A TRACHYTE WALK IN CENTRAL SYDNEY
Below is an excerpt from the walk described in the book.
This walk visits some of the most outstanding Sydney examples of trachyte in streetscapes, architecture, monuments and decoration. It also includes a few other places of historical or visual interest that the keen-eyed observer will pass on the way. The walk, with highlights indicated by bold numbers linked to the accompanying map, traces a route from Wynyard station to Town Hall station.
Begin at the York Street entrance to Wynyard Station. Wynyard was named for the Wynyard Barracks that were established on this spot at the end of the 18th century. The underground station was opened in 1932 as part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge opening celebrations.
1. The station entrance is part of the 1934 Art Deco skyscraper (later Transport House) that housed the Department of Railways offices and was designed by architects HE Budden & Mackey, opening in 1936. The street-level façade, including the administration entrance, is clad in polished trachyte, with green-glazed terracotta facing above. A close look at the trachyte will reveal ‘bowralite’ or veining in the stonework. The then Railway House won the 1935 Sulman medal for design of a type most calculated to improve the architectural design of buildings fronting a city street.
2. Across York Street is Wynyard Park which was originally the Barracks Square, dating from 1792. The statue of John Dunmore Lang, erected here in 1888-90, commemorates his many achievements including the foundation of the Presbyterian Church in Australia. The base of the statue is an interesting early example of trachyte.
Turn right at the station entrance and walk south along York Street.
3. The Sydney City Council began to use trachyte for kerbs and gutters in the 1880s and the kerbs at the edges of York Street, the ‘frames’ of the drainage inlets and the stormwater lintels are all made of cut trachyte blocks. Similar kerbs, still displaying the textures made by the masons’ tools, can still be seen in almost all of Sydney’s streets.
4. The AWA Building, 47 York Street. For decades the soaring communications tower which caps this building, made it the tallest structure in Sydney. Built in 1939 and designed by the architects Robertson, Marks & McCredie, its Art Deco entrance motif is constructed of polished trachyte. The large Pegasus emblazoned high up on the façade – often seen as a symbol of power and speed – is said to have been chosen by Sir Ernest Fisk, the pioneer of wireless technology and a founding director of AWA.
Turn east (left) into Wynyard Street.
5. Regimental Square, at the east of George Street end of the street. Although there is no trachyte here, this busy little square which commemorates the Royal Australian Regiment, was formed by closing the street to traffic.
George Street was named after the English king who reigned when European settlers arrived in Sydney. The George Street end of Regimental Square presents a view of a powerful streetscape with some of the most impressive and historic buildings in the city. The two on the diagonally opposite side of George Street are most unusual in being clad in trachyte for their full height.
6. The former Bank of Australasia (now ‘Paspaley’), on the Martin Place and George Street corner. It was the American architect Edward Raht’s second Sydney building, designed in 1901. The entire building is faced in trachyte, with walls of rock-faced ashlar. The coat-of-arms and the sea-shell motif at the corner pediment represent some of the most detailed trachyte carving in Sydney. The building has two large basement levels which extend outwards for 5 metres beneath Martin Place.
Walk along George Street towards Circular Quay. Here the trachyte kerbs, in place since the late 19th century, were replaced and new flagstone paving laid as part of the streetscape renovation leading up to the 2000 Olympics. Some of the trachyte flagstones laid in this vicinity were a massive 2 metres long, 1.2 metres wide and 10 centimetres thick.
7. 350 George Street, next door and just north of Angel Place. Built for the Equitable Life Assurance Company of the United States and opened in 1895, this uniquely designed building brought Edward Raht - and the Federation Romanesque architectural style - to Australia. The great entrance arch, dominating the robust trachyte facade, was intended to last forever: its rock-faced voussoirs (a wedge-shaped arch stone, see Glossary) were set in molten lead rather than mortar. As well as the rock-faced work, the facade has tooled and polished trachyte - the three principal finishes for trachyte in Sydney.
8. The former National Bank of Australasia, designed by architects Robertson & Marks in 1925, has a Classical facade at street level, faced in polished trachyte. The facade still bears its original name, but is now part of the ‘Ivy’ complex, the substantial development that extends northwards and, at the rear, to Ash Street where more trachyte detailing may be seen.
9. A careful look at the northern part of the Ivy will reveal some recycled and coarse-tooled trachyte, incorporated into the modern facade detailing of the Royal George hostelry. Palings Lane is a narrow passage - oddly, just south of its sign post - which leads east to Ash Street. It is an echo of Paling’s Music Warehouse, which once stood in this vicinity and was one of the first buildings in which trachyte was used.
Walk to the next corner and turn east (right) into Hunter Street. This street was named after John Hunter, who succeeded Arthur Phillip as the second governor of NSW. Along here, as in most other streets, the kerbing is utilitarian trachyte.
10. On the corner of George and Hunter is the brick-built former Skinner’s Family Hotel. It is one of Sydney’s oldest buildings, erected in about 1845. More traditional trachyte kerbing may be seen in Hunter street.
11. Down the slope approaching Pitt Street, the walk ‘descends’ into what was the gully of the old Tank Stream, so named for the ‘tanks’ that were cut into the bedrock in 1791 to form early Sydney town’s reservoirs for the early settlers.