York Street Heritage Walk

York Street was first called Church Street and later Barracks Row. It ran from Fort Phillip on Flagstaff Hill (Observatory Hill) to the northern side of the Military Barracks (now Wynyard Park). It then continued from the south side of The Barracks to the Burial Ground (the site of Sydney Town Hall). The two lower sections of York Street were joined in 1848 when The Barracks were demolished.

York Street was named in 1810 by Gov. Macquarie after the Prince Frederick, the Duke of York and Albany, the second eldest child, and second son, of King George III, and brother of King William IV. He was the Duke referred to in the famous children's ditty ... "The grand old Duke of York, he had 10,000 men, he marched up to the top of the hill, and he marched them down again".

The southern end became home to many import and export companies, being attracted to the area by the markets established there in Macquarie's time (on the site of today's Queen Victoria Building). The northern end beyond Wynyard Square did not come into existence until 1848 when the land occupied by the Wynyard Barracks was resumed and subdivided. Half of this new section, along with Princes Street into which it ran, disappeared with the resumption of land for the Harbour Bridge approaches in The Rocks area.

Church Hill
The ridge along which York Street runs, between Grosvenor and Margaret Streets, had been known as Church Hill since Governor Captain Philip Gidley King laid the foundation stone on what was to become the first St Philip's on Church Hill in October 1880. Within a short period of time, Sydney's Catholic and Prebyterian congregations had also built churches there, ensuring the hill's name would be permenant.

The Scots Presbyterian Church was founded in Sydney in the 1820s and the congregation has had to be relocated on several occasions to different sites in the Sydney CBD prior to moving back into its current site on Church Hill at 44 Margaret Street, known as the Assembly Building in February 2006. The building has been creatively redeveloped to include residential useage and at the same time the interior of the Church was redeveloped. The new building retains its historical features and significance while providing the congregation with a modern house of worship. Built in the early 1840s, St Patrick's has a history reaching back to the very beginnings of Catholic life in Australia. In 1840 William Davis donated the land on which St Patrick's is built, gifting that section of his 1809 grant bounded by Gloucester and Grosvenor Streets. The foundation stone was blessed on 25 August 1840.
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  • St Philip's Church
    Cnr Jamison and Clarence Streets, Church Hill. The present sandstone church was built between 1842 and 1856 to a Perpendicular Gothic design by Edmund Blacket. Construction was delayed due to an exodus of stonemasons during the goldrush of the 1850s. An earlier church on this site was the similarly named but differently spelt Church of St Phillip, thus named in honour of the colony's first governor, Arthur Phillip. Built in 1798, it replaced Australia's first church, a wattle and daub building erected by Rev Richard Johnson in 1793 on the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets, which burnt down. A military windmill, erected in 1802, stood alongside the Church of St Phillip.

    Lang Park
    This often windswept triangle of grass with huge shady Moreton Bay Fig trees is named after Rev. Dr. John Dunmore Lang whose statue is in nearby Wynyard Park. A period gas lamp, erected in 1966, commemorates the first display of gas lighting omn Church Hill in 1841. A worn stone fountain (1904) with a lion's head facing York Street, was erected in memory of Alderman Patrick Nolan.

    Transport House
    19-31 York Street, Sydney. Transport House, otherwise known as Railway House, was constructed in the early 1930s as the administrative home of the New South Wales State Railways. The new headquarters, on York Street above the recently completed Wynyard Station, facing Wynyard Square, opened in 1935. Designed by the architects Henry E Budden and Mackey, the building was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects medal and the Sulman Award in 1939. The new office building was intended as the railway headquarters and was to house all the departments that had previously been located at Central Station. The opening of the building represented a high point for the New South Wales State Railways, coming soon after the completion of the city underground system and the extension of the electric lines over the recently constructed Harbour Bridge.

    The original plans for the building were for a large, imposing office tower, extending along York Street from Margaret to Erskine Street, with horizontally aligned wings each side of the central vertical tower. However the eventual design only included the south wing and the tower. This has since been acknowledged as giving the art deco building a more modern look for the period than was intended, and as a consequence, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
    • Heritage Listing

    • Wynyard Railway Station
      The 2.6 km western arm of the underground railway from Central to Wynyard via Town Hall was opened on 28th February 1932 with the opening of the Harbour Bridge. Site for the station, along with its approach tunnels, was excavated by the cut and cover method. The station platforms are under Wynyard Park. The station was connected to the North Shore when the Harbour Bridge was opened in March 1932, and in 1956 was connected to Circular Quay station, thus completing the city circle rail loop.

      The original intention was that Platforms 1 and 2 of Wynyard Station would eventually serve the eastern pair of railway tracks across Sydney Harbour Bridge, and in the interim were used as a terminus for North Shore tram services on Sydney's original tram network, a service that operated over those tracks from the bridge's opening in 1932 until 1958. Lines to Mosman and Gladesville, though agreed to in principle and allowed for in the construction of Wynyard and North Sydney stations, never gained Government approval.

      After the bridge was opened, a new suburban railway line between St. Leonards and Eastwood was given the green light instead, but funds for that project dried up during the great depression of the 1930s and the line was never built. After the tram services were withdrawn, the space occupied by platforms 1 and 2 was converted into the current underground car park for a neighbouring hotel, which explains why the platforms of Wynyard Station are numbered 3 to 6.
      • Building The City Circle

      • Wynyard Park
        A small but pleasant sunny park which occupies the parade ground of an early Sydney military barracks. They were begun by Colonel Joseph Foveaux and completed by Gov. Macquarie in 1815. Its name honours Major-General EB Wynyard (1788-1864) who commenced the British forces in Australia between 1848 and 1853. The station platforms of Wynyard Station are immediately under Wynyard Park.

        Statue of Rev. Dr. John Dunmore Lang: (1891): John Dunmore Lang was a Presbyterian minister who had a major impact on life in 19th Century Sydney. Born in 1799 at Greenock, Scotland, Lang was persuaded to emigrate to Australia by his younger, brother George, a settler from the old country who shared with his brother the moral degradation he believed existed in colonial New South Wales.

        Lang arrived in the colony early in 1823 and spent the next fifty years in a high profile war against sin and degradation. Every one from the Governor down came under his wrath if he believed them to be acting out of line. Lang won many major victories during his term as a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly from 1859 to 1864, He also had a major impact on the growth and the development of Sydney when he relieved the colony's shortage of skilled tradesmen, particularly stonemasons by soliciting 50 tradesman from his homeland of Scotland to build his Australian College in College Street on a site now occupied by the Australian Museum. Lang's recruits, who included 17 stonemasons and 18 carpenters, arrived aboard the Stirling Castle in October 1831 and made the area around his church towards Millers Point their new home. Among them were men who would become household names in the fledgling colony. Hugh Brodie and Alexander Craig became business partners and built the Victoria Barracks using a team of 80 free men and 200 convicts. James Kay, a highly skilled carpenter, was soon in big demand by the colony's more wealthy colonists. William Carss, a master cabinetmaker, arrived with nothing, but by using his skills to create some of the finest furniture crafted in the colony from the local timber, acquired sufficient wealth to purchase a large tract of land in the Blakehurst area. The cottage he built still stands beside the calm waters of Kogarah Bay.

        Whilst the location of Lang's statue is understandable - it is at the heart of his parish and within a stone's throw of the site of his church - its orientation is seen by many as disrespectful towards the man it honours. He has his back to the site of his Scots Church whilst he is facing Wynyard Park towards the Westpac Bank which in Lang's day was the Bank of New South Wales, an institution he loathed and criticised regularly.

        AWA Building
        45 York Street (1939): Whilst Culwulla Chambers is 6 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, 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.

        A recording of "God Save The King", the first public demonstration of public broadcasting in Australia, was transmitted on 13th August 1919, from the studios of AWA during a talk by Ernest Fisk to the Royal Society of NSW in Elizabeth Street.
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        • Hardware House
          73 York Street, Sydney. 1930. Also known as Henley House, ICLE House, Monte Paschi House and Cassa Commerciale, Hardware House was built c1892 as a five-storey warehouse (plus basement). Believed to have been designed by Herbert S.Thompson, the faade is a fine example of the Victorian Mannerist style. The first tenants were warehousemen Alcock Brothers Ltd., importers and wholesalers of soft goods.
          • Heritage Listing

          • Former National House
            75 York Street, Sydney. 1894. National House is a six storey building of Victorian Italianate style and is one of a group of three buildings, having a similar scale and, character and well-designed Victorian facades, set within a high quality commercial/warehouse streetscape. It is historically significant as part of the nineteenth-century consolidation of York Street as Sydney's most prestigious warehouse precinct, for its highly intact commercial warehouse exterior with fine decorative detailing and for its contribution to the York Street Streetscape. A 2-storey brick and stone building licensed as the Bristol Hotel previously occupied the site. The new building was leased to a variety of tennants, including a woollen merchants and manufacturers, before being the premises of the National Bank of Australia for many years. It is now the Hotel CBD.
            • Heritage Listing

            • Grace Building (Grace Hotel)
              77-79 York Street, Sydney. 1930. A soaring Commercial Gothic style skyscraper based on the Chicago Tribune Building, the Grace Building was designed by Morrow & Gordon during the late 1920s. It was opened in 1930 by Grace Brothers, the Australian department store magnates, as their headquarters. The building was designed to use the first two storeys in the manner of a department store. The remaining storeys were intended to provide rental office accommodation for importers and other firms engaged in the softgoods trade. The Grace Building has served various purposes since its opening; it was sublet to the Australian Commonwealth government in the early 1940s and later became the Sydney headquarters of the U.S. armed forces under General Douglas MacArthur during the Pacific War. After World War II, it continued to be used for government administration purposes and was compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth in November 1945. In 1942 the gound floor facade and glazing was boarded up with hardboard screens. An air-raid shelter was constructed in the basement around the same time. Extensive renovation and restoration during the 1990s resulted in the return of many of the building's original features, including light fittings, lifts, stairwells, high pressed-metal ceilings, marble floors, wide hallways, and elegant decorative ironwork.
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              • Commonwealth Bank
                1954 - This 12 storey office tower was the first major building to be completed after the end of World War II and was the catalyst for a flourish of new high rise buildings that changed the skyline of the inner city during the latter years of the 20th century. It would have been built higher but a legal limitation of one hundred and fifty feet was in place at the time of construction. In excavating, difficulties arose due to the Wynyard-Town Hall underground railway line which passed below the site. Three concrete columns had to be extended through the railway tunnel walls to foundations some sixty feet below ground level.
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                • Queen Victoria Building
                  George Street, Sydney. 1898 - Designed by City Architect George McRae in 1898, this spacious and ornate building of Romanesque design was for two decades a produce market. Built of Pyrmont sandstone, it enjoyed many decades of service as a produce market until it fell into disrepair. After surviving numerous threats of demolition and various uses including that of the City Library, it was refurbished at a cost of $75 million and reopened in its present form in 1986.
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                  • Gresham House
                    149 York Street, Sydney. Hong Kong House, formerly the Gresham Hotel and Central Hotel, is situated on a prominent site on the corner of York and Druitt Streets forming part of the Town Hall streetscape. It is a five storey building of Victorian Free Classical Style. In 1888, a competition was held for the design of a hotel and banking premises on this corner of York and Druitt Streets. Twenty-six designs were submitted and the competition was won by architect Ambrose Thornley. The hotel was designed to occupy the whole of the Druitt St frontage and the upper part of the York Street front. The banking premises were to consist of a ground floor banking chamber and a board room above, fronting York Street. The site was considered to be "fast growing into one of the best positions in the city" because the second stage of the Sydney Town Hall, called the Centennial Hall, was under construction across the road.

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