By Cathy Jones
Churchill Avenue Strathfield is located between The Boulevarde and Homebush Road. Part of this street is located in the Strathfield Town Centre. The construction of Raw Square, in the late 1960s, had the effect of bisecting the residential area of Churchill Avenue from Strathfield CBD.
Churchill Avenue was originally known as ‘The Avenue’. The name was changed due to duplication with a street with the same name in Homebush. The name Churchill was adopted after World War II and named after British Wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
Churchill Avenue, between Elva Street and Homebush Road contains primarily Federation styled buildings. The relatively late development of this estate occurred, because the much of the land was considered unusable due to the presence of a large watercourse, created by overflow water from Powells Creek (which runs at nearby Elva Street and finishes at Strathfield Square).
Most of the houses in Churchill Avenue were built in the early 1900s. The area between Elva Street and Homebush Road was listed as a heritage conservation area in 1987 in Strathfield Council’s Local Environmental Plan.
‘Mozart House’ 57 Churchill Ave Strathfield is built on a 1903 subdivision that was marketed as the ‘Kings Estate’. The estate was subdivided by Robert Joshua King (d.1934) and Mary Ann Balmain (d.1943), the wife of surveyor and Town Clerk of Strathfield Council, John Hope Balmain. The Kings Estate created the western end of Churchill Avenue (then called The Avenue), Redmyre Road (part) and Homebush Road (part).
Local prolific builder John Lyon Gardiner purchased Lot 14 in July 1906. Gardiner was responsible for building many Federation styled houses during this period in streets such as Churchill Avenue, Redmyre Road and Albert Road. It is likely he built this house before selling the house to Hugo Alpen in 1907. Alpen was the Superintendent of Music in the NSW Department of Public Instruction and named the house ‘Mozart House’.
Hugo Alpen was born on 26 October 1842 in Kellinghausen, Germany. He migrated to Australia at the age of 16 in 1858, and established a career as a composer, choral conductor and singing teacher.
After spending several years in Melbourne, Alpen was appointed director of the Vocal Philharmonic Society in the New South Wales town of Tumut in 1862, and from 1865 he was based in Albury. He moved to Sydney in 1880 to work as a singing master for the newly established Department of Public Instruction, teaching at Fort Street and Hurlstone teacher training colleges.
In 1884 he was appointed Superintendent of Music in the Department. He advocated enlightened modern methods of music teaching for school children, emphasising aural development and sight-singing, and in 1897 he published a treatise, Practical Hints for the Teaching of Vocal Music in Public Schools.
Alpen led massed student choirs in gala performances, often including his own compositions. His Commemoration Ode (1899) celebrated Fort Street School’s jubilee. At the celebrations of the Inauguration of the Commonwealth in Centennial Park on 1 January 1901, he conducted an estimated 10,000 school children in a performance of his work Federated Australia.
Alpen was Catholic and performed as the organist at St Patrick’s on Church Hill and St Benedict’s on Broadway.
Alpen died in 20 June 1917 aged 73 and his buried in the Old Catholic section at Rookwood Cemetry. He is buried with his wife Sarah died 4 August 1902 aged 53 and daughter Beatrice died 30 January 1905 aged 25.
After the death of Alpen in 1917, Mozart House was sold to Lionel Grimshaw, who lived there until 1919. The house was then sold to Cecil Houison (d.1965), an accountant, and his wife Elizabeth (d.1972). The Houison’s retained ownership until 1959. In 1959, the house was sold to Bernard Foster and his wife Irene. The property appears to have been used as a guest house and in 1960, the business was leased to Ernest Johnson and his wife Valma, who purchased the house in 1965. The Johnson’s retained ownership until 1972.
LATE MR. HUGO ALPEN. (1917, June 23). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 14. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15750668
1890 ‘Herr Hugo Alpen.’, The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), 8 November, p. 1041. , viewed February 10 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article163648045
Land Title searches, NSW Land and Property Information
Skinner, Graeme, 2008, ‘Hugo Alpen’, Dictionary of Sydney, https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/alpen_hugo
Society of Australian Genealogists, 2002, Rookwood Cemetery Transcriptions (electronic resource)
Stevens, R., Unicorn: The journal of the Australian College of Education, vol. 19, no. 3, 1993.
Sands Sydney and Suburbs Directory 1881-1933