Queen Victoria Square For Sydney Joins Two Great Heritage Buildings Together

Queen Victoria Square For Sydney Joins Two Great Heritage Buildings Together

A Square Truly Befitting A Monarch

Victor P Taffa

The Queen Victoria Building is a Romanesque Revival building which was constructed between 1893 and 1898 and is 30 m (98 ft) wide by 190 m (620 ft) long. The building fills the city block bounded by George, Market, York and Druitt Streets.

The building was constructed between 1893 and 1898 by the Phippard Brothers (Henry, born 1854 and Edwin, born 1864), “the leading building contractors of Sydney”, whose quarries at Bowral and Waverley supplied the trachyte and sandstone respectively.

The building was officially opened on 21 July 1898.

Originally The Queen Victoria Building provided a business environment for tailors, mercers, hairdressers, florists and coffee shops as well as showrooms and a concert hall.

A public lending library was planned as early as 1899 and both the City of Sydney Library and the Electricity Department were long time occupants of the building.

Queen Victoria

Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India. Her reign of 63 years and seven months, which is longer than that of any other British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history, is known as the Victorian era. The State of Victoria in Australia is named in her honour.

Naming

In 1897, Sydney City Council resolved to “dedicate the new market buildings”, then still under construction, to Queen Victoria and to name them ‘The Queen Victoria Market Buildings’ in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee.

The Councillors decided not to ask for the Queen’s assent, in part because it would have made it “necessary to have the Royal Coat of Arms on the building”. The markets originally held in the building were relocated to the Haymarket in 1910 and in 1918 the name was amended to “Queen Victoria Buildings”. Finally, in 1987, the Council rescinded the 1918 resolution and named it the “Queen Victoria Building”.

Queen Victoria Building Facing North On George Street

Queen Victoria Building Facing North On George Street

 

 

Early 20th Century Alterations

As early as 1902, Sydney City Council was worrying about the building being a “non-paying asset and handicap”. In ensuing years various schemes for selling, remodelling and/or demolition were proposed and reports produced. In 1912 it was described as an “incubus” and in 1915 and 1916 as a “municipal white elephant”.

In 1913 a “decision to re-model was arrived at by 10 votes to 9” over the options to demolish or sell. Although it had been accepted that nothing could be done until after the war, in 1917 the Council accepted a tender for alterations to the building.

Between 1934 and 1938 the areas occupied by the Sydney County Council were remodelled in an Art Deco style. The building steadily deteriorated and in 1959 was again threatened with demolition. Proposals to replace the building which many saw as “overdue for demolition” included ones for a fountain, a plaza and a car park.

The debate extended from whether or not the building should be demolished to what uses it could be made to serve if preserved and a campaign to preserve it ensued, supported by “public meetings, letters to editors, the National Trust of Australia and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (NSW) as well as a group called the “Friends of the Queen Victoria Building”.

On 31 May, 1971, the Lord Mayor of Sydney announced the building would be restored. In 1974, it was classified by the National Trust.

During the 1970’s the Queen Victoria Building fell into decay and there was constant talk of demolishing the grand building. Most of the interior became a rabbit warren of offices.

The Queen Victoria Building was restored between 1984 and 1986 by the Malaysian Company, Ipoh Ltd (now owned by the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore), at a cost of $86 Million, under the terms of a 99-year lease from Sydney City Council.

Bicentennial Plaza

At the southern end of the building is the Bicentennial Plaza, facing the Sydney Town Hall located across Druitt Street. Bicentennial Plaza was so named to celebrate the Bicentenary of European settlement in 1988. The statue of Queen Victoria was given to the people of Sydney by the Government of the Republic of Ireland and placed on its present site in 1987.

Druitt Street Between George and Yorks Streets dividing Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building

Druitt Street Between George and Yorks Streets dividing Sydney Town Hall from the Queen Victoria Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Victoria Square

Druitt Street separates Sydney Town Hall from the Queen Victoria Building that since the opening of the building in 1898 has been inextricably linked with Sydney City Council. The southern end of the Queen Victoria Building is a focal point for people to meet. Many people use the base of the statue of Queen Victoria to sit and relax.

By closing Druitt Street between George and York Streets it will enable a Square to be built that enhances this location as a focal meeting point and allow for adequate seating to be installed.

Sydney City Council currently owns the Woolworths Building directly opposite on the other side of George Street. The multi-storey Woolworths Building is crammed full of customer’s everyday. Many elderly people in particular patronise the Woolworth’s cafeteria and like the Elizabeth Street and Market Street David Jones Department Stores are jewels in the crown of Sydney CBD retailing.

Woolworths Town Hall Store opposite Sydney Town Hall

Woolworths Town Hall Store opposite Sydney Town Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning the Woolworths Building into a park has been the dream of many that dates back to about 1970 when then Labor Lord Mayor Doug Sutherland first mooted the idea.

During the time of the Labor Government in 2008 there was talk of demolishing the Woolworths Building and constructing a Third Live Rail Metro Railway Station entrance on the site.

Light Rail is to be constructed down George Street that is back to the future when Trams served George Street. The Light Rail plan also includes turning George Street from Bathurst to Hunter Streets into a Pedestrian/Light Rail only zone.

In light of this plan and the removal of buses from George Street it would far more beneficial and effective to close Druitt Street between George and York Streets and create Queen Victoria Square.

York Street Traffic will still be able to turn right at Druitt Street. Bathurst Street would also become a two way street, with a new west bound ramp to the Western Distributor. Bathurst Street is currently two way between Sussex and Harbour Streets.

If the Cross-City Tunnel was financially viable for people to use more traffic would use the tunnel thus freeing up Bathurst Street of traffic even further.

Bathurst Street Facing Towards Western Distributor

Bathurst Street Facing Towards Western Distributor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Victoria Square will bring together the Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building that are linked historically. Turning the Woolworths Building into a park does not have the same historical and heritage meaning as Queen Victoria Square would have. Distance from the Town Hall will leave a new park physically detached from the Town Hall.

Plans for a new sculpture/artworks over George Street adjacent to the Town Hall sound like a good idea however how it would fit in with the heritage backdrop of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building remains to be seen.

To link the Queen Victoria Building with the Town Hall and St. Andrew’s Cathedral by closing Druitt Street between George and York Streets will enhance the whole area far more than a detached park will do.

When Tram services in Sydney were truncated and eventually abandoned Tram routes were cutback to operate around the statue of Queen Victoria at Queen’s Square.

By closing Druitt Street between George and York Streets Queen Victoria will have a Square truly befitting a Monarch.

 

Queen Victoria Building Interior

Queen Victoria Building Interior