DM's Sydney Walks: 8. St Leonards and Artarmon

6 April, 2020

River Road

We start at River Road again, the boundary between the suburbs of Greenwich to the left (south) and St Leonards to the right (north). For walk 6. Greenwich Road we went up the hill a little bit from here and turned left into Wilona Avenue, Greenwich.

River Road - to Berry Road

This time we're going up a little and then turning right, at the green sign that says "To Berry Rd". (That's Wilona Avenue across on the left, where the white car is parked.)

Steps to Berry Road

Cars can't turn here at this green sign, but there's a set of steps up the hill for pedestrians.

Steps to Berry Road

Climbing... Nowhere near as bad as the Stairs of Cirith Ungol that we climbed in walk 5. Gore Creek.

Reaching Berry Road

The stairs lead to Berry Road, predictably. Which continues uphill.

Old Berry Road houses

The houses along here are all slated for demolition in a huge urban renewal project proposed by the local council. They want to raze three or four whole blocks and build a bunch of new apartment towers. This plan has been in development since at least 2014, and it's currently undergoing further reviews, following a large community protest. Many of the houses in this area are old and run down.

New houses on Berry Road

Although some residents apparently bought land and built brand new homes just before the redevelopment plans were released... They'd have to be pretty upset by the whole thing.

Approaching Pacific Highway

Berry Road leads up the hill to the Pacific Highway, the main arterial route north of Sydney's centre into the northern suburbs. And then on north all the way to Brisbane, 790 km away.

St Leonards

This is a view east down the highway to the commercial area of St Leonards.

Crossing Pacific Highway

Across the highway is Royal North Shore Hospital. Mostly hidden behind the trees at left, but the brand new building on the right is part of it. The little bit of grass at far left...

St Leonards/Artarmon walk

Opens out to Gore Hill Oval. Where the fitness equipment is currently off-limits due to COVD-19 social distancing safety.

Gore Hill Oval

A little further along is the Oval itself. It used to be natural grass, but it was replaced last year with artificial turf. It's used for Australian rules football in the winter and cricket in the summer. And people just running around and getting exercise whenever games aren't on. The large buildings at top right are the hospital.

Vanderfield Building, Royal North Shore Hospital

Across the access road is the Vanderfield Building, the original hospital building on this site, opened in 1902. The hopsital itself was opened in 1887, at a different site in the nearby suburb of Crows Nest, but moved here to St Leonards in 1902. This building now houses a historical medical museum. Which is open on Thursdays from midday to 2pm, or by appointment. The University of Sydney has an online history of the hospital.

Royal North Shore Hospital

The new hospital buildings loom over the old brick ones, complete with helipad on the roof.

Royal North Shore Hospital

These buildings are very new, having replaced 1960s era buildings just in the last decade.

Royal North Shore Hospital

The main entrance of the hospital. Royal North Shore is a public hospital, one of the largest in Sydney. Being walking distance from my home, I've visited the emergency department here a few times for various things.

1000 paper cranes, Royal North Shore Hospital

The entry foyer contains 1000 origami cranes, in the old Japanese tradition.

Royal North Shore Hospital

Behind the main building, more construction is on progress to further enlarge the hospital. We've steadily been walking uphill this whole walk so far, but now we reach the peak and start heading downhill again.

Royal North Shore Hospital

Another view of the construction, from behind. And you can start to get a sense of the view from this hill. This is one of the highest areas in Sydney, and the location of several television transmission towers. The one visible here is for Channel 9.

St Leonards view

Looking further north, the direction we're walking, we can see the high rise offices of Chatswood, a couple of suburbs away. Around here, we cross from St Leonards into the suburb of Artarmon.

St Leonards/Artarmon walk

This part of Artarmon is very industrial, with a lot of light industry: car repair workshops, furniture makers, caterers, a concrete factory, storage hire places, etc. And the sort of shops that need a lot of floor space. This is Home HQ, a complex full of furniture shops, carpet, bedding, major appliances, and so on.

Home HQ Artarmon

I don't have any business here today, but it's worth going inside Home HQ for a look at the interesting architecture.

Home HQ Artarmon

The building is an old factory building, constructed by the North Sydney Brick & Tile Company in 1950. Bricks were first made in this area from 1828, and the North Sydney Brick & Tile Company was formed by amalgamation of adjacent brickworks in 1902. Production stopped during World War II, but when it restarted the company had this new factory building constructed. It was built by Federated British Engineering Ltd. However soon afterwards in 1958 the company moved to new premises further from the city at Baulkham Hills. The factory building passed hands, ending up being bought by the Willoughby City Council in the 1980s. The council used the building as a works depot for many years, but now leases the site to retail outlets, which together form Home HQ.

The original factory shell is intact, including the roof and this cool overhead crane, and the interior has been refitted for the shops, which opened in 2010. The building is heritage listed as an outstanding example of a post-war industrial building, and the refit as a retail space in 2010 won an architectural design award.

Home HQ Artarmon

Another view showing the neat roof and crane.

Home HQ Artarmon community library

It also has one of the largest "take a book, leave a book" community libraries I've seen.

Bunnings Artarmon

My destination today is the next property beyond Home HQ, which is Bunnings Hardware. I'm here to buy a ceramic pot for planting my growing chilli plant.

St Leonards/Artarmon walk

Pot acquired, we continue our walk, turning west. We pass this intersection, showing a car rental company, and behind it another industrial place, with a child care centre on the top floor, where kids can play on the roof and breathe the industrial fumes. (Actually it's not so bad... I don't think there are any seriously polluting industries here.)

ABC TV tower

Further along is another construction site, where 1960s era buildings have been torn down in the last few years. This was the site of ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Their transmission tower is still here, but their offices and studios have moved. This site will become new offices soon.

Twin Towers Inn

We meet up again with the meandering Pacific Highway, making its way north. Across the Highway is the curiously named Twin Towers Inn motel. The name alludes to precisely two more towers than the building actually has. No part of the motel extends above the roofline visible here.

ABC Tower, Pacific Highway

We turn and walk south along the Pacific Highway, past the ABC tower.


There are some old houses facing the highway, dating back to when it was simply a road, and not a major artery with non-stop traffic. This house on the western side of the highway has the name "Valetta" written crudely on the garage, but it is not the original "Valetta". In 1869 a Mr Richard Harnett built a house opposite this location on the eastern side of the highway, naming it Artarmon House. George Robert Whiting bought the house and property in 1880, renovating it into a large Victorian residence and renaming it "Valetta". The North Sydney Brick & Tile Company purchased the estate in 1939 (we're only a block from the Home HQ building) and demolished "Valetta" to expand its brickworks on the site. The estate's stables however still stand and are heritage listed. (References here and here.)

Here's a photo I found in Willoughby Library's online archive of the original Valetta House in 1907 (marked as unrestricted usage):

Valetta House 1907

I'm guessing someone painted "Valetta" on this newer brick house as a memorial to the old estate.

St Leonards/Artarmon walk

On the east side, past the ABC tower, is The Northern Sydney Institute, which is a technical and vocational college, now administered as part of TAFE NSW. The still-standing "Valetta" stables are now actually on the grounds of this college (but not visible in this photo).

North Sydney Institute

Apparently it's the School for Creative Industries.

Valetta stables, Artarmon

(I didn't go in to look for the "Valetta" stables because I only learnt about them through research after doing this walk. Another day I went back and explored the Institute grounds to find the stables. Here they are - they've been converted into a child care centre. This side is painted, but shows the double doors where the horses where presumably taken in and out.)

Valetta stables, Artarmon

(And another photo showing the other side, which shows the original brickwork.)


Past the Institute, the highway continues south and then turns east, ending up in front of the Royal North Shore Hospital where we first crossed the highway. But here we're taking a detour to the left, into what that sign proclaims to be the Gore Hill Memorial Cemetery.

Gore Hill Cemetery

This is an old cemetery, opened in 1868. Here's the main promenade. There are graves in the land on either side. The cemetery is heritage listed.

Gore Hill Cemetery

Ducking off the promenade into the cemetery proper reveals a collection of old and neglected graves. Most of the burials date to the early 20th century, and nobody is left who remembers the people buried here, for the most part.

Gore Hill Cemetery

The cemetery was closed in 1974. There were originally plans to reclaim the land for development, but local protest saw those plans scrapped, and the cemetery became a protected heritage site.

Gore Hill Cemetery

This area is the Mary MacKillop Lawn, and has come back into use by the local Catholic clergy. Catholic sisters and priests are now buried here.

Gore Hill Cemetery

There are some rather ornate graves. This one is for one Margaret Durack, whose obituary appeared in The Catholic Press of 23 February, 1905.

Gore Hill Cemetery

But most are overgrown and falling into disrepair.

Gore Hill Cemetery

I like sculpted angels. But there are very few in this cemetery. Most of the headstones are plain slabs or crosses. But this one has what would have been a fine angel when she had her left hand.

Gore Hill Cemetery

The weather was moody to suit the location.

Gore Hill Cemetery

This is my favourite memorial in the cemetery. An intact angel.

Gore Hill Oval playground

Exiting the cemetery we find we're right behind Gore Hill Oval again, on the far side to before. Where this awesome new playground sits... adjacent to the resting souls of thousands of people from the past century and a half.

St Leonards/Artarmon walk

Map of this walk, starting at the bottom and progressing anticlockwise. The official name of the oval is "Gore Hill Oval", but I always think of it as "St Leonards Oval". And I think this photo was taken during reconstruction, when they were digging up the natural grass.

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