Monday 5 August 2013

Lost Camden ranch-style houses

Lost Camden

Mid-century modernism

Ranch-style houses in Elderslie

The Hennings House, 64 Macarthur Road, Elderslie 2010 (IWillis)

In 2011 a ranch-style house in Macarthur Road Elderslie was unfortunately demolished to make way for a preschool.

Camden's ranch-style houses are part of the town's post-Second World War development and growth. They are part of Camden's mid-century modernism.

The Hennings House, 64 Macarthur Road, Elderslie 2011 (IWillis)

Demolished Ranch-style houses in Elderslie

The Hennings House in Macarthur Road was one of a number in the Elderslie area, and two have been demolished. One of the demolished ranch-style houses, Kalinda, was located off Lodges Road Elderslie and owned by the Whiteman family. 

The Whitemans owned a general store in Camden that operated for nearly a century. The house was a weatherboard cottage demolished in the late 1990s to make way for Sydney's urban development in the Elderslie area. 

The Whiteman house was high on the ridge with a pleasant outlook facing west over the Narellan Creek floodplain. Visitors approached the house from Lodges Road by driving up to the ridge's top along a narrow driveway. 

Ranch style housing

Ranch-style housing is a significant post-Second World War housing style. The housing style has been noted by architect Robert Irving as an Australian domestic architecture style. Parramatta City Council has recognised the housing style of heritage significance. 

The ranch-style house is an example of mid-century modernism.

American History of Ranch-Style Homes

The original house style came from California and the South-west of the USA, where architects in these areas designed the first suburban ranch-style houses in the 1920s and 1930s. They were simple one-storey houses built by ranchers who lived on the prairies and in the Rocky Mountains. 

The American architects liked the simple form that reflected the casual lifestyle of these farming families. After the Second World War, several home builders in California offered a streamlined, slimmed-down version. They were built on a concrete slab without a basement with pre-cut sections. 

The design allowed multi-function spaces, for example, living-dining room and eat-in-kitchen which reduced the number of walls inside the house. The design was one of the first to orient the kitchen/family area towards the backyard rather than facing the street. 

The design also placed the bedrooms at the front of the house. The marketing of the ranch-style house tapped popular American fascination with the Old West. (Washington Post, 30 December 2006)

Elderslie Ranch-style Residence

The Hennings House

64 Macarthur Road, Elderslie

The Hennings House, 64 Macarthur Road, Elderslie 2010 (IWillis)

The residence at 64 Macarthur Road was built in 1960 by Peter and Barbara Hennings in their early 20s. Mr Hennings recalls that the builder had a catalogue, and the house design was chosen among those. 

Mr Hennings has always been interested in design and was careful in selecting the plans for the house.


Ron McMillan and Sons of Camden


The house was a 3 bedroom double brick ranch-style residence with a separate bathroom and toilet. It has 10-foot ceilings, a stone fireplace and timber sash windows. There was a detached garage. 

The design was considered quite ‘modern’ for its time, according to Mr Hennings. There are two pairs of ¼ inch-bevel glass doors in the lounge room and two single glass bevel doors.   


The Hennings House is located on two building allotments. When the Hennings bought the two blocks, the site was covered in bracken ferns. They filled the site and had a stone batter on the garage end of the house, which was completed after the house was built.

The residence was prominent on Macarthur Road and one of the first houses constructed on the Bruchhauser farm subdivision in 1960. The wide frontage ranch-style house was set back on the double block in a high position, which is uncommon in Elderslie, although typical of this style elsewhere in Sydney (Parramatta Development Control Plan 2005).


The residence was built by a successful local business family, the Hennings. Their prosperity and that of the whole area was due to Burragorang Valley coalfields.  

The Hennings sold the house in 1980 to Dr Charles McCalden, who had a medical practice in Hill Street, Camden. He moved away from Camden in the mid-1980s.  

In recent years (1999-2009), the house was owned by school principals Joan and Frank Krzysik.


The ranch-style house has been identified elsewhere in the Sydney area as a building style of special character (Parramatta Development Control Plan 2005).  
The Hennings House, 64 Macarthur Road, Elderslie 2010 (IWillis)


The house's integrity was intact until its demolition in 2011 and the removal of the 1960 front fence of ‘Chromatex’ bricks built by the Hennings. Several mature trees on the site added to the aesthetic quality of the site.


P & B Hennings, Camden, Interview, February 2010.

Mid-century modernism  (Wikipedia)

Katherine Salant, 'Looking Backward for the Next American Dream House'. The Big Picture. (2003-2015)

Patricia Poore, 'The California Ranch'. Oldhouse Online. (2018)

List of house types (Wikipedia)

Updated 5 January 2021. Originally posted 5 August 2013.