The Queen Street & West Woollahra Association 

Our Beginnings

The restoration and ongoing success of Queen Street has always depended on its residents, business proprietors and property owners (past, present and future) collaborating to secure outcomes which preserve and enhance the village. The Queen Street & West Woollahra Association was formed in 1972 with aims including the regeneration and reactivation of the Queen Street shopping area and the promotion of Queen Street's facilities as well as the preservation of the charm of streets in West Woollahra. The founders’ goal was to act "as a forum through which residents can raise their voices effectively on planning matters and influence decisions of public authorities." This was a time when Woollahra had no planning protections and the attractive Victorian facades of Queen Street could be bulldozed and replaced by light-coloured brick inelegancies popular with architects at the time.


The original August 1972 Village Voice setting out the QSWWA aims and calling for members

Sketch of plan for Olympic Stadium in Centennial Park late 60s

The Association's first fight occurred when it opposed a state government proposal for a sports complex at Moore Park, which would have encroached onto Centennial Park covering 40 hectares of land, equivalent to 30 per cent of the entire Parklands. On the day before the holding of a giant protest rally in the park, the Association collected 500 signatures on a petition in Queen Street. The Association later oversaw the successful opposition to the proposed destruction of Jersey Road. A previous attempt to destroy Jersey Road had occurred in the late 1960s, when a scheme to place a freeway through the area was defeated by an imaginative campaign led by the Paddington Society.

Early in 1973, the Royal Blind Society made an application to demolish Waimea House and sent in the bulldozers. Reaction was swift and effective. Through the action of local residents, the Builders Labourers Federation was persuaded to put an immediate black ban on the work. Unfortunately the veranda, windows and much of the roof had already been ripped off leaving only the fabric of the building and masonry.  A protest meeting on the site that evening attracted 100 local residents. The following week, the Royal Blind Society decided not to continue with the demolition, leaving it up to the Association to provide tarpaulins on the roof to keep out the rain, and later volunteer labour for a clean-up. Sadly, the building was then left derelict until 1987, when the then new owners received approval for a full restoration approved by the Heritage Council of NSW.

Volunteers from the QSWWA putting a temporary corrugated iron roof on Waimea House in 1973

The Association wanted a sympathetic planning scheme for the area and in 1974, submitted a draft action plan to Woollahra Council as a model for proposed planning and zoning principles which was finally adopted by the Council in 1980. Its most important elements were a height limit of 9.5 metres on new buildings and a conservation zoning over the whole area. However, it still took another five years for the planning scheme to be finalised and gazetted by the State government.

The Association was also instrumental in getting a Victorian fountain and surrounding pond installed in Davies Reserve, on the corner of Queen and Oxford Streets. The fountain had originally stood in the front garden of the  Rosemont Estate in Ocean Street and was donated by the Burrell family.. Working together with Woollahra Council, the Association arranged for the restoration and installation of the fountain,which was opened in November 1987. After nearly 30 years of service, it was overhauled again in 2016 by the Council. which then it renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Fountain.

The Davies Reserve fountain in its original location in the Rosemont Estate


Tree planting in Queen Street in 1977

One of the earliest initiatives of the Association was to ask a member with a deep interest in gardening and art, Rowan Beckett, to draft a tree-planting proposal for Queen Street. Here design involved the planting of jacarandas and Illawarra flames trees, planted alternatively to give a blaze of colour.  This was endorsed by Woollahra Council in November 1972. However, it wasn’t until five years later in 1977 that the Council finally planted trees in Queen Street, accepting a grant of $2,000 from the Assoiciation towards the costs but changing the trees to a mixture of liquid amber and fraxinus Pennsylvania. Sadly, this decision, combined with a lack of root barriers, continues to adversely impact the pavements of Queen Street today.

Copyright 2021 The Queen Street & West Woollahra Association Ltd

ABN 98 002 872 43 

PO Box 16, Woollahra, NSW 1350 

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