By Coffin Ed.
SBS Viceland is currently running an interesting series titled ‘Abandoned’, in which presenter and skateboarder Rick McCrank takes viewers on a tour of some of America’s classic abandoned buildings, sporting and entertainment facilities. Needless to say the vibe is very much post-apocalyptic as Rick skates his way around disused Southern speedways and the now ghostly shopping malls that seem to punctuate the rust belt States. Occasionally there are signs of resurrection like the ‘deconsecrated’ shopping mall that now houses some twenty five different churches but in most cases it’s decay, vandalism and a nostalgia for what were once hubs of human activity.
Scan the internet here and you’ll soon find a small but dedicated number of Sydneysiders with a similar fascination for the crumbling remnants of our urban past. Some like photographer Tim Crawley have turned these wastelands into art with their almost poignant photographs of vacant factories and graffiti ridden tram sheds. Others enjoy the archaeological thrills of seeking out these boarded up edifices and exploring their often cavernous interiors as interlopers on a cultural mission.
Unfortunately with the current obsession in Sydney of turning any piece of vacant real estate into a towering block of bland apartments, buildings and factories which have stood crumbling for decades are now a familiar target for the wrecking ball. Back in the early 80s I once had the pleasure of exploring the old, magnificent and totally abandoned Anthony Horderns Building which then occupied much of what is now the World Square site. Originally opened in 1905 as the Palace Emporium it was the largest department store in NSW with some 21 hectares of retail space. During my somewhat clandestine flashlight tour much of the Emporium’s original grandeur was still intact, later to be ripped apart and gutted to make way for both office space and what quickly became Sydney’s most unsightly car park.
Whilst developers have pounced upon many of Sydney’s long abandoned spaces, like the old Rozelle tram sheds, there are still some fertile areas to be explored by the adventurous. You may need to venture well out of the CBD and inner city to the wilds of places like Eastern Creek, once home to the much loved Wonderland. And what of Waratah Park in Duffy’s Forest, where the TV series Skippy was filmed in the late 60s or the western themed Smokey Dawson Ranch at Ingelside? Does anything remain from these long abandoned icons of a bygone Sydney – if only the skeletal remains of a bush kangaroo?
And then of course there are those areas of Sydney which are best defined as socially abandoned, still physically together, but long neglected by Councils and other governing bodies. Need I mention the infamous Tom Uren Place in Woolloomooloo which for decades has been the bleak concrete dormitory for generations of rough sleepers. The Sirius Building in The Rocks is another than comes to mind, now stripped off its long time residents and likely to remain unoccupied for years until it’s demolished to make way for yet another tower. Whether it ever achieves that cult like ‘abandoned’ status, daubed with graffiti and windows boarded up, remains to be seen.
In the meantime those with a taste for the large scale Americana style abandoned might need to wait a year or two and then travel to the Hazlewood Power Station in Victoria and wallow in this former mausoleum of dirty coal.