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Gordon is a suburb of Ku-ring-gai, the traditional land of the Aboriginal people who had lived here for thousands of years. Gordon lies in the centre of Ku-ring-gai Municipality and was the earliest settlement in the area. It is 15 kilometres north of Sydney and 379 hectares in area. Formerly known as part of Lane Cove, the name given indiscriminately to the area, the parish of Gordon was gazetted in 1835.
The name Gordon, adopted for the suburb in 1879, is derived from Gordondale Estate, the estate owned by Robert McIntosh, and honours Sir James Willoughby Gordon, Quartermaster-General of the Horse Guards in London in the 1830s.
A school was built in 1816 by Governor Macquarie on land that is now the grounds of St John's Anglican Church on the Pacific Highway at Gordon. The first land grants were in 1821. Land was used mainly for timber-getting until the 1840s. After 1840, with the clearing of the valuable timber, orchards and farms were established. In the early days of settlement around the Gordon area timber-getters and orchardists built rough slab and bark huts.
Gordon had the community's first schools, churches and stores. By 1860 there was a post office known as Lane Cove Post Office. It operated from a private residence called Iolanthe, constructed and occupied by the Edwards family until 1928. Miss Elizabeth (Elisa) Edwards served as postmistress until 1894. Iolanthe was purchased by Ravenswood Girls School in 1955 and has been used as a caretaker's residence. In January 1901 the first Headmistress, Miss Mabel Fidler, commenced classes in a schoolroom erected on the block adjacent to her home, Ravenswood, in Henry Street, Gordon.
Gordon Public School, constructed in 1875, is the earliest public building in Gordon. It closed in 1989 and is now the home of the local historical society. The main branch of Ku-ring-gai Library and the police station adjoin the old school building. There are two public schools in Gordon: East Gordon Public School on Rosedale Road and West Gordon Public School on Ryde Road.
Rail and subdivision
The coming of the railway in the 1890s increased land values. Gordon Station was opened in 1890 and is now listed on the State Heritage Register. Early development in the shire followed the railway lines and ridge tops. The first subdivisions occurred between 1879 and 1900 when paddocks and orchards were sold to real estate agents. The size of the blocks varied. Some were small, meant for cottages or shops. In the Gordon Heights estates, small timber houses were built for tradesmen while sites in other areas were up to two acres (8093 square metres). These usually had fine vistas of the surrounding countryside side with room for tennis courts and stables. The high elevation and clean air attracted business men who wanted family homes in a rural setting with easy access to the city.
The first meeting of Ku-ring-gai Shire Council on 8 December 1906 was held in the Parish Hall of St John's Anglican Church, Gordon. In 1911 a small Shire Council building was built on what is now the Pacific Highway at Gordon with the result that Gordon has become the administrative centre of Ku-ring-gai. A council works department was established in 1924 and in 1928 the original section of the present council chambers opened.
The community's varied recreational interests at this time are suggested by the opening of the Empire Picture Theatre in 1924 and local involvement in the establishment of the Lane Cove National Park, particularly that of Christopher Bowes Thistlethwayte, who was Shire President in the second half of the 1920s.
In the late 1920s, as new subdivisions were made and the population increased, St Johns Avenue, earlier Fox Street, became the first paved road in the municipality. Excellent examples of styles popular during the Federation and interwar periods (single-storey and 1920s and 1930s bungalows) characterise the streetscapes of Gordon and can best be seen in St Johns Avenue and Spencer and Cecil streets. Housing in the area consists predominantly of houses on medium to large lots. Gordon has two houses listed on the State Heritage Register: Eryldene in the Colonial Revival style and the Arts and Crafts style Tulkiyan.
Development was rapid in the 1950s, with the opening in 1959 of the Farmer & Company store, which later became Myer department store. In the 1960s Gordon was a bustling centre. The Council building had further extensions and there shops were redeveloped along the Pacific Highway. However by the 1970s, nearby St Ives was supplanting Gordon as the main business centre in the district.
Twenty-first century changes
A push for dual-occupancy dwellings in more recent years has led to some higher density housing being constructed around the commercial centre and near the railway station. In 2006, Ku-ring-gai Council submitted a Draft Local Environmental Plan and Draft Ku-ring-gai Development Control Plan for Gordon Town Centre. The plans were prepared in response to a direction from the Minister for Planning to provide more housing in and around key commercial centres and to help increase retail and commercial development to cater for the needs of the local community.
Gordon is home to Sydney's largest flying fox colony and the Council in conjunction with the Heritage Council of NSW acquired land in Gordon in 1986 to preserve the existing colony of grey-headed flying foxes. Recently a portion of land adjoining Flying Fox Reserve was acquired by Ku-ring-gai Council to further safeguard the flying foxes, which are now listed as a threatened species.
Gordon has a number of small parks and reserves including the Annie Forsyth Wyatt garden which contains a memorial to the Tree Lovers' Civic League. The garden itself is a monument to Wyatt as the founder of the National Trust in Australia.
Kerrin Cook, The Railway came to Ku-ring-gai: A pictorial History of Ku-ring-gai Municipality 1890-1991, Genlin Publishing, Pymble NSW, 1991
Focus on Ku-ring-gai, Ku-ring-gai Historical Society, Gordon NSW, 1996