King Street, Newtown, Sydney
King Street is today the central thoroughfare of the suburb of Newtown in Sydney, Australia. It's in this street that the residents of the area are most visible, confirming Newtown's reputation as a cosmopolitan community with a higher than average concentration of students, LGBT people, and those with an artistic bent who tend to dress with colourful flair. The street can be divided geographically into two sections, North and South. King Street is particularly notable for the many picturesque Victorian and Edwardian era shops and other buildings that line the street.
North King Street
North King Street, running east-north-east to west-south-west between the University of Sydney (where it joins with City Road), past Newtown railway station at the junction with Enmore Road, is the stretch that most people associate with King Street. This area is a very busy thoroughfare, with traffic jams the rule rather than the exception, heavy foot traffic, and a profusion of restaurants, cafés and fashion retailers. King Street was served by a busy tramway until the system's closure in 1957(Keenan 1979).
Like Parramatta Road, King Street is believed to follow the line of ancient Aboriginal track that led from the Sydney Cove area south-west across to Botany Bay. Prior to white settlement, the local Aboriginal population kept the Sydney area well cleared with regular low-level fires. Colonial officer Watkin Tench recorded that during the early years of the colony, the area beyond the settlement was, in effect, open parkland, and that it was possible to walk easily across country from Sydney Cove to Botany Bay.
South King Street
South King Street was by contrast the down-market section, with less traffic and fewer retailers, running southwards from the station to Sydney Park. In recent years, the far northern section seems to have lost most of its lustre, while the central section has become almost glamorous, and South King Street has attracted a cluster of design shops and homeware shops, which along with assorted small quirky businesses and cafés, has made it one of the most interesting strips in Sydney. It is sometimes referred to as the 'Paris end' of King Street. The southern end of South King Street, between Lord and Alice Streets features three theatres (New Theatre, King Street Theatre and Sydney Independent Theatre Company, and three pubs (Union Hotel, Botany View Hotel and Sydney Park Hotel).
King Street has also become quite residential above the shops: many development proposals include large numbers of apartments above the retail sections. The street, as a whole, is the best-preserved Victorian era high street in Sydney, and development controls ensure that this will not change, even though it came about by luck. At the crucial time when Victorian buildings were being demolished elsewhere, Newtown was too unfashionable to make development profitable.
In popular culture
- The 1985 song "King St" by John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong celebrated the street and name-checked local landmarks and characters of the time including the Coles' New World supermarket (which occupied the building which is now the Dendy Cinemas), "The Wire Man" (a local eccentric who collected wire coat hangers and scrap metal), Maurice's Lebanese restaurant (still extant) and The Hub cinema (which was operating as a pornographic cinema at the time). The music video features extensive footage of King St as it looked in 1985.
- The 1999 Australian drama film Erskineville Kings starring Marty Denniss and Hugh Jackman features King Street in its opening sequence.
- The 2006 Australian drama film Candy starring Heath Ledger and Abby Cornish features AAdvance Loan Office on King Street, in the scene where the female lead prostitutes herself for money to fund her and her boyfriend's drug addiction.
- The Whitlams band became popular for its performances at The Sandringham Hotel on King Street
- King Street is referenced in The Lemonheads song My Drug Buddy
- In 2013, Sydney band Sticky Fingers filmed a music video for their song Australia Street on King Street between Church and Brown Streets
- In June 2014, English band Coldplay filmed a music video for their song Sky Full of Stars on King Street between Mary and Australia Streets
Route map: Google
1. Keenan, D. (1979), Tramways in Sydney, Sydney, Australia: Transit Press.