Tarpeian Way Quarry

The site of one of Sydney's oldest sandstone quarries, it 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. Unfortunately, of these, only the Man O'War Steps survive today. The biggest of these buildings was Fort Macquarie, which was the first building to occupy the site of the Sydney Opera House. The seawalls of Farm Cove (built between 1848 - 1878) and the eastern shore of Circular Quay (completed in 1847) were also built in part out of the rock excavated from this quarry. The hole left by quarrying became known as the Tarpeian Way, after the resemblance of the escarpment to the Tarpeian Rock, a steep cliff of the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Roman Forum in Ancient Rome. In the time of the Caesars, criminals were hurled to their deaths from it.

Cut off from the rest of the Domain by the Cahill Expressway, the Tarpeian Precinct is a narrow strip of open parkland in the vicinity of the quarry site running along the eastern side of Macquarie Street above the old quarry face. This relatively small elevated green space dotted with large trees has views to parts of Circular Quay, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Government House is immediately to the south-east of this area.
UBD Map 1 Ref L 10

Buildings made from its sandstone

Man O'War Steps, Farm Cove Crescent5, Sydney (1810-20): The steps are the only known remains of harbour works from the Macquarie era still in existence in Sydney Harbour. They are in what appears to be their original configuration, and still in daily use. The Man O'War Steps recall a bygone era when Navy ships anchored in Farm Cove, and the soldiers came ashore to Fort Macquarie, Sydney's main military base which once stood where the Opera House is today. The Man O'War Steps were the embarking and disembarking point for this function for over a century. The original construction dating from 1810-20 became part of Fort Macquarie (Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone of the fort on 17 December, 1817) and has been improved and/or replaced over subsequent years. The majority of the existing structure appears to have been put in place as part of Farm Cove seawall constructed in the 1860s.

Fort Macquarie, Bennelong Point, Sydney (1820-21): Though Governor Macquarie was a military man, there is little evidence to suggest he made any major contribution towards the defence of Sydney other than upgrading the fort on Dawes Point and building Fort Macquarie on Bennelong Point which replaced a small fort established by First Fleeter William Dawes in 1788. Francis Greenway, Macquarie's buddy in arms when it came to the erection of public buildings in Sydney, designed the fort which came into use in January 1821, just a short while before Macquarie's departure from NSW. Fort Macquarie was a large, impressive structure built of stone hewn from an outcrop of rock near the construction site now known as the Tarpeian Precinct. By the turn of the 20th century, Fort Macquarie had outlived its usefulness. In 1902, it was replaced by the Fort Macquarie Tram Depot, a terminus and workshops for the Belmore to Circular Quay electric tram service. The site is today occupied by the Sydney Opera House.

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