This week, the weather has been quite lovely, with the days warm but not as hot as they have been. Should the weekend continue the trend, many people will be looking to spend some time in one of our wonderful National Parks, perhaps by or even on the water. Our National Parks have long been popular destinations for holidaying, or just for spending a day amongst Australia’s beautiful bush. Audley, in the Royal National Park, has long been one such tourist destination.
The Royal National Park, established in 1879, is Australia’s oldest National Park, and is in fact very nearly the oldest National Park worldwide. Only Yellowstone in the US is older! One of the most popular destinations within the park is Audley, with its weir and boatsheds. Originally, when the National Park was established, it was managed by the National Park Trust, who were given the powers to develop the park for the people of the colony. They set about building roads, and buildings, establishing gardens with exotic trees and even introducing animals!
Most of the attention was focussed on the Audley area, where a small village of sorts was established in the style of a pleasure garden. A causeway was built to provide navigable water for boats, and a fresh water habitat for introduced fish. The area was landscaped with extensive lawns and paths, and a train line between Loftus and Audley was even installed to allow visitors to more easily access the area. By 1940, Audley was so popular that a proper dancehall was built! Today the Audley area continues to be popular with visitors, and you can still hire boats and enjoy the lawn areas of this historic spot.
This week, with the weather having been a little cooler, it seemed the perfect time for the Past Present to turn attention to a popular picnic spot in the Sydney area. Bents Basin, which is a State Conservation Area near Penrith has a long history of being a popular destination for Sydney siders looking for beautiful scenery, peace, quiet, bushwalking and even swimming.
Bents Basin is what is known as a ‘scour pool’ – a geological formation created over a long period of time by repeated, fast flowing floodwaters which rush out of the gorge. The basin, which resembles a small lake, is up to 22metres deep and has long been popular for fishing, swimming and boating. The Aboriginal people of the Gundungurra, Dharawal and Durug people are the traditional owners of the area, and they know the basin as Gulger (which means spinning or whirlpool). According to local stories the basin is home to a terrible water creature called Gurungadge or Gurungaty, but none the less, it was also an important area for trading between the Aboriginal peoples.
The first European to sight Bents Basin was Botanist and Explorer George Caley. He visited the area in 1802, and later returned to collect plant specimens. Later still, early travellers used the basin area as a stop over on their trips east, and in the 1860s an inn was established. As time continued on, the area became popular as a picnic area and centre of leisure for many living in the Sydney Basin area.
This week, with Valentines Day approaching, it seemed to be an ideal time to turn the attention of readers of The Past Present to a popular destination for young couples out on the town. Luna Park in Sydney has long been a popular place with couples and families alike, and also has a fascinating history.
Of course, one of the most iconic parts of Luna Park is the face, but the face we see today is not the face which once would have looked down on visitors. The face was inspired by and based on the smiling faces which welcome visitors to Luna Park Melbourne and to Steeplechase Park in the United States, but it has been replaced eight times, each time with a slightly new look. However, there has been a face of one form or another looking over visitors in Sydney for nearly the entirety of its history. The first face was installed in 1935, the same year the park opened to visitors. It was replaced in 1938, then just another year later, in 1939. Then, in 1946, 1950 and 1973 the face again had something of a ‘facelift’.
After the Ghost Train fire of 1979, Luna Park closed down, and in 1980, the future looked grim. A march was organised that year to see the site saved, and one of the results of this march was that the face itself was heritage listed. Luna Park opened to the public once again in 1982 as Harbourside Amusement Park, and the same year another new face was installed. The park closed again in 1988, and in 1994 the face was once again removed in preparation for the newest, and final face in the history of the park. The face that was removed was donated to the Powerhouse Museum, and is now part of their collection. The new face was installed in 1994, and although the park itself underwent quite a rocky period between then and the final reopening in 2004, the final face remains, smiling down on visitors to this day.
This week, The Past Present turns its attention to one of the many beautiful and somewhat iconic buildings around Sydney. Sydney has spectacular architecture displayed in many of our old buildings. One of the most spectacular, with its beautiful facades and imposing columns, is the Art Gallery of New South Wales, pictured above on a postcard from the early 20th century. Intriguingly, note the building work going on, indicating that, at the time of the postcard, the Art Gallery was yet to be completed!
The Art Gallery of New South Wales has its inception in the 1870s,when an Academy of Art was established to promote fine arts in Sydney. With funds contributed by the Government of the time, the Academy purchased the first works to be held in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Over the next decade the collection developed and grew, and a permanent home to house the collection quickly became a necessity and John Horbury Hunt was asked to submit plans for the gallery. This original building, which became known as ’the Art Barn’ was not much more than a series of thick walls, but provided a temporary home until funds for a more appropriate building could be obtained. In 1889 Hunt was asked to complete a further set of plans for the gallery, and in total he submitted three designs. However, none were viewed as appropriate, being too large, too grand, and too much a hybrid of architectural styles.
The trustees of the gallery really wanted a Classic Ionic design, a temple to art in the Greek style, and they looked to Walter Vernon to provide it. At the time, this was quite different to the type of architecture Vernon was known for, but his design certainly met with the demands of the trustees, though what we see today is a little more austere and less ornamented than Vernon envisaged. The building was completed in four stages and by 1901 the southern half of the building had been completed and in 1909 the front of the gallery was complete. However, nothing further of Vernons designs was built, despite plans to do so during the 1930s. Further extensions to the building were completed in time for the 1988 Bicentenary, and there have been many additions and alterations since.