This week, with so many Sydney residents and visitors making the trip to Martin Place for the recent ANZAC Day commemorations at the Cenotaph (built in 1927), The Past Present is sharing a very different view of this famous street. Today, Martin Place is a pedestrian plaza, but once it was a busy street in the heart of Sydney’s central business district.
In 1863, with the proposal to build the GPO, there came proposals to create a grand street on the northern frontage, where at that time a tiny lane way ran. Nothing was done about creating this street though until fire destroyed many of the buildings on the northern side of the lane in 1890. A new, much grander street was opened in 1892, though it did not run between George and Macquarie Streets then, but just between Pitt and Castlereagh. In 1921 Moore Street was widened and renamed Martin Place, extending the road substantially, but it was not until 1935 that Martin Place reached the full length of the street we see today.
Martin Place was, for many years, marketed as the financial and insurance centre and the hub of the city. Older buildings were demolished and the sites auctioned to create new, grand buildings, many of which accommodated major banks and insurance companies. The street was busy, bustling with people but also with traffic. As this image shows, cars were certainly not in short supply in Martin Place! This continued to be the case until the late 1960s, when proposals to make the stretch between Pitt and George Streets a pedestrian plaza, closed to traffic. The plaza was opened in 1971 and was such a success with the public that permission to extend the plaza was granted. The final section of the pedestrian precinct was officially opened in 1979.