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The initial “Martin Place” in Sydney was the section between George Street and Pitt Street, and officially opened 1892. It is named after Sir James Martin (1820-86), who was three times Premier of NSW and premier when the GPO was being built in 1872, and later the Chief Justice. It was originally designed as an open area space in front of the GPO and then known as St Martin’s Place or Post Office Place.

Sydney Martin Place is surrounded by many heritage buildings, and also features the 1927 World War I Sydney Cenotaph.

The Cenotaph "Less We Forget", Martin Place, Sydney NSW
The Cenotaph “Less We Forget”, Martin Place, Sydney NSW
The Great Fire of Sydney, October 1890

It was just after 2 o’clock on the morning of the 2 October when the alarm was raised after a “lurid glare” was seen in the upper windows of the large warehouse of Gibbs, Shallard & Co on Hosking Place, just off Pitt Street. Recorded as “The Great Fire of Sydney”, the calamitous fire was such that it would change the urban heart of Sydney.

The whole block bounded by Moore Street, Pitt Street and Castlereagh Street, up to Hosking Place and beyond was utterly destroyed in the fire, an area, covering about a hectare.

Within days after the fire there was talk of redeveloping the narrow Moore Street and to create a wide thoroughfare leading from the grand new post office all the way along Moore Street, across Castlereagh, Elizabeth and Phillip Streets all the way to Macquarie Street. From out of the flames, a new vision arose to create what would ultimately become “Martin Place”

Source: The Dictionary of Sydney, State Library of New South Wales1

Heritage listed GPO, Martin Place, Sydney NSW
Heritage listed GPO, Martin Place, Sydney NSW

The General Post Office (GPO) was constructed in stages from 1866–91. It is the most notable work in the city by Colonial Architect James Barnet. The realistic carvings facing Pitt Street and Martin Place by Italian-born sculptor Tommaso Sani, caused a public scandal. They were viciously attacked by the press and Parliament as being “hideous in form and expression” and attempts were made to force Barnet to remove them.

In the late 1990s, the site was redeveloped into a hotel and major conservation works were undertaken. Down in the basement, parts of Sydney’s first water supply, the Tank Stream, were uncovered and some historical interpretation of this watercourse has been provided.

Source: Exchange Commercial & Retail Sydney Historical Walking Tour, City of Sydney2


Footnote & References

  1. The Dictionary of Sydney, State Library of New South Wales, https://dictionaryofsydney.org/
  2. Exchange Commercial & Retail Sydney Historical Walking Tour, City of Sydney, https://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/history/history-walks
  3. Martin Place, Pocket Guide to Sydney, https://www.visitsydneyaustralia.com.au/martin-place.html

Sydney AttractionsArt Gallery of NSW Barangaroo Fort Denison – Muddawahnyuh Martin Place Queen Victoria Building – QVB St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney City of Escalators Sydney Harbour Bridge Sydney Hyde Park Sydney Monuments & Memorials Sydney Northern Beaches Sydney Opera House Sydney Tower Sydney Town Hall The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney Wynyard Park

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