Jumping Jack Flash
by Bookastay staff
This fabulous house derives its moniker from the fact that there are three gas mains holes outside on the street, which naturally led the owners towards the classic ‘Jumping Jack Flash, it’s a gas, gas, gas!’
In keeping with its rock’n’roll title, this is a house that’s seen a lot of life. It was built in the 1850s and was one of the first houses in the area–originally constructed largely without the use of nails.
A few decades later Balmain was heaving. In fact, the well-to-do were starting to move out because the suburb had been overtaken by industry and blue-collar workers. There was even a coal-mine in Balmain–the deepest in Australia in its day.
Pubs began to proliferate and by the early 1900s high-end Balmain was distinctly low-rent. House prices fell and younger families began to move in. By the middle of last century there was a whole new demographic in town.
In January 1912 Jumping Jack Flash would have witnessed the opening of the Bijou Theatre, just over the road. The Bijou started out showing live theatre and music hall classics. It went through various incarnations until it returned to its entertainment roots in the 1970s.
Reg Livermore, the famed Australian cabaret artiste, launched his one-man show Betty Blokk Buster Follies at the theatre in April 1975. Later it began showing art house movies (including a very long run of the late-night Rocky Horror Picture Show), but closed down in the early ‘80s.
Balmain resident Keith Goodman remembers: “The Sydney University Recreational Art Team (RAT) organised a illegal RAT Party at the Bijou in the mid 1980s, which turned into a huge event. I remember seeing Michael Hutchence, Peter Philips, John Hargreaves and other Sydney celebrities there …”
These days Balmain has returned to its former glory. It’s been gentrified and buffed, and its houses refurbished and renovated. In 2003 Brisbane architects Rex Addison renovated Jumping Jack Flash. They made sure they maximised the extensive harbour and city views.
Themed rooms are a feature of the original part of the house. Well-known Perth artist, Elizabetta Guj painted an elegant dragon mural in–you guessed it–the Dragon Room.
The Gentleman’s Bedroom is a room lined with architectural photographs by Australia’s most famous and most published architectural photographer, Patrick Bingham-Hall. And the Bunk-Room has two sets of bunks in cowboy style–perfect for kids.
With space for 11 people, Jumping Jack Flash will certainly be a gas for a couple of lucky families–close to harbour, ferries, cafés and shops. Just as it was a century ago.
Balmain Court House and Post Office just up the road, c.1961. Photo credit: The Balmain Association.
Old postcard of Balmain. Photo credit: The Balmain Association
The dragon painting by Elizabetta Guj.
The immortal Reg Livermore as Betty Blokk Buster at the Bijou circa 1975