The vast structure also brought rail service and large-scale property development to the area, including several vast homes that originally served as foreign embassies. Then, as now, many local residents enjoy some of the most spectacular panoramic views available in the capital.
"Everyone who comes to this area for the first time is amazed how green, open and pleasant it is," says John Payne, an area resident for six decades. "We regard it as our mini-Hampstead, with its park and many shops, although property here is less expensive.
"Recently, the old butcher, fishmonger and other small retailers have been closing, and restaurants, charity shops and betting offices have been moving in. You can eat your way around the world in terms of cuisine. Some restaurants have been here for years, such as Lorenzo's, Joanna's and Tamnag Thai. Turnover is constant."
Payne is chairman of the Crystal Palace Community Association, the organisation that successfully saw off developers who sought to erect a massive movie/ restaurant complex on the derelict palace site. It is watchful once again.
"The London Development Agency (LDA) takes over control of the National Sports Centre (NSC) next year, and has an option to run the entire park four years from now," says Payne. "With London winning the Olympics, the sports facilities in the park are ideal training facilities. We have some concern how the LDA will run and fund the park if they get total control. One possibility is for them to move the NSC from the centre of the park to its southern flank, closer to the train station. We agree with that."
So does the LDA. "Large parts of the park are clearly run down," says an LDA spokesperson. "There are a number of strong reasons for a new sports centre that is integrated with the athletic track and is nearer the edge of the park near the train station. It will take less park space overall, and the local community backs it. Also, we can keep the current centre while the new one is going up."
Change will be neither quick nor easy. The park has a strong grade II* listing and is officially designated as Metropolitan Open Land, the urban equivalent of green-belt status. The NSC is also listed. "We also have to look for sources of funding," says the LDA.
What properties are available?
A ground-floor, purpose-built, one-bed flat in a low-rise block with rear communal garden is £136,995 at Halifax. Many family homes have been converted. A two-double-bed flat with large rooms occupying the entire top floor of a Victorian semi with a 70-foot communal garden is £169,950, and a three-bed, entire-top-floor conversion is £174,995, both at Acorn.
How's the house scene?
If you need plenty of space, a red-brick, detached Victorian beauty on a corner plot on Harold Road overlooking park land has eight bedrooms, plenty of original features (corniced ceilings, ceiling roses, period fireplaces), double garage, cellarage, 100-foot rear garden and a sticker price of £1.2m at Cooper Giles.
Er, anything a tad cheaper? A plain-fronted grade II-listed waterman's cottage in a conservation area is currently arranged for two bedrooms, but can accommodate four, and has a large kitchen and small conservatory, is priced at £335,000. A smaller two-bed, plain-fronted cottage on Carberry Road in the Crystal Palace Triangle is £225,000; both at Cooper Giles.
Crystal Palace and, to the north, Gipsy Hill stations serve Victoria, and Crystal Palace also serves London Bridge and Croydon. The East London Line Tube extension, scheduled for completion in June 2010, includes a station at Crystal Palace.
How's the shopping
The "triangle", formed by Westow Hill, Westow Street and Church Road, has a large Morrisons (once Safeway), many restaurants and pubs, and the usual high street retail crowd. "The triangle is a conservation area," says estate agent Peter Cooper. "Church Road is more bohemian and 'markety', with second-hand and antique shops."
What about other amenities?
The great recreational space in the area is, of course, the 200-acre Crystal Palace Park, with its lakes, sports facilities, concert bowl and 19th-century dinosaur models. Several smaller green spaces are dotted throughout the area, including Upper Norwood Recreation Ground and smaller parks on either side of Beulah Hill, each with tennis courts. Nearby are several wooded and less cultivated parks.
How are the local schools?
Rockmount Primary on Chevening Road is slightly below the national average in English, maths and science. Harris City Technology College on Maberley Road scored 86 per cent GCSE results, well above the national average of 54. This part of south London has many public schools.
And one for the pub quiz?
What does the name "Westow Street" reveal about the area's Victorian history?
It was originally "West Tow" near a canal. The "waterman's" cottage described above was built to house canal workeres
Acorn, 020 8768 0000; Cooper Giles, 020 8653 4444; Halifax, 020 8761 5520
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