Is High Street in Fremantle WA’s most historically rich street?

The West Australian yesterday (Kent Acott

A nice way to start the year in Freo:

Is High Street in Fremantle WA’s most historically rich street?

You could mount a fairly strong argument that Fremantle’s High Street is the most historically important street in WA.

That is certainly the view of the port city’s mayor Brad Pettitt.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt on High Street looking east.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt on High Street looking east. Picture: Sharon Smith

“From a heritage perspective, the west end of High Street is probably the most significant street in WA, with the Round House — WA’s oldest public building — at one end and the magnificent Fremantle Town Hall — built in 1887 — at the other,” he said.

“It’s a wonderfully intact street at the centre of a wonderfully intact heritage precinct.

Fremantle Harbour, blasting, 1894.
Fremantle Harbour, blasting, 1894.Picture: State Library of WA

“In 2017, the entire west end of Fremantle became the largest single place to be permanently included in the State Register of Heritage Places thanks to its incredible collection of gold-rush-era buildings, which reflect the growing confidence and civic pride in WA at the turn of the century.

“Interestingly, the heritage streetscape along High Street that we all love today was only made possible through the demolition of dozens of buildings dating from the original settlement of Fremantle in 1829.

Construction of Victoria Quay, Fremantle Harbour, circa 1892-97.
Construction of Victoria Quay, Fremantle Harbour, circa 1892-97.Picture: State Library of WA

“In the context of the current renewal of the east end of Fremantle, it’s a reminder that Fremantle has always been a dynamic place, renewed and refreshed over time.

“It has been especially gratifying to see the adaptive reuse of these heritage buildings into a new range of interesting 21st century businesses and seeing this part of High Street come back to life.”

High Street, 1895.
High Street, 1895.Picture: State Library of WA

Of course, at Fremantle’s heart is its harbour.

In the early days of the settlement, shipping was served by a jetty that extended into the open sea from Bathers Beach.

High Street, 1890-1900.
High Street, 1890-1900.Picture: State Library of WA

In 1897, government engineer C.Y. O’Connor oversaw the deepening of the harbour and removed the limestone bar and sand shoals from its entrance — thus creating a serviceable port for commercial shipping.

The two moles were built to protect the harbour entrance and land was reclaimed to build quays and warehouses. The inner harbour was opened on May 4, 1897. The harbour’s basic structure and layout remain the same today.

Fremantle Town Hall Restoration the Best in the Nation

The meticulous restoration of the historic Fremantle Town Hall has taken out a national construction industry award.

McCorkell Constructions, the City of Fremantle’s contractor on the $3.1 million project, won the ‘National Commercial Historical Restoration/Renovation’ award at the Master Builders Australia National Excellence in Construction awards on the weekend.

The 2018 MBA National Awards Dinner was held on Saturday at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

 The Town Hall restoration became eligible for the national awards after winning the state award in July. The project was also recognised with a WA Heritage Award earlier this year.

Everyone involved in the Town Hall project should be proud of their achievement.

The Town Hall is obviously a very important building for Fremantle and one that we all cherish. The level of skill and attention detail that was required to return the Town Hall to its original splendour was quite remarkable, so for the project to be recognised as the best historical restoration in Australia is a well-deserved reward.

The restoration of the 130-year-old Town Hall, which was completed in May 2017, was the largest heritage conservation project ever undertaken by the City of Fremantle.

It reinstated the building’s traditional appearance by stripping the paint off the walls to reveal the original stucco exterior, and also included reconstructing the slate roofs and refurbishing the historic clock.

A further $250,000 has been allocated to begin restoring the interior of the building.

The recent demolition of the adjoining 1960s City of Fremantle administration building has revealed the rear walls of the Town Hall for the first time in around 120 years.

City Heritage Officer Gena Binet said the original limestone on the east facing wall was in much better condition than anticipated.

“We could not conserve or inspect the rear walls of the Town Hall during our recent external conservation project because they were hidden by the old administration buildings,” Ms Binet said.

“We were concerned they may have been damaged when the 1960s building was built or that they may have been rendered with cement, which would have caused the stone to deteriorate.

“This part of the wall is like a time capsule recording how the building has changed over the years. You can see where new openings have been made and then blocked up, plus the scars of earlier structures like fire escape stairs.


“However, we are puzzled by one of the blocked up openings – the upper level one closest to the High Street Mall. It doesn’t seem to serve any purpose, so if anyone has any ideas why it’s there we’d love to hear from them.”


Fremantle Oval in 1968

With the Fremantle Oval redevelopment coming into focus I thought it timely to share this gem from a 1968 South Fremantle Football Club training session.

Not only will you see John Todd, Graeme Scott, Norm Cox, Kevin Miller, Gary Greer and Peter Troode kicking the ball around the Fremantle Oval but the last minute or so has some great historic footage of Fremantle viewed from the oval including the Knowle and other historic buildings.


Remembrance Day in Fremantle this Weekend

At 11am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare. In 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice that ended WWI a series of events will be held across Fremantle.

Memorial Service

  • Sunday 11 November I Assembly at 10.45am for service commencement at 10.55am
  • Fremantle War Memorial, Monument Hill

Each year on 11 November, the City commemorates this day and those who fought and fell in battle with a commemorative service.

Naval Ceremonial Sunset Service

  • Sunday 11 November I 6.45–7pm
  • WA Maritime Museum

Exhibition: Fremantle’s Armed Forces, from WWI to present day

  • Saturday 13 October – Sunday 9 December 2018, 9.30am – 5pm
  • WA Maritime Museum

Fremantle’s armed forces, from WWI to present day presents a selection of historical and contemporary portraits capturing Fremantle’s unique and direct connection to our country’s efforts in times of war and peace.

The exhibition features images of some of the 853 local heroes lost in WWI, 450 in WWII and digital portraits made of service men and women who marched the streets of Fremantle for Anzac Day 2018.

Centenary of Armistice: Urban light installation

  • Saturday 10 November 2018 I 6.50pm – 12am
  • WA Maritime Museum

The Department of Communities will be lighting up prominent WA landmarks with an urban light installation of 59,000 cascading poppies to commemorate the Australian lives lost in WWI.

In 1914, the 11th Battalion, the first battalion to be raised in WA, departed Fremantle for the landing at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

Taking place at a different location each night from Monday 5 November to Sunday 11 November the installation will come to the WA Maritime Museum on Saturday 10 November.

WA Maritime Museum Open Day

  • Sunday 11 November | 9.30am – 5pm
  • WA Maritime Museum I Entry by donation

HMAS Ovens Submarine Open Day

  • Sunday 11 November I 1pm – 4pm
  • WA Maritime Museum I Entry by donation

Kelmscott-Pinjarra 10th Light Horse Memorial Troop Demonstration

  • Sunday 11 November I 4pm – 5pm
  • WA Maritime Museum forecourt

All are welcome to attend our Remembrance Day events.

Fortress Fremantle – Its lost sub and contribution to WWII

Following on from the post on the Fremantle Foundation, that is where the proceeds of this rather special book on Fremantle and WWII by Tim Baldock called “Fortress Fremantle – Its lost sub and contribution to WWII”  will be generously donated.

Fortress Fremantle is a really fascinating read about some largely unknown ways that Freo played a pivotal role in WWII by hosting the biggest submarine base in the Southern hemisphere.

Beyond the False Choice for Fremantle Port

In recent years a false choice has been asked of Fremantle and its working port.

First, a few years ago Fremantle was asked to accept the Perth Freight Link – a tunnel that ran from Roe 8 to High St and would supposedly enable Fremantle Port to triple in size to over 2 million containers a year.

This was rightfully rejected. It was an expensive and incomplete plan that came out of nowhere and was a road to nowhere (or at least it was a road that was so poorly conceived that it didn’t even make it all the way to the port.)

As I said on my blog at the time: “I strongly support a working port in Fremantle – but not at any cost.”

I am glad the community won this campaign.

More recently, however, Fremantle has been told it must now give up its working port to Kwinana and accept just been a tourist and novelty port.

In the Fremantle Council’s view this would see not only Fremantle’s history and identify substantially eroded but a major loss of economic activity just at a time when Fremantle is rebuilding and diversifying its economic foundations.

Both the PFL and moving the whole of the inner Fremantle port to the outer harbour in Kwinana are bad choices to Fremantle.  They are also bad choices for the state and would require a huge infrastructure investment in the billions of dollars. The PFL was costed at around $2 billion. An outer harbour is likely to cost between $4 and $6 billion.

But there is a more sensible third way, a middle way between an oversized port and none at all.

This was outlined in a recent Fremantle Herald Thinking Allowed which in summary argues:

  • Container handling should be maintained at North Quay, provided the associated land-side transport arrangements have no greater impact on the local community than current port operations.
  • Victoria Quay should also be progressively developed for community, tourism and commercial uses – in particular with improved facilities for cruise ship passengers.
  • To facilitate this, car imports and other freight shipments coming through Victoria Quay should be transferred to another location such as the Outer Harbour as soon as possible.

This approach is not new. It is actually the approach that has been at the heart of Fremantle Port’s and the State Government plans for most for the last decade as can be seen from this graph from several years ago by Fremantle Ports.

This third way is also a cheaper option.

It will require an investment in a replacement for the old Fremantle Traffic Bridge so that it also includes a dedicated freight rail line. But the old bridge needs to be replaced anyway. There is great opportunity to create a Fremantle High-line with the old bridge too as Josh Wilson recently outlined.

It will also require smarter use of our current freight network so that quieter, cleaner trucks run fully loaded and more often in off peak hours.

This is not to argue that an outer harbour will not be required. It most likely will and we should plan for this as is pleasingly happening with the Westport Taskforce.

But there is no need to rush into making a one of Perth’s biggest ever infrastructure investments. There has been slow container growth over the last 5 years and there is considerable uncertainty around the growth in imports by volume. Much of what we consume is getting smaller. There is also the potential for the relocalisation of some manufacturing.

The Fremantle Council has been consistent in its support for both a working port in Fremantle and for the necessary long term planning for an outer harbour.

We have long argued that the port infrastructure investments should be broken down into smaller, more sustainable bits and that we should start with the moving cars off Victoria Quay.

Fremantle Port needs to evolve but let’s not hurry into expensive and damaging solutions whether it be the PFL or moving Fremantle Port in its entirety to the Outer Harbour. We have the time to invest carefully and wisely and find a better third way.

National Reconciliation Week

This week is National Reconciliation Week. It is an opportunity for all Australians to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories, to share that knowledge and help us grow as a nation. This is a great video by Reconciliation Australia