Leonard Oswald ‘Len’ Liddell was born in Kalgoorlie in 1903. He was schooled at Scotch College and was their Dux of 1918. He went on to study dentistry and oral surgery at the University of Melbourne in 1925, graduating in 1926 with First Class Honours. He returned to Perth and set up his dental surgery in St George’s Terrace.
Jean Garton Smith was a Perth College girl from Forrest Street. Born in Auckland, she contracted polio as a child. She spent around 18 months in hospital but, apart from being unable to write with her right hand and learning to write with her left, polio left her largely unscathed.
In 1940 Len bought 48A View Street, which was subdivided from 48 View Street by the Davies family, and in either late 1940 or early 1941, Len and Jean married and moved into their newly built home.
Len loved sailing and, in earlier years, owned the cruiser Chinta which he moored at Claremont Yacht Club where he was Rear Commodore. In 1941 he bought Corsair, a massive 44-foot, steel, American-designed yacht which he took ocean racing, and moored down the hill at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club. At first, Jean was the only woman allowed to step foot on board!
In 1938 Len had joined the Australian Army Medical Corps and during the war he served as a captain with the 75th Australian Dental Unit. His health damaged as the result of his involvement in gas experimentation, in early 1945 he returned to private practice. By 1945 he was Chairman of the WA Dental Board and had become Acting Superintendent of Perth Dental Hospital. He was soon Director of the Dental Hospital, including its various annexes; including the Victoria Park Annex, which was named for him.
Len and Jean did not have children but loved travelling and did so, widely, for many years, often renting a house near Barcelona, in Spain.
In the early 1960s they sold 48A View Street and moved to 17A View Street, where Len died in 1974, aged 70. Jean later remarried, to widower Frank Downing CBE QC, and remained living in Peppermint Grove where she died on in 1998 aged 87; Frank having predeceased her five months earlier.
The current owners fell in love with, and bought this home in 2018. They have since extensively renovated and remodelled, breathing new life into this very special old home, and are delighted with its newly-discovered significance.
Though his name would not suggest it, Augustus ‘Gus’ Breadalbane Kreitmayer (changed to Creightmore in 1939) was second generation Australian. His grandfather, Maximilian Kreitmayer was born in Bavaria but emigrated to Victoria in 1856 where he established the first of several waxworks museums throughout Australia. He is famous in the annals of Australian history as, after Ned Kelly’s execution, he shaved Kelly’s hair and beard and made a mould of his head for the production of several death masks that were on public display in Kreitmayer’s Melbourne Waxworks within 24 hours of Kelly’s death.
But Gus the architect, the son Gus and Jessie nee Dick, was born in Subiaco in 1910 and educated at Melbourne Grammar. He then studied Architecture at Perth’s Royal Australian Institute of Architects. He graduated in 1933 and was articled to Eales, Cohen & Bennett, with whom he began designing many homes, in Peppermint Grove, in particular. He was extraordinarily talented, and his style could be described as Romantic Old English, Country House, English Domestic or Vernacular Revival but, the simple fact is, he based all his designs around the elements he loved so much: steep gable, brick- or timber-shingled rooves with separately gabled, second storey windows, and interesting facades featuring stone or plaster window and door surrounds.
He married Isobel Goldstein, niece of suffragist, feminist and lobbyist Vida Goldstein, on 17 July 1935, in the Soldiers’ Chapel of St George’s Cathedral. Their daughters, Diana and Meredith, were born in April 1936.
Due to materials shortages, general conditions, and an evaporating demand for domestic architecture, Gus is said to have undertaken his last commissions in the early months of WWII. For the duration of the war he worked for the Australian Army, supplying ready-made khaki uniforms for distribution. He fully intended to resume practice after the war but ill health prevailed, and he died in 1949 aged just 39.
With his promising career cruelly cut to just eight short years, Creightmore’s designs are rare, and therefore considered significant.
The Build Date:
Scant records state this home was built in the 1950s. The land on which it stands was originally part of 48, or Sayer’s Folly, as it was known, and subdivided by the Davies family in 1940.
In researching this home our Historian, Shannon Lovelady, found the land was bought in 1940 by dentist Leonard Oswald ‘Len’ Liddell, Scotch College Dux of 1918, and his future bride Jean Garton Smith, from Forrest Street.
The Daily News of 26 June 1940 bears a calling of tenders, by Gus Creightmore, for a home in View Street. Further, an article in the Daily News of 12 September 1940, about the Liddell/Garton Smith upcoming nuptials, confirms the home is more than a decade older than previously thought:
“They are building something smart and dashing in the way of houses in View-street, Peppermint Grove, where, believe me or not, there are still a few blocks and tennis courts. She is collecting trousseau. He has a great appreciation of the interior decorative scheme. The date of the wedding depends on when the house is finished.”
When asked their opinion, Gus’ daughters Meredith and Diana Creightmore (1953) thought they recognised it as one of their father’s designs, but the 1950s build date removed it from the realm of possibility. This home, however, is not only typical of the style for which Creightmore is renowned, but the article places this home neatly within his era (1933-1940).
Shannon then asked Morwenna Vincent (1949) what she knew of the home. A family friend of the Creightmores, Morwenna and her family lived next door to 48A View Street, at 48, for decades. Morwenna recalled she’d always known it was a Creightmore design, and remarked how similar it was to his own home in McNeil Street, with which she is also very familiar.
This would make this house, designed in 1940, one of the last Creightmore designed; a home very significant not just to architecture, but to Peppermint Grove.