Haberfield represents the first comprehensively planned ‘garden suburb’ in Australia, and one of the earliest manifestations of the ‘garden city’ movement in the world. It was built on an area called the Dobroyd Estate, which by the late 19th Century was still in large part characterised by pristine bushland, and thus known locally as ‘Ramsay’s Bush’. Becoming the ‘Federation’ suburb, it was at the turn of the Twentieth Century, that the entrepreneurial Richard Stanton, a resident of nearby Summer Hill and later known as the founder of Haberfield, embarked on the project of developing the area which had been acquired from the long-term owners: the Ramsay Family. Stanton’s endeavour, however, would became far more than just a housing development.
Haberfield was an experiment in Australia’s future, encapsulated in the vision of the ‘garden city’, a term first coined by Ebenezer Howard in the midst of the dystopian urban landscape of an industrial Victorian Britain. It was a philosophy that promoted urban unity, space and a connection with nature; streets would be tree lined, relatively wide, but houses would still be close enough to sustain a community, while fences would be low so as to foster a continuous garden between the properties of neighbours. Importantly though, no one house was to be the same - each was designed separately. All homes would be beautiful yet modest, limited to one story, and built in an architectural style that would later become known as the ‘Federation’ style. There was a vision on the part of Stanton and his followers, that Haberfield would be the exemplar for a new Australia: one in which the urban landscape promoted community, democracy, health and middle class prosperity. This was in sharp contrast to the terraced, cramped, and stratified inner-city suburbs nearby. Haberfield was to be, as per the famous slogan, ‘slum-less, lane-less and pub-less’.