Hidden among the towers that have sprouted across Australia are those who cling to their homes with all they have.
As Australia’s population has grown over the years, there has been a trend towards apartment building that has left large parts of the nation unrecognizable.
Suburbs that were once populated by red-brick Californian bungalows and children screaming for joy in the streets are now home to clusters of towering residential towers and shopping malls.
Walking through these heavily populated hives of city dwellers, it’s hard to imagine how much life has changed in a relatively short period of time.
However, if you look carefully enough among the towers, you will find an incredible sight.
Only a handful of houses remain which are now surrounded on all sides by huge buildings, creating an almost comical juxtaposition for those passing by.
Inside them are Australians clinging to the lives they had before the big developers moved in. And they don’t leave for love or money.
Perhaps one of the most striking examples in Sydney is a house in Rhodes – in the mid-west of the city – which is ridiculously overshadowed by its neighboring buildings.
Immediately next door and separated by a narrow alley is the posh shopping center of Rhodes Central – where food court chefs are busy getting ready for the lunchtime rush and shopkeepers stop for their morning coffees.
There are similar-looking old red-brick houses across the center that have clearly been earmarked for demolition, their owners moving to new pastures.
A 15 minute drive from Abbotsford is another house that stands out as a relic of a bygone era amongst large apartment blocks, supermarkets and shops.
The four-bed that appears to sink between surrounding buildings was originally built as a single-storey house in 1940, and is owned by Winston Marsden, 81, and his wife Adele, 77.
Incredibly, Winston has lived in the house for most of his life and said he will have to be “carried in a box” when he leaves.
Speaking to news.com.au, he said his parents started renting the house when he was just three months old.
“It was a great place to grow up,” he said. “There was of course all the traffic and we had the trams going up and down.”
He said the formally industrial area has “completely changed”, and it’s easy to see what he means.
Outside the house, heavy traffic clogs the Great North Road as busy Sydneysiders rush through the pouring rain.
But upon entering the Marsden’s little paradise, the noise of the engines seems to miraculously die down and you are transported to another moment in history.
Despite renovations and extensions over the years, the house retains a charm that modern buildings simply do not have.
The first thing that strikes is that the walls are almost entirely lined with photos of the couple’s family.
Of four children, they have ten grandchildren and each of them has a fondness for the home where so many memories were created for the Marsden clan.
Group photos pasted along the hall show all the grandchildren lined up, always in the same order, at the family home every Christmas so you can watch them grow dramatically each year.
On the wall next to the entrance to the main living room, there is a sprawling family tree that traces the surname back to Lancashire in northern England and Germany. Incredibly, it dates back as far as the 1600s.
There is a side room not much bigger than a closet next to the living room which incredibly served as a kitchen until just over 20 years ago.
“Believe me, I had about 250 people in that garden for a 21 and I cooked for them from that kitchen,” Adele exclaimed.
The house was only recently expanded to its current size, meaning space was limited when the Marsdens were raising their children.
“We raised four kids here, with two and a half bedrooms,” Winston said.
It feels like a luxury compared to Winston’s sleeping arrangements as a teenager, when he shared a 4x3m ‘back room’, separate from the main building and across the garden, with his brother Leonard.
This room is now just a small storage room in the garage.
“We never had a problem,” he said. “We didn’t have many things like kids have now.”
The experience certainly didn’t stop Winston from wanting to live in the family home. After his parents bought it in the 1950s, he and his wife bought it back from them in the 1970s.
And, it seems, they had a blast in Abbotsford – a suburb they said was a decent, hard-working neighborhood that thrived with strong industry and factories.
In fact, Adele and Winston met through their local work at BHP.
She was a plotter, which means she worked in an office where employees drew drawings in pencil and Adele traced them on linen in black ink. Winston was an engineer who spent 50 years at BHP.
However, over time, life around the house began to move forward rapidly. And before the Marsdens knew it, tall buildings, a large parking lot, a supermarket, and a bottle store had sprung up around them.
The old serenity of the neighborhood was disappearing as heavy traffic began to flow down the street where children played and streetcars stopped.
The Marsdens have a long list of issues they’ve had to endure over the years, from the developers’ alleged antics that pushed them to the wall, to the sounds of trucks backing up every morning, and people pulling into their driveway.
All of this resulted in more complaint letters to council than Winston can remember.
He even believes the developers found a woman as “crazy as a fruitcake” to take over the rental of the house next door in an attempt to drive them away.
“She’d come home at three in the morning with the music blasting and that kind of shit,” he said.
However, the couple are able to see the ups and downs of their stay at home with good humor and they are happy where they are.
“We considered moving and weighed the pros and cons,” he said. “But there was much more in favor of our stay than going elsewhere.”
“We have all our facilities here, we know all the local traders, it’s convenient for us to shop, it’s close to town and we have a ferry service that goes into town.
“And now we have no neighbors, it’s great.”
After all the troubles they’ve endured over the years, the couple say they feel like they’ve finally won the battle against the developers.
Money doesn’t seem to factor into the Marsden equation. Despite the fact that the house would likely fetch a fortune in today’s hot real estate market – and nearby homes sell for over $3 million – the house contains too many memorabilia for them to consider moving. now.
” We won. We are here forever,” Winston said. “They’ll have to drag me into a box when I leave.”
However, Adele seems to have other ideas.
“Look, if someone came and offered $4 million, I’d say Winston is in the nursing home!” she laughs.
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