At number 202 Parramatta Road, Ashfield, stands the old Brescia Furniture store. Not only is it old, but it looks as if it’s been hit in a drone strike.
In March 2005 its business looked good. Brescia Furniture is a family owned company that grew out of hard work, and expanded to include stores all across Sydney. 2005 was expected to be just as good, if not better, than the others.
It was on Friday, March 11, that things took a turn for the worse. After a fire was detected at the property in the early hours of the morning, emergency services were called to one of the worst and most intense blazes that, at the time, Sydney had ever witnessed. All the treated pine, leather and varnished wood made the flames so strong, fire crews on the ground could only spend ten minutes at a time trying to put it out. Even after two days of just sitting and smouldering, the New South Wales fire brigade still deemed the building a major hazard, as there was a huge chance of part of it reigniting in the rubble. As a community was evacuated until further notice, come Sunday, the burnt shell of Brescia Furniture is all that was left as a reminder – but not before they launched a court case against insurance company QBE.
What was one of Sydney’s worst fires quickly became one of the city’s largest claims in court. After the flagship store burnt down, they tried to claim on their insurance policy, only to have it knocked back by QBE on the basis that they had not taken “all reasonable precautions” to prevent the fire, and that they had significantly overstated the amount of damage. In a roundabout way, QBE was accusing Brescia Furniture of doing an insurance job, and it ultimately cost them $1.7 million dollars when a court found that Brescia was entitled to damages and a loss of profit. The fire was treated as suspicious, but led to a victory for Brescia when it came to judge and gavel.
Nowadays, when someone mentions the Brescia Furniture place, the last thing they’re thinking about is where to buy a new Victorian style lounge suite.
The incinerated department store is like a pit-stop for urban explorers these days; just another abandoned joint to tick off the list. Like all places hidden from the public view and forgotten about, these spaces find new life with the curious types that inhabit them. I’m talking about people with a certain agenda, if you will.
Despite being covered head to toe with graffiti, the walls in Brescia are pretty poor to paint. It’s been ravaged by fire so badly, and most of the walls left unattended for so long, that it’s just messy. That doesn’t stop the hordes of people trekking from all over for photo opportunities and a quick bomb though – including myself.
‘If only walls could talk’, is all I could think of while taking the grand tour of this joint.