Picture: an advertisement in The West Australian, 18 December 1920, from www.trove.nla.gov.au.
I’ve finally begun researching Katharine Susannah Prichard’s Western Australian years. It feels I’ve come home, after three years following Katharine to Fiji, Melbourne, Launceston, and London.
Soon after arriving in Perth in March 1919, Katharine and her new husband Hugo Throssell rented a house in Greenmount on York Road called Wandu. In September 1919 in a letter to Nettie Palmer, Katharine gave her address as ‘House of the White Gums, On the Green Mountain’. Katharine and Hugo lived at Wandu for at least a year before they bought the house on the same street we now know as Katharine’s Place, home of KSPWC.
My rough history of Wandu from references in Trove’s digitised newspapers has it built in 1902 as a country residence, probably for the surveyor-general, Harold Johnston. In 1915, he encouraged a girl visiting the house to shoot his pistol at a tree. She tried but turned around to say it was stuck, shooting him in the stomach; he died the next day.
After Katharine and Hugo’s stay, a widow named Blanche Hunter turned it into the Wandu Weekend Tea-Rooms and Tennis Courts by December 1920. It was also a boarding house, with many people staying short or long term. With much publicity, Mrs Hunter added electric lights for night tennis in 1924. She was an innovative manager, building a golf course which was to remain in operation for decades and during the Depression advertising ‘fresh milk, cream, and poultry’.
I’ve uncovered some ongoing connections between Hugo and Wandu. In 1927, the Wandu Amateur Dramatic Club put on a play and Hugo presented the actors with gifts. Katharine’s son Ric Throssell records that he and Hugo stayed at Wandu while Katharine was away on one of her trips.
The house passed through other hands over the 1930s and 1940s, continuing as a holiday resort and golf course. The last reference I can find to it still standing is November 1951 when a barbeque was to be held there to raise funds for the Greenmount P&C. Two years later, on 29 October 1953, the Swan Express recorded that the ‘Wandu Guest House’ was ‘once one of the most popular of the Hills holiday resorts. Quite a number of people were sorry to see the old house go, it was a landmark and almost a symbol of hospitality and good cheer.’
One of the few traces of Wandu today is Wandu Road on the edge of Greenmount and Swan View, presumably named after the house. I still don’t know where exactly on Old York Road Wandu stood and nor have I found any photographs of it. If anyone has any more information on it, I would be glad to hear from them.