A harbourside suburb located just 3 km east of the Sydney central business district, Elizabeth Bay has always been a high class address ever since Colonial Secretary, Alexander Macleay, built his exclusive residence there in 1837. The suburb of Elizabeth Bay takes its name from the bay on Sydney Harbour. Macleay Point separates Elizabeth Bay from Rushcutters Bay. The suburb of Elizabeth Bay is surrounded by the suburbs of Rushcutters Bay and Potts Point. Kings Cross is a locality on the south-western border and Garden Island is a locality, to the north.
Elizabeth Bay is located on the eastern side of a ridge along the Potts Point Peninsula. The suburb of Potts Point occupies the western side facing Woolloomooloo Bay. Elizabeth Bay faces east to the harbour and the heads.
Elizabeth Bay is part of the densest urban area in Australia with its own population of 5,000 and is closely linked to Potts Point and Rushcutters Bay. In the 1930s it shared in a boom in flats built in the Art Deco style, a significant collection now heritage-listed. Although some high-rise developments dominate some areas, the fine-grained streetscapes, lined with White Magnolias and small cafes provide a localised intimacy.
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Ashton: located at the bottom of Elizabeth Bay Road, Ashton was designed by Thomas Rowe in the Victorian Italianate style and built circa 1875. It was originally part of a group of villas built for well-off clients who included Thomas Rowe, John Grafton Ross, Charles Henry Hoskins and Sir Cecil Harold Hoskins. In more recent years, the character of the area was changed radically by the building of blocks of flats, but Ashton survived as one of the few original buildings in the area. It has a New South Wales State Heritage listing. Location: 102 Elizabeth Bay Road. Private property, not open for inspection.
Tresco: Across the road from Ashton is Tresco, a two-storey home designed by Thomas Rowe, a leading Australian architect, and built in 1868. It was constructed by Italian stonemasons who were brought to Australia by the Joubert brothers, who were prominent in the early settlement of Hunters Hill. In 1913 it became the official residence of the Flag Officer in Charge, Royal Australian Navy, Eastern Australia. Until 2004, it was owned by the Royal Australian Navy and served as an official residence for the senior naval officers in New South Wales. Like Elizabeth Bay House, it is heritage-listed. Tresco, nestled in the fulcrum of Elizabeth Bay Road, is the only home in the area on its original, complete site of 1 acre. Its heritage-listed gardens include a statuesque fig tree over 120 years old and a rare 1830s gnarled, carob bean tree, the oldest in Australia, lazily overhanging the front fence. Location: 97 Elizabeth Bay Road. Private property, not open for inspection.
Boomerang: perhaps the best surviving suburban estate of its period on the harbour foreshores. It was designed by Neville Hampson in 1926 for Frank Albert, a music publisher. This Hollywood Spanish Mission style dwelling and flats are of stuccoed brick with vaguely classical windows and decoration, under a terracotta hipped roof. The exterior colour is dull brown. The interior maintains the theatrical air with rooms decorated in different styles from various historical eras. The gardens, now mature, are an amalgamation of palm trees, shrubs and fountains with tennis court and boat house. A private residence, it sold for A$20.7 million in 2005 to Lindsay Fox. It has been used as a backdrop for Hollywood movies, including Mission Impossible II, and is heritage-listed. Private property, not open for inspection.
Elizabeth Bay House
Elizabeth Bay House: Elizabeth Bay House: The Elizabeth Bay House estate once occupied all of what is now the whole suburb. Built for the Colonial Secretary, Alexander Macleay, it is one of the finest examples of the work of local architect, John Verge. The building is a two storey Regency villa of Greek Revival style. The kitchen was originally in a separate building to avoid the risk of the house being destroyed by fire. A two storey Regency villa of Greek Revival style, it is built around a grand hall featuring an elliptical, domed roof and cantilevered staircase. Original plans included a colonnade, but this was never built. The present portico was added in 1893. The main axis of the house is aligned with the winter solstice. Though no documents are known to discuss this feature, it is not likely to be an accident.
Elizabeth Bay House
The mansion contains one of Australia s finest colonial interiors. Six years after occupancy, the building remained unfinished. Macleay borrowed against a fortune amassed by his eldest son, William Sharp Macleay, to finance construction. As a result of Macleay s financial extravagance combined with the high cost of the house s upkeep and the economic depression of the 1840s, he had difficulty repaying the debt. William Sharp migrated to Australia to sort out the problem. Realising his father would never be able to meet the debt, he foreclosed, selling the property, which effectively put his parents on the street. Macleay senior went into bankruptcy and he and his wife were left at the mercy of his other children.
After his wife died on 13 August 1847, McLeay spent much time visiting his married daughters. After a carriage accident he died on 18 July 1848; his funeral at St James s Church, Sydney, was attended by many government officers. Entry fee applies. 7 Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay Open Tues Sun 10.00am 4.30pm Public transport: Bus No. 311 from Circular Quay or Railway Sq. or Sydney Explorer, alight at Elizaberth Bay House. Phone (02) 9356 3022.
The stately Elizabeth Bay mansion is not the only part of the estate to survive. Elizabeth Bay House was originally surrounded by a celebrated garden of 21.8 hectares. Landscaped with long terraces, it included a kitchen garden, orchards, shrubbery and flower gardens, picturesque walks and a famed botanical collection of both native and exotic plants. For 8 years before construction began on Macleay s marine villa, the rocky hillside was progressively terraced and stepped, and a broad platform was blasted from the cliff on which to construct the house. From here lawns swept out to flowerbeds and then onto stone balustrades, below which were bush walks and a rectangular kitchen garden and orchard. The setting of the house and its outbuildings, and the layout of drives, walks and garden terraces, was carefully planned to maximise the vistas and dramatic topography of the Sydney Harbour site.
The most significant fragment of the garden to survive subdivision of the estate and subsequent destruction of the gardens is the Grotto, an artificial cave which provided a cool place to view the harbour and the gardens. Originally a natural overhang, one of several on the estate, the grotto was modified with rusticated sandstone blockwork, then stuccoed and decorated with ornamental niches and shells. The structure was once part of a connected series of features that included an ornamental pond, bridge, terraces and stairs. The Grotto has a finely carved central niche decorated with classical motifs and bears the date 1835 . The roof was once decorated with shells, a few of which can still be seen. Further along this terrace, some other fragments of ornamental stonework survive. The grotto is reached via a public right of way between the flats Eltham and Tradewinds 100 metres south of Elizabeth Bay House along Onslow Avenue. Please be aware that the steps are steep and heavily worn and may be slippery, and please respect the privacy of local residents.
Beare Park, named after Councillor Beare, a member of Sydney Council s Parks and Gardens Committee, was created from partly reclaimed land. Governor Macquarie built a series of wooden huts nearby in what is now Beare Park as part of his unsuccessful plan to assimilate Aborigines.
Potts Point is a small peninsula that extended into Sydney Harbour on the east side of Woolloomooloo Bay. Kings Cross is situated at the base of the peninsula. As a geographical feature, in reality it no longer exists as the peninsula was extended to include Garden Island when the Captain Cook Graving Dock was built in 1942, joining the two, but the point is recalled in the name of the small suburb of Potts Point which occupies the western side of the high ridge that extends along the length of the Peninsula. The suburb of Elizabeth Bay occupies its western side.
Potts s Point its originally spelling was Australia s first deliberately-designed suburb: an enclave for only those who could afford to live in the dress circle overlooking Sydney and its sapphire-blue harbour. Views extended to the heads in the east, to the north and over the city towards mountains in the west. Equally importantly were fresh air and sea breezes, much sought after for health reasons. A number of the magnificent marine mansions of the colonial era still exist today.
Rushcutters Bay is the name of both the geographicasl feature to the west of Darling Point, and a tiny suburb of just six streets at the head of the bay on the Elizabeth Bay side. In early colonial days, the locality was known as Rush Cutting Bay where a group of convicts were sent to collect rushes for thatching huts and bedding for horse stables.
In those days Wests Creek flowed from Lacrozia Valley into the bay. The marshy ground was eventually reclaimed and market gardens were established. Rushcutters Bay became a popular picnic spot for inner city dwellers. White City, built on land resumed from Chinese market gardens, was an open-air amusement park. Unique in its time, it was almost a miniature city with lakes, canals, fountains and pleasure palaces.
Closed down during World war I, the Lawn Tennis Association acquired the property in 1921 and developed what became one of the best tennis grounds in the world. A landmark for many years was The Stadium, built in 1908 next to White City. It was used initially as a venue for boxing contests to entertain visits of the American fleet, then as a venue for various indoor sports and performances by overseas entertainers. It was eventually demolished to make way for the Eastern Suburbs Railway. In the 1920s boating regattas were held at Rushcutters Bay, which had become the setting off point for picnic on Clarke and Shark Islands.
Elizabeth Bay had been the site of a fishing village established by Governor Macquarie (1810-21) in c.1815 for a composite group of Cadigal people the indigenous inhabitants of the area surrounding Sydney Harbour under the leadership of Bungaree (d.1830). Elizabeth Bay had been named in honour of Mrs Macquarie. Bungaree s group continued their nomadic life around the harbour foreshores. Sir Thomas Brisbane, Governor 1821-5, designated Elizabeth Bay as the site of an asylum for the insane. A pen sketch by Edward Mason from 1822-3 shows a series of bark huts for the natives in the locality.
Governor Darling granted Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay 54 acres at Elizabeth Bay in 1826. In May 1831 The Sydney Gazette enthusiastically reported improvements at Woolloomoolloo Hill (Potts Point) and Macleay s neighbouring estate at Elizabeth Bay, complimenting Macleay for being the first to show how these hillocks of rock and sand might be rendered tributary to the taste and advantage of civilized man . Macleay s approach to the Australian bush was in contrast with that of the majority of colonists, who customarily cleared it and started afresh. Nurseryman Thomas Shepherd wished others to emulate this: "The high lands and slopes of this property are composed of rocks, richly ornamented with beautiful indigenous trees and shrubs. From the first commencement he (Macleay) never suffered a tree of any kind to be destroyed, until he saw distinctly the necessity for doing so. He thus retained the advantage of embellishment from his native trees, and harmonised them with foreign trees now growing. He has also obtained the benefit of a standing plantation which it might otherwise have taken twenty or thirty years to bring to maturity."
The Elizabeth Bay estate was subdivided by Mcleay's son, George Macleay, after he had inherited it from his brother, William. The famous house still stands, but has only a patch of lawn left from its original estate which had undulating grounds sloping down to the water s edge. Major subdivisions of Macleay s Estate included the 1865 allotments on Macleay Street, Elizabeth Bay Road and Roslyn Gardens, with 1882 subdivisions creating Billyard and Onslow Avenues. The Elizabeth Bay House site itself was sub-divided in 1927 and 1934.