This week, with the July School Holidays drawing to a close, it is the perfect time to turn attention to one of Sydney’s favourite tourist destinations. For locals and visitors alike, Taronga Zoo has long been a popular place to visit for the day and view the amazing animals looked after by the zoo.
The Taronga Zoo which we see today builds on over a century of history, yet the zoo we now know is a far cry from the zoo of yesteryear. Taronga Zoo was established on its current premises in 1916, following the move of the original Zoological Gardens from Moore Park. Many of the animals, including elephants, were transported from the old Moore Park site by barge, travelling by water across the Harbour to their new home. They were settled into the new, larger premises, where the Elephant Temple, seal ponds and monkey pit were already constructed.
Yet these enclosures, many of which are maintained today as a memory of the zoo’s history, were a far cry from what we recognise today. As the postcard above shows, the old exhibits were small and could be quite spartan compared to what we now know. The focus of the zoo was on entertainment and fun, whereas today the zoo focuses on scientific research, conservation and education. This new focus for the zoo dates back to 1967, when a critical review of the zoo was undertaken. New exhibits were built and the focus of the zoo shifted to scientific research, conservation and education. Soon the famous elephant rides and monkey zoo were replaced with more educational activities, like the seal show.
The image above is a busy view of Sydney in its maritime heyday, a time when wharves in Sydney Harbour bustled with activity. This particular view, from circa 1910, shows Johnstone’s Bay from Balmain, both areas which were involved in maritime industries.
Today, Johnstone’s Bay is best remembered and indeed identified by the bridge which spans it – the ANZAC Bridge. Yet this was not the first bridge in the area. In 1860 the first pile was driven into the harbour to build the first, wooden bridge, over Johnstone’s Bay. In 1903 it was replaced by the Glebe Island Bridge. These early bridges were built in order to make it possible for the abattoirs which were an unpleasant part of Central Sydney to be moved onto Glebe Island where they were less of a problem. Yet building a bridge over this important waterway was something which could have negatively impacted maritime industry and so both bridges had to incorporate swing spans.
Why were these swing spans so necessary? Johnstone Bay is bracketed between two important historic wharf areas in Sydney, Pyrmont and Balmain and it is no surprise perhaps that the bay itself was also used for shipping. In fact in its more recent history the bay was used as the shipping container terminal! In addition, Johnstone Bay feeds into Rozelle Bay and Blackwattle Bay, both also areas which have historically played important roles in Sydney’s maritime heritage. Even today, boats come and go under the ANZAC Bridge, in part bringing back seafood to feed the seafood trade at the Sydney Fish Markets in Blackwattle Bay.
With the July school holidays just around the corner, and many families looking to take advantage of the beautiful winter weather, The Past Present is turning its attention to what was once one of Sydneys most popular pleasure grounds – Fairyland. Today, Fairylane is little more than an area of bush in Lane Cove National Park. It is hidden away from the main drag and little visited. Yet once, it was one of the most popular places for Sydneysiders, particularly those on the North Shore, to spend a day.
Fairyland was built on the foreshores of the Lane Cove River, in an area which once belonged to the Swan Family. The Swan’s purchased the land in the early 20th century and quickly established a market garden. They grew many crops, but one of the most popular was strawberries, which day-trippers out and about on the river would purchase. Soon enough, the Swan family realised that they could offer more complete afternoon teas to these day-trippers, and their land became a popular stop for people boating on the river.
By 1920 the Swan’s had seen the potential to transform their land into a popular and lucrative pleasure ground. They set about transforming their gardens and crops into what was to become Fairyland. The pleasure grounds were indeed immensely popular with people boating on the river, and it wasn’t long before the Swan family were expanding again. They installed rides, including a ‘razzle dazzle’, and built a wharf, dance hall, kiosk and playground. They used fairytale characters throughout the pleasure grounds, painting them on buildings, and even making painted, wooden figures which were to be found in the trees – hence the name fairyland. Today, very little of Fairyland remains, other than the site and some interpretative signage, but many remember happy outings to this once popular pleasure ground.