The image above is a beautiful glimpse into the history of a place which was once, and continues to be a popular holiday destination for many Sydneysiders. Yet the Gosford of today looks remarkably different to the Gosford captured in this snapshot!
Before European colonisation of Australia, the Gosford area was home to the Guringai and Darkinjung Aboriginal peoples, but it was not long after Europeans arrived in Sydney that the Central Coast was being explored. In 1788 and 1789 Governor Phillip himself explored the area around Gosford and it did not take long before timber getters and lime burners had begun to appear. The difficulty of accessing the area though meant that true settlement didn’t begin until 1823 and even in 1850 the road between Brisbane Water and the Pittwater area was just a rudimentary track.
In the 1880s though, with the completion of the railway link between Sydney and Newcastle, Gosford began to grow. Tourists began to see the Central Coast as an ideal holiday and leisure destination and soon began to flock to the surrounding area. In 1889, when the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge was opened, traveling to Gosford became easier and quicker, and the tourist industry continued to grow and thrive. By the early 20th century, and well into the 1960s, many Sydneysiders will recall heading up the coast for their annual holidays, enjoying sun, surf and sand on the beautiful Central Coast.
The image above shows an area which most Sydneysiders are familiar with, yet the building it showcases is one which many may not recognise or indeed have heard of. The building which it became, the Capitol Theatre, may well be more familiar.
In 1829, the valley below Brickfield Hill was set aside for cattle and corn markets. Soon enough, the area became known as ‘Haymarket’. The area attracted farmers, who paused their bullock carts and rested before making the trek up Brickfield Hill to the produce markets and by the 1860s it became clear that a fruit and vegetable market in the immediate area would be of benefit. Belmore Markets was built in 1869 on the site of the old cattle market and soon enough the Chinese were also moving into the area, creating businesses including hotels which catered to the Chinese Market Gardeners who sold their produce to the Belmore Markets. Paddy’s Market was soon constructed adjacent to the Belmore Markets and around these buildings grew up not only China Town, but also public houses and places for entertainment. Indeed, on Saturday nights people flocked to Haymarket for cheap shopping, sideshows and street theatre. In 1892 a grand new Belmore Markets building, designed by George McRae, was constructed. The building featured terracotta tiling with designs of fruit and plants – even the Choko vine! The market was badly sited though, with limited access to transport for the produce and it would not be long before new markets were built closer to Darling Harbour itself. The grand building was demolished, but then reconstructed as a taller building, but with the same design (including the terracotta tiles).
Between 1916 and 1927 the building was leased as a Hoppodrome to the Wirth Brothers Circus. In 1927, after the circus departed John Eberson was commissioned to create a new interior for the building in the then popular atmospheric style. From the late 1920s, the building became the Capitol Picture Theatre, operating right through until the end of the 1960s. By this time of course the building was run down and somewhat isolated. The Chinese had moved closer to Darling Harbour and many of the local stores surrounding the building, including Anthony Horderns, had closed. This wasn’t the end for the Belmore Markets/Capitol Theatre building though. After many years of disuse and decline, the building was set to be demolished, but a 1981 Heritage Council Conservation order prevented the demolition of what was actually Australia’s last atmospheric theatre! City Council decided to restore the Capitol Theatre, including its visible interior. The theatre reopened in 1995.
This image of Dee Why is a stunning glimpse into a landscape which once was common to Australian beaches – sand dunes. Sand dunes once dotted Australia’s shoreline, being particularly famous at Botany Bay, but over time they have eroded, or been more drastically reduced by activities such as sand mining.
Dee Why beach has long been popular with surfers and families. In 1914, only a year after the Salvation Army began to sell off holdings they had in the area, a surf club was established and they even held the first surf carnival. By the 1920s the area had become a popular place for people to spend their holidays, with a huge number of holiday cottages, a camp ground and plenty of room for caravans. No doubt many younger visitors relished the chance to slip, slide and ride down the once enormous sand dunes. Over time though these dunes eroded, with natural forces blowing the sand away, much of it ending up in Dee Why Lagoon. Although sand dunes are still an impressive part of Dee Why beach, the majestic dunes pictured in this photograph are likely a thing of history.
The image above is an evocative glimpse into era before the Spit Bridge was built. Today, most Sydneysiders and many visitors to the beautiful harbour city are familiar with The Spit Bridge. It is hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t there.
As this image shows though, there was a time when crossing The Spit was not as simple as driving along a bridge. The Spit (which was actually originally known as The Sand Spit) was settled by European colonists as early as the 1840s. In 1849 Peter Ellery took up land opposite The Spit (purchasing the land formally in 1855). Travellers often asked him to take them across the water, and in the early 1850s he decided to start a more formal, paid ferry service adjacent to where The Spit Bridge is today. Originally, the ferry was simply a row boat, but in 1862, with the building of the road to The Spit and the increased traffic the road brought, a better system was needed. Ellery soon replaced the rowboat with a hand operated punt. In 1871 the Government took over the service, operating a public ferry service and in 1888 a steam punt appeared. The steam punt operated right up until the first bridge was built in 1924.