by Cathy Jones
‘Tuxedo’ was built c.1890 and remains a representative example of the great houses built in Albert Road Strathfield in the late 19th century by prominent and wealthy mercantile figures. In the 1890s, Albert Road Strathfield was considered to be one of the most prestigious streets of Sydney, a virtual ‘millionaire’s row’. Click here to see an Aerial photo of Albert and Homebush Road 1922 featuring ‘Tuxedo’.
Though ‘Tuxedo” was built in 1890, during the Victorian period, the design of the house does not fit into a precise style. The house shows ‘early influences of the Arts and Crafts movements in England and relies on high quality detailing, clear and logical use of materials and good proportions to create a handsome design’ (Hubert 2005). In the statement of heritage significance, the house is described as:
‘two storeys with a hipped and gabled roof. The walls are of face brickwork trimmed with roughcast and imitation half timbering on the street facing gable. The three chimneys have multiple corbels given them prominence in the roofscape. An arcaded colonnade provided a ground floor verandah, wrapping around the projecting gable of the house and providing abundant shade in summer. Terracotta panels are inserted into the façade brickwork. A large window opening in the front gabled wing has casement windows with four pane toplights. Unequal double hung windows with four pane top sashes are on the set back of the wall of the front façade. The gutter detail shown in early c.20th photos of the house, the general massing and use of terracotta panelling in the façade are reminiscent of the work of the architect John Horbury Hunt”
‘Tuxedo’ was built c.1890 for Joseph Issac Falk, who acquired the land in February 1889. The originality of the design indicates that the house is likely to be architect designed. The actual architect has not been confirmed, though there is speculation regarding involvement of architect John Horbury Hunt.
Joseph Issac Falk was an American by birth and was the principal of Messrs Joseph I. Falk & Co Ltd, American Trading Company, General Merchants and Importers of O’Connell Street Sydney. Falk occupied the house between 1892 and 1900. Though I have not obtained much information on Falk, it would appear that he was prominent in business activity. He featured in an article in 1894 in “The Queenslander” (reprinted in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph regarding the “Depression in the United States”. In the early 1890s, the world including Australia was gripped by severe depression. Some of Falk’s views on the US economy and political environment are oddly paralleled by the current state of the American economy, which has been severe recession in the since late 2008, following collapse of a number of US based financial institutions.
” I think we’re better off than they are over there.” This is the judgment of Mr. Joseph I. Falk, a merchant of this city, who has just returned from the United States. Mr. Falk visited the States -he is an American, by the way – and from three or four months’ observation he is inclined to believe Australians, amid all the depression, have much to be thankful for.
“Not that I mean to say that the States are a wreck,” be continues. “Far from it. But the country is suffering keenly. The unemployed have congregated in thousands in the large cities, and what with bread funds, relief works, and what not, things are in a deplorable, or perhaps I should say, in a most unfortunate condition. But the wealthier classes are coming splendidly to the front in organising relief measures for the workless. Subscriptions are raised publicly and privately, and the money is devoted to improvements in the public parks and works of a similar character. The tightening of the money market is restricting enterprise, and the uncertainty over the tariff alterations is creating an indisposition to expend money in manufactures until the bill shall become law.”
Bankers in California were unable to under stand the reconstruction schemes which have been adopted by the various banks in this country. They imagined that when the banking institutions failed they went down utterly, just as the Glasgow and the Oriental and the Federal did. Even now they are not enthusiastic over cashing drafts from this side. ” I think the position ought to be explained,” he says. “When the crash took place here, bankers in the States doing business with Australia believed that a general collapse had occurred. Their minds ought to be disabused on the point, and I believe that the banks ought to take action in the matter.” “But they had their own failures.” “You’re right there. But they were only as regarded the smaller banks. In the States, a bank confines its business to its own centre. Half-a-dozen people in a town want a bank, and they form themselves into a corporation, and advance, the next day probably, half their capital to one man. There are no branch banks such as we have here. Each runs on its own hook in its own town or city. It’s the smaller affairs that have gone down, so called national banks and all. For, of course, there is no magic about a national bank. Any bank can become one.”
As for the tariff, well Mr. Falk thinks that the House of Representatives will accept the Senate’s amendments in the Wilson Bill. As an instance of the effect on Australia of the placing of sugar on the free list, as was at first suggested, he mentions that before he left he received an order to ship hence some hundreds of tons, provided that no-duties were imposed. As sugar has apparently been kept off the free list, the order stands virtually as countermanded. Then the railways were in a bad state. Most of the trunk lines had passed into the hands of receivers. Like the railways of our own country, the depression had hit them severely, and now the companies, particularly on the overland route, were struggling with each other in a fierce competition for traffic Fares on the lines running between San Francisco and Chicago had dropped from £15 to £7, and promised to fall as low as £2. Freights had descended in proportion. There are no bullock teams there waging a desperate fight with trains.
“The volume of traffic” Mr. Falk says “has fallen, and the competing companies want the most that each can get out of it. The receivers are parties to the rate war, because they are just as anxious to get the interest on the debentures as are the companies to rid themselves from the control of the court official. When a line is unable to meet the interest due on debentures the bondholders apply to the court for a receiver to be appointed. As soon as the fortune turns, and the bond holders are satisfied, the receiver is dispensed with.”
In March 1900, upon his marriage to Charlotte See (daughter of Sir John See, NSW Premier), ‘Tuxedo’ was sold to merchant and stockbreeder Samuel Hordern Jr (1876-1956), later Sir Samuel Hordern. Hordern and his family occupied the house until 1914, when they moved to ‘Babworth House’ at Point Piper.
At the time of acquisition, ‘Tuxedo’ was located on land running between Beresford Road and Albert Road, being 445 feet deep and 97 feet wide. Samuel Hordern (known as Samuel Hordern Junior until the death of his father Samuel Hordern in 1909) was the eldest son of Samuel Hordern, the grandson of Anthony Hordern of the Anthony Hordern & Sons retail empire and the chief controller of the Anthony Hordern & Sons business between the death of his father in 1909 and the sale of the retail business in 1926 to public investors. Anthony Hordern & Sons was one of Sydney’s great retailers known as the “universal provider’, which at one stage employed over 4000 staff.
Hordern was a man of many interests. He was a council member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, president of the Master Retailers’ Association, a vice-president of the Employers’ Federation of New South Wales, chairman of the Australian Mutual Provident Society in 1932-47, and a director of the Royal Insurance Co. Ltd, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Perpetual Trustee Co. He was a director of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1913-39 and chairman in 1933-34. Outside of his retail interests, he is best known for his service as president of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales from 1915-41. Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion is named for him. Hordern is credited for the growth of the Royal Easter Show from a small fair to one of the world’s greatest agricultural shows. Hordern was a keen stockbreeder of thoroughbred mares, hunters, ponies, cattle and fox terriers. He was a committee member of the Australian Jockey Club from 1917 to 1944 and in 1919 won the Melbourne Cap with the horse “Artilleryman”. His interest in sport included membership of the Concord and Royal Sydney Golf Clubs and he was an early member of the (Royal) Automobile Club and president in 1910-12 and 1914-30. He was knighted in 1919 and appointed K.B.E. in 1938.
Hordern sold ‘Tuxedo’ in July 1914 to Arthur Elliott Hobson, a merchant, who occupied the property until 1929. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 27 June 1914 that ‘Tuxedo’ was sold for £3500. The advertisement for the sale of ‘Tuxedo’ in 1914 contains a full description of the house and its grounds. It appears that during Hordern’s ownership, two cottages were built at the rear of the property facing Beresford Road to accommodate his chauffeur and another tenant.
TUXEDO, ALBERT ROAD STRATHFIELD THE RESIDENCE AND GROUNDS OF SAMUEL HORDERN, ESQ FOR SALE, on account of the Owner removing to his Newly-erected Mansion at Darling Point.
ALSO 2 COTTAGES and Large Garage, fronting BERESFORD-ROAD LOT 1 TUXEDO is built of Brick, with a Tile Roof, of attractive design and contains: – Attractive Hall, Drawing, Dining, and Breakfast rooms, Study and Smoking-room, large Kitchen, Housemaid’s Pantry and Servery, Storeroom, Larder, Maid’s Room, Laundry with verandah off, Servants’ Dining Hall. Upstairs, approached by Main Staircase and Servants’ Staircase, are 6 principal Bedrooms, 3 Maids’ Bedrooms, 3 Bathrooms, Lavatory Accommodation, etc. Balconies on two sides. Outside are Bushhouses, Aviary, Pigeon House, Storeroom with Loft, Canary House, and Kennels; also large Building for Storage, Vehicle, or Garage Purposes, and Manure Pit.
THE GROUNDS, in area 3 ROODS 39 PERCHES, have frontage of 97 feet 0 inches to ALBERT ROAD, by depths of 444 feet 3 inches, and 445 feet 5 inches, through to BERESFORD-ROAD, to which there is a frontage of 97 feet 6 ¼ inches, and are most beautifully laid out. Excellent Lawns, Gardens, TENNIS COURT, magnificent and well-preserved shrubs, trees, vines, etc. LOT 2. 2 COTTAGES. Fronting Beresford-road are two new and attractive Cottages, of brick, tiled roofs, each hall, Drawing and Dining rooms, 2 Bed rooms, Kitchen, Bathroom, etc. One cottage was occupied by Mr. Hordern’s Chauffeur. The other Cottage is let to a Tenant, and has W.B. Motor Garage, etc. On the same block is a commodious Brick Garage for 5 Cars, 2 other Rooms, Petrol Room, Lavatory, etc.
This portion of the Property can be purchased in conjunction with “TUXEDO.” or separately. THE LAND is triangular in shape, 321 feet 0 Inches to BERESFORD-ROAD, by depths of 228 feet and 226 feet 2 inches. TITLE TORRENS. THE LOCALITY- Within pleasant walking distance of Station, adjoining the Property of W. H. Soul, Esq., and close to the Mansion and Grounds of G. F. Todman, Esq.
EARLY POSSESSION CAN BE GIVEN. CARDS TO VIEW MUST BE OBTAINED FROM THE AUCTIONEERS. HARDES and GORMAN PROPRIETARY, LIMITED, have received instructions from SAMUEL HORDERN, ESQ., to sell by PUBLIC AUCTION, at their Sale Rooms, 133 Pitt-street, at 11.30 o’clock, NEXT WEDNESDAY. 17th JUNE. 1914.
Arthur Elliott Hobson was one of the proprietors of the firm Messrs Petersen, Boesen & Co, merchants and importers of York Street Sydney. After the death of Hobson in 1929, the property was transferred to his descendants.
In 1938, ownership was transferred to Edward Glasson of Strathfield, a company director. Glasson subdivided the property into three lots: Lot A and B fronting Beresford Road, while ‘Tuxedo’ remained on Lot C.
In 1944, ‘Tuxedo’ transferred to Ellen Elizabeth Downey, wife of Maurice Downey, a railway employee. After a change of ownership in the late 1950s, the house began operating as a boarding house called ‘Albert House’. Development consent permitted occupation of 34 boarders. The land was rezoned in 1999 as residential 2(b) permitting villas and townhouses. There have been various plans over time to strata title the house and build townhouses at the rear of the property. In 2005, ‘Tuxedo’ was included as a heritage item on Council’s draft Local Environmental Plan.
‘Sir Samuel Hordern’, Notable Citizens of Sydney, Notable Publications of Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1940.
Depression in the United States, The Queenslander (reprinted in the Sydney Daily Telegraph), April 21, 1894
Simpson, Caroline ‘Hordern, Sir Samuel (1876 – 1956)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp 365-367.
Strathfield Council Building and Valuations Lists
Sands Sydney Directory published by John Sands until 1932
Hubert, Pamela, ‘Tuxedo’, Strathfield Council Heritage Inventory Sheet, 2005
Wise’s Post Office Directory
Author: Cathy Jones (2010)