Fremantle Stuff > people > Leslie Charles Lauder
Les Lauder founded the Fremantle Society and led as President 1973-78, and 1992-93. He came from the Geraldton area to the University of Western Australia from which he graduated with a degree in Psychology. He worked as a guidance officer at several Fremantle area schools. Inspired in 1972 by the work of the York Historical Society, he and others called a meeting in the Town Hall on 6 December 1972, which resulted in the establishment of the Society. He has been in the antiques business since 1979, trading with a partner as Lauder & Howard. Their last premises were in Blinco St, but for some time they had their business in Albrecht's Brush Factory in Duke St East Fremantle. In November 2107, he announced his intention to move the business to Hobart.
Congratulations to our founder Les Lauder AM for the Order of Australia (AM) awarded to him for his services to heritage.
For decades Les has been an erudite, passionate, and successful advocate for the heritage of Fremantle.
He was president of the Fremantle Society and Fremantle councillor several times. Most recently on council 2005-2009, Les was an exceptional councillor, mature, thoughtful, committed, and focussed on representing constituents.
Les’s term on council expired in 2009, 37 years since he had founded the group that saved Fremantle from the wrecking ball.
All the work Les did for Fremantle was done on top of running an antiques business with his partner Mark Howard.
Les is a real hero in the Fremantle landscape. He and others founded a community group that was pivotal in saving dozens of heritage buildings and pivotal in helping preserve the small scale special nature of the town. John Dowson, Fremantle Society President, FS email newsletter, 17 June 2017.
Les is the founding president and has been the power behind the Society for most of the time since it was established. The Committee wishes to acknowledge the enormous contribution that Les has made not only to the Society but also to the Fremantle community. Ralph Hoare, FS 1994 President, Fremantle, February 1994.
THE ‘Mr Fremantle’ of the port city’s battle to save its heritage has been awarded an Order of Australia medal (AM) in this year’s Queens Birthday honours list.
Leslie Charles Lauder was the founding president of the Fremantle Society, which burst into action in 1972 as the wrecker’s ball was smashing its way through the east end of the city.
Many buildings had already gone. The post-war Hepburn/Stephenson plan was poised to plough a four-lane highway through its historic West End when Mr Lauder and scores of Fremantle residents rose up and said: “Stop!”
If the plans had gone ahead, much of Market, High and Cliff streets would have been demolished.
Society stalwart Ron Davidson was lecturing in psychology at UWA when he first met Mr Lauder as a student.
“I mean, he was a hero and against all odds he really carried the Fremantle Society and the Fremantle Society carried so many things,” Mr Davidson told the Herald.
He recalls being blown away as Mr Lauder transformed from a “quiet, reticent” young man to a master orator within the space of one meeting; the society’s first.
Mr Davidson revealed that after the society’s formation, Mr Lauder told him he had to move to Fremantle, as long as “you live there and don’t just get tied up in houses”. He took the advice and has been living in the Fothergill Street home Mr Lauder recommended for the last 40-odd years.
Mr Lauder, who’s run an antique and fine arts business since 1979, was also president of the society from 1991-1993, its patron and a life member; he’s also been a Fremantle councillor and a member of the National Estate (now the Australian Heritage Council).
Mr Lauder’s out of town at the moment, but said he’d catch up with the Herald when he’s back. Fremantle Herald, 17 June 2017: 9.
MR FREMANTLE SAYS GOODBYE
FREMANTLE SOCIETY founder and former councillor Les Lauder is saying farewell to the port city and moving lock, stock and antique barrel to Tasmania.
Credited with saving dozens of Fremantle buildings from destruction during WA’s 1970s development rush, the antique dealer was awarded an Order of Australia in June for his services to heritage.
But he told the Herald this week the state’s sluggish economy had seen local sales dropping off, while they’re going gangbusters in the eastern states and internationally — particularly the United States. With he and partner Mark Howard already falling in love with Hobart because of its vibrant arts scene, now seemed the right time to make the move.
“It’s not without some anguish, though, because we have a lot of good clients and friends over here,” Mr Lauder said. “But a lot of them have said ‘this gives us another reason to visit Hobart’.”
The pair have a lot to reflect on after 38 years in business, and a lot ahead of them trying to empty out their showroom and factory.
“It’s the equivalent of moving 40 households,” Mr Lauder said in between fielding a dozen inquiries from packers, tradies and customers.
There’ll be seven 40-foot sea containers heading to Tasmania, while McKenzies auctioneers will be putting the rest to the gavel on Tuesday November 21 at 6pm at Lauder and Howard on Blinco Street.
Up for grabs at the auction is a Louis XV painted armoire with two panels signed by J Godon 1883, which is expected to fetch between $18,000 and $24,000, while a c1710 Louis XIV serpentine commode could get up to $12,000.
Fremantle Society founder Les Lauder and partner Mark Howard are moving to Tasmania.
They’d started as a pop-up shop on Cliff Street in 1979, but wanted to forge their own identity so steered clear of Victorian antiques and focused on Georgian and country pieces.
“Then in 1988 we did a major exhibition of colonial WA furniture, which had not been seen before,” Mr Howard said.
“It put us on the map because at the same time we published an introduction to colonial WA antiques, and at that time even the museum didn’t have one; they were – and are – still very rare.”
“To show how rare they really are, it took us another 25 years before we could put on another exhibition.”
And while the old furniture and nicknacks were moving out, Mr Lauder was making sure Fremantle’s precious heritage buildings stayed put.
“I am really pleased that when I first formed the Fremantle Society, the future of Fremantle was going to be a real industrial area,” he says.
He’d moved south of the river after being appalled by the destruction of Perth’s old buildings, but says he got a great shock when he arrived.
“I found only a couple of buildings were to be preserved as a token, and it was to become an industrial slum.”
But Mr Lauder says it was clear the community was against the plans, so he decided to form the Fremantle Society, but only after getting former mayor Bill McKenzie on side.
He paid tribute to the former son of the local milkman, saying he was an inspirational mayor who’s casting vote was responsible for saving dozens of buildings. Mr Lauder recalls McKenzie saying he was puzzled about this strange love for old buildings, but knew that saving them was the right thing to do.
The battle took its toll on both and at one point McKenzie resigned. Mr Lauder lobbied the city’s business community who chipped in for a full-page advertisement begging McKenzie to stay.
“On the day it came out, there was a phone call and it was Bill saying ‘I want to talk to you, you little bastard’ and he said ‘I can’t resign now’,” Mr Lauder said.
The resignation had already been processed, but come election time McKenzie’s was the only nomination.
Mr Lauder says he’s proud that his efforts saving Fremantle’s heritage has helped to turn the city’s reputation around; once sneered at as the home of “wharfies, communists and prostitutes”, he says it’s now somewhere anyone in Perth would aspire to live.
Davidson, Ron & Dianne Davidson 2010, Fighting for Fremantle: The Fremantle Society Story, Fremantle Society, from which the top bio comes.
Lauder & Howard website
Photos courtesy Fremantle Herald.
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