18 March 2011

528 Albion Street, Brunswick West, VIC, Australia

I would love to know what happened to this house, located on Albion Street almost at the point where Brunswick West becomes Essendon. Despite living not too far away from it, I only started walking past it regularly in late 2008; if I'd gone by before, I'd not noticed it - possibly because it hadn't yet suffered its fateful calamity. As you can see in this capture from Google Streetview (this area was done before April 2009, but I'm not sure how far before), it was once a very plain sort of place:

Aerial view from sometime before October 2010.
And now I'm just so curious. When I first remember laying eyes on it, it was the shell of a house. Its twin next door, seemingly a mirror image, is fine, structurally at least; its windows seem permanently sealed like a prison, but that's a rant for another time. This collection of walls with vacant windows, however, was just standing around forlornly, evidently showing the effects of fire. You can see what I mean in the Google Satellite screenshot at right. Compounding the fire damage was exposure to the elements, the streaks from the flames now joined by streaks from the rain. The "elements" in this neck of the world tend to end up including graffiti too, in this case some pretty scratchy and pissweak tagging. A wire fence was along the street frontage with a builder's sign, but it didn't look like much had happened in a while.

Then suddenly, I went past one day in the second half of 2010, and as you can see in my pictures - it had the skeleton of a roof! Some work seems to have gone on inside too, and the property was in general tidied up a bit. Then the mystery deepened: nothing has happened since and the property is becoming less orderly by the day. The skeletal roof is starting to cop the elements. The house looks more forlorn than ever; rather than a phoenix rising from the ashes, it's giving the impression of the ashes just moving around a bit.

Is this a sad case of an insurance company not paying up, or an educational lesson about the perils of not being insured? Is it a buyer or builder struggling for funds? Is this just renovations being carried out on a sort of geological timespan? Why didn't they just knock over the smouldering remnants and start anew? Well, I can at least answer the last question; it appears to have some sort of heritage protection. In my search for information here, hoping to come up with a relevant newspaper example, I found something mildly creepy - somebody died in this house. But not when it burnt down! As this births and deaths page from The Argus shows, a Margaret Spicer died here on 29 December 1945, with her funeral proceeding from this address to Fawkner Cemetery two days later. However, I can't seem to find any news about how Mrs Spicer's house ended up in this state over half a century later! My Google powers have failed me.

Rating: At present, condemnable! Before the fire? Lick o' paint. If it's ever fully rebuilt? I'll let you know!

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