Macquarie Street Heritage Walk
Though George Street is Sydney's most well known thoroughfare, Macquarie Street is the city's most significant historically and culturally. Stretching from Circular Quay close to where the First Fleet came ashore in January 1788, to Queens Square which Gov. Macquarie envisaged as Sydney's town centre, Macquarie Street and the buildings along it are akin to a potted history of both the city and colonial Australia itself, documenting the growth and development of Sydney and early Australia like no other street in the country.
Macquarie Street's name commemorates Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the colonial Governor whose vision for Sydney is reflected in the city we see today. Up until Macquarie's arrival in Sydney in 1810, Sydney town was still a backwater penal colony and Macquarie Street was just a ridge-top bush track which served no other purpose than as the eastern boundary of the town. Like Sydney town itself, Macquarie Street was brought to life by the Governor who built the Government House stables (today's Conservatorium of Music) at one end of it, the Rum Hospital (today's Parliament House) in the middle and Hyde Park and the Hyde Park Barracks at the other. After the hospital opened, many stately homes were built by members of the medical profession on the east side of the street near the hospital, whilst the courthouse built later on its western side attracted lawyers and judges, who also built luxury homes here and turned this end of town into a high class area.
Cut off from the rest of The Domain (of which it is a part) by the Cahill Expressway, Sydney's Tarpeian Precint is a narrow strip of open parkland alongside the eastern side of Macquarie Street and the western boundary of the Royal Botanic Gardens, rising towards the north to encompass the elevated area near Bennelong Point, where it overlooks the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House via a rocky escarpment. Once quarried for the city's early sandstone buildings, the Tarpeian Precint is now but a thin veneer of earth covering the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. This area is named the Tarpeian Precinct, after the resemblance of the escarpment created by quarrying to the famous Italian Tarpeian Rock. One of Sydney's oldest sandstone quarries, the Tarpeian Way forms part of the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House. The quarry provided the building materials for some of Sydney's early stone buildings, particuly those built by the Government for its own use, that were constructed around the turn of the 19th century.
Memory Is Creation Without End Sculpture
This spiral of sandstone blocks in the Tarpeian Precint near where the Cahill Expessway crosses over Macquarie Street consists mainly of relics carved by stonemasons from demolished buildings around the city centre. Memory is Creation Without End was created to symbolise the circular connection of past, present and future. Seemingly emerging from yet at the same time sinking back into the ground, the artwork resembles an archaeology of the city. According to Japanese sculptor Kimio Tsuchiya who created it, salvaging and re-configuring the stones into this spiral unification of sculpture and landscape endows them with new life, meaning and memory.
1 Macquarie Strteet: During the years leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the NSW State Government announced plans to replace the hotch-potch of waterfront buildings on East Circular Quay with a row of new ones along the full length of the foreshore. Public outcry erupted over the heights of the buildings, their bland shape, the intrusion on the harbouride landscape and the possible denial of public access to the foreshore. Those who were not happy with the outcome took it out on the end apartment building nearest to the Opera House, which they dubbed "The Toaster" because of its shape.
Moores Stairs, which honour Charles Moore, Mayor 1861-1868, were built in 1861 and link Circular Quay East to Macquarie Street. Further around Bennelong Point behind the Opera House, a flight of stairs lead to Government House and the Royal Botanical Gardens via a footpath known as the Tarpeian Way. The pathway and steps give a different view of the Opera House than is generally seen. Further to the east on Mrs. Macquarie's Point, a hand hewn flight of sandstone steps curve gracefully up from the shoreline to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair.
93 Macquarie Street (1896-98). One of a number of former Government office buildings that in recent years has been given a new lease of life by being converted into a luxury hotel. It was built to a design by Government Architect Walter Vernon (1846-1914) as the office building of the New South Wales Board of Health, and remained as the department's offices until the 1980s.
The Treasury Building, on the corner of Macquarie and Bridge Streets (1849-51), was one of the first of a number of Government buildings on Bridge Street built of Pyrmont sandstone. This two storey example of the Classical Revival style is the work of Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis to a design borrowed from the Travellers Club in London which was the work of Charles (later Sir Charles) Barry (1795-1860). The Treasury building featured an entrance portico facing Macquarie Street.
In 1896, a second building that would house the treasury strongroom was erected on Macquarie Street away from but in the same alignment as the original Treasury Building. A bridging building between the two buildings featuring a large two storey entrance portico and two flights of steps was added in 1900, creating a single flowing facade on Macquarie Street. A further extension along Bridge Street, around the corner and along Phillip Street was proposed in 1916 by Government Architect, George McRae (1858-1923). The Bridge Street extension was opened in 1919 but the Phillip Street extension was put on hold and never built. All the buildings have been cleverly incorporated into the 28 level, 530 room Intercontinental Hotel which was completed in 1986.
Chief Secretary's Office
(1869): Lavish, extravagant creation of architect James Barnet who also designed the General Post Office. Built of golden Pyrmont Sandstone in Victorian Italianate style, it features elaborately carved interior woodwork and its exterior is dominated by the iron-crested mansard roofs and the pavilion dome. The building served as the workplace of the majority of NSW's public servants for almost 100 years. Six statues of women carved in golden Pyrmont sandstone adorn the building. They depict Wisdom, Justice and Mercy which are mounted in alcoves on the corner of Macquarie Street, Labour, Art and Science are in alcoves on the corner of Phillip Street.
123 Macqurie Street, Sydney (1923). The Astor 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. Designed by architects Esplin and Mould, it was inspired by the skyscrapers of New York, which were marvels of concrete and steel. With a magnificent roof terrace and manager's residence, The Astor is a true emblem of Sydney s past discreetly modernized, that still appeals to those seeking the very best in City living.
Royal Australasian college of Physicians Building
145 Macquarie Street (1848). A charming Victorian townhouse, the top floor of which was added in 1910. The building features a four level verandah of turned timber with boxed windows, French doors on the ground floor and shutters on the other levels. Next door is the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Building, a simple three floor sandstone building, was erected in the 1850s.
135-137 Macquarie Street. An early Art Deco-style skyscraper, lavishly decorated with gothic and medieval motifs and the flamboyant incorporation of Australian iconography - including particularly the Koalas at the top of the front facade. The terracotta faience was manufactured locally by Wunderlich. The building won the RIBA Award for Street Architecture in 1935 and RIBA Bronze Medal. At 12 stories it was one of the tallest of the new skyscrapers in Sydney at the time, but what set it apart was the extraordinary decorations. The facade of the building is festooned with gargoyles and beautiful tiles in rich designs that are unique. The 11th floor balconies are surmounted by giant medieval knights presenting shields to ward off evil. To the credit of the buildings owners the interior fittings are original and reflect the beauty and elegance of a world long past. Architects: Fowell and McConnel.
133 Macquarie Street (1853). A Classic Revival style town house designed by George Mansfield, the founder and first president of the NSW Institute of Architects, for his nephew, George Oaks, a member of the NSW Parliament. The three storey building was a boarding house when, in May 1922, author DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda stayed here. It was mentioned in his novel Kangaroo which he was writing at the time.
Aurora Place Office Tower and Macquarie Apartments
1996-2000 - 88 Phillip Street, Sydney. A high tech building which replaced the former Premier's Wing and the State Office Block. It is comprised of two buildings linked by a glass-covered square. The office tower is 200 meters high, rises 44 levels, and encompasses 49,000 square meters. The residential building has 17 levels and faces Sydney's Botanical Gardens. The tower was designed to allow integration between the levels, which was achieved in part by the inclusion of winter gardens and terraces.
Architects: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens
Established in 1916 on the site of the first farm of the young colony of Sydney, the Royal Botanical Gardens contains an impressive collection of native and overseas plants. They feature a palm grove, herb garden, a tropical centre, the National Herbarium of NSW and more.
(1837 - 45): Somewhat less lavish than first planned, Government House was designed by Edward Blore, but completed to modified specifications by Mortimer Lewis. Of turreted Gothic Revival design, the building is constructed of local sandstone and cedar. Up until recently, it was the official residence of the State Governor, but has now been thrown open for public access while still being used for special state functions. Government House is in the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens.
Conservatorium of Music
(1818-21): A building of striking appearance to the design of Colonial Architect Francis Greenway, this castellated Colonial Gothic structure was at the centre of a bitter feud which erupted between Governor Macquarie who commissioned it and Greenway who built it. The feud was fuelled by public outcry over the building's extravagance, given that it was merely a stables and servant's quarters for a Government House which had yet to be built. The furore over Greenway's Folly as it became known led to a 25 year delay in the construction of Government House.
Between 1908 and 1915, the stables underwent extensive modifications, with a concert hall being built in place of the open central courtyard in its transformation into the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Extensive additions which retained the original building's appearance were completed a decade ago.
Facing Macquarie Street in front of the Conservatorium is a bronze statue of King Edward VIII on horseback. It was cast in 1922 and sculptured by Sir Thomas Brock, who was also responsible for the Queen Victoria Memorial in The Mall outside Buckingham Palace, London.
Garden Palace Gates
The Macquarie Street entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens is marked by the gates to the long gone Garden Palace Exhibition Building. The Garden Palace was a huge building, similar in size and style to Melbourne's Exhibition Building, it was erected by a team of over 2,000 men to house Sydney's first international exhibition in 1879. Large international exhibitions were popular in the late 19th Century and when Sydney was host in 1879 the massive Garden Palace Exhibition Building was built to house it.
Built to a design by James Barnet, it featured four towers which could be seen from almost any suburb in Sydney, such as they were at that time. Three years after it was opened the Garden Palace mysteriously burnt down on the night of 22 September 1882, in a spectacular fire the likes of which Sydney had never seen before. Today, the only reminder that the building ever existed are the elaborate stone pillars of the Palace Gates which stood at its entrance. Height: 28 metres (including tower 68 metres)
Captain Phillip Fountain
A huge fountain, erected in 1897 on the site of the former Garden Palace Exhibition Building after it burnt to the ground. commemorating NSWs first governor, Arthur Phillip, it is the work of Italian sculptor Achille Simonetti, whose work was cast in Florence by F. Galli. It is in the Botanical Gardens near the Garden Palace Gates entrance to the Gardens.
This elaborate fountain/memorial, the only one in Sydney to honour Phillip, was erected as part of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Celebrations. The larger than life statue of Phillip features him holding a scroll, with a flag furled by his side, facing Sydney Heads, perhaps looking for the Second Fleet which took so long coming from England. around the plinth are white marble basins with water jets, bronze reliefs representing Patriotism, Education and Justice, flanked by Agriculture, Cyclops, Commerce and King Neptune. To complete the picture are paired dolphins and bronze plaques featuring Aborigines.
The entry roadway to the Eastern Distributor Motorway from Macquarie Street is known as Shakespeare Place, because of a rather elaborate group of statues on the traffic island in the middle of the road. The statues feature playwright William Shakespeare, quill in hand, surrounded by some of his characters such as Hamlet, Falstaff, Dorta, Romeo and Juliet (in an embrace). The bronze statues are the work of Australian sculptor Sir Bertram MacKennal (1826-1931) who also designed the Martin Place Cenotaph (1929) and Phoebes driving the horses of the sun above the entrance to Australia House in The Strand, London. When it was unveiled, the memorial was located in front of the main entrance of the Mitchell Library as if to lure passers by to come inside for a good read. When the Cahill Expressway was built, the memorial was in its path and had to be moved to its present site.
Below Shakespeare Place is a pilot tunnel for an underground railway line that was never built. At the end of the tunnel a vertical shaft leading upwards to a manhole at near the Shakespeare Place statue. The tunnel was part of an abandoned scheme to bring an underground railway line from St James Station to Glebe and other inner western Sydney suburbs via Wynyard Station. It was to be the northern loop of the City Circle, which was eventually built above the Cahill Expressway across the front of Circular Quay. 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.
Statue of Sir Richard Bourke
(1842): This statue, located outside the Mitchell Library, is significant in that it was the first statue of its kind to be erected in Australia. Created by EH Bailly, it honours Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of the colony of New South Wales from December 3, 1831 to December 5, 1837. A rather lengthy description of Bourke's career is inscribed on the statue's plinth.
Bourke was an Irishman and a fully qualified barrister who was perhaps the most popular of all the colonial Governors. He brought many changes to the colony, not the least being his introduction of the British system of trial by jury, which effectively replaced the rule of military justice that had been in force since 1788. Bourke was an adventurous, energetic man, a trait reflected in the considerable amount of exploration of the Australian continent that was instigated during his term of office. He is also remembered for giving financial support to the various church denominations represented in Sydney. It was as a result of his generosity toward them that most of the churches of inner Sydney were built during his term of office.
Macquarie Street (1910). The Mitchell Library is housed in the original State Library building in which the state's book collection was stored for over 70 years. It is a 2 storey building of Italian Renaissance style designed by the Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon. The original section was built of Pyrmont sandstone; the 1946 extensions was made of Maroubra sandstone. The Mitchell Library Wing of the State Library of NSW is the first in a row of buildings which form the majestic streetscape of modern day Macquarie Street. An impressive sandstone building, it's striking Ionic columns support the huge vaulted ceiling of the vestibule and look down upon a giant mosaic replica of an old map documenting the voyage of Dutch seaman Abel Tasman in the 1640s which forms the vestibule floor.
State Library (new building)
Macquarie Street (1988). The eleven storey building (7 are underground) houses much of the State's book collection. It contains 140 km of shelves and houses over 2 million books. Outside the Mitchell Wing of the State Library of NSW, facing Macquarie Street, is a bronze statue of Matthew Flinders, the first person to navigate around Australia. On the window sill of the State Library behind him is a bronze statue of his cat and travelling companion, Trim.
Undoubtedly the foremost explorer and hydrographer of the Australian coastline, Matthew Flinders carried out several important and daring voyages of discovery along coastal portions of the land now known as Australia. He was the first to consistently use the term Australia, and it was at his recommendation that it was officially adopted, something that would have guaranteed him a place in history apart from his many other achievements. Additionally he was first to prove that the eastern and western sections of Australia were connected, that Tasmania was an island and his work gave the map of Australia its final shape. Interestingly, Matthew Flinders is believed to have been an accomplished flute player, unusual for a Royal Navy Commander.
St Stephen's Presbyterian Church
1935 - 197 Macquarie Street. A sandstone building that is now part of the Uniting Church. It stands on the site of Burdekin House (erected 1841, demolished 1933), a late Regency sandstone mansion owned by Thomas Burdekin. A member of Parliament and Mayor of Sydney in 1890, Burdekin was an ironmonger who emigrated from Sheffield, England in 1826 to become one of the most prosperous and influential businessmen of 19th Century Sydney. His home, designed by architect James Hume, was described as the finest in Sydney.
171-173 Macquarie Street. (1839) To live in one of the eight townhouses here in the 1840s was to reside at one of the best addresses in the colony. They were some of the earlier residences to have running water. Today only two townhouses remain, both used as offices. Their name recalls Horbury in Yorkshire, England, the birthplace of their second owner, Thomas Holt. Built originally for Ousley Condell, they were among the first homes in Sydney with running water.
1909 - 175 Macquarie Street, Cnr Hunter Street, Sydney. One of the earliest block of flats in Sydney. With 7 storeys plus and attic, it features dark brick facade and stone faced balconies on a stone base. Balconies only partly exceed the face of the facade. The windows were refitted in the 1980s and are now anodised rather than timber. This city block of 'professional chambers' is named after the country property of its original owner, a grazier of old Junee. Wyoming was one of the earliest of such tall buildings in the city and commanded lovely views. It was noted when it was built that all floors would have constant hot water. Architect: J Burcham Clamp.
1912 - 235 Macquarie Street, Sydney. An apartment block with asymmetrical facade featuring large curved bay window, with pseudo- classical columns to 7th floor and other details to the attic or 8th floor. It has a mostly rendered facade with terracotta pilasters.
Architect HE Ross and Rowe.
1811 - 1816 - The seat of government of New South Wales since 1829, the central section of Parliament House was built between 1811 and 1814 as part of the original Sydney Hospital. Its designer is unknown, but the concept most likely came from a pattern book of 'elegant' home designs belonging to Governor Macquarie's wife, Elizabeth. The entrepreneurs who paid for and supervised its construction in exchange for the right to import rum into the colony for 3 years were Alexander Riley, Garnham Blaxcell and D'Arcy Wentworth. All the government had to supply were eighty oxen (for slaughter), twenty draught bullocks and twenty convict labourers. Macquarie wrote glowingly of his scheme in his request to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Liverpool, for permission to proceed with the project. Liverpool turned
(1811- 1816, 1879-1894): Originally known as the Rum Hospital because its builders were allowed to export rum for resale, the Sydney Hospital once occupied a number of buildings on this sight. The northern wing is now Parliament House, the Southern wing is occupied by the Sydney Mint Museum. By the 1870s, the central section, which had been erected on poor foundations, was in danger of collapse and had to be demolished. It was replaced by new buildings which continue to function as a hospital today. One of the newer buildings which fronts onto Macquarie Street is of Classic Revival style and boasts floral stained-glass windows and a Baroque staircase in the entrance hall. These fine specimens of Victorian architecture were created out of Pyrmont sandstone and feature arcaded verandahs with ornate balustrading. One of two domed former gatehouses functions as a tiny corner store.
The restoration of the old Rum Hospital building was completed in 1984. Together with its "twin", the former Mint, it remains the oldest building in Macquarie Street and the oldest public building in the City of Sydney. Arguably of all Sydney buildings, none have had a longer or more central influence in the affairs of the state than the North Wing.
The Il Porcelliono statue, in the Hospital courtyard, is a brass replica of a 17th Century fountain in Florence's Mercato Nuovo, depicting a boar. The statue, which symbolises the close friendship between Australia and Italy, was donated in 1968 by an Italian woman whose relatives had worked at the hospital. Like its counterpart in Florence, good luck is supposed to come to anyone who rubs the boar's snout.
Sydney Mint Building
(1811-1816): The Sydney Mint took over the south wing of the Rum Hospital in 1854 following the discovery of gold and until 1927 all gold found in New South Wales was turned into bullion and currency here. After decades of use and misuse as everything from Government offices to a car park, this building, a twin to Government House a few doors away, was restored and in 1982, opened as a branch of the Powerhouse Museum. Today the Mint houses Sydney Living Museums' head office, venue hire spaces, a restaurant and cafe, and is also home to the Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection.
Hyde Park Barracks
(1818-19): Centrally located opposite Macquarie's town square and the green fields of Hyde Park, this Georgian style building was designed by Colonial Architect Francis Greenway at the request of Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Considered to be Greenway's masterpiece, it was constructed as a home for the 600 convicts who built it. Of the original layout of the Barracks within its compound, only the central building, the stone gate piers and a solitary cell block remain. Today it is a museum which tells the story of the building and the convicts to whom it was home. A clock dating from 1817 is mounted on the building's facade. It is believed to be Australia's oldest public clock and was placed there by colonial clockmaker John Oatley, after whom the Sydney suburb was named. The museum which occupies the building is open daily 10.00am - 5.00pm. Its historical displays tell the story of the building and its first occupants, the convicts of 19th Century Sydney.
Queens Square is a small section of Macquarie Street that was originally intended to be the civic square of the City of Sydney. Over the years the city has outgrown its "civic square", but the story of this little corner of colonial Sydney today encapsulates the story of Sydney itself on its journey from colonial convict outpost to a leading city of the British Commonwealth. Governor Lachlan Macquarie's arrival in Sydney in 1810 marked a turning point for Sydney in which it began to leave behind its penal colony past and look towards its future as a world city. Macquarie set aside what is now Queens Square as the new centre of Sydney; it never became the impressive town square he had envisaged, but it did become - and remains - the heart of the city.
St James Church
Sydney's oldest surviving colonial church, begun in 1822, was designed by the government architect, and former convict, Francis Greenway, and built by convict labour. It is a prime example of the architectural work of the Macquarie period. At one time the church's spire served as a landmark for ships coming up the harbour, but today it has become lost amid the skyscrapers. Needless to say, it is well worth seeking out, especially for the plaques on the wall, which pay testament to the hard early days of the colony when people were lost at sea, were "speared by blacks," and died while serving the British Empire overseas".
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