This is my first post in a while. I haven’t been feeling well and to make things worse I’ve been having computer problems as well. I can barely use my computer at the moment; it makes a constant grinding noise and just crashes without warning. I even lost some of my work yesterday when it crashed. No backups. Ouch. I’ve been putting it off but I’ll have to get it looked at later this week. Hopefully it won’t be too expensive to fix.
I’ve got a pile of emails and comments in my inbox I haven’t been able to get to yet (sorry!) but one good thing is it’s given me more time to write. I’ve finally been able to develop a few ideas further and I also started an early draft of a new story which is going well so far.
One of the stories I’ve been working on is based on an older idea, about a man who wakes from a coma only to find that the world he knew is gone. I haven’t had much time to work on it previously but I’ve always liked the idea and wanted to develop it further. At its heart it’s about exploring our world through the eyes of a stranger and it’s still only in the early stages but already it feels quite different to anything I’ve written before. I could see it being a novel one day.
I’ve been doing some research for the story (when my computer’s been working anyway), looking at how different trends change over time, and The Commons on Flickr has been an excellent resource. If you don’t use Flickr, The Commons is a photographic archive from different institutions around the world and it’s been fascinating looking at the collections, seeing how things like architecture, fashion and hairstyles have evolved over time.
The Powerhouse Museum and the NSW State Library are both part of The Commons and some of the images of Sydney are incredible; they date back to the beginning of the 20th century, some to even earlier when the colony was still forming. Most of the buildings don’t exist anymore and it’s an incredible insight into what life was really like back then.
The photo above is one of my favourites. It dates back to around 1920 and is of Marie-Celeste de Villentroy, the daughter of a photographer in Sydney at the time. It’s a beautiful portrait, hand-coloured. It’s also one of the few times I’ve seen the Red Ensign flag used so noticeably.
I spent Australia Day looking through The Commons last week and as I haven’t posted in a while, I thought it’d be fun to post some of my favourites photos. To share a little history. Most are of common landmarks in Sydney and should be familiar to people overseas.
There are quite a few photos, so I’ve posted more after the break. Enjoy.
This photo is of Market Street in the CBD, around 1875. The buildings were made of weatherboard and sanitation was a notorious problem in the area. You can see how the plague spread so rapidly a few years later. Rent was 21 shillings.
A view of Sydney from the old General Post Office in Martin Place (1900), in the central CBD. Many of these buildings were knocked down for development during the 1900s. The GPO was privatised in 1996 and now houses shops and cafes.
Martin Place, circa 1900. Martin Place was originally Moore Street and has changed a lot in 100 years but much of it is still recognisable. It was closed to traffic in 1971 and is now a pedestrian mall.
Queen Victoria Markets (1900), now the Queen Victoria Building. The QVB is one of my favourite buildings in Sydney; it’s mostly untouched and the inside has been carefully restored with many of its original features.
A gathering in Hyde Park while a band performs (1900). You can just see the Australian Museum and the Captain Cook statue in the background, which are still there today. The clothing seems formal even for the time; perhaps it was a special event?
Coogee Beach (1900). Most of the landscape has changed now, with shops and traffic coming right up to the esplanade. But the beach is still much the same. The building on the far right is the Coogee Palace, now the Beach Palace Hotel; it was restored in the 1980s.
July 1900, as the Bubonic Plague spread through Sydney. It killed 550 people in Australia, most in Sydney where it originated. Scenes like this were common throughout the city as people tried to keep their homes clean and disinfected.
A Sydney kitchen in George Street (1900). This was taken during the outbreak of plague and it looks like a fairly typical kitcken, particularly for the poorer houses in the city. Where the house was is now Sydney Central Station.
The Royal Arcade (1892). The Royal Arcade was one of five beautiful Victorian arcades in Sydney and was over 90 metres long. Of the five arcades only the Strand survives; the Royal Arcade was pulled down for the Hilton Hotel in the 1970s.
Four women going about their day in George Street in 1890. The GPO is behind them and the old David Jones building to the right. They were photographed without their knowledge; the fashion seems more casual than in many posed portraits from the time.
A telephone exchange at Anthony Hordern & Sons (1933). The store, part of the enormous Palace Emporium, was the largest department store in Sydney before it closed in 1970. The building was subsequently demolished for the World Square Shopping Centre.
January 1st, 1901. Federation. Citizens watch the procession down Macquarie Street as Australia became the Commonwealth of Australia and took its first steps as a separate nation – becoming the first country of the 20th century.
The first Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and the first Federal Ministry, meeting at Government House in 1901. Sir Edmund Barton, Australia’s first Prime Minister, is seated on the left.
January 26, 1938. The Aboriginal Day of Mourning. Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the colonisation of Australia, it was the first time Aborigines protested their treatment and demanded full Australian citizenship. They didn’t receive it until 1967.
Schoolchildren at Belmore North Public School receive a free bowl of soup and a slice of bread during the Depression (1934). Over 300 bowls of soup would be served to children of the unemployed each day and warm clothing was distributed in winter.
Construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, May 1930. The photographer, Ted Hood, leant upside down over the crane with another worker holding onto his legs to take the shot. They were 130 metres above the ground.
March 19, 1932. The opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as the first cars pay the tolls. The original opening of the Bridge was famously upstaged by Francis de Groot, who cut the ribbon before the NSW Premier. Tollbooths weren’t added until sometime later.
Randwick Racecourse (1863). The racecourse was originally known as Sandy Course and dates back to 1833. It seated a crowd of 6000; now it has a capacity of 90,000. It’s often used when the Pope or other dignitaries visit Sydney as well. We live about five minutes away.
A troopship with the 6th Division departs Sydney for the Middle East and World War II (January 1940). The 6th Division would go on to serve in North Africa, Greece and on the Kokoda Track in some of the toughest fighting of the war.
Firemen show their latest gasmasks to the public outside the Castlereagh Street headquarters in 1927. Apparently demonstrations like this were common and were often put on for the public on Wednesday afternoons.