Connecting the cottages to the services

News & Events

Connecting the cottages to the services

June 20, 2019

It was slow going compared with the rest of Melbourne but in 1909, cottages in Rushall Park were finally connected to the sewerage scheme. The Council had no choice. Connection had become compulsory.

Electricity

A year later, and electricity was connected firstly in the avenues, and in 1917, to Sumner Hall, and by July 1919, 32 of the cottages had electricity paid for either by the residents or their friends. This reduced the need for candles which, sadly, had caused the death of Agnes Winch in 1910, when a candle ignited a curtain.

Fuel and firewood

The first resident to ask if she could have an allowance for kerosene rather than firewood was Miss Mary Kiernan. That was in 1915. The Council agreed; it was cheaper. They then realised that kerosene heating was also more hazardous.

Modernising the cottages

All cottages built before the first World War had two rooms, a sitting room and bedroom. There were communal bathrooms. Colonial ovens were incorporated into sitting rooms, and much disliked by residents who preferred to instal stoves on the back verandah for cooking.

By 1940, many of the cottages with their two rooms, tiny kitchen and patron with ‘old fire stoves set in tin chimneys’ needed to be upgraded. Only vacant cottages could be modernised during the Second World War – the Commonwealth Government had restricted building. While no new cottages were built, 21 were modernised between 1939 and 1942, providing a bathroom and modern kitchen.

By 1941, 40 residents had access to hot water in their own home. A year later, 18 gas stoves and 40 electric hot water systems were installed.

Today cottages are continually modernised, this time with an accent of dementia-friendly design, lighting, and colours.

Pete Zawacki drove to Leith Park twice a week to visit his mother, Helen, until her death a year ago. After she died he wanted to honour her memory and ‘repay’ the kindness staff showed her by volunteering.

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