Australian Heritage Commission, 2001
22 - A conjoined house of Czech design
221 Warwick Street, Hobart, Tasmania
The house at Warwick St in 1997, taken from the garden next door.
Warwick Street runs in a long and almost straight line from the foot of the Glebe hill in Hobart. It passes a liquor outlet, a caryard and wholesalers then rises up a hill whose crest is marked by Holy Trinity Church. It descends again to a creek, a College, a health food shop and offices of the Democratic Socialist Party, a scrap metal yard, tyre fitters and upholsterers. It then begins a long incline. The first stretch, a mixture of nineteenth century and domestic art deco houses, ends at a roundabout. Finally, Warwick Street rises steeply towards the Knocklofty Hill, ending at Lansdowne Crescent. Almost all the buildings at this end are late Victorian and Federation and face the street.
Not number 221. Two long straight drives lead to a conjoined house built between 1952 and 1953. The block extends eccentrically like a blunted bolt of lightning and the gardens, although parallel to each other, lie at right angles to the building.
The oddity of the site is explained by its history. Number 221 is made up of two titles. One of these was part of land granted to John Moir in 1855 which then included the blocks now belonging to 223 and 225 Warwick Street. Between 1944 and 1949 the internal part of 221 was subdivided from 225 and access was provided through the additional purchase of a strip of land with a creek that had been reserved for a drain.
The original shed, in 1997.
The house at 221 was initially planned as two storeys on the street, but the stormwater drainage requirements of the Hobart Council precluded the use of most of that title for building. Instead it has been positioned so that from the main rooms the view extends back down the hill through other people's gardens, over the city, across the Derwent estuary and to the hills on the Eastern Shore. In the foreground are fruit trees, six poplars, a Norfolk Island pine; in the mid-distance, the Aboriginal flag above the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and the spire of Holy Trinity.
The block was bought in 1951 by Zofia and Antoni Koziol, and Jan and Rosa Osak. They had met on a refugee ship in 1949, the first year that Australia extended its refugee policy to include families with children. Adam Koziol and Zofia Osak were both four years old at the time. They made friends and so did their parents. It was during the voyage that the Koziols and Osaks began to discuss the possibility of buying land together.
A shed was the first structure to be built at Warwick Street. It was made of any materials available but mainly from car crates. Whenever she had a break between shifts at the rest home Zofia would walk the hilly three kilometres to the land and pull out nails to prepare the wood. Two small rooms and a storage section were to be her home with her husband and son for the next two years. It was her first home for over a decade.
Rosa Osak and Zofia Koziol having lunch during the building at Warwick St, c1953. Adam Koziol and Zofia Osak stand by the shed that housed the Koziols for the first two years.
Calder's refugee policy insisted on two years contract labour in an approved field - one that would not be seen to be threatening jobs Australians might fill- and Jan and Antoni were assigned to the Jones & Co jam factory. When her husband became ill and was hospitalised for three months, Zofia got a job in a rest home where she could live in with her child. Her husband was able to spend his convalescence in the same place. The Osaks rented a house in Collins Street.
Early in the war Zofia had been captured by the German army in her home town of Mielec and sent from Poland to a labour camp near Erfurt. During the chaos of post-war Germany, she and Antoni and Adam had been shunted from transit camp to transit camp for four years, sometimes without enough time to unpack before being moved on again.
Zofia and Antoni knew very little about Australia when they set out, but they believed it to be a young country, a place to start again. They knew nothing about Tasmania at all; but once the shed was built and they owned something again they did not regret their choice.
The houses were designed by another new arrival, the Czech architect Frank Stary, who had been recruited from London by the Hobart City Council. He spoke some Polish and the Osaks and Koziols who spoke little English felt confident about being able to communicate their needs to him. He designed a modern, spacious conjoined house with two, almost mirror-imaged sides. It was both solid and sunny.
Antoni and Zofia Koziol in their new house at Warwick St, late 1953.
Large steel-framed windows were set into rendered concrete brick walls. The front was anchored by a broad stone-faced chimney that visually separated the two homes. Indoors wide hallways divided the three double bedrooms from the living room and huge 3 x 3.75 metre kitchen. The whole building was 18 metres wide x 11 metres.
Although a home loan was secured through the Agricultural Bank there was not the cash to contract the building of the house. The work was undertaken communally by a group of Poles who had also come out from Germany as refugees and found themselves in the same situation. Each weekend they would work on one or the other's house. The Warwick St house was completed at the end of 1953.
The Osaks moved to Melbourne in 1955 and sold their half of the building to George Gardiner and family, but they never lost touch with the Koziols. Zofia Koziol stayed on until 1993, twelve years after the death of her husband, and her house remained a central point for many Polish gatherings as well as weekly rosary meetings.
Drawn by Shibou Dutta
Christening party at Warwick St for Joan Koziol (held by Bill Smith in front), in 1954. Stefan Koval (rear), is next to Rosa Osak (floral dress); front row, Zofia Koziol (dark dress) and Antoni Koziol (far right).
Anna March and I bought the conjoined house in 1993. Although we had not met we were alerted to it by a mutual friend who was interested in creating an informal community. She and her family were living at 227 and their garden abutted onto 221. After getting to know each other and our children over two meals and fewer weeks, Anna and I had a cup of tea with Zofia and went ahead. The week we moved in a friend moved into 225 and within a year another had bought 223.
The original shed has been a haven for travellers, a living space for friends, a midway point between home and independence for Anna's daughter, and a community gathering place. On a Sunday morning in 1996, a sunspot magnified through a bottle of water on the doorstep ignited the shed. Breakfasters on the deck of 227 saw smoke rising. A child was sent to investigate. Within minutes the whole community was out with buckets and the shed was saved. It has a new door and window but some of the charred wood has been left. It is part of the shed's history.
With many thanks to Zofia Koziol interviewed on 22 September 1997.
Photographs: Koziol family and Miranda Morris.
Miranda Morris is a writer, social historian and interpreter. She was born in England, bred in Switzerland. After a heady couple of years in London she threw caution to the wind, motorbiked to Nepal, flew on to Tasmania and has stayed there ever since.
The importance of place in people's lives has been a strong motivating factor in Miranda's otherwise eclectic career path. She has written Pink Triangle, a book on the gay law reform debate in Tasmania; Placing women, a methodology for women's heritage for the Australian Heritage Commission; In her stride, a women's history walk for Hobart; Living In/Living Out, a collaborative installation on working lives in a mental hospital; and 100 Hobart Houses, a social history exhibition of domestic building in the 20th century.
She lives with her daughter Sulekha and is currently writing crime fiction.
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