AFR: From cesspit to hip centre: behind the Chippendale revival

If you'd asked me a few years ago what I thought of Chippendale, I'd have had to admit that, while I appreciate 18th century English baroque cabinetry, it's perhaps a tad too elaborate for my taste. Ask me today what I think of Chippendale, and the first thing that springs to mind is that inner-Sydney suburb now synonymous with urban cool.

Buzzy galleries, innovative restaurants, architect-designed apartments, a fantastic boutique hotel (and another on the way), the area is a fine example of clever adaptive reuse and the venue of choice for launches, lunches and hip happenings.

Granted by the Crown to William Chippendale (no relation to Thomas, he of the furniture fame) in 1819, the swampy marshland around Blackwattle Creek was by the early 20th century a grimy district along somewhat Dickensian lines – and the Sydney area hardest hit by bubonic plague. It was also home turf to shady characters such as Pig Mary, Rat Catcher, Lanfranchi and the Chow.

As writer Stephen Lacey puts it about the times: "If Chippendale was a man, he would be described as a colourful racing identity."

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In The Neighbourhood