Monthly Archives: June 2021

Gay History: “Uncover: The Village”: A Serial Killer, Toronto’s Gay Community, and a Podcast That Transcends True Crime

Flags outside a community center building on a cloudy day.
“Uncover: The Village,” a podcast about a series of murders in Toronto’s gay community, focusses on the victims, their loved ones, the police, and the community, not on the perpetrator or the crimes.Photograph by Ian Willms / NYT / Redux

Early in the first episode of the new podcast “Uncover: The Village,” from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, we visit the garden of a woman named Karen Fraser, at her house, on a quiet side street in Toronto. It’s August, 2018, and Fraser is showing the podcast’s reporter and host, Justin Ling, her flower beds, or what’s left of them; she describes “tulips and daffodils along here, lots of periwinkle.” All of this, Ling says, “was designed and maintained by her faithful gardener, Bruce.” For the past decade, Fraser allowed a family acquaintance, Bruce McArthur, to use space in her garage to store equipment for his landscaping business. In exchange, he tended to her yard. In early 2018, Toronto police told Fraser and her partner that they would need to leave the property—the police needed to excavate. In what became the largest forensic investigation in Toronto police history, officers found the remains of eight men in Fraser’s planters and a nearby ravine.

In February, McArthur, sixty-seven, was convicted, in a Toronto criminal court, of killing those eight men, all of them gay and six of them immigrant men of color, between 2010 and 2017. McArthur’s conviction, Ling tells us, answered some painful questions that “had hung over Toronto’s queer community for years”—questions that began with an awful series of disappearances, whose horrors of which were compounded by the inadequacy of the police investigation. It also reopened another, possibly related, set of mysteries, which “go back decades, to a time when being gay meant being a target; to when the community had to defend itself, because police wouldn’t; when the closet was, for many, just a safer choice than coming out; to a time when queer people were winding up dead and their killers were getting away with it.”

“The Village” is the third season of “Uncover,” whose previous seasons explore the NXIVM cult and an airplane bombing. “The Village” feels particularly vital; Ling, an investigative journalist who writes and produces the series with Jennifer Fowler and Erin Byrnes, is emotionally invested in the story and has reported it, with thoroughness and care, for five years. (He’s publishing a book on the case in 2020.) A few years ago, Ling tells us, it seemed that police had moved on from investigating the cases of the missing men. “Those disappearances nagged at me,” Ling says. “This was personal. This was my community.” Many, including Ling, suspected that the victims’ “sexuality and their skin color made them easier to forget.” “The Village” is as much a gesture toward healing as it is a work of investigation; its focus is on the victims, their loved ones, the police, and the community, not on McArthur and the murders. The care that Ling brings to the story elevates it beyond true crime; what’s being uncovered isn’t a culprit but a history.

The site of that history is Toronto’s Gay Village. The neighborhood is about three city blocks, Ling says, and it’s decorated with pride flags, rainbow spirals, disco balls, and “a bronze statue of a dapper man with a flowing coat and a walking cane.” The American version of “Queer as Folk” was set in Pittsburgh but filmed there. For many—including foreign-born Canadians and people from small towns in Canada, including Ling—it’s a refuge of sorts. Skandaraj Navaratnam, nicknamed Skanda, had moved there from Sri Lanka and went missing, in 2010, at age forty. Navaratnam was “hilarious,” his friend Joel Walker says, and he loved him for it. “If I was in a bad mood, he’d draw it out of me, and immediately I’d be fine.” Skanda was a skilled pool player; he liked to wear jewelry; he liked older men, whom he called “silver daddies.” One of these was McArthur—who was “very, very jealous and very, very obsessive and controlling,” Walker says. One day, Navaratnam disappeared, without his wallet, his I.D., and his beloved puppy. His friends were panicked, with little recourse beyond “Missing” posters and police efforts that seemed to lead nowhere.

We hear such details about several of McArthur’s victims. Majeed Kayhan, known as Hamid, had moved to Canada from Kabul, with his wife and kids, and had struggled to come out to his family; his friend Kyle Andrews had seen him with McArthur. Abdulbasir Faizi, an Afghan immigrant with a wife and children, disappeared in December, 2010. The police set up a task force to investigate the three disappearances and asked the public to come forward with information. Kyle Andrews talked to them; they discussed Bruce McArthur.

In a recording, from 2016, Ling asks Toronto police for information, and they give him a two-page report about their investigation. Flagging the men’s credit cards and alerting border agencies, the summary said, had “not returned any evidence as to their whereabouts or even a path of where they may have headed.” Ling is flabbergasted—where they may have headed? Implying that the men had skipped town seems willfully disingenuous. In 2017, Selim Esen, an immigrant from Turkey, went missing; two months later, Andrew Kinsman, a widely beloved, and white, bartender, disappeared without his medication or his cat, further terrifying an increasingly anxious community. On the last day Kinsman was seen, he’d written a word on his calendar: “Bruce.” In the photograph on his “Missing” poster, Ling says, he was wearing a Bob & Doug McKenzie T-shirt.

Friends say that it “took some coaxing” for the police to realize that Kinsman hadn’t just left town. “You kind of had to underscore to them that this was very out of character for him,” a friend says. Police set up another task force, to investigate the disappearances of Esen and Kinsman, and held a meeting at a community center in the Village which was tense and packed. We hear some of it. Police say that they’ve found “no evidence of criminality,” no evidence to link the disappearances, no evidence of a serial killer. A month after the meeting, they arrested McArthur, after finding Kinsman’s and Selim’s DNA in his van. Their remains, along with those of Esen, Navaratnam, Kayhan, and Faizi, were found around Karen Fraser’s property, as were those of three men who had not been part of the police’s task-force investigations: Soroush Mahmudi, an immigrant from Iran with a wife and stepson; Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, a refugee from Sri Lanka; and Dean Lisowick, who was homeless at the time of his disappearance and whose absence was not reported.

This all plays out in the first two episodes, which illustrate why the community felt not just particularly vulnerable but also unheard by the police, who seemed under-aware of the community’s particular needs and reluctant to seriously take murder as a possibility. In the third episode, Ling takes the narrative on a sharp turn—back to cold-case mysteries that he mentioned at the beginning of the series and the tortured history between police and the gay community in Toronto. In the seventies, a rash of murders of gay men struck the city, several of them characterized by “overkill”—excessive brutality that marks a crime as rage-driven, personal. At that time, McArthur, then in his twenties, had worked nearby. Could he have been involved? As Toronto police look for McArthur’s fingerprints amid old cases—communicating little about the details—Ling investigates, too. “I figure if Toronto Police are dusting off a bunch of cold-case murders, so will I,” he says.

In the process, he re-creates some of the world of the Village in the seventies, revealing joy and pain in equal measure. A gay bar called David’s Discotheque, one of the neighborhood’s first gay-owned gay bars, featured a life-sized fountain replica of Michelangelo’s David in the middle of the dance floor. “I realize it sounds a bit tacky, but I wish so badly this place was still open,” Ling says. “This would be my kind of club.” Its owner, Sandy LeBlanc, was killed in 1978, at age twenty-nine—stabbed dozens of times, in his apartment. Ling tracks down LeBlanc’s siblings, in rural New Brunswick, who talk about their brother and the case with extraordinary grace. He talks to police, too, including a well-meaning retired cop who had understood the “overkill” murders to be the work of gay killers who “had not come to terms with their sexual problems.” Gay sex wasn’t decriminalized in Canada until 1969, and many police officers and straight civilians associated it with criminality. In the seventh episode, Ling talks to a kindly widower whose partner died in 1979, in police custody, after he was arrested by “morality officers” in the men’s room of a gay bar. Raids on sexual activity in bars and bathhouses were common; growing frustration with these raids helped lead to gay-rights activism in Toronto.

As he investigates all of this, Ling makes fascinating headway. One of the most compelling things about this podcast—and there are many—is the sensitivity with which he seeks out and listens to the people who felt neglected for so long. “Uncover: The Village” is thoughtfully produced, but it doesn’t signal to you, as many crime-related podcasts do, that it’s entertainment. Its minimal music reflects your emotions without manipulating them; Ling’s narration isn’t self-dramatizing. The series is engrossing because of its powerful story, Ling’s dogged and far-ranging reporting, its sympathetic characters, compelling scenes, and a patient, well-paced narrative. But those elements can be found in good true crime. What sets “Uncover” apart is that it aims to serve something beyond its audience: more than a whodunit, the series feels like a kind of truth-and-reconciliation commission, in podcast form. What’s important isn’t the edification of those listening but the solace of those being heard.

How alleged Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur went unnoticed

The property where police say they recovered the remains of several bodies from planters connected to Bruce McArthur in Toronto, Canada, on 3 February.
The property where police say they recovered the remains of several bodies from planters connected to Bruce McArthur in Toronto, Canada, on 3 February. Photograph: Rob Gilles/AP

A friendly gardener and mall Santa, McArthur may also have been the worst ever serial killer of gay men. As Toronto police reopen 25 cold cases dating back to 1975, they are facing tough questions about decades of hostility to the gay communityDavid Graham in TorontoSat 23 Jun 2018 17.00 AEST

When the biggest forensic investigation in Toronto history began, it was still possible to be blind to the full extent of the horror.

On 18 January 2018, in the mid-morning, Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old freelance landscaper, entered his Thorncliffe Park apartment building in Toronto, accompanied by a young man.

McArthur had been placed under 24-hour police watch the previous day. The surveillance officers had instructions to arrest him if they saw him alone with someone else.

They ascended to McArthur’s 19th-floor apartment and broke down the door. Inside, they found his companion already tied to the bed.

McArthur was charged with the murder of Andrew Kinsman, 49, who had gone missing shortly after Pride Day on 26 June 2017, and Selim Esen, 44, who was reported missing about two months earlier.

As a particularly cold winter dragged on into February, the city was horrified as police began to unearth the remains of corpses buried inside more than a dozen decorative planters. The planters were located outside a modest home, on Mallory Crescent in the Leaside area of the city, where McArthur had been employed as a gardener.

Police issued a plea to anyone who might have used McArthur’s services, and deployed cadaver dogs to multiple locations across Toronto. They erected tents and used heaters to thaw the frozen ground. Forensic investigators combed over McArthur’s two-bedroom apartment for months, removing 1,800 pieces of evidence and photographing every square inch.

The number of murder charges grew to five (Majeed Kayhan, 58; Dean Lisowick, 47; and Soroush Mahmudi, 50), then eight (Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40; Abdulbasir Faizi, 44; and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37).

Six of the men were south Asian or Middle Eastern. All of them were gay.

A composite of five of the men Bruce McArthur is accused of killing, provided by the Toronto police service. From left to right: Selim Esen, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Andrew Kinsman and Majeed Kayhan.
A composite of five of the men Bruce McArthur is accused of killing, provided by the Toronto police service. From left to right: Selim Esen, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Andrew Kinsman and Majeed Kayhan. Photograph: AP

The LGBT community in Toronto was shocked, bereaved – and furious. From 2010 to 2017, gay men had been disappearing in alarming numbers from Toronto’s lively gay village. Many locals had long suspected a serial killer.

Long-simmering tensions with the Toronto police boiled over. Organisers demanded to know why the force hadn’t taken their fears more seriously. Some argued that police were too slow to warn the community of a possible serial killer, saying lives could have been saved.

To make matters worse, Toronto police appeared to put some blame on the gay community for the killings when chief Mark Saunders told reporters that they might have caught McArthur sooner had residents of the gay village been more forthcoming. “We knew that people were missing and we knew we didn’t have the right answers,” Saunders said. “But nobody was coming to us with anything.”

Toronto police had already been banned in 2017 from the Gay Pride parade, following lobbying from Toronto’s chapter of Black Lives Matter. Their request to participate in 2018 was refused.

Then, in April, in a move that some have interpreted as an acknowledgment of their neglect of the gay community, police announced that they were reopening 25 cold cases – all murders associated with Toronto’s gay village. 

They date from 1997 all the way back to 1975. 

And no one is suggesting it is over.

From Santa to serial killer

While investigators are still developing a profile of the alleged serial killer, they are certain of one thing. The jolly-looking McArthur, who is divorced and has two grown children, did not have the menacing countenance of a serial murderer. 

In fact, he was so convincingly harmless looking that he was able to play Santa in at least one suburban shopping mall. His age, as well as his unthreatening appearance – round features and a broad, cheery smile – made him seem approachable to children shopping with their parents, as well as to gay men seeking a dark sexual encounter with someone they could trust.

Bruce McArthur in a photo posted on a social media account.
Bruce McArthur in a photo posted on a social media account.Photograph: Reuters

After divorcing his wife, McArthur, who had been active on his church board in Oshawa, east of Toronto, became a regular in the city’s gay village. He trolled hook-up sites like Manjam and Recon, where the “silver fox” made his taste for submissive men clear – especially those who wanted to test the limits of their curiosity for dangerous sex.Advertisementnull

McArthur had been brought to the attention of local police in 2002, when he was arrested for attacking a gay prostitute with a metal bar. He was sentenced in 2003 to two years probation and told to stay away from the gay village.

In 2010, reports started to come through of men going missing from the village. The first, Skandaraj Navaratnam, rests particularly heavily on the mind of Haran Vijayanathan, executive director of the Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP). 

Both men are Sri Lankan, Tamil and gay. “I saw myself in Skanda,” says Vijayanathan. “He represents my greatest fear.”

That fear – one faced by immigrant and refugee men in an unfamiliar gay community – is nothing new. Just as gay men from North Bay and Moose Jaw flocked to Toronto in the 1970s to live free and open lives, a new generation of gay men from south Asia and the Middle East have been drawn to Canadain the last 20 years for the same reasons. The new arrivals may revel in Canada’s acceptance, but they are still vulnerable – still suspicious of authority, reluctant to attract attention, perhaps too eager to fit in. And perhaps too trusting of a gentle-looking older man who appears harmless.

Predators thrive on marginalized groups, says University of Toronto associate professor of sociology Jooyoung Lee, an expert in violent crime and serial homicide. Gay men – particularly gay refugees or other relatively new Canadians – fit into a population that includes prostitutes, aboriginal women and immigrants.

And then there is what Lee refers to as “missing white woman syndrome”: the idea that police, media and the public are less inclined to pay attention to crimes that are perpetrated on marginalized communities. 

Vijayanathan, who is one of the most outspoken critics of how Toronto let its gay community down, insists that police only took the investigations seriously when Andrew Kinsman, one of two white victims, was reported missing. 

But he also points to racism within the gay community – comparing the massive local search mounted after the reported disappearance of the other white victim, Andrew Kinsman, with the slower and less cohesive response to the disappearances of the brown-skinned victims.

Vijayanathan also believes the families of some of the missing immigrant men failed to report their disappearance. 

Isolation, combined with a fear of police, has marginalized members of our community and made them more vulnerable

Tom HooperAdvertisementnull

In some cases, he says, the disappearances were the first time family members learned their relative was gay (or MSM, men who have sex with men but don’t identify as gay). Others worried about interfering in a family member’s claim for refugee status. Still others worked under the table and didn’t want to attract the attention of authorities. For example, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam was a Tamil refugee who came to Canada in 2016 and was never reported missing, and after Navaratnam’s refugee claim was denied he rarely left the confines of the gay village.

“Throughout our history, people have come to the city as a refuge and a place to explore their sexuality – often without the knowledge of their family and friends,” says Tom Hooper, a York University historian who has devoted much of his studies to the gay experience in Toronto in the 1970s.

But Hooper also points the finger at police. “For both gay men in the 1970s and queer people of colour today, the police have been enforcers but not protectors. Isolation, combined with a fear of police, has marginalized members of our community and made them more vulnerable to violence.”

Homophobic atmosphere

The difficult relationship between Toronto’s gay community and police force coincides with reports of missing gay men going back decades. As long as 40 years ago, 14 gay men were murdered in Toronto in just a few years. Seven of those cases remain unsolved.

The brutal stabbing death of William Duncan Robinson at his home in November 1978 came shortly after the popular 1970s gay magazine the Body Politic to question the sluggish police response to the string of murders, and the official stance that they were unrelated: “Could they have been committed by one man?” asked an October 1978 headline. “The police aren’t saying. But the crimes do show a certain similarity …”

It has been suggested that McArthur, who has not yet entered a plea in the eight charges nor been charged for any of the cold cases, could be responsible for some of those murders. Serial killers rarely begin their murder sprees late in life, and McArthur would have been in his 20s and early 30s back then. Critics dispute that theory by pointing to a very different manner of execution and body disposal: the 1970s murders were mostly stabbings, and the victims were left where they were killed.

What is indisputable is that police never caught the killer, or killers – and it’s hardly a stretch to imagine that they didn’t feel much pressure to do so in the homophobic atmosphere of the era.

It was a holiday tradition each Halloween during the 1960s and 70s for Toronto residents to taunt gay men, especially drag queens, as they entered bars on Yonge Street like the St Charles Tavern and the Parkside. They pelted eggs, which turned into rocks, which turned into beatings on darkened side streets. 

Police mostly looked the other way, recalls the Rev Brent Hawkes, a longtime leader of the city’s gay rights movement who was once himself restrained on a sidewalk by two officers as a third punched him. “Stories of men being arrested and taken to Cherry Beach for a beating were common,” he says. Officers would lurk beside the urinals in bars, waiting for men to engage in a sexual act. Entrapment was widespread at department stores, universities and hotels such as Hudson’s Bay, the Royal York and the University of Toronto.

“Sex had to be quick and anonymous,” says Hooper. “There was no courtship that led to sex. If you were married and lived in the suburbs – and you were gay – you had to hook up on your lunch break.”

Police raid the Club bathhoue in Toronto on 6 February 1981.
Police raid the Club bathhouse in Toronto on 6 February 1981.Photograph: Frank Lennon/Toronto Star/Getty

The constant harassment by police reach the boiling point in 1981, when 200 police officers descended on four gay bathhouses. They marched through the corridors, swinging crowbars and sledgehammers, breaking down doors and corralling groups of men into showers and lounge areas. One officer reportedly commented that he wished the showers were hooked up to gas, Hooper said. Men were arrested and charged according to the city’s antiquated bawdy house laws.

A few of the officers were apologetic, but another boisterous contingent “seemed to enjoy it – like jocks in a frat house”, says Hooper.Advertisementnull

By morning, 250 men had been charged. The humiliation caused some to contemplate suicide. Others were fired from their jobs after police officers called their employers. Many lost the support of family and friends.

The raids were a tipping point for Toronto’s gay community. Like the Stonewall riots in New York, the bathhouse raids ignited a fury that led to the city’s modern gay pride movement. Though there had been small events held in previous years, the first official Pride parade was held that spring.

Now it’s one of the largest in the world: when the 38th annual Toronto Pride parade takes place this coming Sunday, it will attract close to one million spectators. Sponsors include Home Depot and New Balance, and regular attendees include the prime minster, Justin Trudeau, and the mayor of Toronto, John Tory.

Pride parade participants display names of the Orlando Pulse nightclub victims on Yonge Street during a moment of silence in Toronto on 3 July 2016. Photograph: Ian Willms/Getty Images

But even as Toronto’s more established gay community gains strength, new arrivals continue to lead marginal, vulnerable lives.

DS Hank Idsinga, 50, the lead investigator on the most high-profile of murder cases, is keenly aware of media criticism that police did not take the missing persons reports or speculation of a serial killer seriously because the men were gay and mostly brown-skinned.

Idsinga, who joined police services in 1989, acknowledges it will take time to regain the trust of the gay community. He says he is disheartened by the accounts of the bathhouse raids and the history of police hostility. “I’m open to criticism,” he says. “It’s a byproduct of the job. You can block it out or you can listen.” He points out that he was recently scolded by a reporter for using the expression “gay lifestyle”, and promises: “I will avoid the term from now on.”Advertisementhttps://b0f547aeb67887e14b7a145fa28e345d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The decision to open the cold cases – Idsinga estimates the number of unresolved cases of murdered gay men at 20 or more – is a belated attempt to make something very wrong at least a bit more right. “I’m not that police officer from 30 years ago,” he says of his attitude to the past. “What can I do to help now?”

A community at risk

There has always been a small community of gay men who thrill at risky sex, bondage, humiliation and even torture. Assured that they are engaging in role playing, such men submit to their putative captors, who methodically and ritualistically push them to – and perhaps beyond – their “edge”.

Sean Cribbin, 50, was one man who had experimented in this fashion. Last summer, he says accepted an online invitation to meet McArthur early one afternoon.

Almost a year later, he marvels that he is alive. 

A former Mr Leatherman in Toronto, Cribbin told Global TV in a wide-ranging interview that he felt comfortable submitting to McArthur’s wishes because he looked so unthreatening. 

He even brought up the rumour of a serial killer attacking gay men in Toronto, but says McArthur didn’t respond.

Unlike McArthur, Cribbin has a tough appearance: sleeve tattoos, a black beard and a thick nose ring. But his voice is soft and his comments thoughtful. “I was the lucky one,” he said. “It could happen to anyone.”

First, Cribbin says he accepted the GHB cocktail prepared by McArthur, having asked him to limit the dose to 5ml – the right amount to put him at ease, cause euphoria and “heighten the sexual encounter”.

What if the roommate hadn’t arrived home when he did? I would have simply disappeared

Sean Cribbin

But after Cribbins says he accepted the restraints McArthur suggested, and with McArthur’s penis in Cribbin’s mouth, his hands tight around his neck and his considerable weight on his chest, Cribbin claims he began sweating heavily – a signal that he had been “over-drugged” – and was overcome with dread.

Just then, Cribbin says he heard McArthur’s roommate enter the apartment – an excuse for Cribbin to end the date, dress and return home.

Six months later, police reportedly approached Cribbin with a photograph of him taken from McArthur’s home, showing him restrained in what investigators called “the kill position” – moments from certain death. Advertisementhttps://b0f547aeb67887e14b7a145fa28e345d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Cribbin, who is in an open relationship, says he is ashamed that he didn’t tell his partner where he was going that sunny afternoon, that he survived while others died. For the first time in his life, he’s afraid of the dark, and he worries the experience may turn him off sex completely.

“What if the roommate hadn’t arrived home when he did?” Cribbin said. “I would have simply disappeared.”

‘One foot in the department and one foot in the gay community’

Police may never unearth the full extent of McArthur’s alleged carnage, but if it is proven in court it could be compared to the atrocities of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 boys in Milwaukee between 1978 and 1991, or John Wayne Gacy, who murdered 33 young men and boys between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois. As the investigation deepens, police are under tremendous pressure to solve the crimes – which means trying to understand the man that investigators think is behind them.

“[McArthur] probably got a kick out of tricking men into believing he was harmless,” says Lee, who knows that investigators are struggling to get inside McArthur’s head, investigating his social circles and his online activities. Investigators will also want to understand the rituals associated with the killings and the complicated procedures involved in the disposal of his victims’ remains – not least how to fit the corpses into the planters. (Many have speculated that McArthur’s job as a landscaper could involve the use of equipment such as chainsaws and wood chippers.)

Lee believes McArthur was probably in a perpetual search “for the next kill that would top the last one. [Serial killers] become overwhelmed by the fantasy, constantly studying the craft of killing, the details of the murder and the memory of his actions afterward … He would get a small rush every time he revisited the remains of the people he killed.”

How McArthur may have slipped up, or why police decided to place him under surveillance, Idsinga won’t say. But, according to Lee, one thing is certain. “Killing requires practice,” he says. “They are seldom perfect in the beginning. Serial killers are caught when they get sloppy.”

A candlelight prayer vigil for the victims Bruce McArthur allegedly killed at Metropolitan Community church in Toronto on 4 February. Photograph: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images

But as well as getting into the head of McArthur, it means trying to heal a rift with the gay community that stretches back decades. 

This Sunday’s otherwise jubiliant Pride parade will end with a contingent of organizers dressed in black, to pay respect to the victims of the killer and to all LGBTQ people who don’t feel safe in their own community.

While some in the gay community argue that this is a time for healing – and that police participation is crucial if the gay community is going to move forward – Black Lives Matter is not so eager to forgive, insisting that banning uniformed officers is a needed protest against broader police neglect and abuse.

Shortly after McArthur’s arrest, the mayor acknowledged that police had failed to react appropriately to the multiple disappearances, and called for an independent investigation into the department’s response.

Vijayanathan, who is the Honoured Grand Marshall of the Pride Parade and was the chief advocate of a third-party inquest into the investigation of the killings, is torn. He’s still angry over what he calls “a gross mishandling of missing person reports”. But he is pleased at the mayor’s response, and acknowledges that to heal, the community will have to work with police. He also expresses sympathy for the many LGBTQ members on Toronto’s police force who usually enjoy marching in uniform in the Parade.

Hawkes says he has witnessed the growing maturity of the department over the decades – with an emphasis placed on sensitivity training and recruiting gay officers, including an openly lesbian deputy chief. 

“I don’t want to sound like a defender of the police but I am cautiously optimistic things will get better,” he says, “because I’ve seen that progress in possible.” He also knows that gay and lesbian police officers are devastated that they’ve been rejected by the Pride committee. “They’ve got one foot in the police department and one foot in the gay community,” he says. 

Idsinga says: “I’d rather see police services participate. And because of the McArthur case, I’d like to participate myself.”

In the meantime, there are now dozens of cold cases to investigate.

“This community has been victimized for years,” Idsinga says. “It’s our job to stop that.”

This article was amended on 25 June 2018. An earlier version said Dean Lisowick had been reported missing; that reference has been corrected to Andrew Kinsman.

Reference

Gay History: Darlinghurst’s Green Park Hotel Was Once The Home Of Sydney’s Bohemian Community

The Green Park Hotel, Darlinghurst, 2017. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

Gus Wangenheim, a man about town

JUST around the corner from Maccabean Hall, built in 1923 to commemorate Jewish men and women who served in the Great War, and where the Sydney Jewish Museum is housed at Darlinghurst, trades the Green Park Hotel.

Like Maccabean Hall, the Green Park Hotel has a link to Sydney’s Jewish history, along with the harbour city’s early bohemian community.

The Green Park Hotel, established in 1879, was bought by one of Sydney’s wealthiest Jewish families, Gus and Betsey Wangenheim in 1881.

The Wangenheim family would later replace the two story brick pub with the magnificent, heritage listed hotel, with its splendid long bar, currently sitting at the corner of Liverpool and Victoria Streets in Darlinghurst in 1893. 

The history of the Green Park Hotel begins in the early days of white settlement, when a 28-year-old Gustave Wangenheim arrived in Sydney Town, from Germany, in 1853.

Gus, as he was known, was one of Sydney’s most colourful characters, a cartoonist, painter, comedian and publican. He opened his first pub, the Post Office Hotel in York Street, Sydney in 1854.

In 1855 he married a fellow Jew, 21-year-old Elizabeth Simmons, daughter of James Simmons, a successful trader and brother of the proprietor of the Jerusalem Warehouse, now the site of David Jones department store.

Gus was also the foundation president of the NSW German Club, established in 1858, which hosted monthly balls at their premises in Pitt Street, Sydney. The Club was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as combining the social with the intellectual, and supplied “convivial pleasures and rational edification in a wholesome promiscuous form”.

A much-loved bohemian, who’s “humour was irresistible”, Gus could “reproduce characteristics with a happy exaggeration that few other artists could effect”. His artworks were a feature of his pubs, often drawn directly onto the walls. Besides an artist and comedian, he was also a splendid fencer and boxer, and spoke fluently several languages.

post office hotel york street sydney
Gus Wangenheim’s first pub, the Post Office Hotel, York Street Sydney. Picture: Supplied

Just five years into his hospitality business, the Jewish publican suffered a major set-back after he was declared insolvent. He disappeared from Sydney social life in 1858, taking his wife Elizabeth and newly born child north to a Port Curtis, near today’s Gladstone in Queensland. Gus’s inability to maintain a healthy cash flow in business was a constant battle throughout his life, and he was declared insolvent at least four or five times.

After his departure from Sydney, another Jewish businessman, Saul Lyons offered a reward to “anyone who will prosecute to conviction” Gus “or the party or parties who took the passage for him, and assisted in his escape”.

The advertisement stated that he had “absconded from his creditors… in assumed name, with his wife and child, in the Maid of Judah”. Gus eventually made good his creditors, and returned to Sydney during the 1860s, where he took the reins of the Café de Paris, in King Street, and continued his “amusing repertoire of musical comicalities” at the Prince of Wales Opera House.

ELIZABETH WANGENHEIM
Elizabeth Wangenheim. Picture: Supplied

While the Wangenheims ran the Café de Paris, it was said to be “a picturesque resort of Bohemians, where the Duke of Edinburgh dined more than once while in Sydney”.

Gus and Betsey entered a new business venture in the 1870s, when they built Wangenheim’s Hotel, near the junction of Castlereagh-street with King-street. The hotel became an artistic landmark, with Wangenheims’ customers – the “bohemians and prominent members of all the artistic professions” – following their charismatic publican to his new business venture.

In a series of history articles published in the Truth during 1912, the author, “Old Chum”, revealed it was Betsey who was the brains behind the business of the Wangenheims’ business success.

The remaining interesting item in Castlereagh-street, north of King-street, was a public house, opened in 1875 by Gus Wangenheim, who had previously kept a hotel in King-street. In the Castlereagh-street house, the walls and tables in the bar, every available inch, were decored with character sketches by Gus, who was not half a bad artist. About the year 1881 the house passed to Richmond Thatcher, a clever Bohemian of much literary talent, but neither Dick Thatcher nor Gus Wangenheim was made of the stuff that successful publicans are composed of. The Bohemian strain in the character of each, good fellows though they were, was against the accumulation of large bank balances. Mr Wangenheim, however, was not entirely dependent on his exertions as a hotel-keeper; his wife – who, I believe, is still living – being the daughter of a very wealthy citizeness. Richmond Thatcher could do much better with his pen than with a beer engine.

Wangenheim’s Hotel later became known as the Bulletin Hotel and in 1885 the Burlington. It was demolished sometime before 1905.

A year before Gus’ death, the Wangenheims invested in a brick corner pub with a 90 feet frontage to Liverpool Street and 30 feet facing Victoria Streets, in Darlinghurst. Established in 1879, the slate roofed Green Park Hotel, with bar, cellar, two parlours, hall, five bedrooms and kitchen, had been trading for less than three years, when the Wangenheims added to their growing property portfolio in March 1881. The Green Park Hotel provided £3 14s a week in rent for the Wangenheims.

gus drawing
A caricature of Gus Wangenheim by Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist and reporter, Percy Tanner, C1870. Picture: State Library of NSW.

The death of the flamboyant publican at the age of 57 in 1882 came on the heels of the demise of another of Sydney’s bohemian identities, the well-known poet, Henry Kendall. Gus’ death reportedly left a void in the social life of Sydney that “can never be filled up”. The Queenslander reported on Saturday August 12 1882:

Following close upon the demise of Kendall was the sudden taking off of poor Gus Wangenheim. Gus was one of the identities of Sydney life. Not to have known this genial German was to argue yourself unknown. He was a genuine artist, though his range of accomplishments was not by any means restricted to the pencil. Art, however, was his forte. As his thoroughly genial and withal kindly disposition invariably led him to look upon the humorous side of everything, his genius naturally affected caricature, and as a caricaturist Wangenheim can scarcely be said to have had a superior… When he was hotel-keeping the walls of his hostelry were literally covered with caricatures of politicians, actors, and other celebrities, and these curious sketches were the admiration and the delight of the host of frequenters of his popular “pub” in Castlereagh-Street; but the vandals who succeeded Gus knew not their worth, and remorselessly rubbed them out – only awakening to a sense of their value when the gifted caricaturist himself was rubbed out. Gus was a competent musical and dramatic critic in addition to his qualities as an artist. Miss Emma Wangenheim, who is, I believe, pretty well known in Queensland, was his daughter, and doubtless inherited such lyrical gifts as nature may have endowed her with from her paternal relative. Perhaps, though, after all, Gus Wangenheim will be longest remembered for his social qualities – his homely, easy, unaffected conversational powers being the delight of all his companions. There was just the faintest approach to egotism in Gus Wangenheim. Egotism, perhaps, is too offensive a word to use. Gus’ self-appreciation, as it may be more fitly termed, may be said to have resembled the quality of egotism much in the same way as the mist resembles the rain.” So far from its being objectionable it really constituted one of the charms of his conversation, and was thus, in its way, as pardonable and as tolerable as was the egotism of Bousseau. Now that he is gone, all who knew him feel that a void has been created in the social life of Sydney, which at any rate, as far as the present generation is concerned, can never be filled up. 

The Sydney Evening News reported the artistic publican’s death on August 4 1882:

Death of Mr. Gus Wangenheim.

People who frequent the town at night were yesterday startled by a report that Mr. Wangenheim, popularly called Gus Wangenheim, the well-known caricaturist, had “dropped down dead.” The rumour was not credited at first, as one of a similar character, that turned out to, be a canard, had been circulated before. Unfortunately, however, it is only too true; for the clever, genial, loveable, “man about town,” died suddenly at his residence, Pendennis, Lower William-street, Woolloomooloo, last evening, shortly after 5. Gas, may be said to have “passed away” rather than died. He was out at Waverley with his wife in the afternoon, and on their return, had a cup of cocoa, after which he went on the balcony, where he sat down and smoked a cigar. That finished, he took a book and commenced to read. Mrs. Wangenheim noticed that he put it down shortly afterwards, and thinking he slept told one of the children not to make a noise and ‘wake pa’. A few moments afterwards noticing that his head was very much to one side she looked closely at him, and to her horror found that he was dead. His head then was cold, the eyes were glassy and he must have died almost instantaneously. His hands were folded, and there was not the slightest trace of suffering on the face. The deceased man had been before the public for some years as a hotel-keeper and a sketcher and caricaturist of considerable power and facility. Though not so good at likenesses as Lascelles or Clint, Gus’ humour was irresistible, and he could reproduce characteristics with a happy exaggeration that few other artists could effect. The best collections of his drawings are on the walls of the Bulletin Hotel, which he kept for several years. Unfortunately the vandal landlord in possession at present papered over a whole room full. Besides being an artist, Wangenheim possessed a marked ability in other ways. He was a splendid fencer and boxer, and spoke several languages with fluency but he will, doubtless, be longest remembered for his genial ways and loveable nature and disuation. Of late he gave up all other business to look after the princely estate – chiefly town property— of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Simmons. Though forced at times to assert the rights of landlady against tenants, he never made an enemy; and it is said that on the few occasions when he was “in possession,” the folks levied on never had such a time of it in their lives. As a raconteur, who could illustrate his stories with lightning like rapidity, Gus had no superior and few equals. Mr. Wangenheim was a native of Germany, and about 50 years of age.

Green Park Hotel Darlinghurst 1930
The Green Park Hotel, Darlinghurst 1930. Picture: Australian National University, Noel Butlin Archives.

After Elizabeth’s wealthy mother died at the age of 98 in 1891, she decided to redevelop the Darlinghurst property.

The police had objected to the renewal of the license of the Green Park Hotel in July 1891. The pub was repeatedly falling foul of the law for Sunday trading, and allowing gambling on the premises. The pub was dilapidated and the court ruled it was unsuitable to trade as a pub.

Elizabeth, who was now aged 58, applied for a conditional publican’s license for a new pub for the site in October 1891.

The police opposed the application on the ground that there were at present more than sufficient pubs in the neighbourhood, there being four hotels within 250 yards of the proposed site.

The police argued that owing the number of hotels, in order to make a living publicans were resorting to Sunday trading and selling liquor at prohibited hours. Inspector Bremner said that since the Green Park Hotel had closed in June 1891, there had been a marked improvement in the neighbourhood. Interestingly the United Licensed Victuallers’ Association also opposed the application.

In support of the application, the court heard that the existing pubs in the area were of an inferior character, and that a first class hotel, such as Elizabeth’s was urgently. The existing hotels were merely drinking shops, Elizabeth’s lawyers argued.

The wealthy widow was granted a condition license for her proposed £2000 hotel after her legal team explained how it would bring a superior quality business to Darlinghurst. Elizabeth was granted confirmation of the conditional license after the completion of the hotel on June 29 1893. She remained as licensee for a year, before handing the reins over to Fred Moorehouse in 1893.

Several licensees were at the helm of the Green Park Hotel over the next 32 years during Elizabeth Wangenheim’s ownership. In 1921 professional boxer, Sid Godfrey became host of the Green Park Hotel. He won the Australian featherweight title fight in 1917, and earned £20,000 prize money during his boxing career. Out of 109 professional fights he won 79 (41 by knockout) and drew 12.

Godfrey had a short stay at the Green Park Hotel, and went on to host the Bald Faced Stag, Leichhardt, the Carrington at Petersham, and the Horse and Jockey at Homebush. He retired from business in 1957 and lived at Bronte. He died in 1965.

Betsey or Elizabeth Wangenheim died on August 8 1925, at the age of 91 and was buried in the Jewish section of Rookwood Cemetery. The Blue Mountain Echo reported on Friday August 14 1925: 

OBITUARY

MRS. ELIZABETH WANGENHEIM.

On Saturday last there passed away an old and respected resident of Katoomba in the person of Mrs Elizabeth Wangenheim, of ‘Thorley,’ Lurline Street, at the ripe age of 90. The late Mrs. Wangenheim was a daughter of the late Mr. James Simmons, who was the first importer of general goods to Australia. He chartered a special fleet of ships for this purpose, and his enterprise was rewarded handsomely. Later Mr. Simmons went into the hotel business, and also dabbled greatly in land speculation. The present site of David Jones’ huge emporium at one time was occupied by the famous ‘Jerusalem Store’ of Mr. Simmons. In 1855 the late Mrs. Wangenheim married Mr. Gustavus Wangenhiem, who also was an hotel licensee. Subsequent, to his death, she continued in the hotel business, and displayed great business acumen. She retired from active business nearly half a century ago, and during the latter days of her life resided in her palatial home at Katoomba. The deceased lady left one son (Mr. Joseph Wangenheim), and three daughters, (Mrs. J. F. Gavin, now in America; Mrs. Fred Morris, Elizabeth Bay; and Mrs. J. R. Stewart, Tahmoor, near Picton). She also was the mother of the late Emma Wangenheim (Mrs. J. A. Carroll) well known in operatic circles, and the grandmother of Mrs. Cliff Hardaker. She was interred in the Jewish section of Rookwood Cemetery on Sunday last, the last rites being performed by Rev. M. Einfield.

At her death Elizabeth was considered to be the wealthiest woman in Sydney, with a probate of £164,376. Her son Joseph Moritz Wangenheim inherited the Green Park Hotel, which was to be held in trust after his death for the benefit of his children. However, it seems Joseph followed in his father’s foot steps, and not his mothers. The hotel was mortgaged to Tooth and Company during the late 1920s, and by 1930 the family had lost the freehold of the Green Park Hotel to the brewery giant.

 Green Park Hotel, Darlinghurst 1949. Photo: ANU, Noel Butlin Archives.

Green Park Hotel 1939. Photo: ANU, Noel Butlin Archives.

Footnote

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Green Park Hotel is to close for business in December 2020. The newspaper reported on November 24 2020:

“One of Sydney’s most historic inner city pubs will call last drinks this Christmas, before becoming a mental health clinic next year. The Green Park Hotel on Victoria Rd, Darlinghurst has been purchased by St Vincent’s Hospital as part of a planned expansion of its mental health and community outreach services. Affectionately known by locals as the ‘Greeny’, the hotel has been pulling beers for the past 127 years and has long been beloved by the LGBTQI community and a landmark venue for Mardi Gras celebrations. Hospitality group Solotel, which has owned the pub for more than 30 years, finalised the sale at between $5 to $10 million to the trustees of St Vincent’s Hospital on Monday, before staff were told on Tuesday morning.”

Reference

Gay History: Remembering A Forgotten Sydney, Growing Up Above The Green Park Hotel

In the 56 years since Deirdre Cusack called the Green Park Hotel home, she has never forgotten the brown paper that covered the cellar windows.

It had been there ever since the Japanese tried to invade Sydney Harbour in 1942, carefully placed to block out lights across a city fearing submarine attack.

The Green Park hotel in 1954.
The Green Park hotel in 1954.

The image feels a world away from the vibrant inner city watering hole the “Greenie” has become in 2020. Today it is both a haven and a refuge for Sydney’s LGBTQI community – “more than just a bar,” as one columnist said.

On Sunday night the 127-year-old hotel will call last drinks, after it was sold to the surrounding St Vincent’s Hospital to become a mental health clinic.

Hospitality group Solotel, which has owned the pub for more than 30 years, finalised the $5 to $10 million sale to the hospital trustees last month.

It caught the eye of Mrs Cusack, who was just one year old when her parents Sam and Fay McIntyre leased the Darlinghurst pub from Tooth’s Brewery in 1941. She would live above the corner pub –through a side door, past the ladies’ parlour and up the stairs – for 23 years until she married in 1964.

Deirdre Cusack at her home in Ormoston, Queensland.
Deirdre Cusack at her home in Ormoston, Queensland.CREDIT:PAUL HARRIS

Sydney felt different then. By law, publicans were not allowed to live off premises and the beer came in wooden barrels (the rum, too).

The pub closed at 6pm and never opened on Sundays. Across the road from the Green Park was a paper shop, a flower shop and a butcher with sawdust on the floor.

Darlinghurst was a place where everyone knew everyone,” Mrs Cusack said. “I can still remember the SP bookies. They had a place down in one of the terrace houses and you’d see this trail of men going to down to put a bet on the horses and coming back to the pub to have a beer.”

Until 1931 Australians were only allowed to bet on horse races with an on-course bookmaker, before radio and television gave rise to “starting price bookies”, who hung around the city’s pubs and clubs.

“I didn’t have any outside playing space, so I used to play out in the lane behind the pub and hit a tennis ball up against a brick wall with my friends,” Mrs Cusack said.

“Kings Cross then was not as bad as it became. My mother had no problem letting me and a girlfriend walk up to the Cross on Saturday night, when the [first-edition] papers would come out for Sunday.”

She still recalls the mouthwatering burgers she used to eye off at the Hasty Tasty diner under the Coca-Cola sign. “God, they looked delicious.”

When her father Sam died in 1952, Mrs Cusack said there was never any question that her mother would carry on managing the “drinking pub”.

“It didn’t have meals or anything like that. And the main bar was for men only, mainly doctors from the hospital.”

The ladies sat in the parlour. It was their meeting place, like going out for coffee, Mrs Cusack said. “One lady used to always wear a hat with a short veil over her face as she sipped her sherry. Another shelled her peas before going home to prepare dinner.”

And then there were the steel troughs under the beer taps, filled with gentian violet (a purple dye), “so when the beer overflowed, you couldn’t reuse it.”

When the Queen came to town: The royal tour drives past the Green Park hotel in 1954.
When the Queen came to town: The royal tour drives past the Green Park hotel in 1954.

Nothing stands out in Mrs Cusack’s memory quite as much as a 27-year-old Queen Elizabeth II arriving in Sydney on the Royal tour of 1954; a trip five years in the planning and the first televised event in Australian history.

But never mind the telly. “Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip drove right past the hotel, decorated with all the flags. Every time there was a Royal visit everyone came out. To think they went past our place, it was very exciting.”

Less exciting were the years after Mrs Cusack returned from living in the UK, aged 20, and her mother put her to work in the pub, “a gruelling job”.

“I remember, she said to me one day, ‘for goodness sake. Go and get a job – the look on your face would turn the beer sour.'”

She didn’t wait a second, running out to grab the paper before finding a job in the office at Qantas.

Hotel licence plates of Mrs Cusack's father, Sam McIntyre.
Hotel licence plates of Mrs Cusack’s father, Sam McIntyre.

From her home in Queensland, Mrs Cusack said it was sad to see the Green Park serve its final drinks, although she was glad the facade and features will be protected under heritage laws.

“In Australia they knock down too many buildings,” she said. “We go to Europe and we admire all the old buildings. In Australia, often all you’ve got is concrete and glass.

Reference

Gay History: From Stonewall To The White Horse: The Bay Area’s Part In Uprisings That Changed The World

Flyer for Gay Liberation Front protest at the Examiner Building October 31, 1969, Courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society
Flyer for Gay Liberation Front protest at the Examiner Building October 31, 1969, Courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society

“San Francisco is a refugee camp for homosexuals. We have fled here from every part of the nation, and like refugees elsewhere, we came not because it is so great here, but because it was so bad there. By the tens of thousands, we fled small towns where tobe ourselves would endanger our jobs and any hope of a decent life….”

Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto — Carl Wittman, December, 1969

Cover of Gay Sunshine, October 1970

By the time of the first night of protests at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, San Francisco had experienced months of demonstrations related to gay rights that would continue for the next few years. 

Unlike Stonewall, the disturbances in San Francisco started over job rights, and a bar was not involved. But because the disturbances spread and issues multiplied, they would eventually include at least three bars, including Oakland’s White Horse.

The people who lit the fuse were recent arrivals. Gale Chester Whittington came from Denver in 1968 and Leo Laurence from Indianapolis in 1966. 

Whittington got a job as an accounting clerk at the States Steamship Company (320 California). 

Laurence was a journalist for the underground newspaper Berkeley Barb and the editor of the Society for Individual Rights magazine Vector.They met when Whittington volunteered to write for Vector.

A Vector photographer shared a photo from a shoot of Laurence and Whittington with The Barb. It was paired with an article from March 23, 1969, titled “Homo Revolt: Don’t Hide it.” 

The article covered Laurence’s editorial call for gay revolution in Vector. Since the Barb had sex ads, it was read by several of Whittington’s straight colleagues at the shipping company. The day it was published, Whittington was fired. Because of the editorial Laurence was removed as editor of Vector.

Homo Revolt, Dont Hide It, Berkeley Barb, March 28, 1969

Whittington and Laurence then formed the Committee for Homosexual Freedom. Max Scheer, editor of The Barb, promised to cover their actions. On April 9, 1969 the picketing of the steamship company began with signs saying, “Let Gays Live,” “Free The Queers” and “Freedom for Homos Now.” 

The protests continued for months. In May, The Advocate picked up coverage of the protests and by June the Rev. Troy Perry had begun a sympathy strike at the company’s Los Angeles offices. 

Ultimately the protests didn’t succeed in getting Whittington’s job back, but because the San Francisco Chronicle, The Advocate and The Barb covered the protest (on an almost weekly basis) it spread the word nationally and CHF grew. 

In Whittington’s autobiographical work, Beyond Normal: The Birth of Gay Pride, he mentions that Hibiscus and Lendon Sadler (of the Cockettes) and Carl Wittman (author of Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto) all took part in early CHF protests. Wittman read early drafts of his manifesto to the group.

By May protests spread to a second site: Tower Records. Employee Frank Denaro was fired after a security guard reported to management that he had returned the wink of a male customer. Unlike the steamship company, however, the record store was swayed by public opinion and by June the management offered Denaro his job back.

States Steamship Protest, Berkeley Barb, April 25 – May 1, 1969

Purple rain
News about what was happening in San Francisco continued to spread. Berkeley Tribeprinted a letter saying Laurence’s articles, reprinted in a Minneapolis campus newspaper, had inspired a class in Homosexual Revolution from their Free University. In Beyond Normal, Whittington relates he received a telegram from New Yorkers who were at Stonewall and had been inspired by articles in The Barb. In October, both Laurence and Whittington were interviewed in the L.A. magazine Tangents.

By October 1969, Gay Liberation Front chapters opened in Berkeley and San Francisco. Two protests on Halloween show both coordination and fragmentation between new and old organizations. 

At the first, called “Friday of the Purple Hand,” the Society for Individual Rights worked with CHF and both GLF groups to protest the editorial policies of the San Francisco Examiner. Earlier that week, Robert Patterson of the Examiner had written “The Dreary Revels of S.F. ‘Gay’ Clubs” which referred to gays as “semi-males” and lesbians as “women who aren’t exactly women” as well as referring to both as deviates.

Around 100 protesters picketed the Examiner building, and then had printers ink dumped on them from an upper floor by Examiner employees. The protesters used the ink to make purple hand prints all over the building (which gave the protest its name). The protesters were then attacked by the police Tactical Squad. Twelve people were injured and fifteen were arrested.

Friday of the Purple Hand coverage, San Francisco Free Press

The second event that day was a protest of the Beaux Arts Ball in the Merchandise Mart by Gay Guerrilla Theater and the Gay Liberation Coalition. Laurence reported in the Berkeley Tribe that the protest was focused on the acceptance of laws that only allowed drag on Halloween and New Year’s. He reported:

“I don’t dig drag myself (can’t imagine being a bearded lady)…but by God, I do feel the drags should have the right to do their thing; not just twice a year, but every day; not just at a drag ball, but at work, school, church and on the streets.”

This was among the first confrontations between older gay organizations and newer, more radical groups. Others included a protest of a S.I.R. dinner in February 1972 where Willie Brown was speaking on reforming sex laws (protested because of the cover charge of $12) and a takeover of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO) by the Gay Liberation Front in August 1970. GLF demanded that NACHO affirm its support of the Black Panther Party and Women’s Liberation and organize a national gay strike.

Clearly there was a generational difference between members of homophile organizations and the gay liberationists. Many of the younger generation had ties to the New Left and anti-war movements. 

Laurence had been in Chicago for the ’68 Democratic convention and Wittman had written for the SDS before, for example. GLF members formed a gay contingent for the Nov. 15, 1969 Moratorium March Against the War. And by and large they read the underground press, not the gay press.

Demands for White Horse Protest, Gay Sunshine, October 1970

Horse sense
The most dramatic confrontation between gay liberationists and gay bars came at the White Horse Bar in Oakland. Konstantin Berlandt, a long-time gay activist in Berkeley, was thrown out of the bar for selling Gay Sunshine by the owner Joe Johansen. The Gay Sunshine collective worked with the Berkeley GLF and picketed the bar. A list of demands included one that patrons be allowed to touch one another and slow dance. Within a week the bar capitulated to the protesters.

The White Horse wasn’t the only bar to raise the ire of liberationists.

Leonarda’s also refused to sell Gay Sunshineand a boycott was suggested (it’s hard to know how serious to take this, as the underground press kept reporting the bar’s name as “Leonardo’s”). The Stud also upset writers at the Berkeley Tribe by checking IDs at the door. They may, however, have just been opposed to bars as institutions. The article in the Tribesuggested:

“The bars can’t be liberated, they must be destroyed. They rip off our money, keep us in ghettos playing the same old weary games thinking that we are satisfied, and maintain all the divisions in Amerika — women and men, gay women and gay men, black and white, young and old. The Stud mentality in our heads has to be rooted out and killed too.”

Ultimately it was not the bars but the gay liberationists that disappeared as the 1970s progressed. I asked Gary Alinder, who was a member of Berkeley’s GLF, about burnout and the disappearance of Gay Lib in the ’70s.

“It evolved,” he said. “Gay liberation was a sudden uprising. Most of us were anti-organization. It was not meant to stay around for a long time. It was a burst of energy — an explosion. A second generation would come along that was more organized. But the message — to make people happy in themselves and come out — was valid.”

That burst of energy had a massive effect — it spread through LGBT organizations with programs like gay rap sessions to campuses across the country and created an explosion of new publications. Those publications and organizations did reach people. As a teen who picked up the Detroit Gay Liberator in the early ’70s, and who attended a gay rap meeting on my college campus, I can testify that those of us who followed were grateful for the work of the Stonewall generation.

Reference

Lost Sydney: Seven Theme Parks That Made Our Childhoods

How many did you visit?

Article heading image for Lost Sydney: Seven Theme Parks That Made Our Childhoods

After 55 years, Manly Sea Life Sanctuary closed its doors for the final time over the weekend, with hundreds turning out to bid farewell to a chunk of Sydney history.

But it’s not the only piece of our childhoods that’s shut down in recent years; from Wonderland Sydney to Mt Druitt Waterworks, we had plenty of amusement parks to pick from in the ’80s.

Old Sydney Town
Image via Old Sydney Town Facebook

Did you even go to school if you didn’t have at least one excursion to Old Sydney Town? Based on a map from the 1800s, the recreation of colonial Sydney opened in 1975 and saw actors taking on the roles of convicts and redcoats for re-enactments. Those bloody public floggings are still burned into our brains. Old Sydney Town eventually closed down in 2003.

Sega World
Image via Creative Commons

Sega World lived for just three short years, gracing us with the Ghost Hunter train, the Rail Chase indoor roller coaster and Aqua Nova, a 3D motion simulator back in 1997. But it was a victim of its own success; as technology improved, we left our Sega Mega Drives – and Sega World – behind.

African Lion Safari
Image via YouTube

How our parents ever thought that it was a good idea to take us to a theme park with the tagline “It’s scary, but nobody cares!” is beyond us. Vistors regularly had lions and tigers paw at, climb on and try to take a bite out of their cars and the park was eventually shut down in 1991. The animals, for a time, stayed behind but after a series of breakouts by resident lionesses, a bear and a number of water buffaloes, they were eventually relocated.

Australia’s Wonderland
Image via Creative Commons

How lucky were we to have Australia’s Wonderland right on our doorstep? Opening in 1985, the amusement park boasted rides like the Bush Beast, Space Probe and Bounty’s Revenge, with Hannah Barbera Land holding a special place in Sydneysiders hearts. Unfortunately, massive profits losses led to the closure of Wonderland in 2004, with the site demolished the following year.

Magic Kingdom Amusement Park
Image via YouTube

Australia’s Wonderland’s predecessor, Magic Kingdom Amusement Park opened in the 1970s and promised a massive day out for just $6. Waterslides, astro spin, dry slides, trampolines, stage shows, mini golf and magic… the 27-acre park, between Bankstown and Liverpool, was a huge draw for western Sydney families. When it came to the battle of the theme parks, though, Magic Kingdom lost out to Wonderland’s thrilling roller coaster rides and shut towards the end of the 1990s.

El Caballo Blanco
Image via YouTube

The Spanish-inspired amusement park, which opened in 1972, was as famous for its dancing Andalusian horses as it was for its waterslides, train rides and mini zoo. Owner Ray Williams’ beautiful performing stallions were such an attraction, he went on to establish a sister park at Disneyland in the US. The Sydney site eventually closed in 2003 after Williams’ death.

Mt Druitt Waterworks

Mt Druitt Waterworks had everything a theme park in the 1980s should have: waterslides, a beach pool and an urban myth about razor blades on the slippery dips. It was rumoured that the razors were what closed the park but the gossip was unfounded; Mt Druitt Waterworks, like pretty much every other Sydney amusement park, was simply losing money hand-over-fist. We’ll always have those ’80s summers, though.

Reference

The Forgotten Sydney of AC/DC

The Forgotten Sydney of AC/DC is a must watch mini documentary by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom Compagnoni, featuring the combined recollections of Mark Evans (Bass), Dave Evans (Vocals), Noel Taylor (drums) and Rob Bailey.

One of the most interesting revelations is that of session drummer Tony Currenti, owner of Tonino’s Penshurst Pizzeria, who played on High Voltage but had to turn the gig down due to passport issues.

Mark Evans also relates his views on the current Sydney scene, or lack of. Lets hope that it serves as a warning and that we fight to keep our local Perth music scene alive and kicking.

Reference

Remembering Sydney’s Lost Buildings – In Pictures

The view north-west from the State Office Block construction site in about 1964.
Photograph: City of Sydney Archives

Over the past two centuries Sydney’s architectural landscape has been continually transformed and many buildings have been consigned to dust. A new exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, Demolished Sydney, which opens on 19 November, remembers the city’s lost buildings from the Garden Palace to the ‘Black Stump’

The bank, pictured here in the 1950s, was torn down and replaced by the Colonial Centre in 1985, despite vehement opposition from 7,000 Sydneysiders. The building was an important element in the harmonious art deco streetscape of Martin Place, where a number of commercial buildings complemented one another in style and size. The campaign to save the Rural Bank galvanised a new appreciation of the city’s art deco architecture and saved many buildings in the central business district.

The incinerator stood on a high sandstone promontory overlooking the Blackwattle Bay, now occupied by a Meriton apartment block. Designed by the architects Walter Burley Griffin and Eric Nicholls, it was a remarkable building, as stylish as it was functional. It was decommissioned in 1971 and deteriorated until the late 80s, when the site was sold. Despite protests the incinerator was demolished in 1992 – one of many local landmarks swept away by urban consolidation.

The hotel – once the city’s grandest – was a landmark for 80 years. When it opened in 1891 its belle époque opulence ranked it with the best hotels in Europe and the US. But, as new city hotels were constructed in the 60s, the Hotel Australia went into decline, unable to compete with international ‘jet set’ standards. The last guests checked out in June 1971. Most of the buildings on the block were demolished for Harry Seidler’s award-winning MLC Centre.

The Regent Place arcade and apartment tower stand where the Regent Theatre once screened Hollywood’s finest films. This part of George Street was an amusement mecca in the 30s and 40s, with the Trocadero Palais de Dance next door, the Century and the Plaza theatres across the road and the Victory Theatre three doors down. Cinemas struggled after the arrival of television in 1956. The construction of the first Hoyts multiplex in 1976 marked the end for single-screen theatres. The Regent, the grandest of them all, couldn’t last.

The Garden Palace was built for the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition and was one of the city’s most significant buildings until it turned to ash in a spectacular fire. A southern rival to London’s Crystal Palace (built for the Great Exhibition of 1851) and a testament to the industry and resources of the colony, it was framed in timber and clad in bricks and glass. A memorial gate now stands in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Macquarie Street.

The Museum of Contemporary Art today occupies the site where once stood the two oldest government buildings in the state – the convict-hewn Commissariat buildings, built in 1809 and 1812. In 1938 The Royal Australian Historical Society urged that these heritage buildings be retained as a museum of Australian history. But they were demolished in 1939 as part of a plan to build an overhead railway and expressway at Circular Quay, along with a Maritime Services Board building.

Before its demolition, Rowe Street’s tiny shops with their swinging signs created a lively, artisan atmosphere. The laneway was absorbed into the plaza beneath the MLC Centre tower and most of the shops were demolished. The street’s loss continues to be mourned by many Sydneysiders, who relished its cosmopolitan ambience.

Before the Sydney Opera House was built, Bennelong Point was the site of the Fort Macquarie tram depot. And before that, it was a place for lime production, naval defence, transport and, finally, entertainment. Earlier still, it was Point Bennelong, named for the Wangal man who befriended the British colonists. To the Gadigal people, the traditional owners of this land, this spit of sandstone is Dubbagullee.

The steepled church stood cheek by jowl with Victorian terrace houses and colonial shops on Phillip Street. It was requisitioned for the creation of a broad thoroughfare that would become Martin Place. The development was envisaged in 1891 but not completed until 1935. St Stephen’s was just one of the buildings swept aside to improve traffic flow at a time when Sydney was undergoing a rapid transition.

The tower was known as the ‘Black Stump’ until its demolition, when it was replaced by Aurora Place. Part of the 60s renewal and modernisation of the city, the block was, briefly, the tallest tower in Sydney. It will be remembered as one of the city’s earliest examples of modern office layout, complete with revolutionary open-plan and modular spaces and Scandinavian design. When government policy shifted to leasing office space in the late 80s, the building was sold.

Reference

Gay History: Rhodes: Closet Gay Man Who Hatched A Secret Society To Promote Empire?

The Early Years

Cecil John Rhodes was born on 5 July 1853 in the small hamlet of Bishops Stortford, England. He was the fifth son of Francis William Rhodes and his second wife, Louisa Peacock. A priest of the Church of England, his father served as curate of Brentwood Essex for fifteen years, until 1849, when he became the vicar of Bishop’s Stortford, where he remained until 1876. Rhodes had nine brothers and two sisters and attended the grammar school at Bishop’s Stortford. When he was growing up Rhodes read voraciously but vicariously, his favourite book being The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, but he equally adored the highly esteemed historian Edward Gibbon and his works on the great Roman Empire.

Cecil Rhodes as a boy. Source

Rhodes fell ill shortly after leaving school and, as his lungs were affected, it was decided that he should visit his brother, Herbert, who had recently immigrated to Natal. It was also believed, by both Rhodes and his father, that the business opportunities offered in South Africa would be able to provide Rhodes with a more promising future than staying in England. At the tender age of 17 Rhodes arrived in Durban on 1 September 1870. He brought with him three thousand pounds that his aunt had lent him and used it to invest in diamond diggings in Kimberley.

After a brief stay with the Surveyor-General of Natal, Dr. P. C. Sutherland, in Pietermaritzburg, Rhodes joined his brother on his cotton farm in the Umkomaas valley in Natal. By the time Rhodes arrived at the farm his brother had already left the farm to travel 650 kilometres north, to the diamond fields in Kimberley. Left on his own Rhodes began to work his brother’s farm, growing and selling its cotton, proving himself to be an astute businessman despite his young age. Cotton farming was not Rhodes’ passion and the diamond mines beckoned. At 18, in October 1871, Rhodes left the Natal colony to follow his brother to the diamond fields of Kimberley. In Kimberley he supervised the working of his brother’s claim and speculated on his behalf. Among his associates in the early days were John X Merriman and Charles D. Rudd, of the infamous Rudd Concession, who later became his partner in the De Beers Mining Company and the British South Africa Company.

In 1872 Rhodes suffered a slight heart attack. Partly to recuperate, but also to investigate the prospects of finding gold in the interior, the Rhodes brothers trekked north by ox wagon. Their trek took them along the missionary road in Bechuanaland as far north as Mafeking, then eastwards through the Transvaal as far as the Murchison range. The journey inspired a love of the country in Rhodes and marked the beginning of his interest in the road to the north and the northern interior itself.

In 1873 Rhodes left his diamond fields in the care of his partner, Rudd, and sailed for England to complete his studies. He was admitted to Oriel College Oxford, but only stayed for one term in 1873 and only returned for his second term in 1876. He was greatly influenced by John Ruskin’s inaugural lecture at Oxford, which reinforced his own attachment to the cause of British Imperialism. Among his Oxford associates were Rochefort Maguire, later a fellow of All Souls and a director of the British South Africa Company, and Charles Metcalfe. At university Rhodes was also taken up with the idea of creating a ‘secret society’ of British men who would be able to lead the world, and spread to all corners of the globe the spirit of the Englishman that Rhodes so admired. He wrote of this society,

Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule for the recovery of the United States for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire.’

His university career engendered in Rhodes his admiration for the Oxford ‘system’ which was eventually to mature in his scholarship scheme: ‘Wherever you turn your eye – except in science – an Oxford man is at the top of the tree’.

An Arch Imperialist

One of Rhodes’ guiding principles throughout his life, that underpinned almost all of his actions, was his firm belief that the Englishman was the greatest human specimen in the world and that his rule would be a benefit to all. Rhodes was the ultimate imperialist, he believed, above all else, in the glory of the British Empire and the superiority of the Englishman and British Rule, and saw it as his God given task to expand the Empire, not only for the good of that Empire, but, as he believed, for the good of all peoples over whom she would rule. At the age of 24 he had already shared this vision with his fellows in a tiny shack in a mining town in Kimberley, when he told them,

‘The object of which I intend to devote my life is the defence and extension of the British Empire. I think that object a worthy one because the British Empire stands for the protection of all the inhabitants of a country in life, liberty, property, fair play and happiness and it is the greatest platform the world has ever seen for these purposes and for human enjoyment’.

Rhodes’ British Empire corridor through Africa. Source

A few months later, in a confession written at Oxford in 1877, Rhodes articulated this same imperial vision, but with words that clearly showed his disdain for the people whom the British Empire should rule:

“I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimen of human being, what an alteration there would be in them if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence…if there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible…”

One of Rhodes’ greatest dreams was a ribbon of red, demarcating British territory, which would cross the whole of Africa, from South Africa to Egypt. Part of this vision was his desire to construct a Cape to Cairo railway, one of his most famous projects. It was this expansive vision of British Imperial control, and the great lengths that Rhodes went to in order to fulfil this vision, which led many of his contemporaries and his biographers to mark him as a great visionary and leader.

Rhodes was both ruthless and incredibly successful in his pursuit of this scheme of a great British Empire. His contemporaries marvelled both at his prowess and incredible energy and capacity, but they also shuddered at his callousness and depravity in all his pursuit. His contemporaries, both awed and appalled by the man, wrote of him as a man of original ideas who sought more than the mere ‘getting and spending which limits the ambitions and lays waste the powers of the average man’. Yet although many people at the time saw Rhodes as a man of great vision, an unconquerable leader with the ability to pursue his aims across the vast African continent, there were nonetheless dissident voices who were shocked by Rhodes’ actions and those of his British South Africa Company. One such voice was that of Olive Schreiner, who, initially awed by Rhodes, had come to abhor him. In April of 1897 she wrote, in a letter to her friend, John Merriman:

“We fight Rhodes because he means so much of oppression, injustice, & moral degradation to South Africa; – but if he passed away tomorrow there still remains the terrible fact that something in our society has formed the matrix which has fed, nourished, built up such a man!”

The King of Diamonds

Rhodes’ plans for the Cape To Cairo Railway, 1899 Source

Whilst at Oxford, Rhodes continued to prosper in Kimberley. Before his departure for Oxford Rhodes had realised that the changing laws in the Kimberley area would force the ‘small man’ out of the diamond fields and would only leave larger companies able to operate in the mines. In light of this he sought to consolidate a number of mines with his partner, Charles Rudd. Rhodes had also decided to move away from the ‘New Rush’ Kimberley mine fields, that were higher in the ground and thus more accessible, back to the lower yielding ‘Old Rush’ area. Here Rhodes and Rudd bought the costly claim of what was known as old De Beers (Vooruitzicht Farm) which owed its name to Johannes Nicolaas de Beer and his brother, Diederik Arnoldus de Beer, the original owners of the farm Vooruitzicht. It was this farm that would lend its name to Rhodes and Rudd’s ever growing diamond company.

In 1874 and 1875 the diamond fields were in the grip of depression, but Rhodes and Rudd were among those who stayed to consolidate their interests. They believed that diamonds would be numerous in the hard blue ground that had been exposed after the softer, yellow layer near the surface had been worked out. During this time the technical problem of clearing out the water that was flooding the mines became serious and he and Rudd obtained the contract for pumping the water out of the three main mines.

Rhodes had come to the realisation that the only way to avoid the cyclical boom and bust of the diamond industry was to have far greater control over the production and distribution of diamonds. And so, in April 1888, in search of an oligopoly over diamond production, Rhodes and Rudd launched the De Beers Consolidated Mines mining company. With 200 000 pounds capital the Company, of which Rhodes was secretary, owned the largest interest in mines in South Africa. Rhodes greatest coup was to get Barney Barnato, owner of the Kimberley mine, to go partnership with Rhodes’ De Beers Company. Of the encounter Barnato later wrote:

“When you have been with him half an hour you not only agree with him, but come to believe you have always held his opinion. No one else in the world could have induced me to into this partnership. But Rhodes had an extraordinary ascendancy over men: he tied them up, as he ties up everybody. It is his way. You can’t resist him; you must be with him.”

With his acquisition of most of the world’s diamond mines Rhodes became an incredibly rich man. But Rhodes was not after wealth for wealth’s sake, he was acutely aware of the relationship between money and power, and it was power which he sought. Hans Sauer wrote of a conversation he had had with Rhodes whilst looking over the Kimberley diamond mine, where Sauer had asked Rhodes, ‘what do you see here?’, and, Sauer writes, ‘with a slow sweep of his hand, Rhodes answered with the single word: “Power”.’

In the early 1880s gold was discovered in the Transvaal, sparking the Witwatersrand Gold Rush. Rhodes considered joining the rush to open gold mines in the region, but Rudd, convinced him that the Witwatersrand was merely the beginning, and that far greater gold fields lay to the north, in present day Zimbabwe and Zambia. As a result Rhodes held back while other Kimberley capitalists hastened to the Transvaal to stake the best claims. In 1887 when Rhodes finally did act and formed the Goldfields of South Africa Company with his brother Frank, most of the best claims were already taken. Goldfields South Africa performed very poorly, prompting Rhodes to look towards the north for the gold fields that Rudd had assured him were lying in wait.

The Statesman

In 1880 Rhodes prepared to enter public life at the Cape. With the incorporation of Griqualand West into the Cape Colony in 1877 the area obtained six seats in the Cape House of Assembly. Rhodes chose the constituency of Barkley West, a rural constituency in which Boer voters predominated, and at age 29 was elected as its parliamentary representative. Barkley West remained faithful to Rhodes even after the Jameson Raid and he continued as its member until his death.

The chief preoccupation of the Cape Parliament when Rhodes became a member was the future of Basutoland, where the ministry of Sir Gordon Sprigg was trying to restore order after a rebellion in 1880. The ministry had precipitated the revolt by applying its policy of disarmament to the Basuto. Seeking expansion to the north and with prospects of building his great dream of a Cape to Cairo railway, Rhodes persuaded Britain to establish a protectorate over Bechuanaland (now Botswana) in 1884, eventually leading to Britain annexing this territory.

Rhodes seemed to have immense influence in Parliament despite the fact that he was acknowledged to be a poor speaker, with a thin, high pitched voice, with little aptitude for oration and a poor physical presence. What made Rhodes nonetheless so incredibly convincing to his contemporaries has remained much of a mystery to his biographers.

The Push for Mashonaland

Rhodes’ imperial vision for Africa was never far from his mind. In 1888 Rhodes looked further north towards Matabeleland and Mashonaland, in present day Zimbabwe. Matabeleland fell squarely in the territory which Rhodes hoped to conquer, from the Cape to Cairo, in the name of the British Empire. It also was believed to hold vast, untapped gold fields, which Rudd believed would be of far greater value than those discovered in the Witwatersrand.

In pursuit of his imperial dream and in his desire to make up for the failure of his Gold Fields Mining Company, Rhodes began to explore ways in which to exploit the mineral wealth of Matabeleland and Mahsonaland. The King of Matabeleland, King Lobengula, who was believed by the British to also rule over Mashonaland, had already allowed a number of British miners mineral rights in his kingdom. He had also sent a number of his men to labour in the diamond mines, thus setting a precedence for engagement with him. However, the King had consistently stated quite clearly that he wanted no British interference in his own territory.

In 1887 Lobengula signed a treaty with the Transvaal Government, an act that convinced Rhodes that the Boere were trying to steal ‘his north’. By this stage the ‘scramble for Africa’ was also already well under way and Rhodes became convinced that the Germans, French and Portuguese were going to try to take Matabeleland. These fears made Rhodes rapidly mobilise in order to get Matabeleland under British control. Although the British government at the time was against further colonial expansion to the north of South Africa, Rhodes was able to use the threat of other imperial powers, such as Germany, taking over the land to push the British Government to take action.

The Government sent John Smith Moffat, the then Assistant Commissioner to Sir Sidney Shippard in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) who was well known to the Matabele Chief Lobengula as their fathers were friends, to negotiate a treaty with Lobengula. The result was the Moffat Treaty of February 1888, essentially a relaxed British protection treaty. The Moffat Treaty was however between Lobengula and the British Government, Rhodes himself was hardly a relevant player in this. Worried that the Moffat Treaty was too weak to hold Matabeleland, and convinced that the Dutch and Germans were making plans to take the territory and desperate for exclusive mining rights in the region, Rhodes concocted to his own plan to take control of the territory. With his business partner Rudd, Rhodes formed the British South Africa Company (BSAC), crafted on the British and Dutch East India company models. The BSAC was a commercial-political entity aiming at exploiting economic resources and political power to advance British finance capital.

Shortly after the Moffat Treaty, in March 1888, Rhodes sent his business partner Charles Rudd to get Lobengula to sign an exclusive mining concession to the British South Africa Company. When Rudd arrived at Lobengula’s kraal however, there were a number of other British concession hunters already there, seeking to undertake the exact same manoeuvre as Rhodes’ BSAC. Through Rhodes influence however, Rudd was able to win over the support of the local British officials staying with Lobengula, a move which ultimately convinced Lobengula that Rudd had more power and influence than any of the other petitioners seeking concessions from him.

After much negotiation Rudd was eventually able to get Lobengula to sign a concession giving exclusive mining rights to the BSAC in exchange for protection against the Boere and neighbouring tribes. This concession became known as the Rudd Concession. Lobengula’s young warriors were angry and inflamed and were itching to kill the white men who were entering their lands. Lobengula however feared his people would be defeated if they attacked the whites, and so it is likely that he signed the Rudd Concession in the hopes of gaining British protection and thereby preventing a Boer migration into his lands which would then incite his warriors to battle. For Lobengula his options were essentially to either concede to the British or to the Dutch. In the belief that he was protecting his interests he sided with the seemingly more lenient and liberal British. Like so many documents signed by Africans during the colonial period, the Rudd Concession was however not what it claimed to be, but rather became a justifying document for the colonisation of the Ndebele and the Shona.

Using the Rudd Concession, despite initial protests by the British Government, Rhodes managed to acquire a Royal Charter (approval from the British monarch) for his British South Africa Company. The Royal Charter allowed Rhodes to act on behalf of British interests in Matabeleland. It gave the company full imperial and colonial powers as it was allowed to create a police force, fly its own flag, construct roads, railways, telegraphs, engage in mining operations, settle on acquired territories and create financial institutions.

Rhodes convinced the British Government to give his company the right to control those parts of Matabeleland and Mashonaland that were ‘not in use’ by the African residents there and to provide ‘protection’ for the Africans on the land that was reserved for them. This proposal, which would cost the British taxpayer nothing but would extend the reaches of the British Empire, eventually found favour in London. The charter was officially granted on 29 October 1889. For Rhodes is BSAC with its Royal charter was the means whereby which to expand the British Empire, which a timid government and penurious British treasury were not about to accomplish

Rhodes reclining on one of his many voyages to the north. Source

After gaining his charter from the British Government Rhodes and his compatriots in the BSAC essentially felt that Matabeleland and Mashonaland were now under their control. Rhodes felt that war with the Ndebele was inevitable and would not allow his plans for extending the British Empire to be thwarted by “a savage chief with about 8 000 warriors”. Rhodes was determined that white settlers would soon occupy Matabeleland and Mashonaland, and the Ndebele could not resist them.

To gain power over Matabeleland and Mashonaland Rhodes hired Frank Johnson and Maurice Heany, two mercenaries, to raise a force of 5 00 white men who would support BammaNgwato, enemies of Lobengula’s, in an attack on Lobengula’s kraal. Johnson offered to deliver to Rhodes the Ndebele and Shona territory in nine month for £87 500. Johnson was joined by Frederick Selous, a hunter with professed close knowledge of Mashonaland. Rhodes advised Johnson to select as recruits primarily the sons of rich families, with the intention that, if the attack did fail and the British were captured, the British Government would be left with no choice but to send armed forces into Matabeleland to rescue the sons of Britain’s elite. In the end Johnson’s attack was called off because Rhodes had received news that Lobengula was going to allow Rhodes’ men into Matabele and Mashonaland without any opposition.

Despite Lobengula capitulating and giving permission for vast numbers of BSAC miners to enter his territory, Rhodes calculated a new plan to gain power in the region. In 1890 Rhodes sent a ‘Pioneer Column’ into Mashonaland, a column consisting of around 192 prospecting miners and around 480 armed troopers of the newly formed British South Africa Company Police, who were ostensibly there to ‘protect’ the miners. By sending in this column, Rhodes had deviously planned a move which would either force Lobengula to attack the settlers and then be crushed, or force him to allow a vast military force to take seat in his country. In the words of Rutherfoord Harris, a compatriot of Rhodes:

“….if he attack us, he is doomed, if he does not, his fangs will be drawn and the pressure of civilisation on all his border will press more and more heavily upon him, and the desired result, the disappearance of the Matabele as a power, if delayed is yet the more certain.”

The men who formed part of the Pioneer Column were all promised both gold concessions and land if they were successful in settling in Mashonaland.

On 13 September 1890, a day after the Pioneer Column arrived in Mashonaland,Rhodes’s BSAC invaded and occupied Mashonaland without any resistance from Lobengula. They settled at the site of what was later to become the town of Salisbury, present day Harare, marking the beginning of white settler occupation on the Zimbabwean plateau. They raised the Union Jack (the British national flag) in Salisbury, proclaiming it British territory.

The prospectors and the company had hoped to find a ‘second Rand’ from the ancient gold mines of the Mashona, but the gold had been worked out of the ground long before. After failing to find this perceived ‘Second Rand’, Rhodes, instead of allowing the settlers mining rights, as had been agreed to by Lobengula, granted farming land to settler pioneers, something which went expressly against the Rudd Concession.

The end of the Matabele

In conceding Mashonaland to the BSAC Lobengula had avoided going to war with the British and had kept his people alive, and much of his territory intact. But unfortunately he had only been able to delay the inevitable. With no gold was found in Mashonaland, Rhodes’ BSAC was facing complete financial ruin. Leander Jameson suggested to Rhodes that ‘getting Matabeleland open would give us a tremendous life in shares and everything else’. Gaining the Matabeleland territory would also play directly into Rhodes megalomaniac vision of expanding the British Empire across Africa.

And so, in 1893, the BSAC eventually clashed with the Ndebele, in what Rhodes had perceived as an inevitable war. The settlers justified their initial attacks against the Ndebele to the British Government by arguing that they were protecting the Shona against the ‘vicious’ and ‘savage’ Ndebele impis. This was however a ploy, consciously concucted by Jameson in conjunction with Rhodes, in order to ensure that the British Government would not object to their further intrusions into Matabeleland by creating the impression that the Ndebele were the first aggressors. To fight their war the company recruited large bands of young mercenaries who were promised land and gold in exchange for their fighting power.

The final blow any hopes that the Ndebele might avoid war, came when Jameson was able to convince the British Government that Lobengula had sent a massive impi of 7 000 men into Mashonaland, who then gave Jameson leave to engage in defensive tactics. There is no indication that the impi Jamseon reported on had ever existed. Lobengula himself, in a last appeal to the legal/rational system the British seemed to so fervently uphold, wrote to the British High Commissioner saying, “Every day I hear from you reports which are nothing but lies. I am tired of hearing nothing but lies. What Impi of mine have your people seen and where do they come from? I know nothing of them.”

An artist’s impression of the British battling against the Ndebele Source

It was however far too late for Lobengula. With the permission to engage in defensive action from the British Government Rhodes joined Jameson in Matabeleland and his group of mercenary soldiers struck a quick and fatal blow at the Ndebele. Rhodes’ mercenaries were in possession of the latest in munitions technology, carrying with them into the veld maxim guns, which, like machine guns, could fire rapid rounds. The Ndebele Impis were helpless in the face of this brutal killing technology and were slaughtered in their thousands. Lobengula himself realised he could not face the British in open combat and so he burnt down his own capital and fled with a few warriors. He is presumed to have died shortly afterwards in January of 1894 from ill health.

The war against the Matabele, fought mostly by voluntary mercenaries, cost around £66 000. Most of the money to pay for this war came directly from Rhodes Consolidated Goldfields Company, which by this point had begun to produce excellent yields from the deeper lying gold fields. The conquered lands were named Southern and Northern Rhodesia, to honour Rhodes. Today, these are the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. By the 1890s these conquered territories were being called Southern and Nothern Rhodesia.

The Precursor to Apartheid

In July 1890 Rhodes became the Prime Minister of the Cape colony, after getting support from the English-speaking white and non-white voters and a number of Afrikaner-bond, whom he had offered shares in the British South Africa Company. One of Rhodes most notorious and infamous undertakings as Prime Minister in South Africa, was his institution of the Glen Grey Act, a document that is often seen as the blueprint for the Apartheid regime that was to come.

On 27 July 1894, Rhodes gave a rousing speech, full of arrogance and optimism, to the Parliament of Cape Town that lasted more than 100 minutes. In this speech Rhodes was opening debate on the ‘Native’ Bill that he had been working on for two years. The bill had initially been intended merely as an administrative act to bring more order to the overcrowded eastern Cape district of Glen Grey, but in his typical fashion Rhodes had turned this routine administrative task into something far bigger, the formulation of what he described as a ‘Native Bill for Africa’. In much of his speech Rhodes set out, in clear cut terms, the chief purpose of his ‘Native Bill’, to force more Africans into the wage-labour market, a pursuit which would undoubtedly also help Rhodes in his own mining claims in Kimberley and the Transvaal.

Rhodes opened his speech on the Glen Grey Act with the following words:

‘There is, I think, a general feeling that the natives are a distinct source of trouble and loss to the country. Now, I take a different view. When I see the labour troubles that are occurring in the United States, and when I see the troubles that are going to occur with the English people in their own country on the social question and the labour question, I feel rather glad that the labour question here is connected with the native question.’

He then continued,

‘The proposition that I would wish to put to the House is this, that I do not feel that the fact of our having to live with the natives in this country is a reason for serious anxiety. In fact, I think the natives should be a source of great assistance to most of us. At any rate, if the whites maintain their position as the supreme race, the day may come when we shall all be thankful that we have the natives with us in their proper position….. I feel that I am responsible for about two millions of human beings. The question which has submitted itself to my mind with regard to the natives is this ”” What is their present state? I find that they are increasing enormously. I find that there are certain locations for them where, without any right or title to the land, they are herded together. They are multiplying to an enormous extent, and these locations are becoming too small…. The natives there are increasing at an enormous rate. The old diminutions by war and pestilence do not occur… W e have given them no share in the government ”” and I think rightly, too ”” and no interest in the local development of their country. What one feels is that there are questions like bridges, roads, education, plantations of trees, and various local questions, to which the natives might devote themselves with good results. At present we give them nothing to do, because we have taken away their power of making war ”” an excellent pursuit in its way ”” which once employed their minds…. We do not teach them the dignity of labour, and they simply loaf about in sloth and laziness. They never go out and work. This is what we have failed to consider with reference to our native population… What I would like in regard to a native area is that there should be no white men in its midst. I hold that the natives should be apart from white men, and not mixed up with them… The Government looks upon them as living in a native reserve, and desires to make the transfer and alienation of land as simple as possible… We fail utterly when we put natives on an equality with ourselves. If we deal with them differently and say, ” Yes, these people have their own ideas,” and so on, then we are all right ; but when once we depart from that position and put them on an equality with ourselves, we may give the matter up… As to the question of voting, we say that the natives are in a sense citizens, but not altogether citizens ”” they are still children….’

The Glen Grey Act was to pressure Africans to enter the labour market firstly by severely restricting African access to land and landownership rights so that they could not become owners of the means of production, and secondly by imposing a 10 shilling labour tax on all Africans who could not prove that they had been in ‘bona fide’ wage employment for at least three months in a year. This land shortage coupled with a tax for not engaging in wage labour would push thousands of Africans into the migrant labour market. These were all measures essentially designed to ensure a system of labour migration which would feed the mines in both Kimberley and the Rand with cheap migrant labour. This section of the act instigated the terrible migrant-labour system that was to be so destructive in 20th century South Africa.

Another pernicious outcome of the Glen Grey Act was its affected on African land rights claims and restricted and controlled where they could live. According to the act ‘natives’, as African peoples were then termed, were no longer allowed to sell land without the permission of the governor, nor where they allowed to divide or sublet the land or give it as inheritance to more than one heir. The act also laid out that the Glen Grey area and the Transkei should remain “purely native territories”. This act was eventually to become the foundation of the 1913 Natives Land Act, a precursor to much of the Apartheid policy of separate development and the creation of the Bantustans.

Lastly the Glen Grey Act radically reduced the voting franchise for Africans. One of Rhodes primary policies as Prime Minister was to aim for the creation of a South African Federation under the British flag. A unified South Africa was an incredibly important political goal for Rhodes, and so when the Afrikaner Bondsmen came to Rhodes to complain about the number and rise of propertied Africans, who were competing with the Afrikaners and characteristically voted for English, rather than Afrikaans, representative. In response to the Afrikaners’ complaints, Rhodes decided to give them, in the Glen Grey Act, a policy which would disenfranchise the Africans competing with Afrikaners whilst also ensuring Africans could not own farms which would compete with the Afrikaners.

To disenfranchise Africans the Act raised the property requirements for the franchise and required each voter to be able to write his own name, address and occupation before being allowed to vote. This radically curtailed the number of Africans who could vote, essentially marking the beginning of the end for the African franchise. This new law allowed for the voter-less annexation of Pondoland. The Glen Grey Act also denied the vote to Africans from Pondoland no matter their education or property. Through the adoption of the Act, Rhodes managed to gradually persuade Parliament to abandon Britain’s priceless nineteenth-century ideal that in principle all persons, irrespective of colour, were equal before the law.

The Glen Grey Act was vigorously opposed by the English speaking members of the Cape Parliament, but Rhodes, with his forceful character, was able to push the act through Parliament, and in August 1984 Rhodes’ Glen Grey Act became law. The Glen Grey Act, which created the migrant labour system, formalised the ‘native reserves’ and removed the franchise of almost all Africans, is seen by many as lying the ground work for the Apartheid system of the 20th century.

The Fall of Giants

By 1895, at the height of his powers, Rhodes was the unquestioned master of South Africa, ruling over the destiny of the Cape and its white and African subjects, controlling nearly all of the world’s diamonds and much of its gold, and effectively ruling over three colonial dependencies in the heart of Africa.

‘The Rhodes Colosuss striding from Cape Town to Cairo’, from Punch Magazine, 1892 Source

Although Rhodes’ policies were instrumental in the development of British imperial policies in South Africa, he did not, however, have direct political power over the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. He often disagreed with the Transvaal government’s policies and felt he could use his money and his power to overthrow the Boer government and install a British colonial government supporting mine-owners’ interests in its place. In 1895, Rhodes precipitated his own spectacular fall from power when he supported an attack on the Transvaal under the leadership of his old friend, Leander Jameson. It was a complete failure and Rhodes had to resign as Prime Minister of the Cape and head of the British South Africa Company in January 1896. After having befriended the Afrikaners for so many years, Rhodes’ support of the Jameson Raid and his attempts to get the miners in Johannesburg to rise up in a coup against the leaders of the Transvaal, were seen by the Bondsmen and Afrikaners as a complete betrayal, and Rhodes’ hopes of ever uniting South Africa under one flag were dashed against the rocks.

Despite his meteoric loss of power and prestige Rhodes nonetheless continued his political activities. In mid 1896 the Shona and Ndebele people in Southern Rhodesia, present day Zimbabwe, rose up against their colonial oppressors in a bid for freedom. Rhodes personally travelled to the region to take charge of the colonial response. In his attacks on the Ndebele and Shona he was vindictive, resorting to a scorched earth policy and destroying all their villages and crops.

After months of fighting Rhodes decided that conciliation was the only option. Looking to negotiate a peace settlement with the Ndebele and Shona he headed into the Matopo Mountains where a great indaba was held. Rhodes asked the chiefs why the Africans had risen up in war against the colonisers. The chiefs replied that the Africans had for decades been humiliated by the white settlers, subjected to police brutality and pushed into forced labour. Rhodes listened to the complaints and told the chiefs, “All that is over”. The chiefs saw this as a promise that the conditions for them and their countrymen would be improved, and so they agreed with Rhodes that they would end their hostilities. As a part of their agreement Rhodes spent many days in the Matopo hills, and every day the Ndebele would come to him and voice all their complaints. In belief that their worries and complaints would be given just recognition, the Ndebele and Shona chiefs laid down their arms and returned to their fields. When he left Rhodes was lauded by the people whose suffering by the hands of colonists was only to increase in the next century, as the ‘Umlamulanmkunzi’, the peacemaker.

Vintage postage stamp of Cecil John Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia former Zimbabwe.

Thereafter, Rhodes was in ill-health, but he began concentrating on developing Rhodesia and especially in extending the railway, which he dreamed would one day reach Cairo, Egypt.

After the Anglo-Boer war that broke out in October 1899, Rhodes rushed to Kimberley to organise the defence of the town. However, his health was worsened by the siege, and after travelling to Europe he returned to the Cape in February 1902. He died on 26 March 1902 at Muizenberg in the Cape Colony (now Cape Town). Reportedly some of his last words were, ‘so little done, so much to do’. Rhodes was buried at the Matopos Hills, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). He left £6 million (approx USD  960 million in 2015), most of which went to Oxford University to establish the Rhodes scholarships to provide places at Oxford for students from the United States, the British colonies, and Germany.

Rhodes never married and he did not have any known children and there is some suggestion that he was homosexual. This suggestion is based on the care and concern he showed to some men, but it is not enough to offer any solid truth

Almost 114 years after the death of Cecil Rhodes his memory lives on, with the Rhodes Must Fall campaign spreading from Cape Town to Oxford.

Once glorified by white colonialists, Rhodes is now more widely viewed as a prime villain in southern African history. Since his death he has been the subject of more than 30 biographies, so one is left to wonder if there is anything new that could be said about him. An attempt is made in the latest book by Robin Brown, The Secret Society: Cecil John Rhodes’s Plan for a New World Order – an attempt that fails.

The main claim of the book is that Rhodes established a “secret society” whose task was to extend British rule across the globe. This society continued to exist in different guises long after Rhodes’ death in 1902. Thereafter the society came to operate within, or under the guise of, other bodies – the Rhodes Trust operating as the “top layer of the structure”; in 1909 the society was renamed the Round Table; and from 1920 the Institute of International Affairs became its new face.

… a homosexual hegemony – which was already operative in the Secret Society – went on to influence, if not control, British politics at the beginning of the twentieth century. 

Rhodes himself, the book alleges, was gay, and because homosexuality was a criminal offence in Britain at the time, he realised that gays only survived if they operated in:

… a society that remained secret, ring-fenced by wealth and political influence. 

So it appears that the society’s secrecy was necessitated by both imperial aspirations and sexual inclinations.

The book contains major flaws, the chief of which is the lack of solid, supporting evidence. Brown claims that “Rhodes documented everything” – which was not actually the case in this regard. Just about the only documentary evidence cited to support the existence of this secret society is the codicil attached to Rhodes’ first will, which did indeed proclaim his intention to form such a society. 

The problem is that this will was drawn up in 1877 when Rhodes had not yet accumulated great wealth. According to this early will he would leave all his worldly goods in trust to allow for the formation of a secret society, but his limited wealth at the time could hardly have made this possible. 

The plan to form such a society also did not appear in Rhodes’ final will. One has to agree with Robert L. Rotberg – whose biography of Rhodes is the most substantial – that to read Rhodes’ plan today is:

… to sense the ruminations and even fantasies of a madcap bumbler.

Each chapter of Brown’s book has just a handful of endnotes, and there are hardly any references to source material that might substantiate the claims made. The problem is highlighted on pages 237-38. First it is stated that there is “clear evidence” that Lord Alfred Milner took over and transformed the secret society after Rhodes’ death. But on the very next page Brown writes that during this transformation process Milner “kept things covert” so that ‘there is little hard evidence’ of the society’s existence at the time.

This is the problem throughout the book – because the society was so secret it presumably kept no surviving records, meaning that there is no proof of its existence. The book thus comes to be based heavily on surmise and assertion. While critics can argue that it is impossible to prove that the society existed at all, Brown can retort that it is impossible to prove that it did not exist. What cannot be contested is that the book lacks referenced source material to substantiate its claims.

The suggestion that the Rhodes Trust was closely linked to the secret society is not credible. In Anthony Kenny’s massive bookon the history of the trust there are only three brief references to the idea of a secret society – and one of those is to a letter by Leo Amery stating that there was no such society.

The book contains some basic errors which undermine one’s confidence in the content and analysis. The cotton farm where Rhodes joined his brother on arrival in Natal in 1870 was not north-east of Durban, but to the west (p.6). Rhodes was not “of the era of British reformers who caused slavery to be outlawed”, nor did he display “liberal attitudes towards blacks” (p.19). Jameson was imprisoned for four months, not one (p.22). Rhodes’ brokers were not John Rudd and Robert Moffat – they were Charles Rudd and J.S. Moffat (p.57). 

George V did not precede Victoria (p.154). Clinton’s presidential nomination speech was in 1991, not 1981 (p.168). Chamberlain was the colonial secretary, not foreign secretary (p.222 and elsewhere).

The book would have worked better had it been presented as an examination of the personal networks that Rhodes developed. There is no doubt that he succeeded in cultivating influential figures in the world of politics, business and finance in Britain, but Brown’s attempt to conjure up a secret society out of these networks is misguided and not adequately substantiated.

he book adds another dimension to this central thesis, making a rather startling assertion on page 144:

Reference

Eel Pie Island, Richmond upon Thames

Earlier called Twickenham Ait or simply ‘the Parish Ayte’, this is the largest island in London’s stretch of the Thames, lying between Twickenham and the Ham riverside lands

The ait is rumoured to have been the site of a monastery and much later was supposedly used as a ‘courting ground’ by Henry VIII. From at least the early 17th century it attracted day-trippers, who came to picnic or fish here, and later to enjoy the renowned pies that were made with locally caught eels and served at the White Cross public house. Although this culinary speciality is the most obvious (and likely) explanation of the island’s present-day name, another story suggests that a royal mistress who had a house here called it Île de Paix (island of peace), which was folk-anglicised as ‘Eel Pie’.

Twickenham Rowing Club has been based on Eel Pie Island since 1880, twenty years after it was founded by local resident Henri d’Orleans, Duc d’Aumale.

Many of the island’s wood-framed properties date from the early 1900s, when they were used as summer houses by wealthy Edwardian Londoners. The structures survive well and fetch high prices. The island’s pedestrian bridge was built in 1957.

In the 1950s and 60s the ait became famous for its noisy jazz club at the Eel Pie Island Hotel, where the Rolling Stones first emerged, and The Who, Pink Floyd and Genesis also played gigs early in their careers. Eel Pie Island has even been called ‘the place where the Sixties began’. The hotel closed in 1967 and briefly became something of a hippie commune before it burned down during its demoliton in 1971.

Hidden London: Eel Pie boatyard and Phoenix Wharf

In 1996 a boatyard and 60 neighbouring artists’ studios also burnt down. An appeal brought donations from the local community in Twickenham as well as from several rock stars.

The island is nowadays home to around two dozen artists’ studios, situated in and around the boatyard. Twice a year, the studios open their doors to visitors, providing an opportunity to talk to the artists and buy or commission new artworks.

Most of the island is private property and there’s not much opportunity to wander off the sole arterial path. As Miss Immy points out in her delightfully illustrated blog post on the subject, “To be honest, unless it’s the artists’ open day weekend, or you happen to know someone who lives on the island, there is very little to see there these days.”

Postcode area: Twickenham TW1
Website: An Oral History of Eel Pie Island
Further reading: Twickenham Museum web page on Eel Pie Island

Reference

Five Sydney Building Shockers Worth A Miley Cyrus-Sized Wrecking Ball

THERE’S no nice way to say this. These are Sydney’s ugliest buildings. Where are Miley and her wrecking ball when you need them?

Sirius … not exactly a star amongst buildings.Source:News Corp Australia

SIMPLY being old should not guarantee buildings protection from the wrecking ball. 

Jack Mundey and his union green bans saved Sydney’s The Rocks area from certain demolition, the result of which would have been a tremendous aesthetic and cultural loss. They saved buildings that meant something.

Now we save buildings of questionable character, and protect others that are downright ugly.

This week’s battle is over the striking Sirius apartments. Too ugly too stay? Too ugly to go?

And there are plenty of other eyesores in Sydney that really shouldn’t be allowed to stand the test of time.

Devoid of anything attractive … Greenway Housing Commission Flats.Source:News Limited

One example is found in Kirribilli. Grounded in the housing shortages of the post-war era are the terrifyingly ugly Greenway Housing Commission Flats on McDougall Street. They are an eyesore for commuters who cross the bridge north to south each day, as deep red brick adds an unfortunate flash of colour to what should be one of the most beautiful commutes in the country.

The oddly shaped footprint was created by left-over public land after the completion of the Harbour Bridge. Perhaps inspired by the equally aggressive design elements in America, the building was completed in 1948 and its style nominated as “functionalist”.

I saw an eyesore … Greenway is in a prime harbour location.Source:News Limited

A heritage listing note conveys that the building is “devoid of decorative detailing”. No kidding.

The worst part of the whole debacle, beyond the sad window coverings and slogans that appear in the windows from time to time is that the block appears to have been named after a true architectural genius — Francis Greenway, a convict turned public servant who is responsible for many of the great buildings left to us from colonial times.

Ferry silly … the Sydney Tower looks like a pot plant on a spike.Source:News Corp Australia

There are more modern creations that many believe could be flattened without many tears shed.

Architect Vince Squillace, from the award-winning architectural firm Squillace, wouldn’t lose sleep if the Sydney Tower was dismantled.

“It looks like a plant room at the top of another building,” he said. He believes if it was a third taller, it might not be the eyesore it is today.

“Sydney has a height restriction that should be challenged,” he said.

UNIT BLOCKS: THE HORROR STORIES OF TOMORROW

Over to you, Miley … the city is yours (well, parts of it).Source:Supplied

More worrying for him is the standard of many of the unit blocks being built at breakneck speed today, that will surely be the architectural horror stories of tomorrow.

“Already you can see render cracking, and stains from tiles leeching,” he warned. But back to the bucket on a stick, the Sydney Tower. At 309 metres it’s very tall. You see, there is something good about it. And it does have the Skywalk attraction, and the restaurant, 360 Bar and Dining is really quite yummy. But the architecture is awful, and being capped off with a Westfiled sign makes Sydney appear to be one giant mall.

What might have been … Blues Point Tower apartment building.Source:News Corp Australia

Blues Point Tower, stands like a lost kid’s building block on the carpet of North Sydney’s beautiful foreshore. It was completed in the early 60s and designed by the revered Harry Seidler. It doesn’t fit, work or enhance the harbourside landscape, and stands as a monument to what might have been.

The backstory to this edifice is that the tower is just one of many that were planned in a high density proposition for the location, but a planning backflip resulted in just one coming to fruition. Over the years there have been calls to tear it down, but in 1993 it was added to a local heritage register. Its saving grace is that the apartments themselves are good, and perhaps the building does tell part of Sydney’s architectural story.

Check it out … Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the UTS Business School is seen as a work of art.Source:Supplied

UTS architecture has had a lot of publicity over the years. Most recently headlines were made after the Frank Gehry designed campus was opened to the public. The $180m Dr Chau Chak Wing Building demands a response — as do many of the world’s great artworks. They challenge the audience, they provoke discussion, they take the architectural landscape forward.

Does that make them successful, or even acceptable as part of our city? Here is a building that polarised opinion, from those who decried the wet paper bag aesthetic, to others who felt it was exciting.

Brutal … the UTS Tower at Broadway. Understated doesn’t even touch the edges.Source:News Limited

At the very least it is a creative diversion from the other buildings in the UTS portfolio.

Who, in their right minds, could admire the brutalism (there’s that word again) of the UTS Broadway building? To say it lacks humanity is to underplay the ghastly functionality so popular in the late 60s.

It needs a makeover, as do so many of Sydney’s buildings, soon.

Reference