Icon of eyesore gets a makeover

Sarah May-Baxter with artist Phil Barron’s Large Floral Still Life are helping bring some beauty to South Freo’s enduring green blot. Photo by Steve Grant.

A BUILDING which has resisted the rise of South Fremantle to remain an ugly green blot on its bustling main strip is finally set to get a makeover after 35 years.

Already its crumbling stucco facade on the corner of South Terrace and King William Street hides an art gallery out the back and a boutique garden and sculpture space next door, and owner Sarah May-Baxter says this year’s job is to renovate the main building to lease out to a cafe/restaurant.

Ms May-Baxter said the building had once been a chandelier shop before the previous owner had it remodelled as a Korean barbecue restaurant, but he lost enthusiasm for the project and it never opened.

“It’s been vacant and it’s just been slowly falling apart,” she said.

“We were advised that it would have been cheaper to actually bulldoze it and start again, but my husband and I have got a thing about rescuing old buildings.

“We used to live in Attfield Street and we won a heritage award for renovating a really old building from the 1890s, so it’s something we just love doing.”


The rear of the building was a series of small, rubbish-filled rooms when they took on the project, but Ms May-Baxter said the promise of the space became apparent as they began the clean-up and found the original oregon timber and slate.

“So we gutted it and all the beautiful beams were here, and we put in the track lighting and this is now the gallery for people to hire out.

“People are really supportive because they were relieved it wasn’t knocked down and it’s nice to bring an old building back to life.”

The gallery is “retail” so artists pay a flat hire fee and keep whatever they make from sales, which she says helps when they can get a group together.

Artitja Fine Art Gallery held their most recent exhibition there, as a few years back they closed their public gallery and now mostly offer private viewings, while East Freo artist Malcolm Hindley’s been another to take advantage of the busy suburb’s passing foot traffic.

Ms May-Baxter said there’s no shortage of artists with stock after they spent their Covid lockdowns getting creative, while a number of galleries had been unable to survive the resulting economic downturn, leaving a gap in the market they’ve been able to fill.

Ms May-Baxter says the building’s original canopy will be reinstated and the grisly green render stripped back as part of the next stage.


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