The Palace Gardens, pictured in the postcard above, provide a glimpse into a fascinating event in Sydney’s history. In 1879 Sydney played host to an International Exhibition but the grand building in which it was held, the Garden Palace, was lost to fire in 1882. All that remains are the grand entrance gates, now leading into the Botanic Gardens from Macquarie Street, and the garden which occupies the site – The Palace Gardens. Over the next few weeks The Past Present will look at the history of this garden and the amazing building which once stood here.
International Exhibitions provided countries with an opportunity to showcase their industrial, manufacturing and agricultural might, and since the London Exhibition of 1851, had been quite fashionable. When in 1877 the Agricultural Society in Sydney decided to hold an exhibition, an appropriate building to house the event needed to be found. At first, the exhibition was to be held in The Society’s Exhibition Building in Prince Alfred Park but when the idea to host an exhibition was made public, there was a great deal of interest – far more than they had expected! The building, and their original plans, would not be adequate.
The Agricultural Society tried to cancel the whole thing, but the Governor stepped in saying it would go ahead, with help from a public subscription. When this did not produce the funds, and the Government voted against a subsidy, the event seemed doomed, but the word was out and people were planning to come! ‘The World’ as The Sydney Morning Herald put it, had forced Sydney’s hand – the exhibition would have to go ahead.
Come back next week to find out what happened next!