MHP’s recent Facebook post on Wednesday 17 February 2021 about the half house built by Theodorus and Mathilda Jansen has raised the curiosity of some our followers which I hope this blog will go some way towards answering such questions as: what number was the house? what did it look like when it was finished? is it still there today?
Firstly, on the subject of half houses. Many of us in Wollongong are aware of, and know why, half houses were built. Some were even built by our own migrant parents or grandparents. It is an important part of not only Wollongong migrant history, but Wollongong’s local history. Accommodation for migrants in the Illawarra was researched for the MHP’s ‘Places Project’ Thematic Study undertaken in 2007 and an illustrated essay was produced by the researcher, Meredith Walker, and is available on this website about the various accommodation used by newly arrived migrants in Wollongong from tents to hostels to caravans to boarding houses to Government or employer housing schemes.
It was difficult for some non-British migrants to build a home. They were not eligible to apply for a housing commission home nor did they meet the criteria to be eligible for a bank loan. This changed some years later, but until then, they purchased land and built a garage or a half house on the property and over time finished building their house when they were able to do so. A few foreign governments did set up housing loan schemes to assist their former citizens in Australia to get started on their own home.
Theodorus and Mathilda Jansen’s story on how they went about building their home shares many similarities with all the different nationalities of migrants who came to Wollongong. Starting in a Commonwealth Hostel, buying land, building a garage or half house to live in, finish building the house and raising a growing family in what became their family home for many, many years. This particular story took place at 13 Storey Street, Fairy Meadow. It started in 1955 after Theodorus and Mathilda Jansen purchased the land and a local Dutch builder constructed half a house for Theodorus, Mathilda and their son Frank to live in until the house was completed in about 1957. Theodorus and Mathilda Jansen lived in this home until 2000.
It is with thanks to Mathilda Jansen that she shared her family’s story with the MHP when she took part in an interview for the thematic study in 2007 and generously shared her photographs and gave the MHP permission to use them. When viewing the photographs please be mindful that they are from a private family collection and should not be copied or stored in any format without permission.