The Wireless House in Foley Park was originally built in 1934 and equipped with a radio from Grace Brothers in early 1935.
It was provided by the local council as a meeting and entertainment place for the many unemployed, working class people of Glebe, few of whom could afford radios. It operated from 10 in the morning until 10.15 every night.
It is thought to be the only building of its kind in Australia and possibly in the world.
The Church lobbied vigorously against it for many years arguing that it was creating an idle class but it continued to operate into the 1960s.
In 2009, the Wireless House was “sonically re-activated” by the artist Dr Nigel Helyer. As proposed by Nigel Helyer, the site includes sensor-activated audio, playing recordings from the heyday of the Wireless House.
The video clip below is a talk given by Nigel Helyer at the reopening of the Wireless House in March 2010.
During World War II, Italians in Australia were not allowed to listen to short wave radio. In the second video clip, long time Glebe residents Frank Galluzzo and Tony Arena recall their experiences during the War years and the Wireless House in Foley Park.
Tony still remembers the National Emergency Services coming to their house regularly to check that they were not transmitting messages to Italy. Frank and Tony discuss their memories of attending the Wireless House as a result of not listening to radio at home.
They remember groups of women gathering around the house to listen to the radio while they shelled fresh peas in preparation for dinner. Often the women’s husbands would be in the local pub “The Ancient Briton”, and come to meet their wives after the “Six O’Clock Swill”.
Listen to a sample of radio programmes from the heyday of the Wireless House: