TODAY's yarn is an intriguing tale of two Hunter suburbs - both with the same name.
Garden Suburb is a very pleasant Lake Macquarie place off Myall Road, above Cardiff. It was actually the second Garden Suburb created in the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie district.
The first was in today's Hamilton South. That fact is recorded in stone at two relatively overlooked pillars erected in 1914 which now stand at either end of Learmonth Park.
The identical sandstone sentinels commemorate the opening of the Garden Suburb subdivision created by the Australian Agricultural Company.
Some 105 years ago, the vision was to dramatically convert a wilderness. Chinese market gardens and low ti-tree shrub between Tudor Street and Glebe Road made way for wide tree-lined streets, garden plots and parks. Until then, Denison Street was the main road through to Hamilton (formerly Pit Town).
Both original Garden Suburb subdivisions were special creations, inspired by the garden city movement in vogue in England.
These residential suburbs were supposed to be on the outskirts of cities, in rural settings and without any industrial or business components. They were to have direct rail access, but neither suburb managed to get its own station, although facilities were close by (at Cardiff and Hamilton).
Lake Macquarie's Garden Suburb last year celebrated the 100th anniversary of its 1918 land grant auction.
The area, also known for its proximity to the Tickhole (rail) Tunnel, was occupied by several orchards in the late 1940s.
When the post office finally opened in September 1956, it was called Kotara Heights. Garden Suburb Public School opened in 1958, but the P.O. wasn't renamed Garden Suburb until early 1964.
As for the original Garden Suburb created at Hamilton South, well, it stands as a monument to Worters Readett Pulver. He was an influential surveyor once employed by the mighty Australian Agricultural Company, which owned all the land and was shutting down operations after mining coal under it.
It was WR Pulver who convinced his bosses to sub-divide Hamilton/Newcastle shrub for residential sale.
This became a mammoth reclamation and beautification scheme.
Low-lying areas like Hamilton's future Garden Suburb and Bar Beach were transformed. Development of land between Hamilton and the Pacific Ocean continued for about 18 years.
Around the start of World War I, Pulver became AA Company's chief surveyor and embarked with consultant Sir John Sulman, a well-known town planner, to work on major inner-city redevelopment.
With his local knowledge and foresight, Pulver helped provide direct access to Merewether by a wide avenue (now Stewart Avenue) and to Bar Beach (now Parkway Avenue) and, eventually, a residential area now known as Hamilton-Garden Suburb.
The outbreak of war slowed progress on Sulman's scheme, but in the early 1920s there was rapid development of the inner-city Garden Suburb project. Extensive swamp around Hamilton South was filled in with sand from Bar Beach dunes by a narrow gauge railway which crossed Darby and Union streets. This also hastened the development of the Bar Beach residential area and the formation of Empire Park.
Streets in Garden Suburb at Hamilton today bear the name of AA Company inland estates, such as Warrah and Hebburn.
Today, there's even a Pulver Street in Hamilton South to honour the pioneer, although many people think it's named after WR Pulver's son, Astley Pulver (pictured), also a high-profile Newcastle surveyor and historian. Father and son had become business partners.
Worters Pulver died in 1947. Today, we probably only know of his career and achievements from recollections and diary notes handed on by his son Astley, who himself died in 1988.
To try and get a full picture of how the landscape has been transformed over decades, a visit to any Newcastle library branch soon might be a revelation, including an insight into colourful early advertisements.
Large rare local subdivision plans from the 1880s to the 1950s are on display. The prime exhibition, Streets of Our Town, is in the Lovett Gallery upstairs at Newcastle City Library until July 20.
The library is also digitising more than 2500 subdivision plans from Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens.
Of particular relevance during a recent visit was a map of the first Garden Suburb residential subdivision of 85 lots on Saturday, May 30, 1914. This development stretched from Parkway Avenue to Lawson Street, Hamilton South, and south to Learmonth Park. A second auction map promoting the sale of 63 land lots in Darling, Pulver, Harle and Thomas streets is dated December 1919.
Recent research by the library's local history staff has revealed that in 1910 the AA Company owned 40 per cent of land in the Hamilton municipality.
The design for a model suburb there focused on 300 acres of vacant land between Parry Street and Glebe Road. Here, the company wanted only attractive, quality housing. Display houses were red brick bungalows with tiled roofs with an expected price range of between 500 and 1000 pounds, "a price range beyond most Newcastle residents". It was aimed at buyers in the emerging middle class.
By 1921, the Hamilton Garden Suburb had 1300 residents and by 1933, 5300 residents. But only Parkway Avenue retained the original plan of a wide central median strip.
Constructed between 1914 and 1940, the old suburb is now recognised as a heritage conservation area.