Pink triangles were originally used in concentration camps to identify gay prisoners.
Before the pink triangle became a worldwide symbol of gay power and pride, it was intended as a badge of shame. In Nazi Germany, a downward-pointing pink triangle was sewn onto the shirts of gay men in concentration camps—to identify and further dehumanize them. It wasn’t until the 1970s that activists would reclaim the symbol as one of liberation.
Homosexuality was technically made illegal in Germany in 1871, but it was rarely enforced until the Nazi Party took power in 1933. As part of their mission to racially and culturally “purify” Germany, the Nazis arrested thousands of LGBT individuals, mostly gay men, whom they viewed as degenerate.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates 100,000 gay men were arrested and between 5,000 and 15,000 were placed in concentration camps. Just as Jews were forced to identify themselves with yellow stars, gay men in concentration camps had to wear a large pink triangle. (Brown triangles were used for Romani people, red for political prisoners, green for criminals, blue for immigrants, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses and black for “asocial” people, including prostitutes and lesbians.)
At the camps, gay men were treated especially harshly, by guards and fellow prisoners alike. “There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste,” Pierre Seel, a gay Holocaust survivor, wrote in his memoir I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror.
An estimated 65 percent of gay men in concentration camps died between 1933 and 1945. Even after World War II, both East and West Germany upheld the country’s anti-gay law, and many gays remained incarcerated until the early 1970s. (The law was not officially repealed until 1994.)
The early 1970s was also when the gay rights movement began to emerge in Germany. In 1972, The Men with the Pink Triangle, the first autobiography of a gay concentration camp survivor, was published. The next year, post-war Germany’s first gay rights organization, Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW), reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of liberation.
“At its core, the pink triangle represented a piece of our German history that still needed to be dealt with,” Peter Hedenström, one of HAW’s founding members said in 2014.
Afterwards, it began cropping up in other LGBT circles around the world. In 1986, six New York City activists created a poster with the words SILENCE = DEATH and a bright pink upward-facing triangle, meant to call attention to the AIDs crisis that was decimating populations of gay men across the country. The poster was soon adopted by the organization ACT UP and became a lasting symbol of the AIDS advocacy movement.
The triangle continues to figure prominently in imaging for various LGBT organizations and events. Since the 1990s, signs bearing a pink triangle enclosed in a green circle have been used as a symbol identifying “safe spaces” for queer people. There are pink triangle memorials in San Francisco and Sydney, which honor LGBT victims of the Holocaust. In 2018, for Pride Month, Nike released acollection of shoes featuring pink triangles.
Although the pink triangle has been reclaimed as an empowering symbol, it is ultimately a reminder to never forget the past—and to recognize the persecution LGBT people still face around the world.
JUST around the corner from Maccabean Hall, built in 1923 to commemorate Jewish men and women who served in the Great War, and where the Sydney Jewish Museum is housed at Darlinghurst, trades the Green Park Hotel.
Like Maccabean Hall, the Green Park Hotel has a link to Sydney’s Jewish history, along with the harbour city’s early bohemian community.
The Green Park Hotel, established in 1879, was bought by one of Sydney’s wealthiest Jewish families, Gus and Betsey Wangenheim in 1881.
The Wangenheim family would later replace the two story brick pub with the magnificent, heritage listed hotel, with its splendid long bar, currently sitting at the corner of Liverpool and Victoria Streets in Darlinghurst in 1893.
The history of the Green Park Hotel begins in the early days of white settlement, when a 28-year-old Gustave Wangenheim arrived in Sydney Town, from Germany, in 1853.
Gus, as he was known, was one of Sydney’s most colourful characters, a cartoonist, painter, comedian and publican. He opened his first pub, the Post Office Hotel in York Street, Sydney in 1854.
In 1855 he married a fellow Jew, 21-year-old Elizabeth Simmons, daughter of James Simmons, a successful trader and brother of the proprietor of the Jerusalem Warehouse, now the site of David Jones department store.
Gus was also the foundation president of the NSW German Club, established in 1858, which hosted monthly balls at their premises in Pitt Street, Sydney. The Club was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as combining the social with the intellectual, and supplied “convivial pleasures and rational edification in a wholesome promiscuous form”.
A much-loved bohemian, who’s “humour was irresistible”, Gus could “reproduce characteristics with a happy exaggeration that few other artists could effect”. His artworks were a feature of his pubs, often drawn directly onto the walls. Besides an artist and comedian, he was also a splendid fencer and boxer, and spoke fluently several languages.
Just five years into his hospitality business, the Jewish publican suffered a major set-back after he was declared insolvent. He disappeared from Sydney social life in 1858, taking his wife Elizabeth and newly born child north to a Port Curtis, near today’s Gladstone in Queensland. Gus’s inability to maintain a healthy cash flow in business was a constant battle throughout his life, and he was declared insolvent at least four or five times.
After his departure from Sydney, another Jewish businessman, Saul Lyons offered a reward to “anyone who will prosecute to conviction” Gus “or the party or parties who took the passage for him, and assisted in his escape”.
The advertisement stated that he had “absconded from his creditors… in assumed name, with his wife and child, in the Maid of Judah”. Gus eventually made good his creditors, and returned to Sydney during the 1860s, where he took the reins of the Café de Paris, in King Street, and continued his “amusing repertoire of musical comicalities” at the Prince of Wales Opera House.
While the Wangenheims ran the Café de Paris, it was said to be “a picturesque resort of Bohemians, where the Duke of Edinburgh dined more than once while in Sydney”.
Gus and Betsey entered a new business venture in the 1870s, when they built Wangenheim’s Hotel, near the junction of Castlereagh-street with King-street. The hotel became an artistic landmark, with Wangenheims’ customers – the “bohemians and prominent members of all the artistic professions” – following their charismatic publican to his new business venture.
In a series of history articles published in the Truth during 1912, the author, “Old Chum”, revealed it was Betsey who was the brains behind the business of the Wangenheims’ business success.
The remaining interesting item in Castlereagh-street, north of King-street, was a public house, opened in 1875 by Gus Wangenheim, who had previously kept a hotel in King-street. In the Castlereagh-street house, the walls and tables in the bar, every available inch, were decored with character sketches by Gus, who was not half a bad artist. About the year 1881 the house passed to Richmond Thatcher, a clever Bohemian of much literary talent, but neither Dick Thatcher nor Gus Wangenheim was made of the stuff that successful publicans are composed of. The Bohemian strain in the character of each, good fellows though they were, was against the accumulation of large bank balances. Mr Wangenheim, however, was not entirely dependent on his exertions as a hotel-keeper; his wife – who, I believe, is still living – being the daughter of a very wealthy citizeness. Richmond Thatcher could do much better with his pen than with a beer engine.
Wangenheim’s Hotel later became known as the Bulletin Hotel and in 1885 the Burlington. It was demolished sometime before 1905.
A year before Gus’ death, the Wangenheims invested in a brick corner pub with a 90 feet frontage to Liverpool Street and 30 feet facing Victoria Streets, in Darlinghurst. Established in 1879, the slate roofed Green Park Hotel, with bar, cellar, two parlours, hall, five bedrooms and kitchen, had been trading for less than three years, when the Wangenheims added to their growing property portfolio in March 1881. The Green Park Hotel provided £3 14s a week in rent for the Wangenheims.
The death of the flamboyant publican at the age of 57 in 1882 came on the heels of the demise of another of Sydney’s bohemian identities, the well-known poet, Henry Kendall. Gus’ death reportedly left a void in the social life of Sydney that “can never be filled up”. The Queenslander reported on Saturday August 12 1882:
Following close upon the demise of Kendall was the sudden taking off of poor Gus Wangenheim. Gus was one of the identities of Sydney life. Not to have known this genial German was to argue yourself unknown. He was a genuine artist, though his range of accomplishments was not by any means restricted to the pencil. Art, however, was his forte. As his thoroughly genial and withal kindly disposition invariably led him to look upon the humorous side of everything, his genius naturally affected caricature, and as a caricaturist Wangenheim can scarcely be said to have had a superior… When he was hotel-keeping the walls of his hostelry were literally covered with caricatures of politicians, actors, and other celebrities, and these curious sketches were the admiration and the delight of the host of frequenters of his popular “pub” in Castlereagh-Street; but the vandals who succeeded Gus knew not their worth, and remorselessly rubbed them out – only awakening to a sense of their value when the gifted caricaturist himself was rubbed out. Gus was a competent musical and dramatic critic in addition to his qualities as an artist. Miss Emma Wangenheim, who is, I believe, pretty well known in Queensland, was his daughter, and doubtless inherited such lyrical gifts as nature may have endowed her with from her paternal relative. Perhaps, though, after all, Gus Wangenheim will be longest remembered for his social qualities – his homely, easy, unaffected conversational powers being the delight of all his companions. There was just the faintest approach to egotism in Gus Wangenheim. Egotism, perhaps, is too offensive a word to use. Gus’ self-appreciation, as it may be more fitly termed, may be said to have resembled the quality of egotism much in the same way as the mist resembles the rain.” So far from its being objectionable it really constituted one of the charms of his conversation, and was thus, in its way, as pardonable and as tolerable as was the egotism of Bousseau. Now that he is gone, all who knew him feel that a void has been created in the social life of Sydney, which at any rate, as far as the present generation is concerned, can never be filled up.
The Sydney Evening News reported the artistic publican’s death on August 4 1882:
Death of Mr. Gus Wangenheim.
People who frequent the town at night were yesterday startled by a report that Mr. Wangenheim, popularly called Gus Wangenheim, the well-known caricaturist, had “dropped down dead.” The rumour was not credited at first, as one of a similar character, that turned out to, be a canard, had been circulated before. Unfortunately, however, it is only too true; for the clever, genial, loveable, “man about town,” died suddenly at his residence, Pendennis, Lower William-street, Woolloomooloo, last evening, shortly after 5. Gas, may be said to have “passed away” rather than died. He was out at Waverley with his wife in the afternoon, and on their return, had a cup of cocoa, after which he went on the balcony, where he sat down and smoked a cigar. That finished, he took a book and commenced to read. Mrs. Wangenheim noticed that he put it down shortly afterwards, and thinking he slept told one of the children not to make a noise and ‘wake pa’. A few moments afterwards noticing that his head was very much to one side she looked closely at him, and to her horror found that he was dead. His head then was cold, the eyes were glassy and he must have died almost instantaneously. His hands were folded, and there was not the slightest trace of suffering on the face. The deceased man had been before the public for some years as a hotel-keeper and a sketcher and caricaturist of considerable power and facility. Though not so good at likenesses as Lascelles or Clint, Gus’ humour was irresistible, and he could reproduce characteristics with a happy exaggeration that few other artists could effect. The best collections of his drawings are on the walls of the Bulletin Hotel, which he kept for several years. Unfortunately the vandal landlord in possession at present papered over a whole room full. Besides being an artist, Wangenheim possessed a marked ability in other ways. He was a splendid fencer and boxer, and spoke several languages with fluency but he will, doubtless, be longest remembered for his genial ways and loveable nature and disuation. Of late he gave up all other business to look after the princely estate – chiefly town property— of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Simmons. Though forced at times to assert the rights of landlady against tenants, he never made an enemy; and it is said that on the few occasions when he was “in possession,” the folks levied on never had such a time of it in their lives. As a raconteur, who could illustrate his stories with lightning like rapidity, Gus had no superior and few equals. Mr. Wangenheim was a native of Germany, and about 50 years of age.
After Elizabeth’s wealthy mother died at the age of 98 in 1891, she decided to redevelop the Darlinghurst property.
The police had objected to the renewal of the license of the Green Park Hotel in July 1891. The pub was repeatedly falling foul of the law for Sunday trading, and allowing gambling on the premises. The pub was dilapidated and the court ruled it was unsuitable to trade as a pub.
Elizabeth, who was now aged 58, applied for a conditional publican’s license for a new pub for the site in October 1891.
The police opposed the application on the ground that there were at present more than sufficient pubs in the neighbourhood, there being four hotels within 250 yards of the proposed site.
The police argued that owing the number of hotels, in order to make a living publicans were resorting to Sunday trading and selling liquor at prohibited hours. Inspector Bremner said that since the Green Park Hotel had closed in June 1891, there had been a marked improvement in the neighbourhood. Interestingly the United Licensed Victuallers’ Association also opposed the application.
In support of the application, the court heard that the existing pubs in the area were of an inferior character, and that a first class hotel, such as Elizabeth’s was urgently. The existing hotels were merely drinking shops, Elizabeth’s lawyers argued.
The wealthy widow was granted a condition license for her proposed £2000 hotel after her legal team explained how it would bring a superior quality business to Darlinghurst. Elizabeth was granted confirmation of the conditional license after the completion of the hotel on June 29 1893. She remained as licensee for a year, before handing the reins over to Fred Moorehouse in 1893.
Several licensees were at the helm of the Green Park Hotel over the next 32 years during Elizabeth Wangenheim’s ownership. In 1921 professional boxer, Sid Godfrey became host of the Green Park Hotel. He won the Australian featherweight title fight in 1917, and earned £20,000 prize money during his boxing career. Out of 109 professional fights he won 79 (41 by knockout) and drew 12.
Godfrey had a short stay at the Green Park Hotel, and went on to host the Bald Faced Stag, Leichhardt, the Carrington at Petersham, and the Horse and Jockey at Homebush. He retired from business in 1957 and lived at Bronte. He died in 1965.
Betsey or Elizabeth Wangenheim died on August 8 1925, at the age of 91 and was buried in the Jewish section of Rookwood Cemetery. The Blue Mountain Echo reported on Friday August 14 1925:
MRS. ELIZABETH WANGENHEIM.
On Saturday last there passed away an old and respected resident of Katoomba in the person of Mrs Elizabeth Wangenheim, of ‘Thorley,’ Lurline Street, at the ripe age of 90. The late Mrs. Wangenheim was a daughter of the late Mr. James Simmons, who was the first importer of general goods to Australia. He chartered a special fleet of ships for this purpose, and his enterprise was rewarded handsomely. Later Mr. Simmons went into the hotel business, and also dabbled greatly in land speculation. The present site of David Jones’ huge emporium at one time was occupied by the famous ‘Jerusalem Store’ of Mr. Simmons. In 1855 the late Mrs. Wangenheim married Mr. Gustavus Wangenhiem, who also was an hotel licensee. Subsequent, to his death, she continued in the hotel business, and displayed great business acumen. She retired from active business nearly half a century ago, and during the latter days of her life resided in her palatial home at Katoomba. The deceased lady left one son (Mr. Joseph Wangenheim), and three daughters, (Mrs. J. F. Gavin, now in America; Mrs. Fred Morris, Elizabeth Bay; and Mrs. J. R. Stewart, Tahmoor, near Picton). She also was the mother of the late Emma Wangenheim (Mrs. J. A. Carroll) well known in operatic circles, and the grandmother of Mrs. Cliff Hardaker. She was interred in the Jewish section of Rookwood Cemetery on Sunday last, the last rites being performed by Rev. M. Einfield.
At her death Elizabeth was considered to be the wealthiest woman in Sydney, with a probate of £164,376. Her son Joseph Moritz Wangenheim inherited the Green Park Hotel, which was to be held in trust after his death for the benefit of his children. However, it seems Joseph followed in his father’s foot steps, and not his mothers. The hotel was mortgaged to Tooth and Company during the late 1920s, and by 1930 the family had lost the freehold of the Green Park Hotel to the brewery giant.
Green Park Hotel, Darlinghurst 1949. Photo: ANU, Noel Butlin Archives.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Green Park Hotel is to close for business in December 2020. The newspaper reported on November 24 2020:
“One of Sydney’s most historic inner city pubs will call last drinks this Christmas, before becoming a mental health clinic next year. The Green Park Hotel on Victoria Rd, Darlinghurst has been purchased by St Vincent’s Hospital as part of a planned expansion of its mental health and community outreach services. Affectionately known by locals as the ‘Greeny’, the hotel has been pulling beers for the past 127 years and has long been beloved by the LGBTQI community and a landmark venue for Mardi Gras celebrations. Hospitality group Solotel, which has owned the pub for more than 30 years, finalised the sale at between $5 to $10 million to the trustees of St Vincent’s Hospital on Monday, before staff were told on Tuesday morning.”
In the 56 years since Deirdre Cusack called the Green Park Hotel home, she has never forgotten the brown paper that covered the cellar windows.
It had been there ever since the Japanese tried to invade Sydney Harbour in 1942, carefully placed to block out lights across a city fearing submarine attack.
The image feels a world away from the vibrant inner city watering hole the “Greenie” has become in 2020. Today it is both a haven and a refuge for Sydney’s LGBTQI community – “more than just a bar,” as one columnist said.
On Sunday night the 127-year-old hotel will call last drinks, after it was sold to the surrounding St Vincent’s Hospital to become a mental health clinic.
It caught the eye of Mrs Cusack, who was just one year old when her parents Sam and Fay McIntyre leased the Darlinghurst pub from Tooth’s Brewery in 1941. She would live above the corner pub –through a side door, past the ladies’ parlour and up the stairs – for 23 years until she married in 1964.
Sydney felt different then. By law, publicans were not allowed to live off premises and the beer came in wooden barrels (the rum, too).
The pub closed at 6pm and never opened on Sundays. Across the road from the Green Park was a paper shop, a flower shop and a butcher with sawdust on the floor.
Darlinghurst was a place where everyone knew everyone,” Mrs Cusack said. “I can still remember the SP bookies. They had a place down in one of the terrace houses and you’d see this trail of men going to down to put a bet on the horses and coming back to the pub to have a beer.”
Until 1931 Australians were only allowed to bet on horse races with an on-course bookmaker, before radio and television gave rise to “starting price bookies”, who hung around the city’s pubs and clubs.
“I didn’t have any outside playing space, so I used to play out in the lane behind the pub and hit a tennis ball up against a brick wall with my friends,” Mrs Cusack said.
“Kings Cross then was not as bad as it became. My mother had no problem letting me and a girlfriend walk up to the Cross on Saturday night, when the [first-edition] papers would come out for Sunday.”
She still recalls the mouthwatering burgers she used to eye off at the Hasty Tasty diner under the Coca-Cola sign. “God, they looked delicious.”
When her father Sam died in 1952, Mrs Cusack said there was never any question that her mother would carry on managing the “drinking pub”.
“It didn’t have meals or anything like that. And the main bar was for men only, mainly doctors from the hospital.”
The ladies sat in the parlour. It was their meeting place, like going out for coffee, Mrs Cusack said. “One lady used to always wear a hat with a short veil over her face as she sipped her sherry. Another shelled her peas before going home to prepare dinner.”
And then there were the steel troughs under the beer taps, filled with gentian violet (a purple dye), “so when the beer overflowed, you couldn’t reuse it.”
Nothing stands out in Mrs Cusack’s memory quite as much as a 27-year-old Queen Elizabeth II arriving in Sydney on the Royal tour of 1954; a trip five years in the planning and the first televised event in Australian history.
But never mind the telly. “Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip drove right past the hotel, decorated with all the flags. Every time there was a Royal visit everyone came out. To think they went past our place, it was very exciting.”
Less exciting were the years after Mrs Cusack returned from living in the UK, aged 20, and her mother put her to work in the pub, “a gruelling job”.
“I remember, she said to me one day, ‘for goodness sake. Go and get a job – the look on your face would turn the beer sour.'”
She didn’t wait a second, running out to grab the paper before finding a job in the office at Qantas.
From her home in Queensland, Mrs Cusack said it was sad to see the Green Park serve its final drinks, although she was glad the facade and features will be protected under heritage laws.
“In Australia they knock down too many buildings,” she said. “We go to Europe and we admire all the old buildings. In Australia, often all you’ve got is concrete and glass.
After 55 years, Manly Sea Life Sanctuary closed its doors for the final time over the weekend, with hundreds turning out to bid farewell to a chunk of Sydney history.
But it’s not the only piece of our childhoods that’s shut down in recent years; from Wonderland Sydney to Mt Druitt Waterworks, we had plenty of amusement parks to pick from in the ’80s.
Old Sydney Town
Did you even go to school if you didn’t have at least one excursion to Old Sydney Town? Based on a map from the 1800s, the recreation of colonial Sydney opened in 1975 and saw actors taking on the roles of convicts and redcoats for re-enactments. Those bloody public floggings are still burned into our brains. Old Sydney Town eventually closed down in 2003.
Sega World lived for just three short years, gracing us with the Ghost Hunter train, the Rail Chase indoor roller coaster and Aqua Nova, a 3D motion simulator back in 1997. But it was a victim of its own success; as technology improved, we left our Sega Mega Drives – and Sega World – behind.
African Lion Safari
How our parents ever thought that it was a good idea to take us to a theme park with the tagline “It’s scary, but nobody cares!” is beyond us. Vistors regularly had lions and tigers paw at, climb on and try to take a bite out of their cars and the park was eventually shut down in 1991. The animals, for a time, stayed behind but after a series of breakouts by resident lionesses, a bear and a number of water buffaloes, they were eventually relocated.
How lucky were we to have Australia’s Wonderland right on our doorstep? Opening in 1985, the amusement park boasted rides like the Bush Beast, Space Probe and Bounty’s Revenge, with Hannah Barbera Land holding a special place in Sydneysiders hearts. Unfortunately, massive profits losses led to the closure of Wonderland in 2004, with the site demolished the following year.
Magic Kingdom Amusement Park
Australia’s Wonderland’s predecessor, Magic Kingdom Amusement Park opened in the 1970s and promised a massive day out for just $6. Waterslides, astro spin, dry slides, trampolines, stage shows, mini golf and magic… the 27-acre park, between Bankstown and Liverpool, was a huge draw for western Sydney families. When it came to the battle of the theme parks, though, Magic Kingdom lost out to Wonderland’s thrilling roller coaster rides and shut towards the end of the 1990s.
El Caballo Blanco
The Spanish-inspired amusement park, which opened in 1972, was as famous for its dancing Andalusian horses as it was for its waterslides, train rides and mini zoo. Owner Ray Williams’ beautiful performing stallions were such an attraction, he went on to establish a sister park at Disneyland in the US. The Sydney site eventually closed in 2003 after Williams’ death.
Mt Druitt Waterworks
Mt Druitt Waterworks had everything a theme park in the 1980s should have: waterslides, a beach pool and an urban myth about razor blades on the slippery dips. It was rumoured that the razors were what closed the park but the gossip was unfounded; Mt Druitt Waterworks, like pretty much every other Sydney amusement park, was simply losing money hand-over-fist. We’ll always have those ’80s summers, though.
The Forgotten Sydney of AC/DC is a must watch mini documentary by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom Compagnoni, featuring the combined recollections of Mark Evans (Bass), Dave Evans (Vocals), Noel Taylor (drums) and Rob Bailey.
One of the most interesting revelations is that of session drummer Tony Currenti, owner of Tonino’s Penshurst Pizzeria, who played on High Voltage but had to turn the gig down due to passport issues.
Mark Evans also relates his views on the current Sydney scene, or lack of. Lets hope that it serves as a warning and that we fight to keep our local Perth music scene alive and kicking.
Over the past two centuries Sydney’s architectural landscape has been continually transformed and many buildings have been consigned to dust. A new exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, Demolished Sydney, which opens on 19 November, remembers the city’s lost buildings from the Garden Palace to the ‘Black Stump’
RURAL BANK OF NEW SOUTH WALES, 1936-82
The bank, pictured here in the 1950s, was torn down and replaced by the Colonial Centre in 1985, despite vehement opposition from 7,000 Sydneysiders. The building was an important element in the harmonious art deco streetscape of Martin Place, where a number of commercial buildings complemented one another in style and size. The campaign to save the Rural Bank galvanised a new appreciation of the city’s art deco architecture and saved many buildings in the central business district.
Photograph: Commonwealth Bank Archives
PYRMONT INCINERATOR, 1937-92
The incinerator stood on a high sandstone promontory overlooking the Blackwattle Bay, now occupied by a Meriton apartment block. Designed by the architects Walter Burley Griffin and Eric Nicholls, it was a remarkable building, as stylish as it was functional. It was decommissioned in 1971 and deteriorated until the late 80s, when the site was sold. Despite protests the incinerator was demolished in 1992 – one of many local landmarks swept away by urban consolidation.
Photograph: City of Sydney Archives
HOTEL AUSTRALIA, 1891-1971
The hotel – once the city’s grandest – was a landmark for 80 years. When it opened in 1891 its belle époque opulence ranked it with the best hotels in Europe and the US. But, as new city hotels were constructed in the 60s, the Hotel Australia went into decline, unable to compete with international ‘jet set’ standards. The last guests checked out in June 1971. Most of the buildings on the block were demolished for Harry Seidler’s award-winning MLC Centre.
Photograph: Hall & Co/State Library of NSW
REGENT THEATRE, 1928-89
The Regent Place arcade and apartment tower stand where the Regent Theatre once screened Hollywood’s finest films. This part of George Street was an amusement mecca in the 30s and 40s, with the Trocadero Palais de Dance next door, the Century and the Plaza theatres across the road and the Victory Theatre three doors down. Cinemas struggled after the arrival of television in 1956. The construction of the first Hoyts multiplex in 1976 marked the end for single-screen theatres. The Regent, the grandest of them all, couldn’t last.
Photograph: Sam Hood/State Library of NSW
GARDEN PALACE, 1879-82
The Garden Palace was built for the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition and was one of the city’s most significant buildings until it turned to ash in a spectacular fire. A southern rival to London’s Crystal Palace (built for the Great Exhibition of 1851) and a testament to the industry and resources of the colony, it was framed in timber and clad in bricks and glass. A memorial gate now stands in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Macquarie Street.
Photograph: Richards & Co/National Library of Australia
COMMISSARIAT BUILDINGS, 1809-1939
The Museum of Contemporary Art today occupies the site where once stood the two oldest government buildings in the state – the convict-hewn Commissariat buildings, built in 1809 and 1812. In 1938 The Royal Australian Historical Society urged that these heritage buildings be retained as a museum of Australian history. But they were demolished in 1939 as part of a plan to build an overhead railway and expressway at Circular Quay, along with a Maritime Services Board building.
Photograph: Eleanor Georgina Shaw/State Library of NSW
ROWE STREET, 1875-1972
Before its demolition, Rowe Street’s tiny shops with their swinging signs created a lively, artisan atmosphere. The laneway was absorbed into the plaza beneath the MLC Centre tower and most of the shops were demolished. The street’s loss continues to be mourned by many Sydneysiders, who relished its cosmopolitan ambience.
Photograph: City of Sydney Archives
FORT MACQUARIE TRAM DEPOT, 1902-58
Before the Sydney Opera House was built, Bennelong Point was the site of the Fort Macquarie tram depot. And before that, it was a place for lime production, naval defence, transport and, finally, entertainment. Earlier still, it was Point Bennelong, named for the Wangal man who befriended the British colonists. To the Gadigal people, the traditional owners of this land, this spit of sandstone is Dubbagullee.
Photograph: State Records Authority of NSW
ST STEPHEN’S CHURCH, 1857-1935
The steepled church stood cheek by jowl with Victorian terrace houses and colonial shops on Phillip Street. It was requisitioned for the creation of a broad thoroughfare that would become Martin Place. The development was envisaged in 1891 but not completed until 1935. St Stephen’s was just one of the buildings swept aside to improve traffic flow at a time when Sydney was undergoing a rapid transition.
Photograph: St Stephen’s Uniting Church
STATE OFFICE BLOCK, 1967-97
The tower was known as the ‘Black Stump’ until its demolition, when it was replaced by Aurora Place. Part of the 60s renewal and modernisation of the city, the block was, briefly, the tallest tower in Sydney. It will be remembered as one of the city’s earliest examples of modern office layout, complete with revolutionary open-plan and modular spaces and Scandinavian design. When government policy shifted to leasing office space in the late 80s, the building was sold.
THERE’S no nice way to say this. These are Sydney’s ugliest buildings. Where are Miley and her wrecking ball when you need them?
SIMPLY being old should not guarantee buildings protection from the wrecking ball.
Jack Mundey and his union green bans saved Sydney’s The Rocks area from certain demolition, the result of which would have been a tremendous aesthetic and cultural loss. They saved buildings that meant something.
Now we save buildings of questionable character, and protect others that are downright ugly.
This week’s battle is over the striking Sirius apartments. Too ugly too stay? Too ugly to go?
And there are plenty of other eyesores in Sydney that really shouldn’t be allowed to stand the test of time.
One example is found in Kirribilli. Grounded in the housing shortages of the post-war era are the terrifyingly ugly Greenway Housing Commission Flats on McDougall Street. They are an eyesore for commuters who cross the bridge north to south each day, as deep red brick adds an unfortunate flash of colour to what should be one of the most beautiful commutes in the country.
The oddly shaped footprint was created by left-over public land after the completion of the Harbour Bridge. Perhaps inspired by the equally aggressive design elements in America, the building was completed in 1948 and its style nominated as “functionalist”.
A heritage listing note conveys that the building is “devoid of decorative detailing”. No kidding.
The worst part of the whole debacle, beyond the sad window coverings and slogans that appear in the windows from time to time is that the block appears to have been named after a true architectural genius — Francis Greenway, a convict turned public servant who is responsible for many of the great buildings left to us from colonial times.
There are more modern creations that many believe could be flattened without many tears shed.
Architect Vince Squillace, from the award-winning architectural firm Squillace, wouldn’t lose sleep if the Sydney Tower was dismantled.
“It looks like a plant room at the top of another building,” he said. He believes if it was a third taller, it might not be the eyesore it is today.
“Sydney has a height restriction that should be challenged,” he said.
UNIT BLOCKS: THE HORROR STORIES OF TOMORROW
More worrying for him is the standard of many of the unit blocks being built at breakneck speed today, that will surely be the architectural horror stories of tomorrow.
“Already you can see render cracking, and stains from tiles leeching,” he warned. But back to the bucket on a stick, the Sydney Tower. At 309 metres it’s very tall. You see, there is something good about it. And it does have the Skywalk attraction, and the restaurant, 360 Bar and Dining is really quite yummy. But the architecture is awful, and being capped off with a Westfiled sign makes Sydney appear to be one giant mall.
Blues Point Tower, stands like a lost kid’s building block on the carpet of North Sydney’s beautiful foreshore. It was completed in the early 60s and designed by the revered Harry Seidler. It doesn’t fit, work or enhance the harbourside landscape, and stands as a monument to what might have been.
The backstory to this edifice is that the tower is just one of many that were planned in a high density proposition for the location, but a planning backflip resulted in just one coming to fruition. Over the years there have been calls to tear it down, but in 1993 it was added to a local heritage register. Its saving grace is that the apartments themselves are good, and perhaps the building does tell part of Sydney’s architectural story.
UTS architecture has had a lot of publicity over the years. Most recently headlines were made after the Frank Gehry designed campus was opened to the public. The $180m Dr Chau Chak Wing Building demands a response — as do many of the world’s great artworks. They challenge the audience, they provoke discussion, they take the architectural landscape forward.
Does that make them successful, or even acceptable as part of our city? Here is a building that polarised opinion, from those who decried the wet paper bag aesthetic, to others who felt it was exciting.
At the very least it is a creative diversion from the other buildings in the UTS portfolio.
Who, in their right minds, could admire the brutalism (there’s that word again) of the UTS Broadway building? To say it lacks humanity is to underplay the ghastly functionality so popular in the late 60s.
It needs a makeover, as do so many of Sydney’s buildings, soon.
There was no missing these blocks of flats as you came out on the north side of the Harbour Bridge. Personally, I always thought they were a bit of an eyesore, though they undoubtedly would have been considered very contemporary living in the 1950s/60s.
When it opened in 1954, ‘Greenway’ was the largest flat complex in Australia.
Named after the colony’s first public architect, Francis Greenway, it comprised four buildings, housing 309 one and two bedroom flats. The two taller 11 storey-buildings, A and C blocks, have steel frames. The smaller B and D blocks are concrete framed. The thick brick walls helped to bear the load. Before 1957, building heights in Sydney were restricted to 150 feet. ‘Greenway’ was 130 feet high.
Materials and labour were in such short supply after World War Two that construction took six years. The few exterior design features and modest window size, despite the view across the harbour, helped to reduce cost. Flats were leased as each block was finished.
‘Greenway’ was designed in the modern Functionalist style, a European idiom widely adopted in Australia in the 1930s. This rejected unnecessary decoration while relating a building’s form to its function. However, the architect Percy J. Gordon of the firm Morrow and Gordon was almost certainly influenced as well by the huge housing ‘projects’ being built on the east side of Manhattan in the 1940s. ‘Greenway’ bears a striking resemblance to the post-war apartments in New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant area.
Upon completion, the project was favourably compared to nearby Victorian-era terraces, then regarded as ‘slums’. The first tenants were delighted. When Mrs V.W.H Briggs moved into her flat in 1953 she declared ‘If I won the lottery seven times over I wouldn’t leave here. This will do me!’ (Sunday Herald, 1 March, 1953) Part of the appeal was the provision of modern appliances. Electric stoves were installed in favour of gas units, stainless steel sinks were standard and the old-style kitchen dresser gave way to built-in cupboards. ‘Greenway’ consumed so much electricity that the County Council had to install a special substation beneath the building to provide power to the many washers, dryers and lifts, as well as 2308 lights, 1666 power outlets and 309 electric stoves.
A sense of community was quick to develop. Residents came to regard others on their own floor as neighbours. However, getting to know everyone in such a large complex was difficult. For this reason, the shared laundry facilities in the basement of each block served as meeting places for women who were generally responsible for washing and cleaning.
The experiences of ‘Greenway’ residents have varied much over the five decades since its opening. At first, the Housing Commission let the flats primarily to families and couples – ‘working class’ people unable to get adequate housing in the inadequate private rental market. Tenants ‘won’ their place there in publicly announced ‘lotteries’. In the 1980s, tenants were being drawn from a wide range of groups – single parents, aged pensioners, the unemployed and the disabled. The result is an increasingly diverse body of residents. Similarly in 1954 Australia was still a predominantly Anglo-Celtic society and most of those who lived at ‘Greenway’ were English-speaking. In 2001 there were 23 language groups represented in the buildings.
Public attitudes towards ‘Greenway’ also vary. When the building was opened, Milsons Point still had a large working class population and the tenants of the flats were of similar social background to those in the surrounding streets. Today, the harbour suburb is gentrified and the presence of community housing in such a desirable area is sometimes seen as an anomaly. However, as ex-resident Penny McKeon said in 2004, ‘There’s no reason why being of modest economic means should mean you’re not entitled to live in a place that just happens to have harbour views’.
In 2004 the Greenway Tenants Group and North Sydney Council commemorated the 50th anniversary of their home with ceramics and photography workshops and the publication of two books on the history of the buildings. Then, resident and historian Geoffrey Barrett wrote from direct experience: ‘I’m sure that the people responsible for the construction of Greenway… would be delighted, if not amazed, to know that their efforts are still providing decent housing half a century on, and within their building is a proud, neighbourly community – a community that has survived. (Greenway the great survivor: Fifty Years in the Life of a Public Housing Estate, 2004)
Audio: Listen to Penny McKeon’s memories of growing up at ‘Greenway’ in the 1960s from an interview with historian Ian Hoskins in 2004. Merle Coppell Oral History Collection, OH303
Sydney is today touted as a ‘festival hub’ and as one of the best festival cities in the world. Not a week seems to go by without a cultural festival taking place. But 60 years ago, Sydney (and indeed the rest of Australia) was a very different place; it was much more culturally conservative.
The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Australian shores in 1954marked a change in Australian cultural life. Her visits to the capital cities around the nation, in particular Sydney and Melbourne, attracted record crowds who gathered in the city centres to watch the royal spectacle. In the aftermath of her visit, civic forefathers in both cities saw an opportunity to attract people into the city centres with an annual festival.
The festival was initiated by the Sydney Committee led by the NSW Premier and the Mayor of Sydney Municipal Council; it was organised by the Council.
An estimated 250,000 spectators lined up to watch the first Waratah Spring Festival procession in 1956 – there were 140 decorated floats, 26 bands and 5,000 ‘marchers’. It was a spring festival – so it was held in October – and because the theme was ‘spring’, over two million flowers (both natural and artificial) were used to decorate the floats. Every year, there was a Waratah Pageant and a ‘Waratah Princess’ was crowned. The first Waratah Princess was Colleen Pike from Newtown.
In 1964, there were 45 decorated floats and up to 5,000 people took part in the procession, which extended almost two miles.
Eighteen Waratah Spring Festivals were held between 1956 and 1973. In addition to the public spectacle of the street parades, the festival grew to encompass other events including an art competition, a decorative floral competition in the lower town hall and cultural events including ballet and theatre.
By the early 1970s, the Waratah Festival was attracting ever fewer visitors to the centre of Sydney, and was gaining the reputation of being ‘tatty’.
The final Waratah Spring Festival was held in 1973, to coincide with the opening of the Sydney Opera House. In a report prepared in 1974, the Sydney Committee noted that the major sponsors had withdrawn their support and that the Festival had outlived its usefulness as a major attraction. The event was abandoned.
When Hachikō’s owner failed to come home from work one day, the faithful dog returned to his master’s train station the day after just to wait for him. He did this every day for nearly a decade.
Hachikō the dog was more than a pet. As the canine companion to a university professor, Hachikō patiently waited his owner’s return from work at their local train station each evening.
But when the professor died suddenly one day at work, Hachikō was left waiting at the station — for nearly a decade. Every day after his master passed, Hachikō the dog returned to the train station, often to the chagrin of the employees who worked there. But his fidelity soon won them over, and he became an international sensation and a symbol of loyalty.
This is his story.
When Hachikō Met Ueno
Hachikō the golden brown Akita was born on Nov. 10, 1923, on a farm located in Japan’s Akita Prefecture.
In 1924, Professor Hidesaburō Ueno, who taught in the agriculture department at Tokyo Imperial University, acquired the puppy and brought him to live with him in the Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo.
The pair followed the same routine every day: In the morning Ueno would walk to the Shibuya Station with Hachikō and take the train to work. After finishing the day’s classes, he would take the train back and return to the station at 3 p.m. on the dot, where Hachikō would be waiting to accompany him on the walk home.
The pair kept up this schedule religiously until one day in May 1925 when Professor Ueno suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage while teaching.
That same day, Hachikō showed up at 3 p.m. as usual, but his beloved owner never got off the train.
Despite this disruption in his routine, Hachikō returned the next day at the same time, hoping that Ueno would be there to meet him. Of course, the professor failed to return home once again, but his loyal Akita never gave up hope.
Becoming A National Sensation
Hachikō was reportedly given away after his master’s death, but he regularly ran off to Shibuya Station at 3 p.m. hoping to meet the professor. Soon, the lone dog began to draw the attention of other commuters.
At first, the station workers were not all that friendly to Hachikō, but his fidelity won them over. Soon, station employees began to bring treats for the devoted canine and sometimes sat beside him to keep him company.
The days turned into weeks, then months, then years, and still Hachikō returned to the station each day to wait. His presence had a great impact on the local community of Shibuya and he became something of an icon.
In fact, one of Professor Ueno’s former students, Hirokichi Saito, who also happened to be an expert on the Akita breed, got wind of Hachikō’s routine.
He decided to take the train to Shibuya to see for himself if his professor’s pet would still be waiting.
When he arrived, he saw Hachikō there, as usual. He followed the dog from the station to the home of Ueno’s former gardener, Kuzaburo Kobayashi. There, Kobayashi filled him in on the story of Hachikō’s life.
Shortly after this fateful meeting with the gardener, Saito published a census on Akita dogs in Japan. He found that there were only 30 documented purebred Akitas — one being Hachikō.
The former student was so intrigued by the dog’s story that he published several articles detailing his loyalty.
In 1932, one of his articles was published in the national daily Asahi Shimbun, and Hachikō’s tale spread throughout Japan. The dog quickly found nationwide fame.
People from all over the country came to visit Hachikō, who had become a symbol of loyalty and something of a good-luck charm.
The faithful pet never let old age or arthritis interrupt his routine. For the next nine years and nine months, Hachikō still returned to the station every day to wait.
Sometimes he was accompanied by people who had traveled great distances just to sit with him.
A Legacy Of Loyalty
Hachikō’s great vigil finally came to an end on March 8, 1935, when he was found dead in the streets of Shibuya at the age of 11.
Scientists, who weren’t able to determine his cause of death until 2011, found that the dog Hachikō likely died of a filaria infection and cancer. He even had four yakitori skewers in his stomach, but researchers concluded that the skewers were not the cause of Hachikō’s death.
Hachikō’s passing made national headlines. He was cremated and his ashes were placed next to Professor Ueno’s grave in Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo. The master and his loyal dog had finally reunited.
His fur, however, was preserved, stuffed, and mounted. It’s now housed in the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno, Tokyo.
The dog had become such an important symbol in Japan that donations were made to erect a bronze statue of him in the exact spot he had faithfully waited for his master. But soon after this statue went up, the nation became consumed by World War II. Consequently, Hachikō’s statue was melted down to use for ammunition.
But in 1948, the beloved pet was immortalized in a new statue erected in Shibuya Station, where it remains to this day.
As millions of passengers pass through this station daily, Hachikō stands proud.
The station entrance near where the statue is located is even devoted to the beloved canine. It’s called Hachikō-guchi, simply meaning the Hachikō entrance and exit.
A similar statue, erected in 2004, can be found in Odate, Hachikō’s original hometown, where it stands in front of the Akita Dog Museum. And in 2015, the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Tokyo erected yet another brass statue of the dog in 2015, which was unveiled on the 80th anniversary of Hachikō’s death.
In 2016, Hachikō’s story took yet another turn when his late master’s partner was buried alongside him. When Yaeko Sakano, Ueno’s unmarried partner, died in 1961, she explicitly asked to be buried alongside the professor. Her request was rejected and she was buried in a temple far from Ueno’s grave.
But in 2013, University of Tokyo professor Sho Shiozawa, found a record of Sakano’s request and a buried her ashes beside both Ueno and Hachikō.
Her name was also inscribed on the side of his tombstone.
Hachikō’s Story In Pop Culture
Hachikō’s story first made it to film in the 1987 Japanese blockbuster titled Hachiko Monogatari, directed by Seijirō Kōyama.
The movie trailer for Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.
It became even more well-known when the tale of a master and his loyal dog served as the plot to Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, an American movie starring Richard Gere and directed by Lasse Hallström.
This version is loosely based on the story of Hachikō, though set in Rhode Island and centered on the relationship between Professor Parker Wilson (Gere) and a lost puppy that had been freighted from Japan to the United States.
The professor’s wife Cate (Joan Allen) is initially opposed to keeping the dog and when he dies, Cate sells their house and sends the dog to their daughter. Yet the dog always manages to find his way back to the train station where he used to go to greet his former owner.
Despite the different setting and culture of the 2009 movie, the central themes of loyalty remain at the forefront.
Hachikō the dog might have symbolized the quintessential values of Japan, but his story and faithfulness continue to resonate with humans around the world.