BAG History Group / Waite Street Reserve

Looking north up Waite Street from the water tower, 1958. Alex Moncrieff recalls the area having lots of hedges, gates and fences with gardens having chooks, vegie patches and fruit trees and quite a few tennis courts. Everybody burnt rubbish and buried food waste and families collected newspapers to sell to grocers and fish’n’chip shops to use as packaging.

Image Credit: Ray Nash Collection c/o Mitcham Local History Service.

Waite Street Reserve – The creation of Blackwood’s ‘village green’

It is more usual for open space to become squashed and built on by houses but for Waite Street Reserve (WSR) it is the other way around! It was not until 1983 that WSR (named after Peter Waite, a partner in Elder Smith & Co) became a public park. This followed a tortuous period of community advocacy, demolition of homes, offer and counter offer and finally a compromise that saw Coles, Council and the community reach a solution.

The ridge cap that today carries Main Road and paths along the Sturt River are believed to be longstanding routes travelled by the Kaurna people. These were followed by early settlers and around today’s WSR they included the farming Western, Robinson, Downer, Dall and Bottrill families. From 1879 sub-division in Blackwood commenced to the south of today’s Shepherds Hill Road (SHR) and east of Main Road in preparation for the trainline which opened in 1882. Sub-division was slower north of SHR.

A 1946 map shows 4 homes on today’s WSR with the Fairclough, Stuart, Fitzgerald and Dennison families recalled. In 1954 Michael Stuart and his father built a low stone front wall for their home and this remains today at the northern end of WSR. 1972 brought precinct changes with Coles purchasing most of the land bounded by Main, Waite, Young and Edwards Streets. Coles planned to build specialty shops along Waite Street as well as a supermarket and car park. There followed almost 10 years of strong resident campaigning. A ‘… petition of 6,000 signatures of residents opposing the construction of another supermarket (Coles) in central Blackwood….” and ”Require Mitcham Council to secure all the ‘Coles’ land… for …public land… as a central park and open space first then… as the location for a well-planned and progressively implemented core of civic and community facilities…” (Council Agenda 6/4/81).

Following many ‘ups and downs’ - including a community protest caravan on the site, Coles proposing a children’s playground on the Young/Main corner and deeding land to Council to expand the Senior Citizens Clubrooms - Coles offered to sell to Council six blocks of land on Waite Street for civic/public purposes. The Blackwood Residents Group urged residents to accept the offer and give Blackwood “…its village green for a community centre”. (Hills Gazette 1/7/1981).

Today the reserve includes open space, a new playground and a picnic table telling the story of the early years of the district. Council has decided that a future library/community centre will be located on the current Blackwood Community Centre site on Young Street and have it integrated into our Waite Village Green. A $5m pledge to this project from Nicolle Flint, Member for Boothby, has the project kickstarted and Council will have plans available for your input within a few months. (This and other stories are told in the precinct’s shop windows during May).

>> Click here to read more history articles from the Blackwood Action Group

The stone wall which remains today at the northern end of Waite Street Reserve. Built in 1954 by Michael Stuart and his father.

Image: Lindy Taeuber