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Notes on the Geography of Australia: Perth Suburbs

We're going to make a loop here circling clockwise along the north shore of the Swan River. Then we'll come up the Indian Ocean coast to City Beach and from there head east to Herdsman Lake. We'll be back by lunch.

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Although this statue looks like Edward VII, it's Alexander Forrest's brother, John. (Remember Alexander? We saw a statue of him back in Central Perth 1.) Among other things, John created Perth's spectacular, thousand-acre Kings Park, on the shore of the Swan River just downstream from central Perth. Yes, he looks a little girthy for an explorer, but that's middle age for you. Polite observers call it "portly."

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It would have been unthinkable not to include a statue of the sovereign. She's pretty stereotypical, but it's nice seeing a political leader who doesn't put on a canned smile.

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And of course there are military memorials, like this one for the South African War.

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And this one, for the Great War.

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We've pushed on toward the posh suburb of Dalkeith.

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Pt. Resolution Reserve, at the tip of the Dalkeith peninsula.

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You can buy houses here in any and all styles--in this case a Tudor on Beatrice Road overlooking the Dalkeith Tennis Club.

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A more relaxed alternative.

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A bit bigger.

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A lot more formal, in this case on the main east-street street in Dalkeith, Waratah Avenue. Do you think the owner's American? All you'd need is a couple of Marine's in blue dress.

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But something's happening here. It shouldn't really come as a surprise. Any ideas about its future?

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Here's a hint.

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So take this case, needing some paint but adjoining the tennis club and only a couple of blocks from the river (Wattle Ave.).

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Here's the sign out front. You get the picture?

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Here's a house built perhaps in 1920 for someone who spent time outside.

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It's another tear-down.

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This is what's likely to come up, in this case on Dalkeith's Esplanade.

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There's more like it.

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Just be sure you don't want fresh air.

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Topography is no obstacle here on the steep street called The Coombe. Price as of early 2016: A$3.79 million. An obliging agent volunteered the information that it could be ours for only A$3,200 weekly.

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Look, ma, no corners! We're on Colonial Gardens in Mosman Park, until 1970 a major industrial area with a GM assembly plant and, just about right here, a Colonial Sugar Refinery.

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There are some apartment buildings along the way, in this case at 35 Esplanade. A 3-bedroom unit runs about A$2 million.

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Here's something exceptional. It's called Sunset, but it was built as the Claremont Old Men's Home, a poor house established in 1904. By 1920 it housed 620 men, and by the 1960s there were still 450 residents. The place closed in 1996, but this is prime Dalkeith waterfront.

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Snag: the building has heritage status, so things are hung up.

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The river narrows as it approaches its mouth.

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You can catch a glimpse of a gantry crane at Fremantle's container port.

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You can catch an even better glimpse if you're up in the Falcon Apartments on the same hilltop.

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We've come round to the long, straight coast north of the river's mouth.

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Think you're alone?

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Not for long. Think it's breezy? Smart thinking, Sherlock.

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Inland, there are patches of more or less natural vegetation.

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But there are also lots of houses built with an eye to the sea. In the distance, you can see several ships at anchor off Fremantle.

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A modern equivalent of the widow's walk.

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What exactly you're supposed to look at is unclear. Lots of water?

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Here's a more interesting bit of water. It's Herdsman Lake. We're three miles east of the ocean and all of four miles northwest of downtown Perth. You'd never know it.

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This is Australia, of course, but we're on the edge of the lake for a reason.

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Here it is: a house built by the Workers' Home Board, which was created in 1911 with an eye to building cheap houses for people otherwise unlikely to own their homes. This one was built in about 1930 and sold to Frederick Hatcher, who lived in it until his death in 1960.

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There are two verandahs, and four interior rooms (two 12 x 12 and two 12 x 14). There's a water tank for the kitchen, but there's no bathroom, only an outhouse.

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The Hatcher house survives as a property of the National Trust, but its neighbors in the subdivision called Floreat Waters are much more comfortable.

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For curbside appeal, you just can't beat a Norman castle.

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And out there in Herdsman Lake there's something that's going to make you worry about those mushrooms in the omelette this morning. What the devil?

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Weird, huh? This bronze, by Pietro Porcelli, was cast in 1914 and sat atop AMP (Australian Mutual Provident) Chambers, at the major intersection of St. George's Terrace and William Street, until the building was torn down in about 1972. The group was purchased for A$60,000 by Sherwood Overseas, the developer of Floreat Waters. As you might expect from an insurance company, the central figure symbolized protection. Standing 12 feet tall, she probably provided it, too.


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