“It’s quite interesting working on old buildings. We’ve disturbed an owl in here that’s about all. No ghosts!
We’re filling up the holes that’ve been caused by where they’d drop the bales down from the top floor to the ground floor. We’re covering these up and making them safe.”
“I recently got back from the States and I was lucky enough to go to Portland Oregon. There’s a really cool district called the Pearl District and it’s quite similar to Fremantle in that it was formally occupied by heaps of warehouses and light industry. Now most of those warehouses have been converted into these really nice apartments. When I was walking through the Pearl District, I thought it looked a lot like the concept designs of what the Woolstores are going to look like.
My apartment’s a unique one. But, I guess everyone says that. It’s a basement apartment. So, it’s on ground level of Beach Street. Basically, you walk into the courtyard and you’ve got the two bedrooms downstairs along with the bathroom and a laundry. Then you walk upstairs and you’ve got the living area and the kitchen and a small balcony in an atrium setting. The courtyard is below so there’s about a 6 metre void going on between the ground floor and the second floor. You can access the apartment from the street level or you can access it upstairs from the garage. I quite like the luxury of having dual access from downstairs and upstairs. So it’s almost like a townhouse as opposed to an apartment.
I haven’t decided how I’ll decorate yet, but I’ve got a bit of a Pinterest going on. I get to move in around January 2017 which is a while away. But the builders will be working away from now right up until next year.”
In the midst of construction, this collection of memories was found with the inscription: “CPL. Bob Meritt REs”
Any ideas who they might belong to?
Story 80 of 90 – A PUZZLING TASK OF HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE by Rob Chapman (Fremantle Men’s Community Shed) (Part 1 of 3)
“I did an apprenticeship after school in diesel mechanical fitting, and while I did that I did welding and machining. After my apprenticeship I got called up for National Service so I did two years, one of those in Vietnam, after that I did marine engineering. While I was waiting to get onto a ship I saw an ad calling for tradesmen to become manual arts teachers. So, I just finished 38 years as a secondary school Design and Technology teacher, or manual arts teacher.
Caesar (not pictured) is an ex builder by trade, and I’ve done an Associateship in Design at what was once W.A.I.T. So between the two us of we’ve got a fair idea of how to make things look good
I’ve picked the brains of a few names to find out how the hoist actually worked and to confirm some of my suspicions. Having a mechanical background you can do quite a bit of deductive reasoning, and having a bit of an idea of the history of the old Woolstores, you can put two and two together.”
“I’ve got to a stage where, I’ve never liked gardening and I’ve always had a garden, I don’t use a swimming pool and I’ve always had a swimming pool.
“So I think it’s now time to rationalise what I actually need in life and to live in the inner city centre, it’s just going to be fantastic.”
Robert Motherwell has secured an apartment in the new Heirloom renewal.
“I was on holidays with my wife in Glasgow, we were living in the Gorbals and we were living in a two bedroom flat and I was walking into the city centre of Glasgow.
“So, I got the idea of being able to down size from a four bedrooms two bathrooms house into a smaller inner city apartment, and do a bit more walking to shops, cinemas, restaurants, cafés, and bars, as opposed to taking transport all the time. It’s a lot more convenient.
“I used to go to Fremantle an awful lot with my children many years ago, and I’ve always admired the building. It (Heirloom) is a beautiful building. I do like architecture, and the Woolstores has always been an iconic building.”
“You can make any space work, but the more space you’ve got, the more you can do, and the more you can collect.
A designer’s dream, the Heirloom Loft apartments offer remarkable spaces which act as the perfect canvas to paint with Empires furniture and homewares. “
Susan recently shared her artistic wisdom and story to help promote the release of Heirloom’s Loft Apartments. Read more herehttp://heirloomlofts.com/loft/2015/9/21/susan-favel
“The industries changed. You used to have about 90 wool buyers in the showroom or the saleroom you’ve got about 10 now. That’s how the trades gone.
“I had the wool scourer over at North Fremantle which is North Bank now. That was my baby with Bill Hughes who started the Westwools company in 1958 or 1959.”
FROM THE BATTYE LIBRARY
Larry Foley commenced work in the wool trade in 1947 with Prevost & Co. After studying for a wool-classing certificate, which he completed in 1950, he continued working in the shearing industry as a wool classer and shearer until the end of 1959 when he joined Westwools. He was in charge of wool preparation at Swan Wool Scouring Co under Mr. C. F. Sheehan until 1966 when he was offered a job as wool processing manager in Victoria. Mr. Foley returned to Perth in 1981 to take up a position as processing manager for Westwools Group. He was appointed manager, Elders International Wool Division, WA, in 1986. He retired in 1989.
“In the early days of the colony all the wool used to go to London for sale. Then they decided to sell it here. Eventually, you had Dalgety’s, Elders, and Goldsbrough, Mort & Co establish their big stores in town. Later you had smaller, private companies buying wool in the bush.
“The Woolstores was where all the wool had to be sold, but first of all it had to be shown. So, the top floor was what we called the Show Floor, it had the most natural light. If there were 100 bales of wool they’d select about 5-10 and have them open for the buyers to come in and inspect. It was all visual and manual, and it wasn’t unusual for some of the bigger companies to be walking around with 10 staff, buyers, pencilers, valuers and the like.
“Then they discovered it was about fibre measurement. So all the bales had a rod to pierce the bales to take a core sample. These were analysed for quality, which was thickness of fibre, soundness, yield and condition.
“So instead of acquiring a heap of wool buyers and work you just got a piece of paper and it said it all. That changed the nature of the wool selling industry.”
“Post-industrial spaces have held a particular fascination for creative types ever since the New York modernists invaded the unwanted warehouses and factories south of Houston Street in the ’50s and set up home. SoHo became the prototypical artist community and, central to our image of the modern artist, is the loft studio.
“To have the opportunity to work on the marketing of a project that seeks to draw inspiration from this creative culture is exciting. The loft aesthetic provides a rich opportunity for a designer to play with texture and scale. As backdrops for photography, or even as inspiration for typography, the warehouse is incredible.
Our job in marketing The Lofts at Heirloom has been one of showcasing the creative possibilities that these wonderful, raw spaces present. We have chosen to do this by connecting with the amazing creative heritage of Fremantle, represented by the artists, chefs and designers whom call the port city home, and with the global ‘loft culture’ of those who choose to live in converted post-industrial buildings. In every corner of the industrialised world, these communities of those drawn to the old bonded warehouses of harbour towns are thriving. These communities bring these forgotten corners of our urban landscape back to life and, in so doing, improve the experience of cities for all.”
Block Branding were appointed by Match to promote The Lofts at Heirloom.
“John Butler wanted to do a zombie love story for Only One, the first single off his Flesh and Blood album.
“I wrote the treatment, set in a zombie apocalyptic world and shot the music video over two days.
“We wanted a big warehouse space with an old feel. We’d been looking everywhere to try and find one in Western Australia, but we just couldn’t find one that looked right.
“My dad works in the building industry, so I gave him a call. He suggested the Fremantle Woolstores.
“I went down the next day to check it out. I just remember being blown away. Downstairs there were all these old cars just sitting there and other bits and pieces. It was like going back in time really.
“I remember it was dusty with high ceilings and great windows and excellent light, huge timber beams in the roof. The place was full of character, which is exactly what you want from a location in a film shoot. It was just a perfect space.”
Ben’s video won a PADC Award, was nominated at the ARIA Awards and took home a music/film director’s win at the Los Angeles Film Festival
“It’s such a big space with so much character. We’ve got a one bedroom apartment on the second level, overlooking the courtyard area in the middle. There’s a guy I work with on the mooring gang and he’s bought one as well. So we often talk about it at work.
“I think everyone is really hoping that whole East End of Fremantle area develops. It was semi industrial before with car yards and things and now there are a lot of plans to redevelop the area. I think in 10 years’ time the whole area is going to be pretty spectacular. We’re hopefully getting in on the ground floor.”
“We really bought it for the potential. Because, it’s so unique. Once you go inside it’s got this real cathedral like feeling, I thought, yeah we’ve got to get in on this because there’s probably not going to be too many of these sorts of buildings left throughout the metropolitan area.
“I think we were one of the first purchasers. When we bought it there’d only been about 10 apartments sold. That was when they first started selling stage one.
“It’ll be fascinating to see how it’ll all turn out. I think people are going to look at it and go wow.”
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
This is to certify that Mrs. J. Frame was employed by the Company during the Wool Appraisement – 1917/1919.
During the period she was employed by us we always found her an excellent shorthand typiste, always punctual and willing. Her duties involved a great deal of overtime work which she always did willingly.
Mrs. Frame left our service to be married.
DALGETY & CO. LTD
“The Woolstores have always been the giant of Fremantle. I remember when I was on council, how important it was to get inside those sorts of spaces. I arranged a tour for the councillors to go inside the Woolstores, because from the outside a lot of people would just say it’s a ruin, get it out of the way. But then when you go inside it’s like being in a cathedral. When you see these majesty’s of wooden beams and the huge spaces. I think a lot of people got converted to the importance of the building once they got inside.
“What’s good about the Woolstores building is that it’s pretty intact. The sawtooth roof line is a style you’ll see all over Fremantle. It’s a reminder of the industrial buildings. Those massive jarrah beams should make wonderful spaces for people to live in.”
Story 68 of 90 – THE MAN BEHIND THE VINTAGE CARS (Part 2) by Robert Bodkin (The Famous Bodkin’s Bootery on High Street)
“Back in the days when I bought all my cars I had great ambitions. I was going to do one of two things. I could cheque book the cars, in other words, have someone else restore them whilst I worked in my business, or I would employ good staff and go play with my toys. Neither actually really happened. So the cars have been in storage for a very long time, rather neglected and almost forgotten.
“My most favourite car stored there was the Riley Kestrel 1935, a blue and black sedan with leather upholstery. There’s two Messerschmitts, the 201 cabriole and a 200 bubble top. I’ll sell the bubble top after a bit of restoration work. Then there’s an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, which I drove for good number of years. It ran perfectly when it went into Fort Knox’s, so I’m hopefully it’ll start again after a bit of TLC.
“Along with the cars I stored some jarrah wood panelling which came out of the Federal Hotel saloon bar. The hotel was demolished to make way for the freeway in Perth.
“I think I was one of the very first Fort Knox customers and one of the last to pick everything up.”
Story 67 of 90 – THE MAN BEHIND THE VINTAGE CARS by Robert Bodkin (The Famous Bodkin’s Bootery on High Street)
“I think I was one of the very first Fort Knox customers and one of the last to pick everything up.”
“I’ve had a connection with old cars for many years and back in the 70’s I needed a place to store my toys. I became friendly with the people who owned Fort Knox and put my cars and various other bits and pieces there.”
Story 66 of 90 – JUMPING INTO SHEET BALES by Christopher Scanlan (Owner of Short Black Sheep Café in North Fremantle)
“My Papa (Frank Scanlan) owned the wool sheds on Leach Highaway, Melville from 1938 to 1988.
“I remember being really young and dad would take my brother and I there to visit Papa. There was a mezzanine floor inside, and my brother and I would have great fun jumping off and landing on the wool bales.
“When the sheep transport ships are loading in the harbour I can smell the lanolin and remember those days”.”
“As a kid, I used to go fishing with my dad. As we’d drive home down Beach Street, I used to wonder what this big old run down warehouse was.
“Now I’m involved in the building project of turning it into something new.”
“I studied architecture at Curtin and part of my thesis was the enacting of old spaces in the city and revitalising them. So good to be part of a project where we’re reusing an old space and bring it back to life.”
“It’s great to see the cranes going up and work starting on the Woolstores. We really respect the way the developer is staying true to the heritage of the building. We’re very excited to have a development like that two doors down. Projects like The Mantle and Heirloom Apartments bring a real change to the area and put the new east end of Fremantle on the map.
“It’s a creative and meaningful project, like The Mantle, where we’ve transformed a beautiful historic warehouse into an activity hub of restaurants and collaborative spaces, where people come together to eat, drink, work and play. We’re looking forward to the completion of the project and meeting our new neighbours.”
In 1952 Doug was a young tradesmen at Fremantle Boundary, involved in the biggest metal state strike that they’ve ever heard in this State. During the strike Doug found himself working as a labourer nearby woolstores building Goldsbourogh Morts.
“One guy, little pommy guy, he was up on the scaffolding which ran parallel to beach street, and he fell over. He fell out through the scaffolding, through these tubular pipes, and he managed to grab the pipe with his arm and his leg and he was hanging over the side (chuckles). All his money out of his pockets went onto Beach Street. We were laughing at the time but we did help him. And he was saying lots of pommy words and I think I recognised some of them.
“There was many things that happened up there because the safety standards weren’t as they are now.”
“In about 1999 I decided to travel throughout Australia and I needed a place to store my art collection and my photographic equipment. So Fort Knox, as it was unknown then, was the destination. Fort Knox became synonymous in Western Australia and Perth, if you needed to store something it was always Fort Knox – the Dalgety Woolstores.
“The Dalgety’s Woolstores is really a landmark building in Fremantle. It’s the first thing you see on the right hand side when you drive in over the bridge. It’s a beautiful old building.”
Roel Loopers Blog
“I drive for the Fremantle Tram Company and my memories of the Woolstores are iconic buildings that I grew up with here but, to be honest, never took much notice of.
“It’s probably why we’ve lost so many of our beautiful heritage buildings here in Fremantle, simply because we take these buildings for granted.
“These days as a tour guide and ambassador for Fremantle, I feel very sorry about that and wish pre America Cup days, a lot more of us who lived down here had done something about saving a lot of our heritage buildings.”
Construction to convert Fremantle’s iconic old Dalgety Woolstores, otherwise known as ‘Fort Knox’, into spacious one and two-bedroom warehouse apartments, has commenced.
Lloyd Clark, Managing Director of Match (the Developers behind the heritage renewal project) said while heritage renewals are complex, they are important, and the inherent value is immeasurable.
“Heirloom is unquestionably a significant project to Fremantle, both from a social and economic perspective. It is the City’s gateway and located on its important Port. Historically, it represents the grass roots of the City and where it all started. It would have been a tragedy to leave such a magnificent building dormant to deteriorate into a state of disrepair.”
The $130 million development, renamed ‘Heirloom’, has exceeded rigorous sales targets with 70% of pre-sales achieved to enable commencement.
An extract from the Fremantle Gazette 29 April 1986:
On June 21 1918, the men in this photo broke the Australian speed record for wool pressing. They pressed 160 bales in seven and a half hours actual wool pressing time……..
One of my childhood memories is driving along in the old family Kingswood station wagon along Beach Street between the Dalgety Fremantle Woolstores and the train lines and the Fremantle Port.
I remember the car having to stop for what, as a kid, felt like forever as a train backed into the Woolstores building to load bails of wool for export.
As a kid, that part of Fremantle felt like a whole other world with this massive industrial building that was so big even trains could drive right inside!
I have always been fascinated by this building, so the Discover Fort Knox tour I went on as part of the Fremantle Heritage Festival was a great opportunity to see inside a building I have passed countless times. I had no idea what was inside. It was good to see this amazing piece of Fremantle history in its abandoned state and be able to document some of it before it gets developed, as well as get a preview of its next chapter with the new apartment development.
It is such a fantastic building with such great light, I went back a few months later during one of the weekend openings and got a few more shots.
My grandfather, uncle and brother all worked for Elders at the Woolstores. My brother Tim is nine years older than me and I remember when I was really young in the 70s, he would buy me a Flake every payday. I often think he is the reason I love chocolate!
My grandad worked there during WW2 to well into the 1960s. I once asked my mum why didn’t he go to fight in the war. Apparently Elders Freo was used for supplies during the war and he was too important looking after this that he didn’t have to go to war.
Ten years after the high-spirited youthful escapades of diving on giant woollen mountains, I found myself back in Dalgetys’ wool store; first as a trainee wool-valuer and then some years later, as a fully-fledged wool-buyer.
Gone was the hydraulic lift, gone were the mountains of greasy wool, replaced by great stacks of jute wool bales. Long gone too was my much loved Uncle Jack who had been found dead behind the wood heap at his Safety Bay cottage having succumbed to a massive aneurism at the early age of 53. He was manager of Dalgety’s Fremantle from about 1933 until his death in 1946.
It is a sobering and salubrious thought that once again another splendid cycle is about to surround the old redbrick building for which I have so many joyful memories.
Pictured: Michael Provost
Towards the end of the Second World War, when I was about 8 or 9, most Sundays in summer I used to scamper up the hill to my Uncle Jack’s house in Keane Street. Jack Prevost was the Manager of Dalgety & Company’s Fremantle wool store and warehouse for some years. Well respected among the pastoralist and wool growing fraternity, Big Jack spent most days in the warehouse and office in Fremantle, but on Sundays he enjoyed taking a parcel of kids, some family, some friends down to the beach at Cottesloe.
Jack Prevost was a big man; a very big man, as wide as he was tall. Standing in the waves in his navy-blue Jantzen swimming trucks, I knew from experience that if I clung on to his belt like an abalone that there wasn’t a single dumper in the Indian Ocean that could get the better of me.
After we had had enough we were bundled into his rather ancient pre-war American saloon car and driven down the coast road to the huge Dalgety wool store with its imposing sharks-fin roof. Out of the big industrial refrigerator came bottles of Woodroofe’s lemonade; with cries of “Lemonade, lemonade all the way from Adelaide” we would launch ourselves onto the giant hand operated hydraulic lift which provided hours of thrill-seeking fun long before OHS came into being.
This nightmare contraption held us in its thrall. All the kids would clamber on board, even those who had absolutely no intention of diving off, and we would then use our combined weight to haul on the ropes that jerked us steadily if a little heart-wrenchingly aloft into the warehouse void. Beneath us were mountains of wool, hundreds of tons of greasy wool ready for bailing to be sent overseas in aid of the war effort.
We were probably no more that 15-18 feet off the ground but in this vast space, it seemed a very long way down but at least we had a soft landing. The idea was to launch yourself onto one of the wool mountains and to roll down the sides which felt like zipping down the wall of a canyon. We reeked of lanolin and our faces and hands glowed with its greasy fragrance.
Although these antics were potentially dangerous, none of us seem to suffer anything more than the odd scratch from a dreaded double-gee and an occasional bruise. The happy screams and shouts of boys and girls having boisterous fun drowned out the more serious laughter coming from the manager’s office as the Dimple Haig bottle made its rounds.
Uncle Jack would then summon his troops, secure the hydraulic lift back into position and deliver us all back to our respective homes in time for lunch. They were such high-spirited mornings, which still bring back happy memories even after seven decades.
Picture of Jack Provost
“My first year of High School (1959) was spent at Princess May which was an annexe to the main building of John Curtain right opposite the Goldsborough Mort part of the Woolstores. Discovering the school’s young ladies fraternising with young men from the Woolstores was a constant source of annoyance for the teaching staff.”
Seven years later I found myself working there as a woolsorter/classer. I worked in the north western corner of the third floor where the Bulk Classing department was located. I recall it being freezing in winter and boiling hot in summer. On top of that was the ever-present reek of sheep excrement but you did eventually get used to that!”
“The Woolstores for me is a creative space. It’s a place where I have always found peace in my mind to reflect, have a skate and share stories with other skaters.
‘We are not Criminals’ is a song I wrote in my teenage years about respecting skateboarding as a sport and art form. I mentioned the Woolstores in it because this is where all of us skateboarders used to meet and still do!”
Here’s the link to the live album which features that track on the album: Matt Gresham: Live At Bar Orient: https://itun.es/au/e_Kpq
And check out my new album The Beautiful Emptiness here: http://hyperurl.co/306b6f
Canadian film editor and director David Rapsey tells the tale of a project that was a precursor to the creation of the Film and Television Institute.
“It was around 1972 or 73 when the Perth Film and Television Institute was still a twinkle in the eye of its founder, Jo O’Sullivan that we shot a film in the Woolstores.
“Jo wanted action, wanted to put FTI on the map, even before it had a home. He decided to launch a summer school. Jo had very little actual experience with filming so he hired Patrick Clayton and I to manage the programme. Pat was a very experienced First Assistant Director from the UK and I was a Canadian editor and director.
“We were appalled at the scale of filming Jo had dreamed up including recording the arrival of the final passenger ship into Fremantle harbour and a spy drama which included a chase sequence in the Woolstores.
“We didn’t have enough lights to illuminate the vast area of ground floor with its haunting tree-like pillars. The effect was strangely effective; very noir, film noir.
“We spent several days filming in the dusty, deserted room with strange oily stains on the pillars where the lanolin from the wool bales had impregnated the wood. I can’t remember the film’s name and have no idea if it still exists, perhaps under someone’s bed!”
These beautiful old wool presses designed by David McCaskie back in the woolstore’s hay day will become reminders of the building’s past and features on the light-filled central courtyard.
It’s all part of an Architectural philosophy to retain as much original fabric as possible.
Beautiful vehicles left un-retrieved from the woolstores. Owners unknown!
“When I was 18 I did my Wool Valuer apprenticeship in the Star Lots at the Woolstores. It was a hard six-day week, with early 6am starts. But, Dalgety always provided on a good cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs and on Saturday’s they put on the beer”!
“I loved the smell, all the fun we had and the good mates I made. I live in the UK but come back to Freo most years and whenever I do, I think about what a great building it is and wish it all the best!”
Eric worked as a shearer in the 60’s
My school bus used to go past the Woolstores. I remember looking in to see all the bales stacked with wool and that string smell of lanolin coming from the building.
Photo: Francis and her Daughter Catherine Berry
“It’s a strange feeling walking through the building and knowing how important it was to my family legacy. I’m really glad they are doing something with it and recognising just how important it was to the State’s heritage. I’m really proud to be part of that and it’s going to be great to see the building come to life again and hearing all the connections people have had over the years.”
Trina is the granddaughter of David McCaskie, manager of the Wool Stores for 58 years and designer of the infamous wool presses.
I remember driving into Fremantle and driving past the Woolstores. You couldn’t really miss it- it’s a very impressive building.
Story 42 of 90 – SPREADING THE LOVE TO LOCAL SCHOOLS by Felicity Clark, President of the Fremantle Primary Parents and Citizens Association.
“The P&C is incredibly grateful for the generous donation of $25,000 towards a new school playground. The majority of our old play equipment had to be removed following essential sewer replacement works and Match and Sirona have come to our rescue”
Fremantle Primary School has received a $25,000 cash injection to support the introduction of new playground equipment. The funding has been donated by the companies behind the “Fremantle Heirloom” development, Sirona Capital and the Match Group.
I’m from Switzerland and I’m used to living amongst beautiful old buildings, which is why I love Fremantle. The Woolstores building is so special. I hope they keep the soul of the building when they develop it.
I did a Wool Coursing Course at the Woolstores in the 1950’s. There were big mounds of wool all around and the guys that used to press it down with their feet had the biggest legs I’d ever seen.
The Fremantle Woolstores…. didn’t they have art exhibitions there donkeys years ago?
Story 37 of 90 – WOOLSTORE ROYALTY by Trina Hall (Grandaughter of David McCaskie – Woolstore Manager of 51 years)
“One of my earliest memories was sitting on my grandfather’s lap and listening to stories of the old days. David McCaskie was a tough man and a champion shearer. There are stories that people would wait for him to come out of the pub to see if they could beat him in a fight. He manager of the Fremantle Wool Stores for 51 years, following the footsteps of his father before him.
“After hours, the gang would return to the wool store building to have a drink and play music – it was Fremantle’s first real night club, and it was wild. I heard my uncle once roller skated off the top of the building and landed in a pile of sand.“
Discussing people’s reaction to the woolstores: “When they enter the building and look up, their expression changes! I don’t think they really expect how spectacular the building is!” Want To Own A Piece of Fremantle History? Find out more….
As a boy I used to go past the Woolstores on my way t school. It always seemed so big and forbidding. That was during the war when my father was in the army, and I grew up in one of those cottages on Holdsworth Street that the Government made available to Australian Soldiers. I […]
“Over the America’s Cup the Woolstores was the location for the America’s Cup Ball. My parents and their friends were attending, and on the night they said ‘Wow we need someone to drop us, can you drop us at the ball?’ I said sure.
The only car they could all fit in was a Volvo station wagon, including the pop up seats in the very back for little kids. So I squeezed them all into the car all looking incredibly glamorous,
And when we arrived there was a stream of Rolls Royce’s and limousines and royalty arriving, Prince Albert of Monaco was one of the guests, and the paparazzi absolutely swarmed us, they’d never seen anything so funny in their life as grown men and women climbing out of the back of a Volvo dressed in their finery heading to a ball.”
“For years the Woolstores was abandoned. I remember the broken windows. I’m so pleased the building is going to be used for a real purpose again.”
Pictured with mother, Tieneke and sons
“It’s always been there in my mind. The Woolstores are part of Freo.”
Fremantle Fibonacci Centre owner, metalworker, designer and sculptor, Robby Lang has been eyeing off the Woolstores buildings for almost all of the 33 years the native Scot has lived in Freo.
“They are exquisitely beautiful buildings. When I look at them I wonder: how many forests were cut down to build them? For that reason alone they shouldn’t be squandered.
“They really are magnificent and in such a great location. The light in them is truly beautiful.
“It has been an absolute waste to see them being left to deteriorate over the years. It has been very sad to see such fantastic resources locked up and left to the pigeons, even though there is beauty in their decayed state.”
Bill recalls a particularly eventful Bachelor and Spinsters Ball at the Woolstores at the time of the America’s Cup in the 1980s:
“That was some party, it was a bit naughty! ‘Bachelors’ piled a wool trolley high with ‘spinsters’ in ball gowns and dumped them all over the edge of a ramp.
“One of my abiding memories of the night was having to bargain with a taxi driver to get us home – he wanted $200! The riot police had been called into Freo because there was looting going on in the pubs and bars so the taxi drivers weren’t too keen on coming in.”
Canadian immigrant David Rapsey tells of salvaging some of the wonderful jarrah from the Woolstores in the early 1990s:
“I heard that there was timber available, not the big timbers, they’d all been taken already, but the cladding of what was probably an office; 15 mm by 150 jarrah panelling that was covered in thick paint which was brittle with age but that was easy enough to scrape off.
“The stripping process saw us all covered in white and purple fragments but luckily underneath there was beautiful, unblemished wood.
“I built a few cabinets with the wood but shortly afterwards moved to Melbourne. I felt bereft leaving this cache of wood behind, so I organised a friend to arrange to have it shipped across the Nullarbor in 1995.
“All but one short length became the cupboards and bench tops in our new kitchen and laundry and the vanity in a bathroom. The rich reddish brown timbers emanate warmth and solidity. I have to find the perfect use for the one remaining length of timber before I’d even think of cutting it up.
“This is a picture of one of the Jarrah cupboards made from the recycled timber.”
The Zydecats played one of Perth’s longest running residencies at Clancy’s Fish Pub on Cantonment Street in Fremantle. The popular Sunday session ran for 18 years so the band was more than familiar with the surrounds.
As the Woolstores are across the street from Clancy’s, when band needed to do some photos they simply walked tripped over the road and used the colourful exterior of the Woolstores as a backdrop.
The Zydecats are currently performing at the Windsor Hotel, South Perth on Saturday afternoons and the Workers Club, Henry Street, Fremantle on Sunday evenings.
“I love the Woolstores building. It’s very old worldie and full of character. I haven’t been in Fremantle that long but, my great great great grandfather Edmund Henderson, designed the Fremantle Prison. I grew up in Scotland and I love classic architecture.”
John Longley, General Manager and Crewman of Bond America’s Cup Company used Fort Knox to store records of the Bond Cup Challenges.
“After the Bond America’s Cup Company was finally wound up we stored all the records of the Bond Cup Challenges and the Defence in Fort Knox for many years, in all about 12 filing cabinets.
“Finally these records were donated to the Western Australian Maritime Museum where they still are held. They provide a valuable primary source for anybody researching the events surrounding the Bond America’s Cup saga.
“I was the last Indian standing of the Bond Americas Cup team.”
Eric Scott from York in the UK fondly recalls his time working as a shearer in the 1960s:
“It was 1965 and I had been in Australia for about eight months travelling around from Kalgoorlie to the Kimberley and back. Fremantle was really buzzing then. There was so much work around, all you had to do was walk into any pub and ask and you’d pick something up.
“It was when I was staying at the Fremantle Hotel that I found a day’s work in the Woolstores. You collected a copper check (a numbered disc) and a big curved needle and some string. With your baling hook over your shoulder you forced the wool into the bales and stitched the side up after the buyers had checked it was 3aaa or whatever it said on the stencil.
“The boss used to walk up and down the walkway making sure you were working, he didn’t like us all talking. At the end of the day, you had to show the office your ‘check’ and you got a five pound note.
“I loved the smell, all the fun we had and the good mates I made. I live in the UK but come back to Freo most years and whenever I do, I think about what a great building it is and wish it all the best!”
What started as a hobby has grown quickly into an artistic enterprise encompassing photographic prints, exhibitions and apparel for photographer Julian Jett who hails from Lennox Head in New South Wales.
Julian’s streetscapes and portraits of urban decay have been pushing the experimental boundaries of modern digital photography.
A scientist by education, Julian now uses his camera as a technical tool to create his art.
“Arguably one of the most recognisable skate spots in Australia, this spot attracts pro skaters from around the globe. Most nights of the week the old Woolstores building is a melting pot of youth culture, skating, street art, film making and photography.”
“I remember we’d drive past the Woolstores on my way to visit my Grandmothers house in Beaconsfield. I was just a kid back then. It was back in the days when you could see the prisoners in the yard over the wall at the Fremantle Prison.”
Originally from Perth but now based in Melbourne as Skateboarding Australia’s Digital Content Editor, Morgan Campbell was instrumental in establishing the Woolstores ‘ledge’ back in 1992:
“After months, maybe years of looking at it, we decided it should be skated and, as a result, myself and my crew were some of the first people to actually wax and then skate the ledge (the loading dock along the side of the building). I am pretty sure that it is safe to say that these days it is one of the most recognised skate spots on the planet
“It is one of the few natural street spots in the country where you can meet up with skate family and do your thing. Woolstores is a classic! I and everyone who has skated there have met lifelong friends along that stretch of smooth pavement. Woolstores forever!”
Check out Morgan’s full story on the legendary status of the Woolstores skating history:
Photo by Luke Thompson
It was a great night that celebrated a brand new era of the old ‘Fort Knox’ woolstore – which is soon to be converted into beautiful warehouse apartments. A group of esteemed guests took in the atmosphere of the heritage building and celebrated the next stage of Freo Living!
“The perspective from a local legend” by Roel Loopers – Fremantle Society Vice President, Editor of Freo’s View and Professional Photographer
“I am very excited to see the adaptive re-use of the old heritage warehouse into a modern residential apartment complex that respects the historic significance of place.
“This development is a very positive step towards activating the inner city of Fremantle and to get more people living, working and enjoying the CBD.
“So many people in Fremantle have memories or links to this building. I stored some of my goods there in 1995 when I did a trip around Australia for seven months.”
“Rocking horse stable” by Barry and Lorraine
“Our storage unit was full to brimming with furniture, books and art; all things of real quality including antiques and collectibles that were hard to let go.
“We had a very big house so when we downsized to a very small house we had to reconcile ourselves to getting rid of things. It was a hard decision but it had to be done.
“A big garage sale a few weeks ago saw most things go but there are still some things left including a couple of rocking horses that I have restored after four years being stored, or your could say stabled, at Fort Knox.”
“When my family moved to Perth from Sydney about 30 years ago, all our stuff was stored at Fort Knox. I have clear memories of my mother pulling out pieces of furniture and telling us that it was all we had left in the world.
“It was a tough time. We had come west to start again. I am happy to say that things did improve for the family.
“It is very weird now to find myself working in this building that holds so many strong memories for me. I feel I have come full circle.
“This place has character like my mum – so I often think of her when I am here.”
“My father arrived into Fremantle harbour on Christmas Day in 1944 aboard a US submarine. The port was an important part of the route of our allies’ war patrols took from their base in Honolulu. The tours took them through the perilous stretch of the South China Sea ending up in Fremantle where the subs underwent maintenance before setting off into battle.
With the threat of imminent invasion from the Japanese hanging over us, the Australian Government was only too happy to assist the Americans and made the wool stores warehouses available to the US Navy for storage of supplies and parts.
A total of 119 US subs passed through Fremantle harbour with 11 of them never making it back home.”
(American’s Bob and his wife Judy (pictured) are currently visiting Perth, a city they called home for five years in the late 70s and early 80s. Bob’s curiosity was piqued about this place on the other side of the world by the stories his father told him of the time he spent in Fremantle during WWII.)
“It was a Sunday afternoon; a customer made herself comfortable in a chair at the back of the store and promptly fell into a deep sleep. The store closed at 4pm, no one noticed this woman fast asleep so everyone locked up and left her there. She woke up about five hours later at 9pm.
“I have no idea how she did it, particularly in complete darkness, but she managed to find the fire exit and climb out. In doing so, she set off all the building’s alarms!
“The story goes that she popped in a few days later with a cake by way of an apology to the staff who were inconvenienced having to respond to the security company’s calls when the alarms went off.
“Always makes me chuckle.”
(Taken from a FremantleHeirloom Facebook discussion)
Jimmy: “I used to cart wool around Fremantle, started driving for George Dunkley”
Garrick: “George Dunkley is my pop”
Jimmy: “How you going Garrick, I remember you as a baby.”
(Admin: Love it!)
Pic: Jimmy Gault
“We lived in Fremantle and when we passed the Woolstores, I always thought that they looked very empty and forlorn with broken windows and graffiti. I used to wish someone would renovate them and make them beautiful again”
Admin: Not long now Maureen
“They’re collecting history! On a local icon! Where i used to hang out! *starts scribbling stories… censors some… things of more….”
Admin: Love it! Dying to hear details Aunty Bethra :))
“My great great grandfather use to work at this wool stores, and everyday he and his colleagues would go to work and put a copper coin on the wall.
If their number was called out they got to work for the day – if not, they needed to collect there coin and return the next day hoping for work to feed there families.”
“Plans for the proposed new wool store for Dalgety & Co. Ltd. between Beach and Queen Victoria Streets. The architects were Hobbs, Smith and Forbes and the cost was estimated at 75000 pounds.” 1922. Source: Freo City Library collection.
Appropriately titled “Woolstores”
Circa 1960(?). These cans were found sitting along the Fort Knox rafters 2013…. some 50 years later! Note the Swan Lager can – it didn’t even have ring pulls on top
“I learnt about compassion outside the Woolstores. About 40 years ago, I was being pushed in a stroller by my mother, past the Woolstores.
An elderly lady walking towards us collapsed and fell on the road. I watched as my mum ran to help her. In that moment my child mind thought, “We help people, even if we don’t know them.”
Every time I go past the Woolstores I think of this. It’s my Woolstores mantra.”
(Image title: Hard Knox)
I was initially drawn to the Woolsheds because of the decay of the building; each broken window and crack fascinated me from a drawing perspective.
(I believe) That whole area of Fremantle is in need of a facelift and the building sitting there, somewhat desperate and longing to be reused, inspired me.
This particular building was sitting in a middle ground for me – it has suffered from vandalism and decay over the years but has also seen many uses and is about to be reinvigorated again.
For my exhibition The Free Antiques Campaign I really wanted to highlight the differing states of buildings in Fremantle, from the completely derelict such as the next door Woolstores and the Coogee Powerhouse, the well maintained and utilised such as the array of buildings that make up Notre Dame and then those such as this – with huge potential and plans in the process.
I wanted to capture the character of it as it stands today, and has for so long, before the development begins.
It’s a way of remembering this “empty” stage of the life of this building.
(This is one of sketches featured in Ross Potter’s exhibition “The Free Antiques Campaign” in Dec 2011)
“I have a few faint memories of driving around the wool stores in an orange buggy or fork with my wonderful dad, Alex Cuming, .
Unfortunately my Dad, the wonderful man he was, passed not long ago and wish i could of asked him some questions and relive the memories of it with him.”
(RIP Alex Cuming – his memory is kept alive as part of the fabric of the Fremantle Woolstore).
Kind of eekie, but do you recognise the building??
Photo by Jarrad Seng.
I used to cart wool around Fremantle, started driving for George Dunkley in August 1980, he had a yard in Zenobia Street Palmyra.
One day I was sent to the Old Stores in Cantonoment Street. This was just before Elders went to Spearwood.
Back then you first went to the office, to get your paper work and you were told what drop to be at. The drop itself was really a chute.
The idea was, when drivers were ready, they would bang the drop with your wool hook and down came the bale, with an almighty thump. If you were lucky, the bale would stop where it landed and then the driver would drop the bale onto the truck tray and roll forward and start loading – Then back to the drop, bang the drop and down came another bale until your load was complete.
Back then all wool truck drivers were very fit, as quite a few Stores had to load by hand.
I do remember one story of a bale shooting out the drop, bouncing off the truck and onto the street.
Back then, the old Fremantle Transport Companies that carted wool, gave a lot of work to these blokes and it was good hard work and we had a lot of fun.
Sometimes no story is a story in itself!
“When I was little my dad used to work at the Fremantle Fire Station and each night my mum would drive past the old Woolworths Building to drop him off.
The building was old and the windows were broken. There was graffiti on the outside walls, and it really had a dark and gloomy feel to it. As i didn’t really know what it meant or that it was abandoned, I thought this was where the bad people lived.
(I imagined) Burglers in ski masks with black and white stripped outfits just like the villains you see in cartoons, so I used to duck down and hide everytime we drove past there so they couldn’t see me…
I think it was a pretty inventive story for a 3 or 4 year old!”