The Changing Face of Willoughby

The changing face of Willoughby


From the start, the Forsyth family embraced the Willoughby community and worked to improve the suburb's facilities and the lives of local residents. Three generations of Forsyths were Mayor of Willoughby and held other Council office between 1875 and 1927. During this time, they oversaw extraordinary change, including the first electric trams on Penshurst St (1898), the opening of the railway from St Leonards to Hornsby (1890), the first electric street lights (1921) and the first sealed roads & footpaths (1920s).

The Forsyths have always been early adopters of innovation. In 1898, RT Forsyth was one of the first auctioneers in Willoughby and had one of the first telephones with the number Chatswood 145. In 1912 Robert Forsyth bought a 1908 Rover with registration number NSW 443, which was one of the first cars in the district. In the 1920s, his daughter Joan was one of the first women in the area with a driver's licence and used to drive the company's clients home.

The real estate company has consistently served existing and new residents as Willoughby developed from remote bush settlement to prosperous suburb on the fringe of Sydney's second CBD. Forsyth Real Estate has been involved in many of the significant property sales from the original 1880s Victorian mansions and cottages to the vibrant mixture of heritage homes, Californian semis, Art Deco apartments, 1950s home units and contemporary apartment complexes that make up Willoughby today. 

In the 1922 Wilson's Street Directory, Willoughby was promoted with the slogan "As a suburban resort, a better place would be hard to find", and home owners flocked to the area in their thousands. RT Forsyth marketed and auctioned many of the early subdivisions, including the 1924 "Wireless Subdivision" named after the pioneer radio station transmitter and land in Northbridge on behalf of the Greater Sydney Development Company, whose director was Canberra's architect Walter Burley Griffin. 

After the war, Forsyth Real Estate moved into commercial and industrial property sales, including the sale to Willoughby Council of the site of the Willoughby Civic Centre and the sale of several Chatswood properties to Grace Brothers for their first Sydney store - one of the first landmarks in the commercial development of Chatswood.

However, it was not just in property but also in recreation that the Forsyths changed the face of Willoughby. In 1888, James Forsyth and Thomas Todd Forsyth, both enthusiastic bowlers, were foundation members of the St Leonards Bowling Club. Thomas Todd was instrumental in founding Chatswood Bowling Club in 1900 and was one of its first vice presidents and a lifetime member. Robert Todd Forsyth was a member of Chatswood Bowling Club for some 35 years.