Stories revealed as Fremantle woolstores revamped


Musician John Butler and his band shot the zombie video for their 2014 song Only One in Fremantle’s vast decaying red-brick woolstores, which are nearing the end of their transformation into New York-style apartments.
The crazy video won West Australian filmmaker Ben Young the award for Best Narrative Music Video at the Los Angeles Video Festival and the director says he was blown away by the woolstores’ space, dominated then by massive jarrah beams, decaying vintage cars and decades of dust.

That true story is one of 83 tales; strange, moving and quirky that have been uncovered since woolstores’ developers Match, started its 90 Stories project in December 2014 to coincide with the start of the building’s refurbishment.

Ninety Stories aims to collect 90 tales from the woolstores’ history, originally one for each of its years in existence.

The woolstores were built in 1922 on what is now Queen Victoria Street, nestled near the harbour and the rail line. It later became Fort Knox storage facility but it earned its heritage listing because it bookmarks a time when Fremantle port was a bustling wool hub and traders from across the world gathered on the top floor of the buildings, such as Dalgety and Co woolstores, to test the oily fleeces.

Match managing director Lloyd Clark says the new apartments retain the distinctive saw-tooth roof, red bricks and jarrah beams of the original building. However, the company also wanted to preserve the personal connection people have had with the building over nearly a century. The 90 stories project achieves that.

He says the stories are colourful, heart-warming and revealing.

One of his favourites is from Trina Hall (story 44) whose grandfather David McCaskie was the woolstores’ manager for 58 years and designed the wool presses being restored by Rob Chapman from Fremantle Men’s Shed and will be displayed within the apartment complex.

In her recollections Trina describes how strange it was to walk through the deserted stores knowing how important they had been to her family.

“I am really glad they are doing something with it and recognising just how important it was to the state’s heritage. I’m really proud to be part of that and it is going to be great to see the building come to life again,” she says

Match’s woolstores Heirloom redevelopment will be finished early in 2017 and 80 per cent of the Soho-inspired apartments are sold.