On 6 and 7 May, over 90 heritage walks participants toured Dickson Library and the 1960s shopping centre with expert heritage architects and urban planners, exploring the significance of the architecture and layout, then travelled along Sullivan’s Creek through mixed community uses to the Monterey pine windbreaks, former paddocks and workshop buildings of the CSIRO Dickson Experiment Station (1940-64).
The heritage-listed Dickson Library, which opened in 1969, was the first district library in the national capital and part of the National Library. Commissioned by the NCDC, designed by famous Italian architect Enrico Taglietti, the library was opened in 1969 and known as the Children’s Library. In 1927, Dr Bertram Dickson (a Canadian botanist) was recruited by the nascent CSIRO as Chief of the new Plant Division and after years setting up facilities at Black Mountain and Duntroon, succeeded in establishing a much larger experimental farm at the northern edge of the new capital, next to the city’s first airfield.
From 1940 to 1964 the experiment station was used to produce opium for the war effort and to trial experimental crops and farming techniques. Long rows of Monterey pines, yellow box and apple box and Californian redwood trees, planted as windbreaks, and a central group of farm buildings used as workshops and for storage, later became the landscaped streets and community centre of Downer. Moving through this landscape, via a section of Sullivan’s Creek, the walk leaders recounted the stories and discussed the planning history of this rapidly changing part of the nation’s capital slated for urban renewal.
A copy of the walk brochureheritage-walks