Friday, 27 February 2015

Pitt Street Mall - the retail heart of the City

This is the Pitt Street Mall in Sydney. It is built on the swamp from which the Tank Stream arose, that very stream which caught the attention of Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788.

The original crowned street was pedestrianised in the late '70s, but it is this decade's renovation which has converted it into an outside living room. It has been estimated that 58,000 people wander this mall on any given weekend day.

Here, by way of comparison, is the relevant section of Pitt Street in 1900, courtesy of The Powerhouse Museum. The cross street in the foreground is King Street.

Thursday, 26 February 2015


Looking north up Pitt Street from Liverpool Street

Jaywalkers on (south) Pitt Strret late on a Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Hyde Park - A road runs through it

Taken in 2013 from Sydney Tower. A better view of Macquarie St is impeded by buildings.

There was Macquarie Street. There was Macquarie Street North. And there was Macquarie Street South.

Macquarie Street North still runs from the Opera House Forecourt to Bent St (the State Library corner). Macquarie Street runs from Bent St to Prince Albert Road/St James Road. Macquarie Street South no longer exists. The stretch from Liverpool Street down to Wentworth Ave was renamed Commonwealth St in 1905. It had appeared on the original subdivision of the Fosterville Estate in 1843 as Macquarie St. There was a Little Macquarie St parallel to Commonwealth St, but it was renamed Alberta St in 1896. I do not know when the road running north-south through Hyde Park was removed, but my guess would be around the turn of the century.

Left: View of Macquarie St 1842, (John Rae)(State Library NSW)
Right: View of Macquarie St, 1830-1850 (Ellis)(State Library NSW)

I was amazed when I found the above two sketches of an early Hyde Park. I had no idea that Macquarie Street had bisected it. Park street bisected the park east-west in 1831. Park St, in the guise of William Street, ran up to Kings Cross from 1834. So, from 1831 to close to the end of the 19th century, Hyde Park was split into quadrants. No wonder Macquarie Street was truncated!

Hyde Park (2007) commissioned from Airview by Dictionary of Sydney

I am indebted to the City of Sydney, for their excellent "History of Sydney Streets"

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hyde Park - Then & Now

Taken from Sydney Tower (Sept 2013)

Hyde Park (Sydney), was set aside for public recreation by Governor Macquarie in 1810. Nowadays, it is split in two by Park Street. These two images show Hyde Park South. The State War Memorial was built in the early 1930s.

Yesterday, I discussed the Lyons Terraces, which I have labelled on both images. The Australian Museum was commenced in 1844, but stood unroofed until 1850 due to a saandal about the mismanagement of public funds. So, immediatly there is something askance about the date of John Rae's sketch, which I sourced from the National Library of Australia. Sydney Grammar School commenced in 1830. The Lyons Terraces were constructed in 1841, diagonally opposite the already constructed Burdekin Terraces.

Park Street is an extension of William St which continues up the ridge to Kings Cross. It was named in 1810 by Macquarie. Then it extended only to, but not through, Hyde Park. By 1831, it had crossed the Park to College St. And here is my second issue with Rae's sketch. He does not show Park St, yet shows the Australian Museum. William Street was gazetted in 1834 and named after William IV.

I am not able to reconcile these inconsistencies. Tomorrow, yet another Rae sketch showing another road splicing through Hyde Park. There is a portfolio of Rae sketches at the NLA, most of them dated 1842.

Sketched by John Rae (1842). He was prolific.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Hdden agendas - Lyons Terraces

Left: George Edwards Peacock's 1849 painting showing Lyon's Terraces along south Hyde Park
Right: A photograph of the same terraces just before their demolition c. 1910
Last week I took you on a nostalgic meander through "Brickfields Hill", part of Sydney that exists only through the swirls of time. The brick-fields existed from early 1788 and stopped - abruptly - in 1841. Yes, the reserves of the right type of clay could have been depleted after 53 years of hard scrabble. Yes, the township was burgeoning, stealthily creeping up the slope from Sydney Cove, and down into the swmp leading to Cockle Bay (now Chinatown and Darling Harbour). In the late 1830s, the barracks housing the military between George/Kent/Clarence Strrets (now Wynyard, after the last commandant), was moved out to the Paddington sand-hills because the inner-city land was too valuable. In July 1842 an act was promulgated by Governor Gipps, declaring the town to be a city. Transportation unofficially ceased in 1840 (officially for NSW in 1850). The colony was established, the inhabitants wanted their own say. Have you heard the expression "NIMBY" - "not in my back yard"?

The closest I could come to reproducing the angle of thge original Peacock painting
The early brick fields were one city block down from Hyde Park, which Governor Macquarie officially set aside not long after his arrival in 1810. It was a hodge-podge of wire-grass and rubble and even the hoi-poloi used it. However, in 1841 Samuel Lyons, a developer and auctioneer, built a series of terraces on the SE corner of Hyde Park. Three storey terraces. Terraces of such a quality, according to Joseph Fowles, `without exception the best in the city, (that) would not disgrace the Regent's Park in London'. Can you see where this is heading?

Lyons was not the only developer with his eye on the main chance. Thomas Burdekin, an iron-mmonger and serial-real-estate-acquirer, built another row of terraces along College street diagonally across the way from the Lyons row. The smart set were not slow to acquire all these addresses. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, judges - the usual culprits - Dr Wallace and Chief-Justice Stephens, being but two.

Any Sydney-sider of the 21st century will agree that the landform is prone to southerly-busters, not that they cause much damage, and after a swelteringly humid day, they bring blessed relief. However the brick fields were holes in the ground devoid of trees. The winds - known then as "brick-fielders" - would howl up the slope and across the barren Hyde Park, quite upsetting the learned gentry. So, of course, the brick makers were shafted and moved to all points west, like Pyrmont, and Newtown, and Camperdown.

More on Hyde Park as the week progresses.
Left: Hyde Park is no longer a race-track, nor a cricket pitch. This southern end houses the State War Memorial, and hence treated with more respect than the northern section of the park.
Riht: These green plaques are all over the city. They give minimal info, but help to pin down a site.