In 1835 Sydney merchant John Betts was living in a Glebe house (later called The Wilderness) when his mother and sister arrived from England to join him.
In 1836 Mrs Betts wrote to family members detailing the purchase of an adjacent four acres of land and the beginnings of the building of Kew Cottage, a single-storey bungalow fronting Glebe Point Road on land extending to Blackwattle Bay. Mrs Betts asked her relatives to send out family furniture and other items for the new house.
John Betts’ unmarried sister Harriott continued to live in Kew Cottage until her death in 1889. In 1893 the house, with its kitchen garden, was sold to the Sydney Hospital for Sick Children on the opposite side of Glebe Point Road where Glebe Library now stands. The house was converted into a 12-bed isolation unit for diphtheria patients. Garbage collectors refused to pick up its waste and Glebe citizens signed a petition that a health hazard was posed by local children picking up flowers dropped from the coffins. After a new children’s hospital was built in Camperdown, Kew Cottage was torched by official order in 1907. A Press photographer joined the crowd watching its demise. Absent was the matron who could not bear to see the place burn down.
The land was then sold for £500 less than the purchase price some 14 years earlier. Infill Edwardian shops were built on the Glebe Point Road frontage and additional terraces constructed on Lombard Street.