conservation.
- Pembroke Cottage 1852. 9 Bennett Street, Kingsgrove.
- Mill Cottage 1869. 29-31 John St, Arncliffe.
- Banbury Cottage 1880. 23 Chandler Street, Rockdale.
- John Downey's Cottage 1858. 14 Downey Street, Bexley.
- Highbury 1880. Queen Street, Arncliffe.
- Mimosa 1886. 586 Forest Road, Bexley.
- George Perry's home 1880. 666 Forest Road, Bexley
- Joseph Walz's home 1880. 25 Frederick Street, Rockdale.
- The old Walker home 1870. 28 Walker Street, Arncliffe.
- 211 Stoney Creek Road, Kingsgrove.
- 112 Slade Road, Bardwell Park.
- 7 Robertson Street, West kogarah.
The source of this information was originally prepared by Ron Rathbone when as Mayor of Rockdale City Council he tried to have council recognise the importance of our cities history. The information was published by Ron Rathbone in 1978, and is available from Rockdale City Council's history library.