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Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

Can you date and locate this photograph? [George Street, Sydney]

A moment in time…..

This photograph is from NRS4481 and is part of the series of photographs that were taken by officers of the Government Printing Office during the years c.1870-c.1920.

It is titled George Street looking north from Martin Place. However we have our doubts that it is taken from Martin Place.  Perhaps you have another suggestion as to where on George Street this photograph was taken and when it was taken.

Must say it’s nice to see what George Street looked like without traffic lights, buses and bumper to bumper traffic.

Larger version available on Flickr.

Looking north along George Street

Looking north along George Street

We have many other undated photographs in Photo Investigator and on our Flickr account. If you know the dates or any other interesting facts about these images please let us know.

  • Janette Pelosi says:

    The building at the left edge of the photograph looks like the C.B.C. Bank building which was removed to the University of Sydney in 1931. A similar photograph from the 1850s appears on page 57 of the book Sydney – The 1850s, The Lost Collections: Eyewitness Accounts and Early Photographs of Sydney, written and compiled by Barry Groom and Warren Wickman (The Historic Photograph Collection, Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, 1982). This published photograph is identified as ‘George Street looking north, near junction of present-day Martin Place, showing the original C.B.C. building. W. Hetzer, 1858’. This would appear to confirm that the State Records photograph is indeed taken near Martin place and looking north along George Street, near Barrack Street, showing the buildings on the western side of George Street. I must admit I am intrigued by the tall contraption in the forefront of the photograph. Also I noticed the ‘Reckitts Bag Blue’ advertisement on the horse-drawn omnibus. My grandmother and her mother used to use ‘Reckitts Blue’ for the washing when she was a child in the early 1900s!

    November 1, 2009 at 9:51 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    Why the doubts about George Street? The photo was taken at the GPO corner, looking north. The handsome three-storey building at left shows clearly here – – you might have to use the Zoom at the Persistent URL link. The buildings in Sydney change so often that it is difficult to recognize today.

    That strange looking contraption looks to be erecting the ‘T’ pylons for the electric tram, which opened in December 1899. So this photo could be October / November 1899 ?

    I have been trying to find out when the ‘T’s were replaced with overhead wires (c.1910?). Does anyone know?

    November 2, 2009 at 6:41 am
  • Bob Meade says:

    Here is an older stereoview by William Hetzer taken from a viewpoint slightly further back:

    November 7, 2009 at 9:29 am
  • Rhonda Campbell says:

    Thanks to Janette, beachcomberaustralia and Bob for providing some interesting facts about the photograph. Janette’s anecdote about her Grandmother using ‘Rickitts Blue’ for the washing was wonderful. The introduction of trams seems to be a good way to date photographs.

    November 9, 2009 at 8:19 am
  • Robert Mills says:

    I think the centre poles along George St were removed in mid 1908 to enable wider bodied trams to operate along the street. It was a clearance problem. New rolling stock was required to meet the explosive growth in passenger numbers, annual growth rates around 10% were being experienced then and the city was being rapidly transformed from a ‘walking city’ to a ‘public transport’ city.

    Metal poles (Mannesman brand ?) were also used in Pyrmont for this electric tram extension. Ornate street fittings, such as the elegant poles, were employed in response to the usual criticism about placing electric wires in streets. A few metal style poles remain along the Barcom Avenue viaduct (built c1909) in Darlinghurst near the hospital. These are mounted on the side of the structure.

    December 24, 2009 at 10:23 am
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    Thanks for the information Robert! If only the Trams were still in place today.

    December 24, 2009 at 11:14 am
  • Dromio says:

    Beachcomberaustralia is spot on with regard to the tram construction date (late 1899).
    But look at the number of telephone line isulators on the pole on right and compare that with the number in the other George St mystery photo identified by Enno (1883/84, which agrees with the fact that Sydney had 175 subscribers in 1883). Perhaps we have discovered a new dating system: count the insulators!

    September 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm
  • Anthea Brown says:

    @Dromio that does sound like a good way to date photos. How many subscribers per insulator are there?

    September 30, 2010 at 10:48 am