Macquarie Street, Sydney

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Parliament House, near the southern end

Macquarie Street is the easternmost street of Sydney's central business district. Macquarie Street extends from Hyde Park at its southern end to the Sydney Opera House at its north. Apart from connecting these two major landmarks, the key government institutions of the state of New South Wales are all located beside this street.

History[edit]

Hyde Park Barracks
Hyde Park Barracks (completed 1819)
St James' Church
St James' Church (completed 1824)
Two buildings preserved from the Macquarie era, both at the southern end

Macquarie Street is named after Lachlan Macquarie, an early Governor of New South Wales (in office 1810–1821).[1] In the years since its founding in 1788, Sydney had developed organically, and by the early 1800s was lacking in major public buildings, and had a complex network of narrow streets. The supply of drinking water and waste management was also becoming an issue. Macqaurie initiated the construction of Sydney's first public buildings of any real permanence and set the boundaries of Sydney's grid of streets. With Circular Quay as the focus of this new civic scheme, Macquarie Street marked its eastern boundary and was designed as a ceremonial thoroughfare. The public buildings distributed either side of the street would both delineate and connect the civil and commercial town centre to its west with the green spaces (now the Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens) to the east.

Among the public buildings commissioned by Macquarie, Hyde Park Barracks and St James' Church are two examples largely preserved unchanged since that era. The two buildings face each other across Queen's Square, at the southern end of Macquarie Street.

The Sydney Hospital, after rebuilding completed in 1894
The central section of Macquarie Street c.1900, looking south: the tall building on the right is the Colonial Secretary's Building, while on the left is the gate of the Royal Botanic Gardens leading to Government House and the Government House stables (now the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Upon laying out the street in 1810, Governor Macquarie also carved out land from the Domain for the building of Sydney Hospital, with its frontage on Macquarie Street. Due to the reluctance of the British government to provide funding, the building contract for the hospital provided for the government to provide convict labour, and for part of the project costs to be paid in the form of rum import monopolies, leading to the name the "Rum Hospital". The hospital buildings were completed in 1816. Although called "elegant and commodious" by some commentators, architect Francis Greenway criticised both the design and construction.[2] As the only major hospital in the colony at the time, the hospital took up almost the entire eastern frontage of the southern half of Macquarie Street. However, the hospital's capacity exceeded the needs of Sydney at the time, and almost from the start space in its two wing buildings began to be occupied by various government institutions. The northern wing building was occupied by the Legislative Council and Executive Council, and was eventually expanded to become the Parliament House for New South Wales. The southern wing building became the Sydney Mint, among other functions.

After Macquarie, subsequent governors and (after the establishment of responsible government in the colony) governments continued to regard Macquarie Street as the axis of an informal governmental and public precinct. The State Library of New South Wales, the Colonial Secretary's Building and the old Treasury Building (now part of the InterContinental Hotel) are some of these. At the same time, as an elegant tree-lined boulevarde adjacent both to the commercial city centre and the green spaces of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain, the street became one of Sydney's pre-eminent residential addresses. Also, the close proximity to Sydney Hospital and court buildings attracted leading barristers and doctors to set up chambers and surgeries along the street. In 1977, the New South Wales government built a new Law Courts Building at Queen's Square at the southern end of the street, to house the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the Sydney registries of the Federal Court of Australia and the High Court of Australia.

Fort Macquarie in 1870

The northern section of Macquarie Street runs long the eastern side of Circular Quay. To the east is the Royal Botanic Gardens, while to the west, steps led down to the quay. These include the sandstone Moore Stairs built in 1868 (now located at 61 Macquarie Street), an important historic feature.[3] In the past, this area was lined by warehouses and other shipping-related facilities, while at the end of the street was Bennelong Point. From 1821 this was the site of Fort Macquarie, which in 1901 was demolished to make way for the Fort Macquarie Tram Depot, which in turn was demolished in 1973 to make way for the Sydney Opera House.

The warehouses and wharf facilities near the Opera House were progressively removed in the mid-20th century, but in 1998 a complex of contemporary buildings were built here, including the Bennelong Apartments, nicknamed "the Toaster". This complex was criticised for incongruity with the surrounding area, disturbing sightlines and mediocre design. "Arguably the most universally disliked development in decades",[4][5][6] it also includes offices, restaurants, a hotel and cinema.

"Harley Street of Sydney"[edit]

Because of the proliferation of medical chambers and surgeries, and the presence of a number of medical professional institutions, Macquarie Street was widely known as the Harley Street of Sydney from the late 19th century until recent decades. The Royal Australian College of Physicians Building[7] at 145 Macquarie Street was the Georgian residence of John Fairfax until 1848. The British Medical Association's 1920s BMA House[8] at 135-137 Macquarie St still houses medical chambers and lecture hall.

Government and public buildings[edit]

Government House, located within the Sydney Botanic Gardens and entered from Macquarie Street.

Macquarie Street is today the location of the main governmental institutions of New South Wales: Parliament House, Government House, and the Law Courts Building (which houses the Supreme Court of New South Wales) are all located along the street. "Macquarie Street" is used as a metonym for the New South Wales government (the way Whitehall, for example, is a metonym for the British government).

Institutions of the Federal Government located along the street include the Sydney registries of the Federal Court of Australia and High Court of Australia, both in the Law Courts Building at Queen's Square, and the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Macquarie Street is also the location of Sydney Hospital, the Hyde Park Barracks and St. James' Church, which were all Macquarie projects. The historic Sydney Mint building, along with the entrance building to Parliament House, are remnants of the original Sydney Hospital still preserved in recognisable form.

The State Library of New South Wales is located on Macquarie Street, as are the historic Chief Secretary's Building and the old New South Wales Treasury (now part of the InterContinental Hotel). Within the Royal Botanic Gardens are Government House and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, originally built as the Government House stables. At the northern end is Sydney Opera House.

Past residents[edit]

Cross streets and transportation[edit]

The southern end of Macquarie Street is located at the northern end of Hyde Park, where it meats St James' Road and Prince Alfred Road at Queen's Square, Sydney, to which Phillip Street and King Street also join. Other streets that cross or terminate on Macquarie Street, from south to north, are Martin Place, Hunter Street, Bent Street, Bridge Street, Conservatorium Road and Albert Street. The Cahill Expressway crosses Macquarie Street partly as an overpass and partly as a tunnel. The northern end of Macquarie Street is a roundabout near the Sydney Opera House at Bennelong Point.

St James railway station and Martin Place railway station on the Sydney Trains metropolitan rail network are located immediately adjacent to Macquarie Street, while Circular Quay railway station is located nearby.

Architectural gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Portal icon Australian Roads portal

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing