With Christmas just around the corner, and many people purchasing flowers as a hostess gift for the many people hosting Christmas parties, it seemed the perfect time to share this image of the iconic Martin Place flower sellers. The image, from a postcard dating to the first 10 years of the 20th century, is an evocative glimpse into a business which has long been linked to Martin Place (then Moore Street), and continues to thrive in the area today.
Martin Place has long been a bustling hive of activity, full of people going about their daily work. This bustling activity made it a perfect place for flower sellers to ply their trade, attracting passersby and many impulse sales. Yet most flower sellers did not start off in Martin Place at all, being forced off other, busier streets to make room for ever increasing traffic. Martin Place was the ideal place for flower sellers to congregate though, setting themselves up near the steps of the General Post Office and pouncing on people hurrying to mail their letters.
The earliest Martin Place flower sellers began to set up stalls in the 19th century, but it was during the 20th century that Sydney’s most iconic flower seller plied her trade. Rosie Shaw had once had high hopes of a career in opera, coming to Sydney from London in 1927 to seek fame and fortune in the land Dame Nellie Melba had called home. Rosie’s dreams never came to pass, but she grew to the status of a Sydney icon none the less. In 1931 she first set up shop on Martin Place, plying her customers not just with flowers, but with snatches of opera and tall tales of her history of a ballerina and singer. Rosie soon became very popular and increasingly influential, using her iconic status to act as one of the earliest defenders of gay men in Sydney. She sold flowers for 40 years, finally packing up her stall in 1971.
The image above, from a postcard dated circa 1930, captures a snapshot of a chapter in Sydney’s history which many are unaware of. Although today Rose Bay continues to be home to sea-planes, which are particularly popular for scenic flights, Rose Bay airport once had a much larger role to play in Sydney’s transport history.
Today, we think of Mascot and the Sydney airport as the home of international travel in Sydney, yet once, there was another airport at the heart of the industry. International travel by plane was, in the 1920s, almost unheard of. Yet there was a new type of plane – the flying boat – which was going to become a pioneer for international air travel. In the 1930s an airport was established at Rose Bay, at that stage on a temporary basis, to cater for these flying boats.
The Qantas Empire Airways and Imperial Airways used the Rose Bay airport – Sydney’s first international airport – as the terminus for their London to Sydney service. Of course, the planes could not make a continuous journey, and made many stops along the way, but the journey on a flying boat was luxurious and comfortable.
It was believed that in the wake of World War Two there would be a boom in international air travel. Yet while this prediction was correct, advances in the abilities of land based air craft meant that the flying boats became less popular. Plans to build further facilities at Rose Bay were put on hold as the flying boat services were gradually decreased. The last Qantas flight from Rose Bay took place in 1955, and the final commercial flight from the Rose Bay airport, an Ansett flight, took off in 1974.
The image above is a stunning glimpse into the history of a place which, for many Sydneysiders and visitors alike, is very familiar – Millers Point. Yet the image above is stunningly different to the Millers Point we are familiar with today. Today, Millers Point is an historic area of Sydney with many cultural attractions and cafes, yet once it was at the heart of Sydney’s working harbour, bustling with a different type of activity entirely.
Until the 1830s, Millers Point was a reasonably deserted part of the new colony, with very few people settling in the area, despite it being close to the centre of the settlement. In the 1820s there was a military hospital and three windmills in the area (hence Millers point – named after Jack the Miller) but only half a dozen houses in the entire area. By the 1830s though, the deep water of Millers Point and its close situation to Dawes Point, were attracting more people to the area. Soon, a thriving if smelly industry focussing on whaling and sealing began to be established. By the 1840s, there were more workers cottages scattered through Millers Point and even the occasional wharf owners grand home was built.
It was in the 1850s that the maritime trade in the area really began to take off though, and by the 1860s there were even several large warehouses built on the waterfront. Yet the wharves were crowded and unsanitary, especially after the depression of the 1890s, and they made a perfect home for rats. In 1900 the bubonic plague came to Millers Point and in the wake of the disease, the area was resumed by the government and a major redevelopment began. The first, and most important part of the redevelopment was the building of new wharves and the associated docks and warehouses which were associated with a thriving maritime industry.
The image above is a stunning and beautiful view of place which few Sydneysiders know of. Although more famous for its role in Australian tennis history, White City in Rushcutters Bay actually began life as an amusement park, not dissimilar to the now iconic Luna Park at Milsons Point.
Originally, the area where White City was to be built was occupied by market gardens and supplied produce to the Sydney market. Yet in 1913 Cosen Spenser established White City. Cosen Spenser was a well known film entrepreneur, and White City was based on many parks which had been built overseas and which he was familiar with. The main inspiration was the famous White City amusement park in London, but the name also reflected the shining white buildings which Spensers park was dominated by. The buildings, which looked grand and expensive were actually timber which was then covered in a layer of chicken wire and plaster, creating the iconic white look. They were designed and built by T.H Eslick, who was also the man behind the design and construction of Luna Park in Melbourne.
White City amusement park boasted many attractions, including a fun fair, music hall, ballroom and fairground, as well as what was termed ‘seasonal entertainment’. Among the many attractions there were a Japanese Village, giant carousel, fun factory and scenic railway. The roller coaster at White City was even more historic, being the first roller coaster in Australia! Of course, the amusement park drew huge crowds and was extremely popular. Yet in 1917, a lightning strike hit the park and started a fire which destroyed the popular attraction. The following year White City Limited went into liquidation and all the remaining assets were sold.
This week, with so much talk about the upcoming horse racing season, and the many important races which are to take place, it seemed the ideal time to share one of the amazing photos of Randwick Racecourse in the Past Present Collection. The photo above, which was taken by an unknown photographer in circa 1936 shows
Today, the Melbourne Cup may be one of the most, if not the most famous race in Australia. Yet the Melbourne Cup is far from the only important race run in Australia, and the racecourse where it is held, Flemington Racecourse, is not the oldest. In fact, in the early years of the colony racing was a very popular pastime and several basic racecourses were established. Yet by the 1830s these oldest of racecourses had stopped operating for a variety of reasons, leaving Hyde Park the main centre of horse racing at the time. It was clear that a dedicated horse racetrack was needed though and in late 1832 a group of gentlemen petitioned Governor Bourke to set aside land near Botany Road. In 1833, after the land had been surveyed and found suitable, the petition was granted and the course, then known as ‘the sandy course’ was soon in operation. Yet by 1838, racing had stopped again.
This could have spelled the end for Randwick Racecourse, but in 1858 racing returned. The Australian Jockey Club, which was established in 1842, wanted a place to establish a permanent racecourse with good facilities and petitioned the Government to grant them the old Sandy Course. The grant was allowed, the facilities and track were improved and the first race, held in May 1860, was attended by a crowd of over 6000 spectators. With the extension of the tram service to the course in 1880 the future of the course was assured. By 1900 the tram was so popular that a dedicated loop station was built simply to service the racecourse, and at its peak the trams carried 117,480 passengers in a single day in 1834!
The image above is a glimpse into the history of an area of North Sydney which today looks very different. In fact, the view above is so changed today that many may not recognise the location of this shot! Once, Folly Point and the Cammeray area more generally were dominated by dairies and quarries, but today the area is vastly changed, a built up area of homes, gardens and tree lined streets.
Cammeray is named after the Cammeraygal, the Aboriginal group who lived in the area. Though this name has a clear derivation, the name Folly Point is a little more mysterious. Such an evocative title – but what was the folly to which the name refers? Sadly nobody truly knows how the name came to be. There are two main theories though. Some suggest the area is named after Captain Charles McKinnon who was the commander of explosives hulks moored in the Seaforth area. The folly itself in this theory remains something of a mystery. The second theory suggests that a landowner in the area, by the name of Levy is responsible for the name. Apparently he built his house on Folly Point, but he mixed his mortar with the salty sea water and the house collapsed. The name folly refers to the fact that he then did the same thing again, with the same results.
However the area came to be named, it is an area which has played an important role in Sydneys Depression era history, not just in the Great Depression but also the previous 1890s Depression. During the earlier period of depression a shanty settlement grew up in the bushland at Folly Point. It was known as Tin Town and became home to many out of work Sydneysiders. It was also during this period that talented Australian poet Barcroft Boake tragically committed suicide at Folly Point, hanging himself with his stockwhip. Tin Town persisted after the depression ended and when depression again hit in the 1930s it was still a working settlement. Again, the unemployed moved into the rough tents and shacks.
Sydney Harbour Bridge from Farm Cove – Botanic Gardens (Photographer Unknown)
The image above is an iconic view of Sydney, familiar not just to Sydneysiders and visitors to Sydney, but worldwide. Indeed, The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an icon of Sydney, representing the harbour city around the world and showcasing the beautiful harbour to millions of people. Yet the bridge is not just a stunning structure, it has an amazing history.
Although today many think of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as simply an icon of Sydney, at the time that the bridge opened in 1932 it was icon of a whole different sort – an engineering marvel in itself. Yet the history of the bridge dates back well over a century before and the original bridge envisaged was a very different structure. In the early days of the colony, the famous convict architect Francis Greenway spoke with Governor Macquarie, suggesting a bridge be built in roughly the same place where the Sydney Harbour Bridge stands today. Of course, Greenways lofty dream didn’t come to pass, but by 1901, when Federation of the Australian States and Territories occurred, the need for a bridge across the harbour was well recognised. The year before, in 1900, the government called for people to submit designs for just such a bridge but all the designs were unsatisfactory, so the plans were again put aside.
In the wake of World War One though a real quest for a bridge spanning the harbour began. In 1923 Dr J.J.C Bradfield oversaw tenders for either an arch or cantilever bridge. Eventually, Bradfield would go on to oversee the entire design and building process of the now iconic bridge. The tender itself was won by a company from England, Dorman Long and Co. Ltd. They submitted a design by Sir Ralph Freeman for an arch bridge, and construction on the bridge began in 1924. Hundreds of families were displaced during the construction as entire streets of homes and businesses were resumed and demolished, without compensation, to make way for the now iconic bridge.
The image above is a wonderful glimpse into the history of a street which so many of us, Sydneysiders and visitors alike, are familiar with – Oxford Street. Today known as a cultural hub and for its restaurants and shopping, Oxford Street has a fascinating history. As we discovered last week, it was in fact Australia’s oldest highway!
As so often happens, as time wore on, and more people began to move about Sydney, Oxford Street became too narrow to service the traffic which used it. In 1907, the first stage of widening the important roadway was completed. This first stage was aimed at improving the intersection of Bourke, Flinders and Oxford Streets, and resulted in the creation of Taylor Square, so named in 1908. Between 1910 and 1914 Oxford Streets northern end, between Liverpool and Bourke Streets, was also widened.
In the 1920s, Oxford Street was again a prosperous and well patronised high street. Then, the Great Depression Hit and the once famous and prosperous street began its slide into disrepute. People no longer wanted to live in terraced houses, and so the character of the street changed as the affluent population moved into the suburbs where they were able to do so, and poorer people moved into the old houses. In the 1950s, the street became a haven for migrants and in the 1960s more professionals began to move back into the area.
It was also in the 1960s that a gay presence truly began to emerge in the area, and Oxford Streets culture began to change. In 1978 the first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade was held, and although it was followed by confrontations with police, cemented Oxford Streets central role in Sydney Gay and Lesbian Culture.
The image above is a stunning glimpse into the history of one of Sydney’s more famous streets – Oxford Street. Today, known for shopping, restaurants and a vibrant culture, Oxford Street has a long history, and one which is far different to the Oxford Street which we know so well today.
Many Sydneysiders and visitors alike are familiar with Oxford Street, yet few realise that the famous roadway is actually probably the oldest highway in Australia! Indeed, Oxford Street was once part of the South Head Road, which connected the settlement of Sydney with the vital signal station at South Head. Indeed, Oxford Street was the main route between the growing settlement of Sydney and the coast.
As such an important roadway, it is perhaps no surprise that by the 1870s Oxford Street was one of the most successful and lucrative commercial areas of Sydney. In fact, by the end of the 1880s, Oxford Street was recognised as one of the most prominent ‘High Streets’ in the settlement.
Come back next week to discover how Oxford Street changed and evolved in the 20th century to become the vibrant hub we see today.
The image above is a stunning, panoramic view of one of Sydney’s most famous and exclusive beaches. Visited by Sydneysiders and visitors alike (and the home of Home and Away, which brings more tourists still) Palm Beach has long been a popular destination for people wanting to enjoy the sand, sun and sea.
Palm Beach, which is today one of the most exclusive and expensive areas in Pittwater, was actually named for the abundance of Cabbage Tree Palms which were once to be found in the area. The traditional and original owners, The Guringai people, used the fronds from this abundant resource to create fishing lines and also to patch leaks which had developed in their boats.
When Europeans colonised Australia, the cabbage tree palms found a new use, being woven into hats to keep the beating sun at bay. In fact, Cabbage Tree Hats are, in many ways, the first distinctly Australian fashion, and the making of the hats is probably Australias first cottage industry. Cabbage Tree Hats developed because the early colonists and convicts had no idea that Australia was going to be so hot, or the sun so fierce. They soon realised that the fibre from the Cabbage Tree Palm could be woven, just as the Guringai people did to make fishing lines. The hats usually had a high domed down and wide brim, perfect for the sunny Australian climate. The Cabbage Tree Hats became such a symbol of the convict era in Australia that gangs of young men were known as Cabbage Tree Mobs, after the hat they wore. Apparently, they enjoyed crushing the hats of men who they thought were ‘full of themselves’.