Sydney’s built landscape rapidly urbanised in the first two decades of the 20th century, embracing modern buildings, sanitation, infrastructure, and commerce. Old houses and pubs, little warehouses and factories, crumbling stables, and quaint shops – many dating from the 1840s and untouched for over 50 years – were swept away in piecemeal demolitions and neighbourhood resumptions.
From 1900, the City Building Surveyor’s department of Sydney Municipal Council used photography to document the city’s profound transformation. The photographs inadvertently capture the largely working-class neighbourhoods and people being displaced by commercial and government redevelopment. Aboriginal people are largely absent from these photographs, despite their ongoing presence in the city.
The City Surveyor’s ‘Condemnation and Demolition Books’ is a key photographic collection held in the City Archives comprising almost 5000 photographs and associated glass plate negatives. This display highlights photographs taken in 1901, when Sydney was on the cusp of change.
To explore the City of Sydney’s Archives and History resources go to archives.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au
Curator Laila Ellmoos
Forbes Street, Woolloomooloo, c1901, City of Sydney Archives A-01000227
Druitt and Kent streets, c1901, City of Sydney Archives A-01000175
619–623 George Street, c1901, City of Sydney Archives A-01000195
Whaler’s Arms Hotel, Cumberland Street, c1901, City of Sydney Archives A-01000232