This week, with celebrations to mark the 40th ‘Birthday’ of the Sydney Opera House, it is a perfect time to examine the history of the point on which it is built, Bennelong Point. The postcard above, from circa 1906 shows just one era in the history of this important place.
Bennelong Point has its first appearance in the history of European settlement in 1788 on the 25th of January, when Captain Arthur Phillip anchored the HMS Supply nearby. Only a year later, Captain Phillip captured the Aboriginal Bennelong who became an important intermediary between settlers and Aborigines. In 1791 a hut was built for him on what became known as Bennelong Point.
By the 1820s, the area had been decided on as the site of one of Sydney’s defences and in 1821 Fort Macquarie was completed where Bennelong’s hut had once stood. In 1902 the function of the point changed again, with Fort Macquarie being replaced by the tram depot shown in the postcard above. The tram depot was remarkably grand for such a functional building, with the design paying homage to the history of the point as a fort.
In the 1940s, Eugene Goossens began to campaign for a theatre, capable of staging large productions. He insisted that Bennelong Point was the perfect location. In 1955 a competition to design the building was launched and the tram depot was closed. The winning entry, by Danish architect Jorn Utzon was announced in 1957 and a year later the tram depot was demolished to make way for the famous building which today occupies the site. Construction of the Sydney Opera House began in 1959 and the building was opened in 1973.