Heritage Fremantle home with racing past up for grabs

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The Fremantle house where the first automatic tote board was invented will be auctioned this weekend, giving buyers a chance to purchase a rare slice of Australian history.

This grand home was built in the 1890s. Picture: realestate.com.au

The residence of English-born inventor Sir George Julius in the early 1900s, 247 High Street was the setting for his creation that would ultimately be used in horse and greyhound racing around the world.

Set on a 593sqm green title block and built in the 1890s, the house is a landmark of the port city and now offers four bedrooms and two bathrooms, while retaining all the hallmarks of its era.

Selling agent Noel Rogers, from Ray White Applecross, says the property’s unbelievable history made it a truly unique real estate proposition.

“We use the word ‘unique’ a lot in this business, but this really is a genuine opportunity to buy a home where a unique and world-famous product was invented,” Rogers says.

Julius married Eva O’Connor, the daughter of famed engineer Charles Yelverton (CY) O’Connor, who constructed Fremantle Harbour and went on to successfully build the 530km Perth-Kalgoorlie water pipeline – a feat many thought impossible.

The home retains original features such as the bay windows and cornices. Picture: realestate.com.au

“Believe it or not, the history doesn’t stop with the tote board invention,” Roger says.

“Sir George’s granddaughter, Wendy Whitely, went on to marry famous Australian artist Brett Whitely. The stories are endless.”

Peter Vickridge, who was born in the home in 1948, says the property was originally built by businessman and shipping agent James Lilly in the 1890s.

“My parents bought the home after the Second World War from my grandparents and I have such great memories of playing in all of the nooks and crannies… it has changed a lot since the old days,” Vickridge says.

“My mother, Betty Miller, at one time met Lady Julius who fondly relayed how she had stood in the garage holding a hurricane lamp while her husband George tinkered with leather belts and wooden pulleys while he worked on a vote counting machine that was later to become the totalisator.”

The property has four bedrooms. Picture: realestate.com.au

Shirley Hayes, who has owned the property since 2002, says the history of the home and its ocean views are the things she loves most.

“I love everything about the house, but (the) glorious views over to the Fremantle Harbour are to die for,” Hayes says.

“You can see the ocean from the front and side of the house, and the sunsets and city lights at night give the place a wonderful ambience.”

WA Heritage Council documents describe the property as a good example of a stone Federation Queen Anne style residence, which represents the expansion of Fremantle in 19th and 20th century gold boom period.

While it is not on the state heritage register, the City of Fremantle has identified the property as being of considerable cultural heritage significance in the context of the port city’s history, earmarking conservation a priority.

The property will be auctioned on-site on Saturday, August 17 at 11am.

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