This week, with the holidays well underway, and many people enjoying the beach as a way to beat the recent heat, it seemed the perfect time to share this postcard image of a popular seaside destination – Kiama.
Kiama has long been a popular seaside destination for holidaymakers, though of course, its history dates back well before European colonists. The original inhabitants of the area were the Wodi Wodi Aboriginal peoples, who called the area Kiarama-a or Kiar-mai, which is most often interpreted as ‘where the sea makes a noise’. This is where the name Kiama comes from, and the reference to the sea making a noise refers to perhaps the most famous feature of Kiama – The Blowhole. The first European to see the famous blowhole was George Bass, who anchored near Kiama in 1797 and recorded the sight in his journals. The next to visit the area were cedar getters, who by 1815 were busily clearing the bush and shipping the timber to Sydney from Black Beach. By the 1820s most of Sydney’s cedar came from the Kiama area. The Kiama area soon became famous for another trade – dairying. In fact, by the 1850s dairy farming and production was the main industry of the area, and as more people came to settle with their families and farm the land, a proper settlement grew up. A postal service was established in 1841 and the first church was built in 1843, with a school being built just a year later. In 1863 a local paper, the Kiama Independent was founded, and is today the oldest family owned newspaper in the whole of Australia.
Of course, another important factor in the local economy was the tourist industry, which truly began to thrive in the 1880s. Many Sydney residents were drawn to the beautiful scenery, and of course the seaside, a draw which has continued. Today, many head to the seaside town for a relaxing seaside holiday.
Hospitals have long been a feature of Sydney’s history, with the first ‘hospital’, constructed of tents, operational in 1788. Yet when we think of Sydney’s hospital history, we tend to think of a few, main hospitals, Sydney Hospital being the one which most often jumps to mind. Sydney has many medical facilities though, some of which still exist in their original locations, and some of which have been lost to history. The Little Bay Hospital pictured above is one such facility.
In the 1880s, there became an increased demand for hospital care, and also an increasing need to specialise medicine. Little Bay Hospital (usually known as The Coast Hospital or Prince Henry) was one just one specialised hospital built in this decade. Little Bay, located in Southeast Sydney and well away from the established communities and suburbs was the perfect location for this new hospital which catered specifically for infectious diseases. The hospital first opened in 1881 as a tent hospital and was a direct response to the smallpox epidemic which was then sweeping Sydney. A horse ambulance was established to carry patients to the isolated hospital, and disbanded in early 1882, after the epidemic was over. The Coast Hospital was not disbanded though, being converted to a briefly to a convalescent hospital before being again transformed in 1888 into a ‘fever hospital’. From this time the Coast Hospital treated infectious ‘fever’ diseases such as diphtheria, tuberculosis and scarlet fever. In 1900 and again in 1921 patients with Bubonic Plague were treated at Little Bay and in 1919, when the famous influenza pandemic sweeping the world reached Sydney, patients suffering from the deadly disease were also sent to the isolated hospital. In 1934, in honour of the Duke of Gloucester, the name of the hospital was officially changed and from this point the hospital was known as Prince Henry. The hospital at Little Bay was finally closed in 2001, with services being transferred to the Randwick Campus.
This week, The Past Present is sharing a photo of a place which residents and visitors to Sydney alike are often familiar with – Sydney Airport at Mascot. Yet as this postcard image reveals, this is not Sydney Airport as we know it today!
Sydney Airport is actually very significant, being one of the oldest continually operating airports not just in Australia, but in the world! The first plane to leave the airport at Mascot, piloted by J.J. Hammond, took fight in April 1911 and eight years later, just after the end of World War One, the site was selected by Nigel B. Love as an aircraft manufacturing facility. In 1920 the Mascot Aerodrome was officially named and opened, but soon after that the federal government acquired the site, transforming it into a national airport.
At this early time, the airport was nothing like the large passenger terminal buildings filled with shops, restaurants and amenities which we see today. In fact, it wasn’t until after World War Two that a true passenger terminal building was constructed!
Sydney Harbour is, as many say, the jewel of Sydney. It is a beautiful harbour, which today is easily crossed and navigated, but this was not always the case. Before the Harbour Bridge, and indeed before any bridge at all, ferries were needed to cross the beautiful expanse of water. Today, ferries continue to ply the harbour, with many ferry wharves having a surprisingly long history. Musgrave Street Wharf is just one of these.
Musgrave Street Wharf has a surprising history, which many may not expect. Today, the wharf serves South Mosman, but over time, some extremely important and famous Australians have used this seemingly typical wharf. In the late 19th century, an artists camp was established on the eastern short of Little Sirius Cove in Mosman. The camp, known as Curlew Camp, was used by several extremely important Australian artists, including Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts. Julian Ashton also occasionally visited, though he was not a permanent resident. Not only were the artists associated with the camp famous, some of their most famous paintings were painted while they were resident at the camp. After the artists had moved on, the camp continued to be popular, though now more with those interested in sailing and sport. During this time, another famous Australian, Frederick Lane who was a gold medal winning Olympic swimmer, became proprietor of the camp. The question is, how did those using the camp access the city, where several of the residents worked or sold their works. This is where Musgrave Street Wharf comes in – the camp was but a short walk from the ferry wharf, and this is how the residents came and went.
Sydney siders are fortunate to have many attractive streets lined with beautiful historic buildings, or at least their facades. Yet often, we spare little thought for the history of these roadways themselves. This week, The Past Present is turning its attention to just one of these fascinating streets, Barrack Street.
Barrack Street, which today is lined simply with buildings, once ran along the southern wall of the military barracks built by Governor Macquarie. Originally, the roadway was known simply as Barracks Lane and, when the barracks were still in operation, many would leave the barracks through a gate in the southern wall to use the lane way to reach either George or Clarence Street, which the lane ran between. Yet the barracks, which were in the centre of the growing Sydney town, occupied a large and very valuable plot of land. Government began to consider alternative places for the barracks and in the 1840s, a site was chosen. The site, a sandy spot on South Head Road, is now occupied by Victoria Barracks. Today, Wynyard Park is all that remains of the site once occupied by the Sydney military barracks, other than the name, which acts as a reminder in itself. Ironically though, the name Barrack Street was officially given to the road in 1849, a year after the barracks had actually closed.
This week, with the weather so cold and unpleasant, The Past Present is turning our attention to warmer and perhaps more pleasant times. In warm weather, many Sydneysiders and visitors to the city flock to the beautiful beaches, yet in the past there was far more to some of these beaches than simply sand and sea. Coogee Beach is but one example.
Coogee as a word appears to come from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘bad smell’, which may well refer to the decaying seaweed which is to occasionally be found washed up on the beach. Yet despite the perhaps less than flattering name, Coogee has long been a popular Sydney beach. As far back as 1832, European colonists were coming to the beach, and before then Aboriginals were very familiar with the area. In 1838 the village of Coogee was gazetted, and the future of the beach seemed assured and as surf bathing began to rise in popularity, Coogee became a popular destination.
Yet beaches were not just a place to laze on the sand, build castles, swim or catch a wave. In 1928 an amusement pier was even opened, as seen in the image above. The amusement pier was similar to amusement piers in England, and it actually reached out 180 metres into the sea itself. The pier, while it was still in operation, offered a large theatre and a ballroom with room for 600 dancers as well as a restaurant for up to 400 people. In addition, there were a number of smaller shops and even a penny arcade. Sydney seas are not so forgiving apparently as English seas though, and in 1934, only six years after it was opened, the pier was demolished due to safety concerns.
The image above is a glimpse into the past of Sydney, and at a building which today looks vastly different to the one which once stood proudly at the heart of Sydney’s commercial district. The Royal Exchange may still have a building, and even stand in the same position, yet nothing remains of the original sandstone building – today we see a modern construction like so many others of Sydney’s buildings.
The Royal Exchange building, as seen in the image above, was officially opened in 1853. It stood on the corners of Gresham, Pitt and Bridge streets (where the new Royal Exchange Building still stands today) and was just one of the buildings which demarked this areas as the financial heart of Sydney in the 19th century. The Royal Exchange was an important building, acting as Sydney’s first stock and wool exchanges.
The Royal Exchange was also the first building in Australia to set up a ‘Telephone Bureau’, installing Australia’s first switchboard in 1881. Subscribers to the service had to pay for everything from the poles, to maintenance, but the system was a success and just a year later there were 30 telephone lines linked to the switchboard. However, not long after this sign of success, and less than five years after the switchboard was installed, an electrical short circuit burned out the original switchboard during a thunderstorm. The Royal Exchange decided against installing a new switchboard, handing the business over to the General Post Office instead. None the less, the Royal Exchange remains Sydney’s and indeed Australia’s first real telephone bureau!