COFFEE @ The Underwood Cafe – Paddington 2021.
The Underwood Cafe is a unique space in the Paddington landscape. Accessed via a ‘hidden’ narrow leafy green walkway between two terrace houses, the cafe is not signposted at the street entrance so it could easily be missed.
At the end of the plant-lined entrance passage is a surprisingly large space that has a lovely relaxed vibe. It’s the perfect place for a business meeting or a catch up with a group of friends. Camouflaged office spaces surround the cafe; they subtly enliven the space and add a sense of depth. The recycled timber tabletops are beautiful, as are the tasteful but restrained decorations.
The food is fresh, generous, and tasty and the coffee is great. In a suburb dominated by terrace houses and narrow streets, the Underwood Cafe is an unexpected but wonderful find.
NOW & THEN around Paddington.
The suburb of Paddington developed after a formal road was built to provide faster access to the signal station at South Head (Watsons Bay) in 1803. The first land grants in the area were made in 1823, with a distillery and wheat mill being constructed shortly thereafter.
Initially, only a handful of workers lived in the area however, when the Victoria Barracks construction works began, the village of Paddington began to emerge around the cottages of the stonemasons, quarrymen, carpenters and labourers who were working on the construction of the Barracks.
The main Victoria Barracks building, constructed in the Regency style, was built by convicts using Hawkesbury sandstone. The building was designed to accommodate 650 soldiers and the Barracks was the main military training site in Australia from its completion until the early 1900s.
Rapid growth followed the opening of Victoria Barracks in 1848, with large estates being subdivided and nearly 4,000 terrace-style houses being constructed between 1860 and 1890. By the early 1900s, 26,000 people were living in Paddington; however, by the 1940s the area was slated as a slum ready for redevelopment.
Demolition of virtually all of the building stock was spared when newly arrived European migrants moved into the area; finding the location convenient and affordable.
During the 1960s, Paddington became a multicultural middle class area and awareness and appreciation of the historical and aesthetic qualities of the area began to emerge. By the late 1960s, Paddington became the first heritage conservation area in Australia.
A photographic record of my visit to Paddington, NSW
Contemporary design solutions of high architectural quality can provide a positive contribution to heritage conservation areas. The following images showcase contemporary alterations and additions to buildings located within the rare and largely intact early Victorian residential suburb of Paddington, which is now of National and State heritage significance.
The Paddington Reservoir Gardens (below) was originally constructed as a water reservoir. Between 1866 and 1899 the reservoir received water from the Botany Swamps pumping station before supplying the water to parts of Sydney. The reservoir provided a source of water to elevated suburbs, which until this stage, had only been serviced by wells and water carts.
To meet the demands of the rapidly growing city, a second chamber was added to the Paddington Reservoir in 1877. By 1899 the larger Centennial Park Reservoir was completed and the Paddington Reservoir was decommissioned. The site was actively used for commercial and public purposes until 1993.
In 2009, after extensive conservation and adaptive reuse works, Paddington Reservoir Gardens was opened to the public. The project has won numerous awards including the 2010 National Australian Institute of Architecture Award for both Urban Design and Heritage Architecture.
Dictionary of Sydney, Office of Environment & Heritage – State Heritage Inventory, Woollahra Municipal Council website,
Historical images courtesy of Flickr Commons, NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Justice and Police Museum, Sydney Living Museums, State Library of NSW and Woollahra Municipal Council Local History Library.