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MacMahons Point

The first peninsula to the east of Milsons Point and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, McMahons Point is named after Maurice McMahon, an Irish manufacturer of brushes and combs who, in 1864, built his home on the headland. He became mayor of the borough of Victoria (later North Sydney) in 1890. The suburb of McMahons Point, located 3 kilometres north of the Sydney central business district on Sydney's Lower North Shore, sits on the peninsula, flanked by Berrys Bay to the west and Lavender Bay to the east. The lower tip of the peninsula is known as Blues Point, which offers expansive views of Sydney Harbour.

McMahons Point is considered one of Sydney's most exclusive localities and is rich in history as well as enjoying a vibrant cafe and restaurant lifestyle. The northern end of Blues Point Road, next to the CBD of North Sydney, is home to many advertising, media, computing and architecture firms as well as specialty shops, alfresco cafes and local pubs. The southern end features picture postcard views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and a large grassy area to just sit back and enjoy the view.

Its location on the water's edge has attracted artists such as Lloyd Rees whose most iconic painting, 'Harbour from McMahons Point'  is on display in the Art Gallery of NSW. Henry Lawson, one of Australia's favourite poets spent many years in and around the area. Rows of terraced housing, 1920s apartment buildings and Harry Seidler's Blues Point Tower are just some samples of its architectural past.

A stretch of railway line dating from 1893 runs through the suburb's north-west and emerges from a tunnel at an off-peak storage depot in Lavender Bay. This line was part of the original North Shore Line, which passed through the suburb to its terminus on Lavender Bay, Milsons Point before the Harbour Bridge was built. It no longer carries passengers as a newer line was constructed in 1932, connected the North Shore line to Sydney via the Harbour Bridge. The line today gives access to a train storage area.

Lloyd Rees Lookout

Offers picture postcard views across Lavender Bay towards North Sydney, Luna Park, the Harbour Bridge and city. UBD Map 7 Ref F 16. East Crescent Reserve, East Crescent, MacMahons Point.
Public transport: ferry to McMahons Point. Walk to stairs at wharf.

Sawmiller's Reserve

One of North Sydney's true hidden gems. As its name implies, this was once the site of a sawmill. Its operators, John W. Eaton Ltd timber merchants, established the harbourside mill in 1880. Eaton's had its own power house, two sawmills, engineers shop, joinery shop, a blacksmiths shop and its own wharf and crane to unload logs/load timber from smaller vessels. Remnants of the powerhouse have been retained in the park to retain a link to the park s past. Today, steps wind down to the water's edge for beautiful views of the harbour, Pyrmont and Balmain, and west to Balls Head Reserve. Sloping embankments planted with native vegetation give way to an open grassy foreshores suitable for picnics and informal play. The wreck of an old hopper barge sits just offshore in Berrys Bay. The park has access points on Munro, French and West Crescent Streets, and is either a 10 minute walk down Blues Point Road from North Sydney railway station, or a 10 minute walk up from the McMahons Point ferry wharf. Limited parking is available in surrounding streets.

Lavender Bay

Lavender Bay is a harbourside suburb adjoining MacMahons Point. It sits between Milsons Point and McMahons Point. Lavender Bay was named after the Boatswain (bosun), George Lavender, from the prison hulk Phoenix, which was moored there for many years. The bay was originally called Hulk Bay and sometimes Phoenix Bay. George Lavender lived on 14 acres (57,000 m2) adjacent to the property of Billy Blue. On 30 May 1915 Lavender Bay railway station was opened to take the place of Milsons Point railway station, which was a little further around the bay. The station, at the foot of the Walker Street steps, only lasted for seven weeks, as passengers refused to alight here and demanded that trains stop at Milsons Point. During the harbour bridge's construction, Lavender Bay Station was resurrected and became the terminus for the North Shore Line (some of the the construction sheds for the bridge were built on the original station site). The area is now railway storage sidings.

A wharf is located in the bay which provides access to private vessels. The Lavender Bay Baths (1910) were once popular with swimmers, located in the area beside the ferry wharf. Lavender Bay has had its fair share of notable residents. Sir Donald Bradman lived in the harbourfront Bay View Street, and was one of the first Australians to get a private telephone number while living there. Artist Norman Lindsay lived at Heidelberg at 9 Bay View Street; another artist, John Firth-Smith, occupied this same house many decades later. Sydney-born artist Brett Whiteley also lived in Lavender Bay for a while.

Lavender Bay is a 10 minute walk from North Sydney railway station or a 5 minute walk from Milsons Point ferry wharf. Limited parking is available in Lavender Crescent and surrounding streets.

Lavender Bay Parklands

The parklands comprise Clark Park, Watt Park, Quibaree Park, the Lavender Bay Foreshore and a number of smaller green spaces dotted throughout the area. You can spend a couple of hours exploring them all in one day, or take your time to visit each spot one by one. Watt Park is a little bit quieter and more secluded than the rest, it has a nautical-themed childrens  playground. Quibaree Park, on the harbour side of the railway tracks and reached by an underpass. Here you will find an historic slipway, a small boat ramp and a jetty with stairs and Sydney's smallest beach. Bring you camera, the views across Lavender Bay to the city are excellent. Wendy's Secret Garden (see below) is part of the Parklands.

Wendy's Secret Garden

After returning to Australia after a long period overseas, artist Brett Whiteley moved to Lavender Bay in November 1969, with his then wife Wendy, and painted in a studio downstairs in the house from 1975 to 1981. The ambience of the house and its views of the harbour offered a perfect vehicle for Whiteley's gift at composing works with large, empty spaces, and evoked strong feelings that at last he had come home. Today, the public area at the foot of the house, between Clark Park on Lavender Street and the Lavender Bay railway lines is known as Wendy's Secret Garden.

After the death of her husband in 1992, Wendy channelled her grief and sorrow by transforming a neglected space below their property into a beautiful garden at her own expense. In 2001, she was devastated over the death of her only child, Arkie from cancer. The ashes of Brett and Arkie are buried in the garden at a location that was never disclosed by Wendy.

She continued her work in beautifying the garden as a tribute to her greatest loves in life, Brett and Arkie, as well as her new life of recovering from drug addict. Wendy has also placed some tables and benches for visitors who wish to have picnic with friends or maybe to do some work there like drawing and writing. There are many interesting sculptures in the garden. Some a little artistic and some made of recycled materials. Wendy s garden is filled with a variety of plants, flowers, and trees which are of different shapes, colours and sizes. The stone stairways opposite Walker Street on Lavender Street lead down to the garden.

The Long Jumping Jeweller of Lavender Bay

Lavender Bay entered popular culture when Hugh Atkinson wrote a book called The Jumping Jeweller of Lavender Bay A short film based on a book inspired Glenn Shorrock, lead singer of the Litttle River Band, to write a song about it. The band recorded the song, which is featured on their 1976 album After Hours . Listen to the song >>. Atkinson's book tells the story of a little man, living his humdrum life, who works as a jeweler in the Sydney CBD. To get to work he takes the ferry from - you guessed it - Lavender Bay. One day, lost in thought, he almost misses his ferry. On an impulse he runs and jumps the gap to land on the deck, to the acclaim of his fellow passengers. Pleased by their reaction but more by the feeling he got while jumping, he makes this a regular thing, and lets the ferry get a little further away from the wharf before he does his leap every day. And every day the passengers wonder and bet on if this will be the day he does not make it.

Then he starts to notice something. As he jumps, while he is in the air, he glimpses a paradise and a beautiful woman, somewhere above the ferry's roof. And as he jumps longer and higher, he sees more of the paradise and the woman, who is beckoning him. And soon he is jumping for the woman, not for the ferry. The jump gets longer and longer, he gets higher and higher and one day, inexplicably for his fellow passengers, he disappears: no thud on the deck, no splash in the water. The Long-Jumping Jeweler of Lavender Bay is never seen again.

Blues Point Tower

A controversial apartment building by architect Harry Seidler, erected on the site of 'Belleview', a mansion built by Moses Bell, of the "Star of Hope" Gold Mining Company. The mansion was a waterfront property on Blues Point, at the tip of the McMahons Piiunt peninsula. Since the day plans for its construction were given council approval, the Blues Point Tower has faced a storm of protest due to its size, position and shape, and has the unenviable reputation of being Sydney's most hated building.

Whenever a list of Sydney's ugliest buildings is compiled, Blues Point Tower inevitably scores top billing, and every few years someone somewhere calls for it to be torn down. For many years, BPT-bashing was a favourite pastime at dinner parties. In recent years, whilst generally respected, it is often cited as an example of a structure inappropriate to its environmental context.

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  • About MacMahons Point

    Once predominantly working-class, it is now among Sydney s most exclusive localities. McMahons Point is primarily a medium-to-high-density residential area. At the northern end of Blues Point Road (adjacent to the North Sydney central business district) there is a concentration of businesses primarily associated with advertising/marketing, publishing, media, computing, engineering, architecture and creative arts. This precinct is also home to many al fresco street cafes and restaurants and some speciality retail stores. Real estate here and in the neighbouring suburban villages of Waverton, North Sydney and Lavender Bay is set at a premium due to the area s low crime rate and its cafes, restaurants, pubs and parks.

    Land in this area was originally settled and farmed by James Milson (1785-1872), a Napoleonic War veteran, in 1806. Further grants were subsequently made in 1817 to Billy Blue, a colourful Jamaican convict turned Sydney Harbour waterman, which remained within his family until the 1850s. Subsequently, the estate was progressively subdivided, with the earliest developments occurring on the northern end. Blues Point Road had been gazetted from 1839 as a thoroughfare from the ferry wharf to the St Leonards township. Most of the middle and southern sections of the peninsula were subdivided by the 1870s. A tram line was extended to McMahons Point in 1909, further stimulating development, particularly along Blues Point Road.

    The foreshores of the area were popular for boat building and other maritime activity through the latter half of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. In 1957, much of McMahons Point was to be rezoned as waterfront industrial  by North Sydney Council, but a group formed by residents and architects, led by Harry Seidler, argued for a residential vision. Seidler proposed a 29-building apartment development in gardens. This redevelopment was in turn opposed by a new council and residents; only two towers were built  Blues Point Tower and Harbour Master.

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