Paradise Quarry

Paradise Quarry - north of Bank Street in and around Saunders and Jones Street, Pyrmont
Charles Saunders established a dominance quarrying the sandstone of Pyrmont that the family business was to hold over the quarrying industry for a number of decades. They extended their operations from his original Wattle Street site up to Miller Street and in future decades around the peninsula to Johnston Bay.

In the 1870s Saunders' son, Robert, began introducing new technologies which led to the re-opening of many quarries which had been abandoned where all the rock to ground level had been extracted. By using steam-powered cranes and specially imported sawing machines with steam driven iron blades, Saunders was able to extract the harder stone found below ground level from the abandoned sites.

He began with his father's quarry at the foot of Miller Street which was nicknamed "Paradise" and its neighbour "Half-way" named after the degree of difficulty encountered in extracting the harder rock. Officially known as the Saunders Quarry, it operated from the mid-1850s until the 1920s. It was called "Paradise" because its stone was strong enough to use as structural material but could easily be manipulated into any shape the mason wanted for intricate, decorative work. It cut easily when it was soft and grey out of the ground but hardened and turned a golden brown over time.

When the The quarry site remained a deserted hole in the ground in the shadow of a rugged cliff face until the Darling Island to Balmain Road Junction section of the Darling Harbour/Rozelle goods line was opened in January 1922. Two tunnels were cut under Pyrmont through which the line was laid; one portal - near the end of Jones Street - opened out onto the abandoned quarry site. The line is used today by LightRail. In the 1990s when the Pyrmont peninsula began to undergo a healing process, the apartment buildings along Jones Street were erected to fill the quarry site, along with landscaping beside the cliff face at the end of Jones Street.

Buildings made from its sandstone

Bank of New South Wales, 824-26 George Street, Broadway (1894): Custom built for the Bank of New South Wales, this well proportioned and skilfully detailed Federation Romanesque style building was designed by Varney Parkes, a prominent and skilled architect and son of the Premier, Sir Henry Parkes. The building. Featuring rendered brickwork, sandstone, timber framed windows and glass and brass entry rendered brickwork, was built at a cost of 17,400 pounds. It was associated with a gold refinery and smelter making the bank important in the gold bullion trade. A trough from gold smeltering activities remains extant in the basement. The building demonstrates an unusual use of the Federation Romanesque style in a city commercial building, creating a refined image for, what was at the time, the major Bank in Australia.

Sydney Town Hall, George Street, Sydney (1869-89): One of Sydney's most elaborate buildings, a remarkable feat considering it was created by a succession of architects who strove to outdo each other with their own individual ideas of what the end result should be. The first was RJ Wilson who was replaced initially by Albert Bond when Wilson's design proved impractical. Bond completed the vestibule with its crystal chandelier, stained glass windows and ornate plaster work; the Bradridge brothers added the clock tower in 1884 and three other architects were employed to complete the Centennial Hall with its coffered zinc ceiling and mighty 8,500 pipe organ. The exterior stonework includes a number of sandstone lions, one of which, near the main entrance facing George Street, has one eye shut. This oddity, not discovered until the building was completed, recalls the head stonemason's habit of closing one eye when checking the line of stonework.

General Post Office, Martin Place, Sydney (1864-87): Built on a grand scale and at huge expense, the General Post Office dominated the streetscape and skyline for decades and symbolised the prosperity Australia was enjoying in the wake of the gold rush and the economic boom it had fostered. When its tower was completed in the 1870s it became Sydney's tallest structure (73 metres) and remained so until 1939 when the AWA Tower, at 111 metres, took over the honour.

Built of Pyrmont sandstone, most of which came from the Paradise quarry, the Martin Place section was constructed between 1866 and 1874. The keystone block for the main arch in George Street weighed more than 25 tonnes and was delivered on a specially constructed wagon pulled by 26 Clydesdales. In 1868, when the foundation stone was brought to the site, HRH the Prince of Wales, son of Queen Victoria, was in Sydney on a goodwill visit, and laid the stone.

At the opening of the first section (George Street/Martin Place), the GPO was described by the Postmaster General as a building that "will not be surpassed by any other similar structure in the southern hemisphere".

Built of stone quarried from the rocky escarpments of Pyrmont in grand Classical Renaissance style. The Martin Place section was constructed between 1866 and 1874, the Pitt Street section being added between 1881 and 1885. The controversial relief figures in the stonework were created by Tomaso Sani, and were intended to represent Australians.

Central Railway Station, Eddy Avenue, Broadway (1908): In 1906, the Sydney rail terminal was moved from Redfern to an imposing new building constructed on the site of the old Devonshire Street Burial Grounds, which today is known as Central Railway Station.

This station was built in stages. The design was completed at the end of 1901. Eleven stone masons commenced work on 7th August 1902 and work gangs demolished the platforms of the old Sydney station as the new ones were built. Platforms 1 to 15 and the first two floors of the new station were opened in August 1906. The clock tower and top two floors were completed in 1921 and the electric platforms (16 - 23) for the electric suburban rail network were opened in 1926.

At the end of the lower colonnade near the corner of Eddy Avenue and Pitt Street is a plaque which commemorates the 1902 completion of the foundations for the new station. This foundation stone weighs 4.5 tonnes and was quarried at Bowral in the southern highlands of New South Wales and brought by rail to Central.

St Mary's Cathedral, Cathedral Street, Sydney (1882): In 1821, Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone to St Mary's Chapel in Cathedral Street, Sydney, on the site of the first land grant to the Catholic Church in Australia. The original St Marys was built many years later but burnt down in June 1865. It's replacement, which remained unfinished for a further 119 years, is the work of architect William Wardell. His Gothic Revival style cathedral was built and opened in stages, the first in 1882. In 1913, Australia's first Cardinal and Archbishop Kelly laid the foundation stone for the final stage, which was completed in 1928. The Celtic-inspired terrazzo mosaic floor of the crypt took 15 years to complete from 1946 to 1961. The twin southern spires proposed by Wardell were included as part of the final stage but were never erected for financial reasons. The towers stood minus their spires for the best part of a century until a fundraising drive paid for their construction in 2000 along with the purchase of a new organ and renovations to the cathedral's stonework. To comply with modern Earthquake bracing requirements, the spires have steel frames which were placed by helicopter and then used as cranes to lift the stone cladding.

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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