Then and Now Gallery

In the city centre many streets are almost totally altered when compared with early images. And though some remain clearly recognisable, there are always a million new things to see in any streetscape. The vistas at the ends of streets disappear. Tram lines snaking through earlier images have disappeared from later views. Buildings come and go. And go ever higher, increasingly losing connection with the street. The people and the traffic in the street present a changing pageant of fashion and design.

After studying the images in this exhibition, the many details of the ever changing streetscape will have become easier to read.

Images

Bent Street, c.1880 and 2003

Bent Street, c.1880
Click to Enlarge
Size: 78 KB
Bent Street, 2003
Click to Enlarge
Size: 69 KB

Bent Street in the mid-late 19th century. The streets are lit with gas. Bligh Street can be seen going off to the left in the foreground, as can O’Connell Street. The three storied building with verandahs, on the corner of O’Connell Street, is the Australian Club. The Creswick Hotel is on the corner of Bligh.
Today Bent Street is a narrow wind tunnel, dominated by high rise office towers. The onion-domed clock tower of the Lands Department building is a reminder of Sydney’s former height limits.

(image “Then” : SPF/512, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales; image “Now”: City of Sydney)


Pyrmont Bridge, c.1904 and 2003

Pyrmont Bridge, 1902
Click to Enlarge
Size:
91 KB
Pyrmont Bridge, 2003
Click to Enlarge
Size:
77 KB

In 1904 the Pyrmont Bridge is a vital transport link between the city and the industrial wharves of Darling Harbour and Pyrmont. The bridge is jammed with carts filled with produce, ice and other vital goods. Ships, wharves and warehouses can be seen down to the left. The pointy roofline of the corn exchange is directly behind the I.S.N.Co.Ltd’s wharves. The tall domed building in the background on the right is the Henry Bull & Co. Building (St Martins Tower now stands on the site) and peeking from behind are the domes of the Queen Victoria Market building.

One hundred years later, and the city skyline has changed dramatically. Pyrmont Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic. The bridge now serves as a vital pedestrian link to the tourist playground of Darling Harbour and is traversed by the monorail. The city skyline has expanded. The warehouses have been replaced by glass walled office towers. The wharves now host the Sydney Aquarium. The spiky roofline of the corn market can still be seen at the end of the bridge. Restored in 1995, it now functions as shops and offices.

(“Then” image: City of Sydney Archives, SRC 103 ; “Now” image: City of Sydney)


Oxford Street, c.1910 and 2003

Oxford Street
Click to Enlarge
Size:
75 KB
Oxford Street, 2003
Click to Enlarge
Size:
56 KB

View up the wood-paved Oxford Street from Hyde Park in c.1910 just before the widening of the street. You can see all the way up to Taylor Square. The foreground of the photograph is dominated by a striking art nouveau light standard. A traffic policeman stands on duty in the centre of the street to regulate the flow of carts, hansom cabs and trams. To the left is Andy Flanagan’s Burdekin Hotel and on the right is Reuben Brasch’s large clothing store.

The Burdekin Hotel still exists in 2003 as a landmark building on the corner of Liverpool Street, having been rebuilt by the City Council following the widening of Oxford Street. The streetscape remains remarkably similar to its early twentieth century self, despite a few high rise incursions near Whitlam Square.

(“Then” image: City of Sydney Archives, CRS 51/2942; “Now” image: City of Sydney)


Railway Square, c.1890s and 2003

Railway Square, 1914
Click to Enlarge
Size:
67 KB
Railway Square, 2003
Click to Enlarge
Size:
67 KB

Railway Square is a flurry of activity in the late nineteenth century. Passengers queue for both steam and electric trams and pedestrians cross the streets in all directions. To the left of the tram signal box is a men’s convenience: an octagonal Jennings Patent 6 person cast iron urinal. The steeple of Christ Church St Laurence is a prominent landmark in the background. To the left you can make out The Grand Hotel, and just out of the picture Richardsons Railway Family Hotel.

You can still see the steeple in 2003, although the church has been obscured by the old Marcus Clarke store building (built 1905). Railway Square is now a bus interchange. The granite and glass upgrade of facilities occurred in 1999.

(“Then” image: City of Sydney Archives, SRC 132; “Now” image: City of Sydney)


Martin Place, 1925 and 2003

Martin Place, 1925
Click to Enlarge
Size:
72 KB
Martin Place, 2003
Click to Enlarge
Size:
61 KB

A horse cab parked in the middle of Martin Place is waiting for a fare. The footpaths are crowded with pedestrians. The clocktower of the General Post Office is clearly visible. Beyond the GPO, the Commercial Banking Company’s building at 343 George Street is shrouded in scaffolding.

The same view from Castlereagh Street in 2003 presents a recognisable vista. The Commercial Banking Company at the end of Martin Place has been joined by the Bank of New South Wales (built 1932). Together they form a harmonious termination to the vista. The GPO is still a dominant landmark. But the cabs and cars have gone. Martin Place was converted into a pedestrian plaza in 1969 and upgraded in 1999 with grey granite paving. Modern buildings join the stately sandstone and granite edifices. The distinctive white MLC Centre can be seen on the left. Designed by Harry Seidler, it opened in 1978 replacing the glamorous Hotel Australia.

(“Then” image: City of Sydney Archives, SRC 15; “Now” image: City of Sydney)


Park Street, 1931 and 2003

Druitt, George and Park Streets, 1931
Click to Enlarge
Size: 93
KB
Druitt, George and Park Streets,  2003
Click to Enlarge
Size: 80
KB

Looking from Druitt Street across George and up into Park Street. Park Street has only been partially widened in 1931. The Criterion Theatre jutting out on the right demonstrates the old street alignment. It was soon to be demolished. The 1930s Criterion Hotel, corner of Park and Pitt, recalls the history of the old theatre. If you look closely you can see some of the buildings along William Street in the background.

In 2003 the monorail cuts across Park Street at the intersection of Pitt Street, the trees of Hyde Park are much more visible, and highrise along William Street pop up in the vista. Some of the 1930s post-widening buildings remain – like the Woolworths building and the Criterion Hotel – but the T & G Building with its distinctive tower has disappeared.

(“Then” image: City of Sydney Archives, CRS 42/4, City Engineer’s Annual Report, 1931; “Now” image: City of Sydney)


Margaret Street, 1932 and 2003

Maragret Street, 1932
Click to Enlarge
Size:
73 KB
Maragret Street, 2003
Click to Enlarge
Size:
61 KB

Parked cars line the street in 1932. Combined with the low-rise sandstone buildings, the old cars give Margaret Street a totally different feel to what it’s like now. In 2003 the streetscape is dominated by office towers. Three things remain constant: the trees peering out from Wynyard Park on the left, the (former) Scotts Church on the right near the crest of the hill, and (of course) the steep gradient of the street itself.

(“Then” image: City of Sydney Archives, CRS 57/471; “Now” image: City of Sydney)


Broadway, c.1910s and 2003

Broadway, c.1930s
Click to Enlarge
Size:
88 KB
Broadway, 2003
Click to Enlarge
Size:
91 KB

George Street West in c.1910 taken from the heights of the Grace Bros. building before the widening of the street to create Broadway. Trams run down the centre of the street, sharing the road with horse drawn carts, sulkies, delivery vans and cars. The Kent Brewery is in the background. Broadway is a busy thoroughfare in 2003. The RTA camera mounted on the old Grace Bros. building to monitor traffic provides us with a similar perspective to our old photograph. The stack of the old Kent Brewery can still be seen behind the buildings.

(“Then” image: City of Sydney Archives, SRC photographic files; “Now” image: Courtesy of the RTA)

 

 

 

City of Sydney