64-66 Macarthur Road
The ranch-style Henning House was set back high on the ridge in Elderslie across two building allotments and a good example of mid-century modernism.
Fronting Macarthur Road, the prominent position provided an appropriate site for the handsome residence of the Camden business family Peter and Barbara Hennings.
The house’s integrity remained intact until its demolition in 2011 to make way for a preschool.
Built in 1960, the Hennings House was one of the first residences of several houses on the Bruchhauser farm subdivision along Macarthur Road. (Hennings 2010)
The Hennings House was one of several ranch-style residences in Elderslie.
Ranch style housing
Architect Robert Irving has noted the housing style as an Australian domestic architecture. Parramatta City Council has recognised the housing style of heritage significance.
The ranch-style house is an example of mid-century modernism.
The original house style came from California and the South-west of the USA, where architects in these areas designed the first suburban ranch-style houses in the 1920s and 1930s. They were simple one-storey houses built by ranchers who lived on the prairies and in the Rocky Mountains.
The American architects liked the simple form that reflected the casual lifestyle of these farming families. After the Second World War, several home builders in California offered a streamlined, slimmed-down version. They were built on a concrete slab without a basement with pre-cut sections.
The design allowed multi-function spaces, for example, living-dining rooms and eat-in-kitchen, which reduced the number of walls inside the house. The design was one of the first to orient the kitchen/family area towards the backyard rather than facing the street.
The design also placed the bedrooms at the front of the house. The marketing of the ranch-style house tapped popular American fascination with the Old West. (Washington Post, 30 December 2006)
The Hennings House
Bracken ferns covered the site when the Hennings bought the two blocks and then filled the site to provide the house with an elevated position with a stone batter to the garage end of the house.
The wide frontage ranch-style house was set back on the double block in a high position, which is uncommon in Elderslie, although typical of this style elsewhere in Sydney (Parramatta Development Control Plan 2005).
Peter Hennings has always been interested in design and was careful in selecting the plans for the house. The couple were in their early 20s when they built the house.
The builder, Ron McMillan and Sons of Camden, had a catalogue, and the Hennings chose the house design from amongst those.
According to Peter Hennings, the design of the house was considered relatively modern. (Hennings 2010)
The house was an open-planned three-bedroom double-brick ranch-style residence. The house had 10-foot ceilings, a stone fireplace, timber sash windows and a separate bathroom and toilet.
There was a detached garage completed after the house was built.
The lounge room had two pairs of ¼ inch-bevel glass doors and two single glass bevel doors.
The site’s street frontage had a 1960 front fence of Chromatex bricks, and several mature trees added to the site’s aesthetic quality. (Hennings 2010)
The Hennings sold the house in 1980 to Dr Charles McCalden, who had a medical practice in Hill Street, Camden. He moved away from Camden in the mid-1980s.
In recent years (1999-2009), the house was owned by school principals Joan and Frank Krzysik.
Kalinda, a Whiteman house
The state government’s 2000 Elderslie Urban Release Area plan resulted in the demolition of Kalinda, another ranch-style house. The timber-constructed home was located off Lodges Road Elderslie and owned by Andrew Whiteman.
The Whiteman House Kalinda was high on the ridge with a pleasant outlook facing west over the Narellan Creek floodplain. Visitors approached the house from Lodges Road by driving up to the ridge’s top along a narrow driveway. The Whiteman family owned a general store in Camden that operated for nearly a century.
The same ridge was the site of Tarn House, a ranch-style house owned by surgeon Dr Gordon Clowes on Irvine Street, off Lodges Road.
Other Elderslie mid-century homes
The 1960s Elderslie land releases produced some houses that were an expression of mid-century modernism. The house designs were usually taken from a book of project homes of the day, for example, Lend Lease, and were quite progressive. Some of these homes were built by the miners who worked in the Burragorang coalfields.
Houses in Luker Street are characterised by low-pitched rooves, open planned but restrained design, with lots of natural light streaming in full-length glass panels adjacent to natural timbers and stone. There are also ranch-style houses on River Road with open planning and wide frontages to the street, which some architects designed.
Two blocks of flats on Purcell Street use decorative wrought iron railings. Sunset Avenue in Elderslie is a mix of 1960s modern low-pitched roof open-planned houses interspersed with New South Wales Housing Commission fibro construction homes.
The New South Wales Housing Commission built fibro houses in Elderslie, some located on Burrawong Crescent. Architects, including Robin Boyd, were expressing Australian modernism elsewhere in Australia. Housing developers like Lend Lease commissioned these architects to design their housing estates. One such development was the Lend-Lease Appletree Estate at Glen Waverley in Melbourne. Another Lend Lease land release and show homes were at their 1962 Kingsdene Estate in Carlingford.
Demolition of The Hennings House
The demolition of The Henning House took place in 2011 in preparation for the preschool construction.
I lodged an objection to the demolition of The Henning House in 2010 Camden Council, which approved the DA for the preschool on the site.
The objection to the demolition was the first time there had been any formal recognition of the heritage value of a post-World War Two domestic architecture style in the Camden LGA.
Peter Hennings said he would have been happy for the house to be preserved. (Macarthur Chronicle, 23 March 2010)
Peter & Barbara Hennings, 2010, Camden, Interview, February.
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