Historic pieces of Australian commercial art which were destroyed by vandals in Newtown have now been recreated in situ.
In late 2011, a terrible fire destroyed a popular drycleaners on King St Newtown next to Newtown Performing Arts School.
As the burnt-out shell of the building was being demolished, workers found a bricked up advertising hoarding. They carefully removed the bricks from in front of the hoarding because they recognised that here was a very large, varied and very old piece of commercial artwork in good condition.
I spotted it walking down King Street and immediately took some photos. I recognised from the font and colours used that the hoarding was at that time 100 years old, from 1911.
What was remarkable about the hoarding was that having been bricked up for many years it was still in good condition. Colours were still bright and all text and artwork were clear and legible. And a little research soon revealed that the advertisements for car rental, Waratah Motor Spirit and Perdriau Tyres were the earliest such relics of Australian industrial history extant.
So I called the Powerhouse Museum and others about this exciting find, mindful that it was on private property and that the owners must be consulted. As a former chemical engineer, I had previously saved two pieces of historical Australian industrial mural art. A large three panel piece from the 1940s celebrating progress through industrial chemistry which I rescued in 1988 lies somewhere in the basement of the Powerhouse Museum, last I heard.
The Powerhouse Museum got in touch with the Australian Motorlife Museum at Albion Park Rail. Their curators took measurements and photos of the artwork, I assume with the owner’s permission, and told me they were going to reproduce the entire historical motoring artwork inside their museum. You can see a small picture of it in this gallery link, first column, fourth row.
In the meantime, the historic signage was vandalised. Then it was entirely painted over. However, the developers got in touch with me to talk about the artwork in connection to the extensive heritage research they were collating as part of their DA.
And today it was a thrill to see that the new development has incorporated recreations of these heritage signs in the entranceway leading to flats at the top of the new building, which coincides with their original locations.
I took a quick snap through the locked glass door of one of the recreations. While it’s not the greatest photo, the Waratah Motor Spirit painting, as you can see, has been faithfully reproduced. Likewise with the Perdriau Tyre sign, which is further down the passageway and I couldn’t snap. I think this a great outcome and a wonderful show of good will on behalf of the developer who would have spent a considerable sum to have the signs repainted.
I hope to have some more and clearer pics of the recreations to show you, soon.
Here’s a next day, update. the front door was open so I took a photo from the street. As you can see, the recreation is still a work-in-progress…
The links below about the history of the sign (and what vandals did to it) are from this blog…
Jan 31 2012