The History of Sydney

1918 - 1945

The Great War of 1914-18 put many civil projects on hold in Sydney as the community turned its time, money and energy towards helping the war effort. It wasn't long after peace was declared that things soon got back to normal and Sydney entered a decade of growth and prosperity before the financial crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many plans and schemes that were formulated before the war were brought to fruition including the extension, electrification and developing of the railways and the construction of the Harbour Bridge.

The end of the war also signalled the beginning of a housing boom in new outer lying suburbs like Brookvale, Castlecrag, Lindfield and Gordon in the north; Beverly Hills, East Hills, Regents Park and Miranda in the south and south-west; and Concord, Seven Hills and Wentworthville to the west. The Federation style cottage that was so popular before the war was replaced by a larger style home called the Californian bungalow. The most popular and distinctive style of domestic architecture of the period, it was based on models imported from Pasadena in California in the early 1920s. It was the standard style adopted for the newly created Garden Suburb  of Rosebery, and was promoted as reflecting the relaxed, outdoors-oriented lifestyle of Southern California which shared a similar climate to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

Trust Building

As suburban Sydney was taking on a new look, so the city skyline came in for some radical changes too. Using American and European examples as models, the central business district underwent a major facelift with a plethora of modern office blocks and commercial premises replacing many warehouse style buildings of the previous century. The direction being taken by the designers of these new look buildings was up. The development and introduction of the high rise building was made possible by the introduction of new technologies which allowed the utilisation of a steel-framed structural system to carry the weight of the building rather than the external walls. At the end of the Great War, the tallest building in Sydney, at 66 metres in height, had been the Trust Building. By the beginning of World War II, it had been dwarfed by a number of new structures, the tallest of these being the AWA Tower at 111 metres. No doubt many more would have been built higher had the Height of Buildings Act not forbidden it.

Not only did the high rise concept revolutionise commercial building design and construction, it was also adopted for residential development projects in the form of apartment buildings. Apartments in multi storey buildings were to become a less expensive 20th century alternative to the free standing home, and proved to be the ideal dwelling for the working couple who had neither the time nor inclination to handle all the extras that come with home ownership like gardening.


The building of the Harbour Bridge and its associated approaches was Sydney's biggest single engineering project in the years between the world wars and was the talking point of the city for a decade. The bridge and the city underground railway was part of the masterplan of John J.C. Bradfield, the Chief Engineer for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Metropolitan Railway construction, which had been adopted in 1913. The project had to play second fiddle to Australia's war effort during World War I, but after the conflict was over, work began in earnest.

Some of Bradfield's ideas for the rail system which have seen fruition are the building of the present underground railway system, the building of lines to Cronulla and East Hills, the completion of the Bankstown - Regents Park - Cabramatta - Lidcombe network, the construction of the metropolitan goods line system, and, of course, the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, although not to the plans originally submitted. Ideas which await completion or which have been discarded totally include railways from North Sydney to Mosman and the Northern Peninsula, St Leonards to Epping, Central to Matraville via Sydenham and Town Ha ll to Gladesville.

Building the City Circle Underground Railway

Excavations under Hyde Park

The City Circle railway was built in stages over a period of 30 years. As each stage was brought into use, sufficient construction work was completed to enable extensions of the system to be made at a later date without interference to the service already provided. Thus, at North Sydney, there are tunnels leading half a kilometre towards Mosman for the Peninsula Railway, the entrance of which can be seen beyond the Waverton end of platform 2. At Town Hall, additional platforms were provided at the lower level for the line to Gladesville. These are now used by the Eastern Suburbs Railway.

Even in the 1970's with the construction of the Eastern Suburbs Railway (to a route quite different from Bradfield's proposals), two additional platforms and short sections of associated tunnels were constructed at Central for the Southern Suburbs Railway to Mascot, just in case it was ever decided to build it. These platforms are above the Illawarra Line platforms, and their presence explains the surprisingly long escalator trip down to platforms 24 and 25. The unused platforms, numbered 26 and 27, are complete minus their tracks, and could be used for train traffic at short notice, though this now seems unlikely. The Airport rail link which roughly follows the path of the line for which these platforms were built, has been built elsewhere and the occupation of platforms 26 and 27 by Cityrail's Central Document Storage department seems permanent. Redfern station also contains two half built platforms which we are intended for use by the Southern Suburbs Railway to Mascot. They are located above ground between platforms 10 and 11 and include a tunnel mouth leading under Lawson Street and the Illawarra lines. The up platform was designed to be on the same level as platform 10 and the down line platform below it on the same level as platform 11.

Brafield's plan for the city circle (click to view larger map)

Bradfield's original city railway proposals saw St James as a busy junction and changeover point. In addition to the lines now in use, a double track railway was to be built from Gladesville joining the City Circle on its western arc and leaving it on its eastern side for Watson's Bay and the South Eastern suburbs. This line was to enter the city from the west at Darling Harbour, run underground and curve around from Town Hall, under O'Connell Street, to St James, where it would utilise the two spare centre platforms. Two lines would run under Hyde Park and Oxford Street to Taylor Square, where there was to be a junction. One pair of lines would go to Watson's Bay and the other through Paddington and Randwick towards Botany.

The first section of the city railway loop was above ground between Cleveland Street (now Redfern) and Central station. It was designed for use by electric trains only and the first service ran between Central and Oatley. The 2.0km section between Central to St James via Museum was opened on 20th December 1926. The 2.6km western arm of the underground railway from Central to Wynyard via Town Hall wa 2s opened on 28th February 1932 with the opening of the Harbour Bridge. The City Circle loop was finally completed in 1956, the final link in Bradfield's masterplan being incorporated into the design of the Cahill Expressway on Circular Quay. The 1.2km section between Wynyard to St James via Circular Quay was opened to traffic on 22nd January 1956. At the time, a new series of suburban rail carriages were introduced to provide maximum comfort for passengers using the tunnels of the city underground. Bradfield had input into their design, and consequently they became known as Bradfield cars.

After the city stations were brought into service, the electrification of the suburban railway expanded rapidly, reaching Sutherland, Liverpool, Parramatta, Bankstown and Hornsby by 1929. Progress then slowed until outer suburban development required extension of the electrified system to Penrith in 1955, Lithgow in 1957, Cowan in 1959, Gosford 1960, Campbelltown in 1968, Waterfall 1980, Wyong 1982, Newcastle 1984 and Wollongong in 1985.

York Street excavations for Wynyard Station and lines onto the Harbour Bridge

The lines from Wynyard which crossed the Harbour Bridge to a new station at Milsons Point and then on to a junction with the existing line at Waverton, opened with the bridge in 1932. Four lines were provided between Wynyard and North Sydney, although two of these were used by trams as a stop-gap measure until the North Sydney to Mosman and Northern Peninsula Railway was built. As this line never eventuated, trams continued to use the tracks until the closure of the North Shore tram network in 1958. The bridge tramway lanes are now used by the Cahill Expressway. At Wynyard the tram concourse which were platforms 1 and 2 was located next to the north shore platforms on the upper level behind what is today a walled off area. The tram concourse is currently used as for a hotel car park. One of the tramway tunnels from the bridge portal was once used as a police shooting range. The other tunnel is disused down to the Big Fan which vents stale air from all six platforms.

St James and Wynyard were busy terminals until 1956 when these two stations were connected by the line through Circular Quay, allowing trains to run into the City and back out again without having to stop and reverse direction. St James was intended to be the junction station of the city circle loop. It was built as was much of the City Railway by the cut and cover method. In this way, a hole was dug in the ground, the walls and roof of the tunnel were built after which the hole was filled in. The outer two platforms of St. James were for the trains travelling to and from Circular Quay which is their current use. The inner two platforms were for trains travelling to and from the Watsons Bay / Randwick area (then referred to as the Eastern Suburbs Railway). These have never been used by trains although the tunnels exist for some distance in either direction.

The Abandoned Railway Tunnels of the CBD

In 1936, the track which ultimately would carry trains from Circular Quay to St James (known as the City Outer) was built from St James as far back as the tunnel portal at Circular Quay. This line was used for the storage of trains between the peak hours. During World War II, this tunnel and those intended for the Eastern Suburbs Railway at the Museum end were converted to bomb shelters in case Sydney suffered an air raid. The bomb shelters were removed from the Circular Quay tunnel in 1956 for the building of the line but remain to this day in the double line tunnel located between the two single line tunnels now in use. The north-bound siding tunnel intended for the Gladesville line drops quite sharply along its 250 metre length. At its end, it is very much lower than the City Inner railway and stops directly under the Mitchell Library where there is a rock face and a small pilot tunnel at roof level. At the Quay end of the pilot tunnel is another double line tunnel, with a concrete arched roof, but sandstone walls. This tunnel stretches away in a left hand curve towards Bridge Street. It passes under the City Inner Line and starts a tight arc which would ultimately have led to Town Hall, but avoiding Wynyard. Construction ceased after sufficient tunnel had been built to clear the City Inner Line, the end being around where it would go under Macquarie Street.

At the entrance to the flooded tunnel at the end of the pilot tunnel is a vertical shaft leading upwards. In the days of bomb shelters at this end, a zig zag stair case used to lead up this shaft to a pill box in Shakespeare Place. The staircase and pill box have long since been removed. General Macarthur is said to have had his wartime headquarters somewhere in this area, but there are now no signs of this activity. Indeed there are so many theories on places where MacArthur had his base that the man could not have possibly used them all. MacArthur may well have operated out of St James from a section now boarded off, or from the City Inner tunnel which was not then in use for trains.

St James Lake

By the time the eastern arm of the underground railway had been completed, Bradfield had recommended an alternative design for the bridge, a single span steel arch, which was given the go-ahead and completed in 1932. Bradfield's proposed tramway service from St. James station to Mosman using the tracks on the eastern side of the bridge gained widespread support but never gained Government approval. After the bridge was opened, a new suburban railway line between St Leonards and Eastwood was given the green light but funds for the project dried up during the great depression of the 1930s and it was never built. Tunnels cut for the Eastern Suburbs railway at the Museum end of St James station have never seen a train and it is most unlikely that they ever will as the ESR has been built to quite a different plan. It actually crosses underneath St James at right angles just north of the platform. A blast curtained opening leads into the double track tunnel originally intended for the eastern suburbs railway almost immediately on the Museum side of St. James station. Like the spare tunnels at the Circular Quay end, this tunnel is located between the two currently in use for rail traffic. They are on a fairly steep gradient upwards. After a short distance, the double line tunnel becomes two parallel single line tunnels, still rising sharply. In this way, they rise up over the top of the City Outer tunnel, in the direction of Taylor Square. Again, just enough tunnel was built to ensure that rail traffic would not be disrupted when construction resumed. The tunnels end at a barricade under Hyde Park about level with but well to the East of Museum Station. Behind the barricades are rocks piled up where the cut and cover construction work ended. The existence of this tunnel system can easily be noted by watching trains arrive at and leave Museum at the St James end. The reverse curvature of the tunnels in use now to get around the tunnel between them is obvious.

End of an abandoned tunnel under Hyde Park, intended for an eastern suburbs railway that was never built

During the war, the double line tunnel was divided into a number of bomb shelters, each divided by a solid transverse wall from floor to ceiling. Access between the shelters is via a concrete blast curtain, with a similar curtain higher up for ventilation. In parts of the tunnel, tree roots from Hyde Park above have pierced their way through drainage holes and run down the walls and across the floor. At the Museum end of these tunnels, a great deal of graffiti has been scrawled on the walls. Careful searching reveals the penciled names and serial numbers of soldiers who it is assumed were involved with the construction of the bomb shelters there in the 1942. Tunneling for the eastern suburbs railway via the branch line south from St. James station commenced in 1917, but the project remained uncompleted for decades.

The Great Depression, which saw passenger numbers fall dramatically, led to many of Dr Bradfield's proposals like the eastern suburbs railway never leaving the drawing board. Politics and lack of money were the final nails in the coffin as the Country Party was opposed to expansion of the urban rail network at the expense of more lines to "open up" the bush. The growth of the Government bus network in the early 1930's also played its part. Another factor preventing completion of the South-Eastern Suburbs tunnels was the high cost of land resumption required for excavation along Oxford Street towards Taylor Square. This would have played a major part in the 1940s decision to change to the present route via Martin Place, Kings Cross etc. Government after Government embarked on a bit of excavation work here and there along the route, a token gesture to shows its supporters that they were working on it, though in reality it was in their too hard  basket. It wasn't until the vocal minority became a vocal majority that the Government bit the bullet and spent the necessary dollars to make it happen in the 1970s. On 23rd June 1979, the line became operational as far as Bondi Junction, the last leg being left for a future generation to complete.


In 1933, with 290 km of track and 1,535 tramcars, the Sydney tram system was Australia's largest. The inter war years were very profitable in spite of the fact that only minimal expansion of the system occurred now that trains had taken over as the major public transport facility for the newly developing outlying suburbs. The colour scheme of the electric trams of the Sydney tramway system was green body below windows, cream upper body and chocolate roof, with red bumpers bars. All trams carried illustrated destination signs on front and rear to assist the signalmen in the various signal boxes to identify the route need for that service. Examples of Sydney trams may be viewed at the Sydney Tram Museum at Loftus near Sutherland. Types of rolling stock in use during the inter wars years were:-

'O' class trams - The affectionate name for these trams was the 'Toast rack'. Their capacity was 80 seated and 40 standing although this was often exceeded, especially on race days, Royal Easter Shows and peak hours. Of the foot board type, they were configured with 2 open smoking compartments that were fitted with a pull down Canvas blind for use in inclement weather. These were followed by 4 enclosed compartments with sliding doors (Non-Smoking), then 2 more open smoking compartments the same as the front ones. Destination signs were carried, with the front and rear being mounted outside and below the driver's window. This necessitated the driver or conductor leaning around the front of the tram to change destinations, the side boards were also changed from the outside by the conductor leaning backwards out the compartment and winding the knob until the destination required appeared. This class of tram could be run as a Single or coupled set, although a few were of the direct control type and could only be operated as single units. The 'O' class tram weighed 17 tons 11 cwt 1 q. They ran on two four wheel bogies and were were 10' 8 and a half" from Rail to Roof.

P' class trams - of a slightly better design, although they were still of the foot board type. All compartments were enclosed with sliding doors, all destination signs could be changed from inside the car. The coupling system was much improved in that all connections were carried in the coupler. Their capacity wa 80 seated with 40 standing. The 'P' and later 'P1" class trams weighed 16 tons 12 cwt, were 9' wide over foot boards, and ran on Two four wheel bogies.

'R' class trams - these were a much improved vehicle in that they had upholstered seats in the compartments at each end and wooden seats in the drop centre (smoking) section. They were only able to run as single units, being direct control. They had 16 seats in the smoking section and 16 in each of front and rear compartments. Trams weighed 17 tons 13 cwt, were 9' wide over centre running boards with a passenger capacity of 48 seated and 86 standing. The 'R1' type were almost identical to the 'R' except this class only had one centre door and thus had a seating capacity of 56 with 86 standing.

'OP' and the 'PR1' trams - variations of the 'O' and ' P' respectively, the 'OP' was an 'O' class reconfigured to have all compartments enclosed by sliding doors, while the 'PR1' was a 'P' class configured as per the 'R' class with entrances at each end as well as a single door in the>
The northern beaches tramway system was never a financial success and as the years went by, moves were made to have it replaced by buses. One by one, services subject to chronic financial losses or with awkward physical features of operation were withdrawn. The closure of the entire Manly electric tramway system after the last trips on 30th September 1939 and replacement by buses was the first major conversion undertaken in New South Wales. The last from Narrabeen arrived at the depot at North Manly at 1:54am, where it was formally put away to the accompaniment of "Auld Lang Syne". Thus ended public tram operation in the Manly district after 36 years of service.

The Sydney tram system was Australia's largest, at 290 km, in 1933. But because the system consisted of several isolated sections, it was relatively easy to close it down, piece by piece. This process started in 1939 with the Manly system. The last Pitt St. and Castlereagh St. tram ran in 1957 on a Saturday night at 1 am. Within minutes of the tram's run the overhead wires were pulled down, and the next morning (a Sunday) the tracks were paved over, to ensure there would be no return of the trams even if the buses should prove inadequate. This shows pretty clearly that there were forces at work other than just a desire for efficiency.

Removing tram tracks along Eddy Avenue outside Central Station, 1957

100 years after the first tram had run, the last line in Sydney closed. The replacement buses were loss-making from the start, and within just a few years the City Council was starting to regret the loss of the trams, but it was too late. In 1975, a proposal was floating to re-instate a tram loop from Central Station to Circular Quay along Pitt and Castlereagh Streets. In 1995, this proposal re-appeared, attached to the Darling Harbour Light Rail Plan, which was adopted. Today the line runs from Central Station to Lilyfield.


Colin Defries (left) after flying over Camperdown

The first buzz of an aircraft engine in the skies over Sydney occurred on 9th December 1909 when a Mr Colin Defries flew a British made flying machine to a height of 150m at Victoria Park, Camperdown. The first cross country flight in Australia took place two years later when William Hart flew from Sydney Showgrounds near Centennial park to Penrith. Little aeronautical activity was recorded in Australia before and during the First World War, but the aeroplane and the techniques of flying were developed considerably during the war when both sides used them to their advantage. By the end of the war, it was clear to many Governments of the world that the aeroplane would play an important part in military and commercial travel in the 20th Century. A gradual stream of land aircraft (as opposed to flying boats) began arriving from Europe and a number of Australian motor mechanics began copying designs of overseas built flying machines to made their own. The first completely Australian made aircraft (airframe and engine) was constructed at the RAAF experimental station at Randwick in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs in 1924.

When Nigel Love brought an ex-war flying machine to Australia in 1918, he sought a suitable place to land and garage it. A friend recommended he look in the Botany area as it was close to Sydney yet far enough away so as to be fairly isolated from nosy sightseers. He ended up leasing 400 acres of open paddocks between the Botany Railway line and the Cooks River from the Kensington Race Club which were adjacent to the club's Ascot Racecourse. News of Love's acquisition spread and his grass airstrip at Mascot soon became widely used by a growing number of enthusiasts. It was here that Ross and Keith Smith, two pilots from South Australia, landed their Vickers Vimy after making their first historic flight between England and Australia.

The Air Navigation Act, which regulated air travel in Australian skies, was passed on 2nd December 1920. The Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of Defence was formed to administer it and one of its first objectives was to set up aerodromes in Australia's major cities and towns. Mascot was the obvious choice for Sydney, being the home base of the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company which commenced operations in 1919. This company was established in 1919 to service planes flying Australia's first commercial air route (Melbourne - Cootamundra - Sydney - Longreach - Darwin), which used the Mascot airstrip for the Sydney leg of the journey. The Commonwealth government purchased 161 acres alongside Love's property, establishing Mascot once and for all as the official site of Sydney's airport. The hangars, domestic terminals and associated buildings of today are located on additional strip of land purchased as an accessway to the runway area to its east. This land, which extended east to Botany Road, was a market garden when it was acquired in 1921. Love's lease, located to the south of today's domestic terminals, was taken over and incorporated into the airport's property when his lease expired.

By 1923, the first hangar had been built and by then daily flights to other towns and cities were a common occurrence. When the Dept. of Civil Aviation was formed in November 1938 and control of the airways was transferred to it from the Department of Defence, two new runways were in use. There were 120 flights a week serviced by a staff of eleven. The taxiing apron which runs south-east across the fr ont of the Ansett terminal today follows the line of the original runway. The airport's name had been changed to Kingsford Smith Airport in honour of aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935) who, with Charles Ulm, made a record flight around Australia from Mascot in just over 10 days. His record flight from Sydney to London was the talking point of Sydney in 1933 when this achievement was made.

Rose Bay International

As you walk along the foreshore of Rose Bay, were it not for the occasional buzz of a float plane as it lands and takes off across the bay and the fact that a restaurant on the bay is called Catalina's, you would never know the bay played a short but important role as Sydney's international airport. It began in May 1914 when a Farman Hydro-aeroplane made an emerg Eency landing there. Twenty years later a flying boat base was established on a 'temporary basis' and became a terminus for Qantas Empire Airways and Imperial Airways for their London to Sydney passenger services. The first passenger flight, by an Empire class Coo-ee, left for Southampton on 2nd February 1938. The service continued until the end of 1947 when Lockheed Constellation airliners replaced the flying boats that had pioneered the Kangaroo Route, the name Australians gave to the England to Australia run.

Flying boats were used in the 1930s to pioneer the concept of international air travel. As the clouds of World War II gathered, aircraft builders were developing larger, faster, more luxurious flying boats and the airlines began developing flying boat bases such as the one at Rose Bay in anticipation of a boom in air travel. A trans-Tasman flying boat service began in April 1940 which at its peak, saw a fleet of four Sandringhams servicing the route and making the seven hour crossing to Auckland. Services to Lord Howe Islan, Fiji and Tahiti were introduced using Sandringhams, Hythes, Solents, Sunderlands and Catalinas. The hangars of the Qantas base provided maintenance for the flying boat fleets of Qantas, Tasman Empire Airways Limited, Barrier Reef Airways and Imperial which operated these services, as well as the Qantas flying boats on the Perth to Ceylon route.

After the war, the anticipated boom in air travel came, but advancements made in the design and performance of land-based aircraft during the war saw the flying boats becoming obsolete before they had a chance to make their mark. Elaborate plans to build an international airport and hotels on the Rose Bay foreshore were first put on hold, then abandoned completely as the flying boat services were replaced by land-based aircraft which could not land at Rose Bay. The last Qantas flight from Rose Bay took off at midnight on 16th august 1955. By 1962, the number of personnel at the base had dwindled to 11. The final commercial flight from Rose Bay, an Ansett service to Lord Howe Island, took place on 10th September 1974, closing a brief but important chapter in Australia's aviation history and returning the bay to being the quiet harbourside community it was before the arrival of the flying boats.


Sydney Harbour boom net anchor, Watsons Bay

In 1914, the guns at the various forts aroud Sydney were briefly mobilised, but never fired in anger and more bunkers were erected. One bunker at South Head has a hand painted 1915 with an upwards pointed arrow (the defence department symbol) above it. Post World War I Sydney saw the development of what is known as the Fortress system of defence for the coastal areas around Sydney. The works of the Fortress system are massive, well-engineered, solidly constructed and well-sited and are in stark contrast to those erected during the course of the Second World War. Around Sydney two 9.2" gun batteries of two guns each were installed, one at North Head and the other at Cape Banks. They were supported by smaller guns along the coast, and an interlocking system of observation posts and communication and command structures which meant that the entire coast from Broken Bay in the north to the Royal National Park in the south was able to be protected.

While the initial declaration of war in 1939 caused some construction of fortifications to occur, the pace was accelerated when Japan entered the war in late 1941 and Australia came under threat. Temporary gun emplacements were set up along the coast and around the Harbour, strategic installations came under intense protection by forts, anti-aircraft guns and searchlights which were constantly being erected and shifted. A new series of tunnels were built at South Head linking HMAS Watson to a wharf used to offload military supplies at Camp Cove. These tunnels are quite deep and rather labyrinthine, their entrances today are blocked by steel doors. At the same time, a series of new observation bunkers were cut deep into the cliff face of South Head. These include one which was particularly well placed for viewing the Lady Bay nudist beach. The southern anchor point for a boom net, placed across the harbour during World War II to stop the entry of enemy ships, can still be seen on the waterline nearby.

The only attack on Sydney during World War II was by Japanese midget submarines on the night of May 31, 1942 and a shell bombardment about a week later when parts of the Eastern Suburbs were shelled by a Japanese submarine on the night of June 8th 1942. A number of houses sustained damage but there were no personal injuries or loss of life. The midget submarine attack was met primarily by water craft. The coastal defence guns, being poorly sited, failed to provide the necessary fire. Both attacks put Sydney's defenders on edge and unit war diaries record a variety of incidents, including shooting at US aircraft and blowing up of turtles mistaken for submarines, which demonstrate the tension of the situation as the war came to Sydney's doorstep.

The structures built during the war were hastily thrown together, a fact reflected in their inability to survive the following five decades. Over one hundred anti-aircraft positions and searchlight positions were built but little evidence of most of them survives. Almost none of the hundreds of kilometres of barbed wire laid during the war exists today, and only a few air-raid shelter in peoples' back yards have survived.

By 1944, when the threat of a Japanese invasion had passed, many of the coastal defence batteries were decommissioned. The process of dismantling guns continued after World War II with the last of them being decommissioned in the early 1960s. Some of the installations were then employed for other military purposes including training and storage. The tunnels at Middle Head were used to train some of Australia's first troops to Vietnam in the 'Code of Conduct' course, which trained them to withstand torture and interrogation. The 'tiger cages' constructed for the trainees still stand in the old engine room of the Outer Middle Head Battery. Some of these fortifications have been used as film and television sets - notably the TV series 'Spyforce' and the film 'Stone'.


Chicago born architect Walter Burley Griffin is most remembered for designing the City of Canberra however his legacy also lives on in the Sydney suburb of Castlecrag. During his time working as Associate of the famous US architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Griffin entered and won the Federal Capital Competition for the design of Australia's Capital. This led Griffin and his wife Marion Mahoney, also an architect and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of technology, to move to Australia in 1912 to oversee the project. They were accompanied by Walter's sister, Genevieve, and her architect husband, Roy Lippincott.

Though they operated an architectural practice in Melbourne, the Griffins had fallen in love with Sydney's magnificent harbour on the first day they saw it and since their arrival had lived and owned properties with harbour views at Cremorne, then Neutral Bay and Greenwich. In 1919, after endless struggles and confrontations with the authorities, Griffin resigned as Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction and moved back to Sydney. In that year the Griffins formed the Greater Sydney Development Association for the purpose of developing a new harbourside suburb. It was the realisation of an idea probably conceived on their first visit to Sydney in 1913. They hated traditional suburbia with rows and rows of similarly shaped; houses and had often voiced their disdain of the blandness of developing suburbs of the day such as Strathfield and Concord. Theirs was not going to be an ordinary subdivision, rather a model of the garden suburb concept that was very much in vogue. But what they conceived was not so much a suburb as a planned community with roads, homes and community services in harmony with the landscape.

They inspected land at Longueville, then Beauty Point, but were captivated by the beautiful forested promontories of Middle Harbour. Much of the land was owned by the developers who had built the Cammeray Suspension Bridge whose subdivision north of the bridge had fallen on hard times in the economic depression of the 1890s. Griffin secured 263 hectares of virgin land with 6.44km water frontage for the incredible price of $25,000. It included all of present day Castlecrag, part of Castle Cove and most of Middle Cove.

The first of three planned subdivisions was Castlecrag Estate. Located in Edinburgh Road and The Parapet, Griffin designed the road and allotment pattern which follows the contours of the land by walking over the terrain, planting markers for the surveyors to follow him as he went. Streets within the subdivision were given names which related to mountain castles so as to compliment the name of the subdivision and the rocky terrain. Council approval was granted for the subdivision in April 1921 and seven months later a limited number of the 110 lots in the first subdivision went on sale. By the end of 1922, six houses, some shops and an estate office had been completed.

Castlecrag's ampitheatre

What made Castlecrag unique from other developments of its time was the covenants all purchasers were made to enter into. These covenants required to Griffin approve the design of all homes. Among other things they placed restrictions on roofing materials and required a commitment by owners to contribute to the management and upkeep of the reserves Griffin had set side throughout the subdivision. The use of natural vegetation in landscaping was promoted and the building of fences on property lines was discouraged, as much to retain the natural environment throughout the subdivision as to create a sense of community. Griffin offered shareholders in his company a free block of land if they built a house. Five shareholders took up this offer. The subsequent homes built for them which were probably for investment only, as they never occupied them. These homes became the 'demonstration houses' built in the first years of the estate, 1921 and 1922. Designed by Griffin, they were a radical departure from the typical Sydney suburban home. Compact in design, they had flat roofs and were built of concrete and stone. The concrete walls and roof used the Knitlock prefabricated segmental reinforced concrete system developed by Griffin during his years in Canberra which made them easy and cheap to assemble. The Knitlock sections were manufactured in a shed on the corner of The Rampart and The Redoubt, on the southern side.

The Griffins moved into one of the demonstration homes in 1923 and played a major role in the community. Marion had a strong interest in theatre and played a leading role in the festivals held by a Sydney arts and philosophical society. She was the brains behind the creation of the Haven Scenic Ampitheatre located on the corner of The Scarp, which was chosen for its topography and acoustics. The plays, concerts and poetry readings she and fellow Castlecrag resident Luke Drummond organised were held there and attracted artistic people from all over Sydney. Marion coerced many a Castlecrag resident to assist her in creating elaborate stage sets featuring classical columns for the performances of Greek tragedies like Iphigenia (Euripides).

In spite of the enthusiasm of those who did get caught up in the ideals of the Castlecrag project and bought land and built there, until the stringent terms and conditions of the covenants were relaxed after the Griffins moved to India in 1935, land purchases were mainly for investment and few homes were built. A combination of factors contributed towards the slow growth of Castlecrag and the lack of public acceptance of the Griffin's revolutionary interpretation of the garden suburb concept. Banks showed an unwillingness to approve loans for Griffin houses and publicity surrounding a number of legal battles between residents and the developers over the covenants turned many prospective buyers away. The emergent wealthy middle class which the Griffins hoped would have found their 'new age' garden suburb appealing showed a preference for no-risk north shore railway suburbs like Roseville and Killara where they were not bound by restrictions on the size or type of house they could build or how they could or could not landscape the surrounds. The depression of the 1930s slowed down all development in Sydney and brought the less popular subdivisions like Castlecrag to a grinding halt. The idea of communal involvement in the performing arts was quite radical for conservative 1920s/30s Sydney and Castlecrag was looked upon as a haven for artistic types rather than a community of ordinary citizens. The residents along with their suburb became somewhat of a curiosity for people to visit and marvel at rather than join in.

Castlecrag saw its greatest period of growth in the 1940s after the influence of Walter and Marion had gone. The bush environment that had been an essential part of their masterplan was retained but few homes complied to the developers' ideal and brick and tile, the pet hate of the Griffins, became the norm. The fourteen homes which were designed and built by Griffin were to be the only ones of their kind and remain today, along with the Griffin-designed Castlecrag shops (now called The Griffin Centre) the Haven Ampitheatre, the narrow, winding streets and the islands of stone and bush at their intersections, as a legacy to the Griffins and their garden suburb utopia. Following is a list of these homes built by the Griffins. Should you visit Castlecrag to see them, please remember that today they are all private residences and are not open for public viewing. They are private property and entry without permission in trespassing. Please respect the privacy of the occupants at all times.

The Griffin Houses at Castlecrag


Flats and Units

Birtley Towers

The architectural type known as flats or apartments is very much a high density living phenomenon of the 20th century. Unlike the terrace in which dwellings are sandwiched together horizontally, the flat added a vertical dimension, with homes built above and below in blocks as well as side by side. One of the oldest surviving examples of a block of flats in Sydney is Strickland Flats, a three storey brick and stone building located at the corner of Meagher and Cleveland Streets, Chippendale. Designed as high-density council-built social housing, the original plan was to have two similar buildings side by side providing a total of 134 dwellings but outbreak of the Great War around the time of the completion of the first building brought a halt to the project.

The next stage in the development of the high rise apartment building was epitomised in Birtley Towers at 8 Birtley Place, Elizabeth Bay. Competed in 1934, it was designed by Emil Sodersten (1901-61) a leading Sydney architect and proponent of the Art Deco style of architecture. It featured a U-shaped design with six flats per floor. Its highly decorative motifs and the use of red texture brick did much to popularise the Art Deco style, Birtley Towers having been fashioned on the latest Art Deco apartment buildings of New York's fashionable Central Park West. Revolutionary in its day, it was a style of residential building that was far from popular at first, with many calling for this apartment concept in housing to be outlawed as it was seen as a potential breeding ground for slums of the future.

The Astor

The Astor (completed 1923) in Macquarie Street, Sydney, took a different approach and was an early attempt to popularise the concept of high density inner city living. A magnificent structure that has been described as the Grand Dame of apartment buildings, it is 13 storeys high with one apartment on each floor and a small shopping area at street level. Stylish and Elegant, it became one of Sydney's most sought after addresses, its owner/occupants over the years including Dame Edith Walker and author and actor Barry Humphries.

Whilst large blocks of units were reaching skyward in the inner suburbs and city centre, further out in suburbia block of flats of a different kind were springing up. Developers were buying two or three regular suburban blocks, demolishing the houses on them and replacing them with blocks of units. These were usually two storeys in height which were much larger than the one and two storey residences around them, but blended in well with the streetscape rather than towering over it as the high rise blocks of units tended to do. These smaller blocks, containing anywhere from four to twelve units, offered home style living in an apartment block and became very popular in the years between the world wars. They can be seen in a variety of sizes and architectural styles throughout the middle to inner suburbs of Sydney. Following are examples which typify the apartment buildings of the era.


1918 - Fullers Bridge

Constructed over the Lane Cove River between Ryde and Chatswood, Fullers Bridge was the first major reinforced concrete-beam bridge to be built in the Sydney metropolitan area. It was d esigned to carry a tramway to the Field of Mars Cemetery.

Glebe Point Railway Viaducts

1919 - Glebe Point Railway Viaducts

The two brick and stone viaducts on the Western Goods Line, both elegant structures built on a curve with well detailed arches, were built across Wentworth Park and Jubilee Park in 1919. The Wentworth Park viaduct is the longest section of brick arch viaduct on the NSW system and the largest viaduct structure to survive in Australia. It is a major engineering work, having been built on reclaimed land with the brickwork sitting on timber piles. In its heyday the double track Western Goods Line which passed over it had up to forty train movements a day. The line was closed in January 1996, by which time it saw only weekly use to the Edwin Davey Flour Mill (adjacent to Metro Light Rail's present terminus at Wentworth Park station). The tracks are now in use again by Sydney Light Rail which runs a service from Central Station along the Western Goods Line from Darling Harbour to Lilyfield.

Glebe Road tunnal portal

1919-21 - Glebe Road and John Street Railway Tunnels, Pyrmont
The Glebe and Pyrmont tunnels, now used by Sydney's Light Rail, are important relics of the inner city rail freight system, having remained virtually i ntact as the line was never electrified. The double track tunnels and associated cuttings were created in 1919 as part of the Western Goods Line between Darling Island and Balmain Road Jctn. The 4.1 km long section of track which passes through them was opened on 23rd January 1922 and closed to goods rail traffic 74 years later to the day. The brick-lined Glebe Road tunnel is 744.8 m long and runs from Pyrmont Bridge Road to Jubilee Park, passing below Glebe Point Road. The western portal is adjacent to the former Rozelle Tram Depot. Both portals now frame Metro Light Rail's Glebe and Jubilee Park Stations. The John Street Tunnel was built, opened and closed for traffic simulatanous to the Glebe Road tunnel. A curved brick-lined 123.8 metre long tunnel, its takes the line under the sandstone heart of the Pyrmont peninsula. The line's corridor lay dormant until it was brought back into use by Metro Light Rai which operates a service to Lilyfield using the goods line's tracks, viaducts, bridges and tunnels. Joh n Street Station was created within the cutting beyond the eastern portal of the John Street Tunnel.

1919 - Bellevue Street Railway Bridge, Glebe
In 1919 the NSW Government Railway built the first reinforced concrete railway bridge on its system over the northern end of Bellevue Street, Glebe. The experimental single span was restricted to 21ft in length and supported the goods line from Rozelle to Darling Harbour which was being built at the time.

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

1923 to 1932 - Sydney Harbour Bridge
One of the most remarkable feats of bridge construction in the world, at the time it was built and until recently it was the longest single span steel arch bridge in the world and is still in a general sense the largest.

Plans for a bridge linking north and south had been mooted since the settlement of Sydney began. The diary of First Fleeter William Dawes refers to conversations he had with Governor Phillip about the need for a bridge linking the two shores. In 1815, government architect Francis Greenway, in a report to Governor Macquarie, proposed the building of a bridge from Dawes Point at the city's edge to the northern shore, however it was not until 1922 that legislation was passed and acted upon, authorising the construction of a bridge. Ninety nine years after Greenway presented his proposal to the Governmenmt of the day, Dr J.J.C. Bradfield, the NSW Government's Chief Engineer, was sent to Europe to investigate the latest engineering technology involved in bridge and underground railway construction. With an idea of what was required, he returned to Europe in 1922 to seek tenders for the construction of a harbour bridge. His plans and specifications allowed the alternatives of a cantilever bridge or an arch bridge.

Twenty proposals were received from six different companies for various types of design, including suspension bridges not covered by Dr Bradfield's specification. The tender of Dorman Long and Co. Ltd., of Middlesborough England for an arch bridge was accepted, the design being substantially in accordance with one of Dr Bradfield's proposals. The detailed design was carried out by the Contractor's Consulting Engineer, Sir Ralph Freeman, and the fabrication and construction were under the direct charge of Mr Lawrence Ennis, a director of the firm. The design and the construction of the bridge were supervised at all stages by Dr. Bradfield and his staff.

The first sod was ceremoniously turned on the site of the North Sydney Railway Station on 28th July 1923. The acquisition and demolition of buildings in the path of the new bridge and its approaches on both the northern and southern shores commenced on 28th July 1924. The excavations for the foundations of the main bearings and approach span piers commenced in January 1925. While the approach spans were being built, the foundations on either side of the harbour were prepared to take four steel bearings consisting of large hinge pins and massive steel bases for support of the arches.

At each end of the arch span of the bridge, and just behind the bearings, large abutment towers supporting the pylons were constructed. The abutment towers with the pylons are not a necessary structural feature of the bridge. They do not support the arch and were built principally to enhance the appearance of the structure. The approach spans were constructed from the inshore ends towards the harbour, and their ends rest on their respective abutment tower. The arch was constructed in two halves, holding each back with steel cables anchored in large U-shaped tunnels dug into the rock. After the approach spans and abutment towers had been constructed at deck level, work began on the main arch. Giant creeper cranes were built and assembled on temporary ramps on the abutment towers. As the first sections of the arch were built, the cranes moved across onto the sections and erected the second section, before creeping on and building the next section.

On 7th August 1930, the erection of the arch was completed and work began on joining the two sections. The steel cables were slackened in a process that required round the clock supervision. At 10pm on 19th August the two halves were linked and the north and south were joined for the first time. The cables were removed after stress testing was carried out and thus the arch was converted to a two hinge structure. The deck, which is hung from the arc of the arch itself, was constructed from the centre of the bridge outwards. All steelwork for the deck was completed in May 1931. Two railway lines were laid on either side of the hangars, the vehicles lanes placed in the middle of the deck with footways located on the extreme outside. As the erection of the steelwork was proceeding, the approaches were being constructed, including Milsons Point and North Sydney railway stations, and roadway approaches on both sides of the harbour. The bridge was opened to roadway, railway and pedestrian traffic by the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr J.T. Lang, on Saturday 19th March 1932. The time taken to complete the whole work, including bridge and approaches was eight years. The contract for the bridge construction provided for six months' maintenance by the contractors from thedate of opening, after which maintenance became the responsibility of the State. Built at a cost of $20 million, it was only paid off in 1988, much of the cost being raised by tolls placed on vehicular traffic using the bridge. Tolls collected after the bridge was paid for has gone towards the cost of the construction of the harbour tunnel.

At the times of its construction, the Bridge was seen as a symbol of Australia's industrial maturity. It was the catalyst for the development of the North Shore. Along with the city underground railway system which was built simultaneously with it, the Bridge is the most important event in the development of Sydney's transport system and has been in continuous use as such for over 60 years. It is Dr J.J.C. Bradfield's crowning achievement, on which he spent more than half his working life. The credit for the realisation of the Bridge is also due to the contractors Dorman Long and to the English engineer Sir Ralph Freeman. It was Freeman's finest bridge but his contribution was marred by the famous dispute with Bradfield over who was the designer.

Although subsidiary to the bridge itself and of less engineering interest, the approaches are an integral part of the bridge construction, an achievement of outstanding, international significance. It was on the northern and southern approaches that the Bridge was officially opened, the largest crowd ever seen in Sydney assembled. The viaducts, tunnels and bridges incorporated into the approaches are essential components of the most important single event in the development of Sydney's transport system. They are a part of Bradfield's greatest achievement and, although less glamorous than the steelwork of the Bridge itself, they are the parts for which he was wholly and directly responsible. The Bridge itself is an engineering design and technical achievement of international importance. It terms of its span it ranks third in the world but it's reputation as the world's greatest steel arch rests on its combination of span, width and load bearing capacity, and for the difficulties overcome in its erection. Bradfield's design of the arch and pylons was closely based on New York's Hell Gate Bridge from 1916. The span, however, was 205m greater than the American bridge and it contains the heaviest steelwork of its kind ever constructed.

Reinforced concrete technology in NSW was still in its infancy in the 1930's and the approach arches, slabs and retaining walls are important examples of its use. The urban viaducts formed by the Approaches are rare in NSW. The unpainted, rendered retaining walls, pilasters and parapets of the approaches are distinctive and intact examples of inter-war stripped classical design. They represent a continuation of the previous work on the electric railway using render instead of sandstone as a more economical facing material. The bridge is a two hinged steel arch, with a steel deck hanging from the arch and five steel truss approach spans leading to the arch. The arch is hinged at the base on each side of the harbour, the hinges allowing expansion and contraction and take the full weight of the bridge through large solid sandstone skewbacks. 63% of the steelwork of the arch is needed to support the deadweight of the bridge itself, 25% for the live load, 5% for wind pressure (it can withstand winds up to 200 km/hour), 5% for the effect of temperature (it can stand temperature variations of 49 degrees Celsius) and 2% for the braking of trains.

15,300 cubic metres of masonry was required to line the bridge supports and pylons. This was quarried at Moruya in NSW, 30km south of Sydney. 42,000 cubic metres of rock and dirt were excavated just to make way for the Bridge Fabrication Shops. The bridge was constructed by 4 x 25 tonne creeping cranes. The concrete footings for the four bearings upon which the Bridge sits are 12 metres deep. The bearings weigh 300 tonnes each. 105 sliding bearings and six million rivets were used in building the bridge. It was designed to handle a maximum traffic flow of 6,000 motor vehicles per hour. During today's rush hours, the bridge handles up to 15,000 vehicles per hour. 52,000 tonnes of steel were used in the building of the Bridge. At any given time during the seven years it took to build, 1,400 people were employed in its construction. 33,600 litres of paint are needed to give the bridge one coat. It is in the continual process of being painted in order to combat corrosion. Span: 503m. The contract price for the bridge was £4,217,721/11/10.

Georges River Bridge

1927-29 - Georges River Bridge
The older of the two bridges at Tom Uglys Point, Sylvania, known as the Georges River Bridge, is a steel truss road bridge built to carry Princes Highway across the Georges River. It was the last major bridge of Percy Allan (1861-1930), who also designed the Pyrmont swing bridge. This bridge replaced a punt service. The newer concrete and steel box girder bridge, known as Tom Uglys Bridge, was built alongside the original structure in 1987. It features 8x 70m spans, each composed of three steel box girders with composite concrete decks.

1933-35 - Ryde Road Bridge
The original Ryde Road bridge replaced a punt ferry ande features concrete piers supporting a steel girdered deck and a central section which can be raised to allow tall vessels access to the upper reaches of the Parramatta River. A second bridge was built alongside it in the 1980s to cope with increased vehicular traffic.

Popular Architectural Styles

Georgian Revival

Westpac Bank, Crows Nest

After the great war, there was a worldwide trend back to stylish simplicity, which led to a revival of the Australian style of Georgian architecture. It was the first time the country's histor y that Australia had returned to a style uniquely its own, and it became the architectural expression of middle and upper class sense of good taste, both in commercial and residential building design.

Recreated all the elements of the colonial Georgian style, but introduced steel and reinforced concrete in construction.

Eryldene, 17 Macintosh Street, Gordon (1913; W. Hardy Wilson)
Castlereagh Chambers, 64-68 Castlereagh Street, Sydney (1914)
Former Westpac Bank, Cnr Pacific Hwy & Shirley Road, Crows Nest (1921; E.L. Apperley)
Raleigh Park office building, Todman Avenue, Kensington (c1930; Joseland & Gilling)
Ross Memorial Home, Pennant Hills Road, North Parramatta (1934)
Former Peapes' Store, George Street, Sydney (1913; W.H. Wilson)

Central Block, State Library of NSW

Classical revival

Despite modern ideas and influences, the classical style continued to be embraced by architects well into the 20th century as their instincts told them that it represented the true architectural form, having its roots in ancient Rome and Greece.

Symmetry, with porticoes, balustrades, pediments, domes etc. Modern material were used in construction but traditional facing materials were retained.
Academic Classical examples:
Central Block, State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney (1941; Cobden Parkes)
St Joseph's Church, Liverpool Road, Enfield (1930)
Free Classical examples:
St Vincent's Hospital, Victoria Street, Darlinghurst (1921; Wardell & Denning)

Stripped Classical

Former Dept. Motor Transport Building, Macquarie Street, Sydney

Somewhat of a compromise style for architects who wanted to follow the path of modernism (style-free) but retain links with the classical past. To achieve this, they followed the principals of classic design but without the ornamentation. The first example of Stripped Classical in Australia was the Provisional Parliament House in Canberra (1 927; J.S. Murdoch), an influential building which effected classical orderliness without overbearing scale or ornamentation.

Symmetrical classical design with pediments, porticoes, columns and colonnades removed or modified to give an impression of simplicity and plainness.

Former Dept. Motor Transport Building, Macquarie Street, Sydney (c1930; Budden & Mackey)
David Jones Store, Market Street, Sydney (1928; Budden & Mackellar)
Town Hall, Crystal Street, Petersham (1938; Rudder & Grout)

The Great Southern Hotel, 717-723 George Street, Sydney (1938)
Westpac Bank, 671-675 George Street, Sydney (1912)
Petersham Town Hall, Crystal Street, Petersham (1938; Rudder & Grout)

American Beaux-Arts

Commonwealth Bank Building, Martin Place, Sydney

A style emanating from famous French architectural school, L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, having its origins in the reign of Louis XIV.

Elegant, symmetrical buildings in the classic monumental style but using contemporary structural techniques and materials such as concrete and steel rather than just stone. Opulent use of columns, friezes and cornices.
Cnr York & Barrack Streets, Sydney (1910)
Education Dept. Building, 35-39 Bridge Street, Sydney (1914; George McRae)
Commonwealth Bank Building, Martin Place, Sydney (1928; Ross & Rowe)

Commercial Palazzo

Laiki Bank House, Castlereagh Street, Sydney

First used in Chicago, Commercial Palazzo incorporated the characteristics of the 15th/16th century Italian townhouse or Palazzo into skyscraper design. The rectangular ground floor was treated as a base, with as many other floors as were required added above in a plainer style and in repetitive fashion. The simplicity of design meant major cost savings in construction and ease in modifying a basic design to suit individual needs. It proved very popular among larger companies such as insurance companies and financial institutions, the style suiting their more conservative image.

A vertically stretched representation of Italian Renaissance architecture. Simplistic design, repetitive rectangular windows, often with Florentine Palazzo cornices, balustrades and balconies.

Westpac Building, Cnr Castlereagh & King Streets, Sydney (1934; Robertson & Marks)
Royal Automobile Club, Macquarie Street, Sydney (1926; Ross & Rowe)
Laiki Bank House, Castlereagh Street, Sydney (1822: John Smith Murdoch)
Manchester Unity Building, Elizabeth Street, Sydney (1921; John P. Tate & Young)


Fayworth House, Sydney

A style of architecture developed in the Chicago business district during a period of rebuilding in the 1870s after fire razed it to the ground. By utilising a steel frame, the walls were no longer load bearing, allowing window space and construction height could be increased, and a greater flexibility in external design.

Grid-like facades with or without decoration, larger windows than previously possible.

Fayworth House, Cnr Pitt & Liverpool Streets, Sydney (1928)
Keep House, Sussex Street, Sydney (1928)
Former Berlei House, Regent Street, Chippendale (1925; J.B. Clamp)

Skyscraper Gothic

Grace Building, Sydney

Similar to the Chicagoesque style, except with the addition of Gothic influences. Just as Gothic cathedrals soared, so the Gothic skyscrapers soared. Basing their designs on New York's most celebrated Gothic Skyscraper, Woolworths Building (1913), a few Australian architects ventured into this architectural style, though its use in Australia was limited by Government-imposed height restrictions and the effects of the great depression during the style's zenith.

Strong vertical elements to give the impression of height, pinnacled gothic towers (which made the style particularly suited to corner positions), !pointed arches, flying buttresses, medieval motifs.

Government Insurance Office, Elizabeth Street, Sydney (1929; J.A. Kethal)
Legal offices, 60 Elizabeth Street, Sydney 91929; Joseph Alexander Kethel)
State Theatre Building, Market Street, Sydney (1929; H.E. White, John Eberson & Henry Pynor)
Grace Building, Cnr Market & York streets, Sydney (1930; Morrow & Gordon)
Hillside Flats, Edgecliff Road, Edgecliff (1936; E.C. Pitt & A.M. Bolot)


Central Baptist Church, George Street, Sydney

Similar to Skyscraper Gothic, but with far less emphasis on height. Limited use, mainly in ecclesiastical buildings.

Less ornamentation than earlier periods, free standing, often asymmetrical.

Central Baptist Church, George Street, Sydney
St Stephen's Uniting Church, Macquarie Street, Sydney (1935; John Reid & So +ns)
Uniting Church Assembly Building, York Street, Sydney


Former ACI Factory, Waterloo

A style developed by Australian architects who visited Europe during the 1930s depression years and studied the effects of the Modernist movement on contemporary architecture, which was to create buildings in which functionality was more important than style. The buildings these architects created upon their return to Australia reflected what they had seen and heard in Europe. They were dubbed 'modern', but as the word has lost its relevance today, they are now known as Functionalist as this name best reflects the essential object of design.

Plain surfaces, flat roofs, asymmetrical designs incorporating a mix of geometrical shapes such as rounded corners, to give a streamlined effect, cantilevered balconies, hoods, metal framed windows and doors, smooth surfaced wall facings.

65 Kambala Road, Bellevue Hill (1937; Provost & Ancher)
4 Springdale Road, Killara (1938; J. Aubrey Kerr)
Former ACI Factory, Cnr Lachlan & South Dowling Streets, Waterloo (1940)
King George V Hospital, Missenden Road, Camperdown (1941; Stephenson & Turner)
Berlei House, 230 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
David Jones, 65-77 Market Street, Sydney
Feltex House, 261 George Street, Sydney
17 Wylde Street, Potts Point

Art Deco

Australian Provincial Asssurance Building, Martin Place, Sydney

Visually stimulating art style, originating in Paris in the 1920s, which highlighted the dynamic aspects of the machine age, utilising modern materials such as plywood, chromium-plated steel, coloured opaque glass and textured bricks. The Art Deco influence extended to all art forms, from architecture and interior decoration to jewelry and furniture. It has become a symbol of the roaring twenties, the economic boom period between the end of the Great War and the depression of the 1930s and the early years of the Hollywood film industry.

Combinations of straight lines - often three in parallel - used horizontally, vertically and diagonally in conjunction with geometric shapes (circles, curves, triangles etc.). Curved corners, chromium-plating of shopfronts and commercial interiors. Vertical and horizontal fins were popular in commercial buildings, parquet-style brickwork was common in domestic applications.

Examples - commercial:
Australian Provincial Asssurance Building, 53-63 Martin Place, Sydney (1936) AMA House, Macquarie Street, Sydney (1930; Fowell & McConnel)
Mutual Life & Citizens Building, 38-46 Martin Place, Sydney
Australasian Catholic Insurance Building, 66 King Street, Sydney
Challis House, 4 Martin Place, Sydney
Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylons (1932; Sir John Burnet & Partners)
Capita Building, Cnr Hunter & Bligh Streets, Sydney (1936; Emil Sodersten)
Film Studios, 32 Orwell Street, Kings Cross(1939; R.J. Magoffin & Assoc)
AFT House, 18-18 O'Connell Street, Sydney
Commonwealth Bank, 546-548 George Street, Sydney
Grace Building, 77-79 York Street, Sydney
Bryant House, 80-82 Pitt Street, Sydney
Grand United Building, 147-153 Castlereagh Street, Sydney
AMP Building, 53-63 Martin Place, Sydney
CML Building, 60-66 Hunter Street, Sydney
MWSDB Building, 339-341 Pitt Street, Sydney
British Medical Association, 135-137 Macquarie Street, Sydney
Coloes-Snows, 360-368 Pitt Street, Sydney
Dorchester House, 149 Macquarie Street, Sydney
499-501 Kent Street, Sydney
Kyle House, 27-31 Macquarie Place, Sydney
Railway House, 19 York Street, Sydney
AWA Building, 45-47 York Street, Sydney
Holy Cross Church, Adelaide Street, Bondi Junction (1940; Austin Mackay)
Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George Street, The Rocks (1952; W.H. Withers & D. Baxter)
County Clare Inn, 20 Broadway, Chippendale
Hotel Broadway, 166-170 Broadway, Chippendale
Hollywood Hotel, 2 Hunt Street, Surry Hills
Criterion Hotel, 19 Park Street, Sydney
Westminster Hotel, 2 Broadway, Chippendale
Minerva Theatre, 30 Orwell Street, Potts Point
Burland Community Hall, 222 King Street, Newtown

Examples - residential:
Belgenny, 389 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Marlborough Hall, 4 Ward Avenue, Elizabeth Bay
The Rutland, 381 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst
Wychbury, 5 Manning Street, Potts Point
Tahoe, 67 Roslyn Street, Elizabeth Bay
Claridge, 28-30 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst
Mont Clair, 347 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst
Cahors, 117 Maclaey Street, Potts Point
Royal Court, 227 Crown Street, Darlinghurst
Birtley Towers, 8 Birtley Place, Elizabeth Bay
Gowrie Gate, 115 Maclaey Street, Potts Point
Trent Bridge, 17 St Neot Avenue, Potts Point
Huntington, 8 Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay


Rookwood Cremetorium

A style based on the domestic architecture of Spain and Italy which enjoys a similar climate to the temperate belt of Australia. Initially applied to middle and upper class domestic buildings, it was later adopted for commercial uses and in spec. home design.

Single or double storey, symmetrical design, light tones and colours with wall surfaces usually stucco or colour-washed brickwork, arches, porches, balconies, colonnades.

Point Street Flats, 20 point Street, Pyrmont (1926; Leslie Wilkinson)
Aleuria, Fox Valley Way, Wahroonga (1928; Bruce Dellit)
Crematorium, Rookwood Cemetery, Rookwood (1930; F.I. Bloomfield)
Twelve Trees, Garnet Street, Killara (c1933; E.L. Apperly)
4 & 6 Wiston Gardens, Double Bay (1934; Leslie Wilkinson)
Audley, Bangalla Street, Warrawee (c1935; Glynn Gilling)

Spanish Mission

Boomerang, Billyard Avenue, Elizabeth Bay

A close cousin the the Mediterranean style, it had its origins in Southern California and is a legacy from the days of Spanish colonisation and the Franciscan missions of the early 19th century.

Romantic, hand-crafted look featuring stucco or whitewashed walls, arches, gabled terracotta-tiled roofs, Porticos, balconies and highly decorative embellishments.

Boomerang, Billyard Avenue, Elizabeth Bay (1926; Neville Hampson)
Roxy Cinema, George Street, Parramatta (1930; L.F. Herbert & E.D. Wilson)
Polomar Flats, Drumalbyn Road, Bellevue Hill (c1930; E.W. Sankey)


St Brigid's Church, Brook Street, Coogee

By the early to mid 20th century Romanesque had become almost exclusively confined to religious buildings and was adopted almost universally by all facets of the Christian church. Reflecting the architecture of 11th Century Spain and France, it was one of the few styles carried over from the previous century that remained almost totally free of 20th century influence.

Solid construction, usually in brick, strong geometric shapes, simple, restrained ornamentation.

St Brigid's Church, Brook Street, Coogee (1921; Albert Edmund Bates)
St Anne's Shrine, North Bondi (1934; Fowell & McConnel)

Old English

Re-creation of the Queen Anne and Tudor styles which still retained popularity in Australia through to the 1970s. Predominantly in residential architecture.

Picturesque and asymmetrical, herringbone or chequered brickwork, tall chimneys, gables and upper storeys decorated with decorative timber bargeboards.

Bonnington, Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill (1935; F. Glynn Gilling)

Arts & Crafts

The Arts & Crafts style remained popular well into the mid 20th century and was particularly popular in the suburbs of Sydney's Lower North Shore. The style was generally asymmetrical.

30-40 Lower Fort St; 2-4 Trinity Ave., Millers Point (1926)
Alameda Flats, 70 Prince Albert Street, Mosman (1930s)

Californian Bungalow

The most popular and distinctive style of domestic architecture of the period. Derived from the Arts & Crafts Movement, it had it origins in California USA, hence its name. Its ranch style design and look had an earthy, homely character that quickly caught on in Australia, though it appeared here in modified form to suit Australia's harsher climate. Ownership of a suburban quarter acre block with a Californian bungalow on it became the Australian dream. Initially of weatherboard construction with clinker brick and worn river stones used in decoration, all brick construction soon became the standard.

Low slung, solid looking single storey dwellings, low pitched roofs with spreading eaves, exposed roof timbers and street facing gable over verandah, solid verandah pylons often with grouped verandah posts on top, sleepouts and pergolas were common.

Belvedere, Cranbrook Avenue, Cremorne (1919; Alexander Stewart Jolly)
The Summit, Lydham Avenue, Rockdale (1925)

Homes, Flats and Units

1923 - Nerine Flats, 176 Avoca St. and Harper Sts., Randwick
Features palladian windows and balconies to front facade. Classical style decoration to balconies, pilasters to the sides, roof balustrade, brick and rendered details, fence and a porte cochere typify the smaller suburban blocks of flats of this era.

1923-25 - Ways Terrace, Point Road, Pyrmont
More contemporary with the MSB housing at Millers Point than the terrace housing of Pyrmont, they feature Spanish Mission styling by architect L.Wilkinson. The terrace comprises of four interconnected blocks.


1938 - Belgenny, 389-393 Bourke St. and corner of Campbell St., Surry Hills
Art Deco block of flats with some Gothic overtones. Note the cream brick to 2nd. floor, then off- white brick, and contrasting light green brick trim. Terracotta detail and Vitraglass to some shops at ground level is original.

1925 - 169 William St. and Forbes St., Sydney.
A block comprised of a three storey block of flats above a ground floor motor shop. Part Spanish Mission in decoration, and part 20's liver brick domestic style.

1926 - 30-40 Lower Fort St; 2-4 Trinity Ave., Millers Point
Four 3 storey unit blocks, interconnected by external stairs between pairs of buildings - interesting design and circulation element. Arts & Crafts characteristics are evident in the brick patterning on the facade, |slate eaves to the first floor windows of some of the blocks. Balconies are internal, parapets have Dutch gable influences.

c.1931 - 27 Spofforth Street, Mosman
Two storey face brick flats building design in the Arts & Crafts architectural style which would have been one of the earlier blocks of flats to be built on the Lower North Shore. With its large hipped terracotta tile roof, the block of units features a two storey verandah subtly divided by a party wall and supported on pairs of dwarf columns. In typical Arts & Crafts style, the upper level verandah apron is shingled, on the ground level it is of brick; the central chimney has terracotta pots; the windows are boxed double hung sashes with a row of obscure glass panes on the top sash.


1933 - Meudon, 13 Onslow Ave., Elizabeth Bay
This block of units is triangular in plan, with a curved corner. Sunrooms are echoed by slight expansion of the facade, and framing to the curved corner window, ending with a cornice at the top window.

1934 - 36 Manning Rd., Woollahra
Art Deco style units typified by dark brick with pseudo-Gothic ornament. This block is similar to many on New South Road, and on Glenmore Road before Five Ways in Paddington which were built between the world wars in the eastern suburbs.

1935 - Alameda Flats, 70 Prince Albert Street, Mosman
This block of flats bears many characteristics common to Arts & Crafts, featuring brown bricks with variegated red tapestry-brick emphases, hip-roof covered in terracotta tiles, hooded entrance door, side bays with facetted roofs, facetted casement windows and flared spandrels sheeted in variegated slates. The spiky bargeboards show the influence of the California Bungalow, which at the time this block of flats was being built was at the peak of its popularity.

1936 - Hillside, 412 Edgecliff Rd., Edgecliff.
Art Deco block of units with heavy Gothic overtones by architects E.Pitt & A.M.Bolot. Red textured brick with interesting eagle's nest at the apex or the roof. Stylistically, and in material finishing, quite different from Bolot's "solo" effort at 17 Wylde Street 11 or 12 years later.


1929 - State Theatre

State Theatre, Market Street, Sydney
A lavish theatre in Cinema Baroque style, constructed during the post-World War I boom period, the roaring twenties, which it adequately represents. Hailed for many years by its owners as the Empire's greatest theatre, it features a Gothic foyer with vaulted ceiling, mosaic floor, highly decorated columns and statues, brass and bronze fittings and a mighty Wurlitzer organ.

1936 - CML Assurance Building

60 - 66 Hunter Street, Sydney
A fine example of the type of skyscrapers which were built in cities around the world between World Wars I and II. The work of Emil Sodersten, it reflects German Expressionist influences in its pleated and zigzag windows.

1935 - Luna Park, Milsons Point

Milsons Point.
Inner city theme park with a similar entrance to its twin at St Kilda in Melbourne, this former entertainment mecca was modelled on New York's Luna Park on Coney Island. Originally built in Adelaide, South Australia, it was dismantled and moved to Sydney in 1935. The deaths of seven people in a ghost train fire in 1979 signalled the begin of the end for the fun park which closed in 1988. It was re-opening in 1995 but its survival remains under threat following lobbying by local residents against noise.

1938 - Delfin House

An Art Deco-style skyscraper designed by Bruce Dellit, it features a vaulted ceiling and granite arch decorated with an allegory of modern life.

1939 - AWA Building

AWA Building, 45 York Street, Sydney
Whilst Culwulla Chambers is six metres taller than the AWA Building minus its tower, with the tower added, it is taller and was therefore bestowed the honour of being Sydney's tallest between 1939 and 1967. Between the world wars, Australia enjoyed a vigorous period of growth, spurred on by a major migrant intake, and a worldwide sweep of technological development. At the forefront of the latter in Australia was Amalgamated Wireless Australia (AWA), a broadcaster and manufacturer of radios, record players and other electrical equipment. The company's head office head office, with its lattice steel broadcasting tower on top, reflected the company's success and became a well known landmark in the city. Completed just before World War II and built to the 46 metres height limit of the day, it is a brick-faced building with projecting vertical ribs and parapet decoration in the form of a Pegasus in bass relief, the Pegasus being the company's logo. It features a marble clad lift foyer and stairs, timber panelled foyer with wall decorations in relief and a tiled mosaic of a Pegasus laid in the floor.

Pegasus bass relief, AWA Building, Sydney

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