Exploring The Rocks, Sydney’s Historic Neighbourhood

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SYDNEY | The Rocks is a historic neighbourhood located on the southern shore of Sydney Harbour, directly next to the city’s CBD. It’s where European settlers stepped ashore in 1788, and was established shortly thereafter. Much of the area’s buildings are made from local sandstone, which is how the area got its name.

For most of its existence, The Rocks was a slum, populated by recently arrived convicts and frequented by visiting sailors, street gangs, and prostitutes. The number of historic buildings that stand today, most of which are subject to heritage overlays, is much fewer than was once the case. Hundreds of dilapidated houses were demolished in the early 1900s, and hundreds more in the 1920s when the Sydney Harbour Bridge was being built.

In 1968, plans were made to demolish the remaining buildings, and to transform the rocks into a high rise residential area. Community groups formed to protest against the decision, and these protests continued until 1975, when the plans were revised. The area’s historic buildings were preserved and renovated, and the Rocks transformed into the commercial and tourist precinct that it is today. It’s a top Sydney tourist attraction, and home to many shops, cafes, and bars. It’s also home to some of Sydney’s oldest pubs.

Along with the historic buildings that make The Rocks such an interesting and unique part of Sydney to walk through, there’s more recent history of note here. The area contains a significant proportion of Housing Commission properties, including the Sirius building. Built in 1980, The Sirius building is one of the most prominent examples of Brutalist architecture in Australia. It’s also the sole high rise building in The Rocks.

The building, which is not heritage listed (despite recommendations from the NSW Heritage Council in 2016), was at risk of demolition up until last year. The last remaining resident was moved out of the building in February 2018, and it was sold in 2019. All of this occurred amongst huge public outcry.

While still not heritage listed, the plan is now for the Sirus building to be redeveloped into 89 apartments, plus retail and commercial spaces. Most tourists skip this part of The Rocks, but it’s a truly fantastic building that’s well worth taking a look at. You can get a great look at it from the start of the southern approach of the Sydney Harbour Bridge pedestrian walk.

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Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences.Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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