Pyrmont North Quarries

Pyrmont North Quarries - Elizabeth Macarthur Bay (CSR refinery site), Pyrmont
Around the turn of the 19th century, John Macarthur purchased large amounts of the land on Pyrmont Point and the area became a favourite picnic spot for John and his wife Elizabeth. At that time stately Moreton Bay fig trees graced parts of the peninsula and the bay on its north-west corner, which he named Elizabeth Macarthur Bay after his wife. Due to its proximity to Sydney, as the suburban area grew, Macarthur's land increased in value and was eventually sold off, first for residential development and then to industry. Ultimo-Pyrmont became heavily industrialised and CSR moved into the area in 1875, establishing a sugar refinery.

CSR Refinery

CSR Refinery Site: Founded in 1855, CSR Limited was formed from a reconstruction of the Australian Sugar Company, which in 1842 had succeeded the Australian Sugar Company, the first company established in Australia for refining sugar. CSR began building it new refinery at Pyrmont on Johnstons Bay to the south-east of Elizabeth Macarthur Bay in 1875. Quarryman Robert Saunders was called in to level the site of the refinery to just above sea level. The rock quarried from the site was used to building the refinery, seawalls and buildings in and around Pyrmont. Saunders had plenty of quality sandstone left over which he sold for use in the construction of public and private buildings in Sydney.

Over the next 30 years, the refinery was expanded to include other buildings across the north-west corner of the Pyrmont peninsula and Saunders continued to quarry the hard high-grade sandstone of the Elizabeth Macarthur Bay's eastern cliff face. The refinery was closed in 1992 and the land on which it stood was redeveloped as the Jacksons Landing medium/high density harbourfront residential village, consisting of terraces houses and numerous high rise apartment buildings.

Elixabeth Macarthur Bay quarry site, 1992

Elizabeth Macarthur Bay: Elizabeth Macarthur Bay was once ringed by a sandy beach. The land on the north-eastern side of the bay was retained for a municipal baths, in spite of the CSR Refinery and the water police occupying the bay's watefront. After many attempts to appropriate the area for industrial purposes, the baths were finally demolished in 1946. Following the demise of the baths, vacant land on the point was turned into the park which occupies the site today.

A foreshore promenade, public open space, a civic square and low-rise apartments are the key features of Elizabeth Macarthur Bay today. A 10 metre wide foreshore promenade linking Pyrmont Point Park to Jacksons Landing is intended eventually to be part of continuous foreshore access between Woolloomooloo and Blackwattle Bay.

Buildings made from their sandstone

Lands Department Building, Bridge Street, Sydney (1877-90) (1894): Though most of the sandstone for this building came from other Pyrmont quarries operated by Robert Sanders, the CSR site provided much of the stone for the foundations, as it was a very hard stone. The Lands Department is an extravagant Government building which originally featured four iron staircases and lifts operated by water power. Built to the design of Colonial Architect James Barnet, the three-storey Free Italian Renaissance style building was built around a framework of reinforced concrete and steel girders. Inside walls are brick, the floors and ceilings are concrete and the exterior and foundations are made from Pyrmont sandstone.

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): The stone for the building's foundations came from the northern quarries of the Pyrmont peninsila. 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.

New South Wales Club, 31 Bligh Street, Sydney (1884-87) : The NSW Club House Building is one of the last remaining city buildings designed as a Victorian "gentlemen's club". It has the finest Italian Palazzo style facade surviving from the Victorian period in Australia. The NSW Club was founded in 1883, the club premises are the work of architect William Wardell. The design was based on Sir Charles Barry's Reform Club in London's Pall Mall. The buildings were erected on vacant land and comprised the main three-storey block of Pyrmont sandstone, mainly from Saunders' Elizabeth Macarthur Bay quarry, two side wings at right angles to the street and a one storey block to the rear linking the side wings of stuccoed brick. The mansard roof and billiard rooms it accommodated were added in 1916.

The building was sold and earmarked for demolition in 1972, but a trade-off with its developers led to the front section of the club premises being saved but the other sections were demolished in 1977.

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.

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