The image above is an amazing glimpse into the history of a part of the city which most, if not all Sydneysiders would be extremely familiar with, Martin Place. Yet the Martin Place we know today is a vastly different scene to that in the postcard above. Although still bustling with activity, today Martin Place is a haven for pedestrians, and gone are the rows of cars which once lined up along the street.
In it’s earliest incarnation, Martin Place was a far cry from the broad street we see in the image above, let alone the grand pedestrian mall we know today. Martin Place began life as a humble, narrow laneway connecting Moore Street to Pitt Street. There were plans to open up the Northern side of the grand new GPO building, but these did not eventuate, at least not until fire destroyed most of the properties which fronted onto the laneway. The fire allowed a wider street, called Martin Place after Sir James Martin, to be built, though the street remained extremely short. Then, in 1921 Moore Street was widened and also renamed Martin Place, extending the existing street quite significantly. Further extensions were made over the following years, and eventually, when these were completed in 1935, Martin Place ran the full length between Castlereagh Street and Macquarie Street.
Yet Martin Place was still a very different place to what we see today. The street was, like today, filled with thriving businesses and businessmen, with most of Sydney’s financial and insurance businesses centred on the street. The street was also used as just that though, a street, complete with cars and, in the image above, even a horse trap! Martin Place would not be redeveloped as a pedestrian mall until the 1970s, with the pedestrian plaza completed in 1979.