When it officially opened on Sunday, 28 March 1954, “Greenway” was Australia’s largest communal housing complex.
Named after the colony’s first public Architect, Francis Greenway, it comprised four buildings, with 309 one and two-bedroom flats.
Using land left vacant after the construction of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, the £1-million high-density project was a desirable modern alternative to Victorian-era terraces in North Sydney, then regarded as “slums”.
The housing tower replaced Victorian-era terraces, then regarded as slums. Image: Pix Magazine.
After applying through a Housing Commission ballot process, Greenway’s first tenants couldn’t believe their luck when they “won” the chance to rent a new home, for between £3 and £4 per week.
“If I won the Lottery seven times over, I wouldn’t leave here. This will do me!” Mrs V.W.H Briggs told a visiting Sunday Herald reporter in 1954.
From her fourth-floor flat, Mrs Briggs could look out to Sydney Harbour, from the Bridge to Vaucluse.
Million dollar views for next-to-nothing. Greenway provided low-cost housing for the needy. Image: Pix Magazine.
Just like the others in her block, it had one bedroom, a living room, and a kitchen with ten cupboards. The Sunday Herald told readers “A good-sized entrance hall, with a spacious linen cupboard, leads off to bedroom and bathroom.”
Greenway was a contemporary and idyllic paradise featuring pastel-coloured walls, honey-stained woodwork, and brown linoleum.
“If I won the Lottery seven times over, I wouldn’t leave here. This will do me!” said resident Mrs Briggs.
“The kitchen is fitted with an electric stove and stainless-steel sink,” Mrs Briggs said.
There was also a state-of-the-art garbage chute which dropped waste to the ground floor, and a token-operated laundry (with four coppers, four wringers and gas dryers) for tenants.
“It costs me about 1/- to do the boil and 1/6 for the dryer each week,” Mrs Briggs said.
The communal laundry at Greenway in 1954. Image: State Library NSW.
But as the Greenway population soon grew to its capacity of around 1000 residents, so did the need for electricity.
By the late 1950s, the block consumed so much power that North Sydney Council needed to install a substation to operate washers, dryers, lifts, 2308 lights, 1666 outlets, and 309 electric stoves.