General Post Office, Sydney
The General Post Office (abbreviation GPO) is a landmark building in Sydney, Australia. It is located at the western end of Martin Place (No. 1 Martin Place), between George and Pitt Streets. The main facade stretches some 100 metres down Martin Place. In 1996, as part of the disbursement of Australia Post assets by the Federal Government of Australia, the building was sold to private owners. It was subsequently refurbished and now houses shops, restaurants, hotel rooms, and the lobby of two adjoining tower blocks. Postal services have moved. Counter services are at the Pitt Street Post Office. General Post Office post boxes and Poste restante services are now located in the Australia Post site in the Hunter Connection, on the corner of George Street and Hunter Street.
Designed by colonial architect James Barnet, the building was constructed in stages from 1866 to 1891. (The former GPO was demolished in 1862 but one of its six columns still stands in Mount Street Plaza, North Sydney; Another can be found off Bradleys Head, Mosman.)
The clock tower was demolished in 1942 to reduce the visibility of the GPO in case of an air attack on Sydney. It was rebuilt in 1964.
This building was the headquarters of the NSW postal system until 1996, when it was sold and refurbished. The building now contains shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. The Westin hotel and Macquarie Bank office towers stand in the former courtyard, now converted into an atrium. Australia Post maintains a presence in the form of a "Post Shop" at the corner of Martin Place and George Street.
Barnet's building features a neo-classical sandstone facade, with a colonnade running around the building at street level. Each arch of the arcade features a carved face on the keystone (representing many parts of the British Empire and other foreign lands), and spandrel figures, whose comical references to real-life personalities (including Barnet himself) caused a controversy at the time of construction. At the centre of its 100-metre Martin Place facade is a white marble statuory group, featuring Queen Victoria flanked by allegorical figures. Above this stands the clocktower.
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